In singing, too much independence can be dangerous.
In Europe and in South America (and in Asia, from what I have read although I haven’t been there) older people are held in greater esteem than they are here in the USA. That’s not really news.
What’s unfortunate, however, is that a newbie with a fancy piece of paper automatically becomes an “expert” equal to those with more experience than the young person has years on earth. Something wrong with that.
Singing is an applied skill. That means you cannot learn to sing by reading a book about it, even the best book. You can’t learn to sing well by reading all the books about singing (and there are many) no matter who wrote them. You can’t learn by attending concerts or listening to recordings (although that can sometimes help) or buying a course online (especially not by that!) All that you can ever do is sing and try to improve your singing. Some people have no interest in or desire to do that. They sing however they do and as long as they can get by, that’s that.
Others, however, want to do certain things with their voices that they do not have the talent to do with their own resources. Such people often seek out help in some form, typically from a teacher. Finding the right person to assist you can be tricky, but it is possible. If you go looking for the people with multiple degrees, remember, getting a degree from a school is but a small thing compared to life experience. No matter how many pedagogy courses a teacher might have had at college or in the conservatory, they do not substitute for life experience as either a teacher or a vocalist. Further, if a teacher has experience singing in one style and the student wants to sing in a different style, the teacher could easily be lost or offer poor advice. And, if the teacher, even if he or she sings well, goes entirely by her own subjective experience of what happens when she sings and tries to convey this to the student, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the student doesn’t understand the teacher at all. Why would they?
An expert is not just someone who went to school and got a master’s and then a doctorate. A master, in singing, is someone who can sing in a variety of styles, throughout a wide range of pitches and who is healthy in whatever sounds he makes. A master is someone who can address any student, in any style, from any point of view, and be effective. A master is someone who understands where the vocalist is and where he or she wants to go and knows the most direct path to get there. A master is always also learning. A master never arrives, she is always traveling the path.
I find a great deal of disrespect towards older teachers with decades of life experience on these social media sites. Many of the teachers there think they know everything. Some of them hold advanced degrees and assume that makes them smarter than others. That would be a wrong assumption. As Americans we seem to be compelled to show the world that we are INDEPENDENT! We must think on our own and knock down the “senior citizens” of teaching in order for them to get out-of-the-way so the “new and cool” can take over. In some places that’s good. Society needs to make room for younger people and new ideas but in singing, the wisdom of the body isn’t going to change much from generation to generation. What changes is the demands made upon the voice and the type of music written that creates those demands.
Sometimes, as in the case of an applied skill like singing, older and wiser makes sense. In fact, it makes the most sense.
The key is always, how does any expert who teaches sound when they sing, what kinds of music do they sing, and how do they communicate to others about what that process should be? The ability to understand science (as I keep saying) does not mean you can either sing or teach, it might mean that you can explain, but maybe not. Pedagogy is only useful if you have lived long enough to establish that you know that you know.
Some of the discussion that takes place on the social media websites devoted to various topics of singing and the teaching thereof is astounding in its profound ignorance. Many of these individuals have read nothing, understand little or have sparse life experience, yet they will put forth their point of view alongside that of others (sometimes of their own mentors) with impunity. Those who “know the right way” are the worst offenders. There is no such thing.
In the really old days, there were apprentices and they stayed with the Master Teacher for years before they were ready to go out on their own. Today we have a NATS Master Teacher Intern Program that lasts only 9 days. It is an excellent program, but it’s just 9 days. And, yes, I have been a Master Teacher in that program twice.
Before you decide to teach singing, remember that you need to think seriously about going out on your own as an “expert” teacher. You are taking someone’s throat in your hands and in so doing you are also taking their mind and their heart. Learn to be humble, grateful to your own teachers and be willing to listen to those who are “wise with age”. Most of all, respect those that have come before you and who generously offer their life experience to guide you. It isn’t something you can get in a college program.