Where I Stand

This is the first day of my Blog.

I am interested in speaking my mind about issues that concern me in the profession of teaching singing for Contemporary Commercial Music. I understand that what I have to say may strike some as being controversial, others as being a relief.

I have very strong feelings, passions I suppose, about contemporary commercial music and how it should be handled by singing teachers. I have equally strong and generally negative opinions about the way many teachers approach teaching CCM styles. I do understand that some few teachers have worked out their own methods or approaches that are healthy and serve the needs of their students, but my experience (35+ years teaching and 45 years singing CCM) have shown me that there are a lot of singing teachers out there who have no idea what they are hearing when their students sing CCM. This makes me angry.

I think students have a right to study with teachers who make the kinds of sound they expect the student to sing. I think that not making those sounds oneself, when one is teaching, is, esssentially, unethical. I know some teachers who don’t sing at all, not one note. That strikes me as being very odd indeed. I don’t think one can teach something that one doesn’t do. I don’t.

I also think it is fraudulent for singing teachers to say “the kids know how to make the sound”, so we just find the music. Is the teacher the authority, or is it the student? Should we be paid for listening to the students do something we don’t have any basis to evaluate? If so, how is that ethical?

And when the process backfires, as it often does, and when a young singer has to come for repair of both the voice and the heart, because their teacher attended a couple of lectures and then knew everything, shouldn’t the TEACHER be held accountable? Shouldn’t the person who “guided” the singer into such wrongful vocal behavior be held to explain what was going on? Should we allow the teacher to blame the student (which always happens) by saying that the student “wasn’t listening” or “trying hard enough” or by saying that the student is “tense” or “nervous” or “squeezes”? Just exactly when and where does the buck stop?

And when someone, like me, does actually go in and do damage control, and says so, should that person be looked at as an ego-maniac? I have been seen as being “overbearing” (to put it mildly) in saying “the line in the sand is drawn here”. Healthy singing is based upon healthy function and each kind of singing puts its own demands on that function. There is no such thing as “generic” voice training. If I can turn a ruined voice around in a few lessons, isn’t that proof that the student wasn’t to blame for the problems he or she had? If I can get the voice to do what it needs to do in such a short time, doesn’t that mean that I am using functionally sound principles to get the results? If others can learn and replicate the methods I teach, so that they, too, can fix a troubled voice quickly and effectively, doesn’t that mean that the method holds up to scrutiny? And doesn’t that mean that what I am doing has NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH ME, but with the method? Isn’t it so in science that experiments are only valid when they can be replicated by others who get the same results?

The profession of teaching singing is going to change, whether it wants to or not, as time is marching on and the days of being a “strictly classical” singing teacher are truly numbered. Training that addresses the full needs of various styles, without having that training be based upon “classical” or operatic ideas, will be the training of the future. It isn’t a question of if, it is of when, and time is really speeding by.

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2 thoughts on “Where I Stand”

  1. Well said. And indeed, your results are being replicated by those of us who are using Somatic Voicework. I have found this to be a most effective and efficient means of teaching voice to singers of all styles and at all levels.

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