Sooner or later, you come to a place where you think, “That’s it. I don’t need to learn anything more about this topic. I’m an expert and that’s the end”. Then, as time passes, you just rest on your laurels, you do what you’ve always done, you know what you’ve always known and you preach your own gospel of knowledge from that platform.
Or, you confront yourself and look in the mirror and wonder, “Is there anything new out there? Have I really found out all there is to know on this topic even though I haven’t investigated it in over 5 (10, 15, 20, 25) years?”
I strive to learn something new every day. I strive to be open to change and new information about singing, coming from all directions. I assume I never know when the latest, hottest new discovery will open up my world to excitingly fresh possibilities. I naively assumed that most teachers would have that viewpoint as well. I was very wrong.
I have encountered many, many teachers of singing who have found their own way to teach and are not in the least interested in changing anything about it, mostly because they feel it’s just fine the way it is. They are well satisfied with themselves and their work and make no bones about letting others know that they feel that way. It’s kind of stunning, but it’s not an uncommon attitude.
How is it possible to think that you have a perfect way to do anything? How is it that you do what you do and never adjust or change it or what you think about it? How is it so that you aren’t even curious to see what someone else is doing?
Licensed professions are required to keep up their skills by attending educational courses that keep them abreast of the newest trends. Speech Language Pathologists need to get CEU’s in order to keep their credentials current. That is certainly not true of singing teachers. They don’t have to have any skills in the first place……a plumber could put out a shingle and say he was teaching singing and no one could stop him. In fact, I know a very well known singing teacher who was a piano tuner before he became a recognized faculty member at a college conservatory.
This holds true for other professions who deal with us as singing teachers. Most of the laryngologists I have met think they know what good singing teachers do. Some of them have taken singing lessons but most have not. Some of them have observed a teacher of singing over a period of time, but most of them have not. Some of them have read about vocal pedagogy (from a classical point of view, since that’s all there is), but most have not. Yet, they do not attend voice conferences. There are no ENTS at a NATS national conference unless they are invited there. I have been to medical conferences as a singing teacher (just to watch), but I have never seen a medical doctor attend a singing teacher conference. Why not? Because they think they don’t need to learn from us even though they could benefit enormously from what we have to share. I have spent time observing in several doctors offices and seen more than a few SLPs working. I don’t intend to become an ENT or an SLP, but watching them work was very beneficial to my overall knowledge of the voice. And I always enjoy watching them present research because I always learn something. Why should that be only a one-way path?
It’s very hard telling people who think they know that maybe they do not know. It’s very hard pointing out to someone that curiosity about what others do or know is a good thing, not a harmful one. It’s quite challenging to let another person know that you would like to share your knowledge if that other person has never even thought that there could be something new to learn from anyone.
There will always be people who are content with themselves but when that contentment contains the seeds of complacency, it isn’t a wonderful thing. Self-satisfaction can be lethal or wonderful, depending on the circumstances. If you already know everything you need to know, do yourself a favor, and think about it again.