Swiss Cheese

A student arrived recently with a degree in music theater freshly planted under her belt. Lovely young woman, lovely voice, very musical and expressive with a song.

She was missing a whole bunch of ingredients in her vocal technique that should have been there. Why would that be? Was she just a dumb bunny, someone who couldn’t understand her teachers? Was she was recalcitrant, thinking she knew it all, didn’t need to learn anything from anyone? Was it that she just didn’t have a “world class” voice? Maybe she was just not talented enough, vocally speaking. Perhaps she was distracted in her studies, didn’t apply herself, had no motivation?

Or maybe the people who set up the program didn’t know or bother to find out what a well trained singing voice does so that training could be offered to the students. Maybe THEY don’t know what a professional caliber voice is, how it should function and what it should be able to do….regardless of whether the vocalist is truly talented or just average……since function has nothing to do with talent, it has to do with being alive and having vocal folds. Maybe, too, the people who were willing to take her money for four years didn’t think it was all that important for a person getting a degree in MUSIC theater to understand how to sing. Maybe they thought that acting was enough to do the job or that classical vocal training (of all kinds) would somehow magically get the most out of a young throat. Maybe the whole degree is just about learning lots of songs.

What about taking the student and fixing several technical inadequacies in ONE lesson? Could that prove that it was not the student who was at the root of the technical lacks? What about asking “did you learn anything about this” or “anything about that” and being told honestly and without rancor, “no”. Basic information that was never given at all. Is this something that should be blamed upon the student?

The schools are very willing to accommodate the enormous number of kids who want to be in music theater programs because these programs make money. There must be at least 10 new programs opening in colleges every year. How they spring up, overnight, and who runs them, is a mystery, but it does seem that someone decides to get things started because it’s possible, and the thought process ends there.

If you are someone who wants to go into a music theater degree program, beware. If you are someone who is being asked to teach at one, beware. If you are someone who is in charge of one, beware a whole lot, like your life depended on it. And, if you are someone who has never tread the boards in a professional calibre music theater production and you are being asked to teach music theater songs, beware, too.

If you send out a young vocalist with a degree that provides training that is shot full of holes, like Swiss Cheese, remember: you have to look at yourself every day in the mirror.

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