The Point Is Singing Very Well

I am very strongly committed to the idea that singing teachers should sing well in whatever style they teach. That this takes commitment, dedication and desire is a given. That the standards of the singing are measured by those other than the teacher, meaning the teacher stands up in public and, from time to time, actually sings, is also a given.

What the world does not need is people who are sort of OK teaching other people to be not quite OK and calling that education of any sort. If we are dealing with something that can only be learned by a transference from one person to another, then the stakes are greater than normal. Guess what, that is how singing lessons have always worked. One person to another, one lesson at a time.

Now I do know that people who no longer sing well can teach wonderfully, especially if they were good once upon a time. I also know that some people who don’t sing might be good at explaining to someone what to do when she sings, but a verbal explanation is NEVER going to substitute for an out loud example. We learn to sing by listening, just as we once learned to talk when we were very young, and that is the core attribute of the process that matters. Sure, listening to someone sound bad doesn’t mean the student will also sound bad, but it surely doesn’t make it easier to assume she will sound good, either.

My last teacher was a tenor. I learned a lot from him before I finally left, never to have another singing teacher again. (I’ve had lots of coaches, though). Many years after I no longer studied with him, I had occasion to hear him sing a recital of Shubert’s “Winterreise” and nearly fell out of my chair as I realized that I had internalized this man’s throat constriction for nearly 20 years without having any idea that I had done so. It was only after I worked out my own technical bugs that I was able to recognize his sound as having served as an example for my own, and although I made no effort whatsoever to copy or imitate him, nor did he ever ask me to do so, I had done exactly that, just by hearing him in my lessons for 7 years.

Too many teachers are just plain lazy about their own singing. Too many others never really found the resources to sing well in the first place, but then, somehow, they felt it was just fine to teach what they actually hardly understood themselves. (What gaul!) The people who turned to teaching because they were tired of having to deal with all that a singing career entails at least bring to the profession something in the form of valid experience and the credibility that goes with having been hired for a number of years, having made some kind of vocal music. The only exception I would make here would be the case of someone who is an older teacher who has had health problems. I might cut someone in this situation a little slack. There are, however, a number of octogenarians out there these days who are singing and sounding great, including Tony Bennett and Sheila Jordon, so it isn’t age per se that’s the issue, but the overall shape of the person and their instrument.

So, if you are student, and your teacher sounds odd, you should ask yourself why. If their method wasn’t good enough to help them sound good, how is it going to help you? If you are so young as to have no basis to evaluate their singing in terms of its quality, then go find someone who is knowledgeable and ask that person to have a listen. If the teacher cannot do what you want to learn, don’t study with that person. If the person is a tenor with no high notes and you need help with your high notes, stop! No matter what they tell you, if they don’t do what they want to teach you to do, I repeat, (and you can consider this a yell), DO NOT STUDY WITH THAT PERSON. If you are someone with tension issues, and the person teaching you has a tight constricted sound, you are NOT going to get rid of that sound until you leave and find someone who has a relaxed vocal production and knows it. LET THE BUYER BEWARE.

The point is the teacher should be singing very well.

Don’t buy a car from someone who doesn’t drive!!!!!!!!!

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