I heard today about someone who has just been hired to take charge of a music theater program in a New York City college who has stated out loud that he hates music theater.
This is not the first thing like this I’ve encountered. I can only imagine how that will help the students, never mind the teachers.
I also know a person who is in charge of another college music theater training program, also here in NYC, who has no musical training, no background in music and no training in voice. All of the music theater students study with this man and he stages the agents’ showcase at the end of the year, frequently with no clue of how he absolutely kills the musicality of many of the songs, and of the kids’ expression of same.
I know teachers who continue to teach kids to sing all music, no matter what kind it is, in a classical vocal sound.
AND, if you think about it, the main classical critic of the NY Times, Anthony Tommasini, has no clue that the world has progressed past “masque resonance” and “diaphragmatic breath support” as an indication of “vocal technical skill”. He does not know the least about how to evaluate any music but classical but has tried a few times to discuss “crossover” with clearly no idea about how to address that issue. This man is probably one of the most powerful critics in the world, but when it comes to singing, he is way behind the times.
In the opposite direction, I know at least one R&B vocalist who has been ill, has lost her voice and doesn’t want to take any lessons, for who knows what reasons. The R&B artist (or jazz vocalist, or rock singer) does not necessarily understand that functional training isn’t going to make the sound become operatic, or that “losing the voice” is not permanent, or that it is possible to again learn to do something you could once do in your sleep with no effort, in a deliberate manner. A sad state of affairs but not all that unusual.
The hardest thing is breaking through all the walls of ignorance. Ignorance is dark, it closes out the light of expansion and locks the door to growth. Any analogy works. Look how long it took for human beings to figure out how to fly, something that humanity had dreamed of for thousands of years, and look how quickly we went from the Wright brothers to putting a man on the moon. Thinking that there is just one way to sing and one standardized approach to classical singing that meets all vocal needs is much like being the Wright brothers before their plane got off the ground at Kitty Hawk. In good time, all training will be functional and everyone will learn how to sing all kinds of sounds for all kinds of music. We aren’t there yet, but wait a hundred years and these days will look like the ones just before the famous brothers made their historic flight.
In between, we need to face down stupidity whenever we encounter it. If you are stuck in a department that hires people who don’t know music theater or hate it, and you have to work under those people, see if you can help to open their eyes to what they do not know. Pierce the darkness with your own strong light. That’s all we have.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!