Those Who Refuse To Learn

In spite of the fact that I am always championing students, placing the responsibility of learning to sing squarely on the shoulders of the teachers, I must reluctantly admit that are some people who just cannot learn.

I have had various students over the decades who have spent lots of money on lessons, have made progress in lessons and in fact, have sung quite well in exercises, who cannot or will not make the effort to apply any of what they have learned in a song. I find this baffling because I was always eager to apply what I was learning in my lessons as soon as possible. I wanted to make adjustments and changes because I found it exciting.

Still, these people often do not realize they are not singing in a way that makes it sound like they had ever had any training at all. I could better understand this if I could not get the student to make progress in the lessons, but that is a different situation and is very very rare in my studio. Those people usually don’t stay very long. The folks I’m discussing do make progress in the lessons, sometimes really amazing progress, and then proceed to sing the same way they always have.

I had a woman who was intelligent, talented, and dedicated, with experience in performing, who was musical and expressive, study with me for over two years. She went from one workable octave to two and a half, sometimes three. She got smoother, louder, more resonant, easier and freer vocally and sounded wonderful in the exercises. She could do almost every pattern easily and it was really encouraging to hear her.

Every performance she ever did, however, was just like the first one I saw before she had taken any lessons. NOTHING changed. Her range was very low and short, the sound was uninteresting and repetitive and it had no real connection to any kind of emotional expression. It wasn’t wrong, exactly, as there was no constriction or distortion, but it was just blah. After two years, I encouraged her to “try another teacher” because I was at an end.

I have even had “heart to heart” talks with some of these people, telling them that they are not really using what they have learned and that they must make some connection between the sounds they make in the exercises and the ones they make in music, but often that doesn’t work either.

Clearly, this is a mental block of some kind. The throat is ready, willing and able, and so is the body. Only the mind can create this kind of disconnect.

I don’t have any answers, just raising the issue. Perhaps it will help younger teachers to understand that it isn’t them…….I hope so!

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