Those Who Can Do

Those who can do, and those who can’t, teach.

How about those who can do and those who can’t, could have.

There are many people in the world of the arts who had “the goods”. They had talent, training, and the discipline to do something with their particular art. They may even have had a burning desire to be an artist — dancer, actor, photographer, writer, painter, or singer — and understood they the had to make the backend, the business element, also work.

But, a lot of these people never got to do what their heart really wanted to do. They tried as hard as they could, they used every resource available to them, they persevered and fought discouragment, but they did not succeed. It might have taken a long time, but sooner or later, a decision had to be made. Continue indefinitely, no matter what (some do), or call it quits, regroup, and find something else to do, like teach?

I know people here in New York who kept going well with their attempts to become professional singers well into their 50s, not being successful, but not giving up, either. These people were unwilling or unable to accept that the world wasn’t going to allow them to make a living doing what they had most wanted (in this case, sing) and that if they were going to be able to earn a living, they were going to have to do that by doing something else. I also know people who “got” rather quickly “this isn’t working” and who then either got good “job jobs” or went back to school to study another subject, and made peace with making music at night, on weekends and during vacations. I also know a few people who backed into teaching, more or less because they felt it was “better than nothing”, and managed to come to some kind of balance with it, after the fact. Some of those who became teachers actually discovered that they liked teaching, and made an effort to learn more about it, to improve their skills, and, eventually, went on to be more successful as teachers than they had ever been as singers.

I know others, much less talented, who were able to carve out careers as singers simply because they had a lot of money and spent it on vocal training, excellent top-drawer musicians, on PR, on marketing, and were able, mostly due to sheer dollars spent, to “purchase” a career of sorts. This is galling, but I have to tell you, I have seen it more than once. And, after the person gets “launched” there are audiences for them. The key here is having lots of money. LOTS. Another key is being so ignorant or numb as to not know or care that you are not talented in the first place.

And then, of course, we have the folks in the category, “those who can’t, teach”. I have written about them here very frequently. The people who went to school, got a master’s degree, then a doctorate, then stayed at the same school to teach, and NEVER ever set foot on a professional stage of any kind. Some of these people have never been to New York to the Met or Broadway, or to a top jazz club, or a rock concert. Some of these people haven’t actually done anything much but study and then teach others what they have studied. I have a problem with that. Yes, I know, they have decided they are better off teaching than trying to be in “the marketplace”, but singing is NOT an academic subject, it is an applied subject.

If school is supposed to prepare you for life and if training at a school is for an applied music degree (playing or singing after school in a professional manner), then training at a school (at any level) is job preparation. If you have never actually HAD a job, then how are you going to prepare someone else to have that same job? And, if you do not understand the difference between actually dealing with singing “in the marketplace” from a first-hand direct experience platform, you cannot possibly prepare a student to go straight into being a professional.

And, if we have reached a place in our society where life experience is not better than, or at least equal to, book learning, particularly in the applied arts, then we are indeed in a sorry state of affairs. When a college or an accreditation board is willing to put someone with a brand new doctorate and no life experience above someone with decades of life experience who does not have a doctorate (and that happens every day), when dealing with an APPLIED profession, such as singing, then everyone is in trouble. The POINT of training is prepare a singer to go out into the world and earn a living singing. They may not succeed, but they should have a chance to try, and that chance can be enhanced or stiffled at the hands of the people who do the training. The person might not succeed at becoming a full-time professional singer, but at least it would not be because of lack of proper training, or lack of talent, or lack of desire, of lack of discipline, or lack of perseverence, or lack of realistic expectations, it would be because the world simply said “no”. There is nothing to do about that except come to terms with it.
The halls of academia have to answer to the profession of SINGING, not the profession of training for singing. There is a big difference.

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