The Risks of Being Visible

If you have a profile in the world, no matter who you are or why you have it, someone will dislike you for it. Someone will decide that you shouldn’t be there because.

That stops a lot of people. Fear is a real factor in speaking up, speaking out and taking a stand. The squeaky wheel does get the oil but sometimes not right away and sometimes the oil comes in buckets, not drops. It isn’t for the faint of heart to raise objections, challenge long and dearly held assumptions and disturb the status quo.

Of course, almost all of the people throughout history who came along and made significant changes in anything, faced the wrath of those who liked things fine they way they had been and were. Sometimes the innovators were actually threatened up to and including being physically hurt or killed. If the “keepers” were rich and powerful and the “changers” were poor and weak — you know the rest.

I wrote a while ago about the need for those who keep the traditions going. We need people to do that and to honor heritage, keep remembrance, remain true to the origins of things. We also need people to break with the past, to go in brand new directions and to seek the future, the unknown, with vigor. These two things do not need to be seen as conflicting behaviors. I very much respect the past, especially of our American CCM styles, but I also like new music, new works, and things that are creatively unusual. If we did not have people to hold on to the past, we wouldn’t have much in our museums or archives. If we didn’t have people who seek out new things, there would be no internet and no cell phones.

When someone speaks out and points out problems in how things are, seeing that there is a need for a new point of view, and that someone has the courage to bring the emerging point of view into a public venue (think Martin Luther nailing his manifesto on the church door), the person has to be able to deal with the reactions of those who do not want to be challenged. They won’t be happy. If you don’t speak out because people “won’t like you” or because you might “upset someone”, yet you realize that going along with things as they have always been isn’t really making you happy either, you are faced with a genuine dilemma. If you hide, keeping quiet, you become part of the problem. If you step up to the plate, take on the new ideas yourself and say so out loud, you become a possible target.

Classical training for singing has to change. We can’t hang on to the idea that it prepares you to sing anything anywhere at any time. We have to separate the training process out from the material. Functional training is functional training. Learning Italian or German songs has nothing to do with functional training, but they can merge at some point. Not all vocal training is functional (in fact, most is not). Learning repertoire teaches a specific set of skills but it may not be useful in addressing vocal technique problems in any way.

Contemporary Commercial Music, our styles which started mostly in the USA but have now traveled the world, deserves our respect. We need to know what the parameters of each style are and how to achieve those parameters. We need to base applied vocal training on the expectations of the marketplace, not academia, and we need to understand what does and does not interface in terms of vocal technique and function if the vocalists want to sing in more than one style.

That I have said some version of this for the past forty years is not news. It is a risk that I have to take. That I still get clobbered for doing so is not pleasant. BUT, I’m not going away. Just because other people don’t like the message doesn’t mean the message is wrong. In fact, the reaction I get is partly because my pointing out what other people refuse to admit but know is true is a guarantee for causing anger.

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2 thoughts on “The Risks of Being Visible”

  1. Dear Jeanie,

    As one who has had the privilege of hearing you speak regarding the trials, tribulations and triumphs of being on the forefront of leadership in the CCM field, I am filled with gratitude and admiration for your tenacity and perseverance. You have spent much time being the voice in the wilderness, as it were, fighting often on your own for what you solidly know to be correct. And you ARE correct. While you clearly are the most visible and prominent voice in the area of functional vocal training and CCM, you have raised up a host of others who believe in this material, these methods and in you. We don’t have the platform you do, or the visibility you do, but we are all over the US and throughout parts of the world, doing our best to make a difference in our areas.

    These things: the functional methods, the solid science, the opportunity to explain to others regardless of their level of reception, the courage to stand firm when others question, the joy in the success – these are among the things with which you have equipped me, and a growing number of others. Whether you are having a mountain top day, or a pit of the valley moment, know that you are appreciated and supported, and that the education you provide IS spreading. And I, for one, am really glad you refuse to back down, give up or go away!

    All My Best,
    Kelly Himes

  2. Thank you!

    I’m truly inspired by your words. I find your ideas and teachings fascinating – at least what I know of them at this point having sang for you for a brief 15 minutes at SU two years ago, having read your blog, and having heard what my professor has to say about you.

    My dream is to be doing the equivalent of your work in several years – whatever that means at that time when I get there. I want to get my masters (and phd?) in vocal ped and am fascinated by the idea of a greater *potential* place of voice education in the future of our world. I find that we are in a unique place right now where a significant growth/change in our art and craft merges with the parallel change in our society and in medicine, technology, etc.

    I admire your work and appreciate what you have to say. As of now, I’m truly interested in learning all that I can to take vocal education to a new level in the future – one that transcends our present understanding of its purpose. I could be wrong (I still have much to learn!!) but I feel that much more is capable than what the majority of teachers can give their students.

    I have this crazy dream vision of a voice education that goes beyond the art and that gives the craft a greater purpose than just for serving the art. …perhaps voice education also serves as a significant structure in the process of an individual building of who/what they want to be. And, like I said I could be wrong, but I feel that the answer may lie in how we could potentially tie in other ideologies and other fields into voice education. I don’t know yet how or what, but I know that when my ideas take off and go somewhere substantial, there will DEFINITELY be many who disregard them or who are upset by my suggestions.

    See? We all have crazy ideas, don’t we?? Your blog is a great start – but I can’t wait to graduate undergrad and get in to work with you and learn at the CCM institute and see what you REALLY have to say! lol

    Until then, thanks for your dedication and inspiration. Many of us are watching and excited to know what you find.

    -Michael E.

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