Why You Can’t Dabble

It’s very hard to be kinda sorta good at something and also kinda sorta good at something else.

At some point, it is easier to be good at just one thing. Really good. If you accomplish this, then, maybe you can also learn to get very good at something else. Being good at several things at once slows down learning both things and makes maintaining the two skill sets harder.

But, maybe not.

Maybe if you learn the two things as a kid, slowly, over time, and you don’t get told that doing so is hard, perhaps it is quite possible to be good at more than one, maybe even more than two.

Here in NYC, on Broadway, we have some of the finest dancers in the world. In the current production of “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying” which stars Daniel Radcliffe and opens next weekend, the dancers are called upon to do several ballet sequences, some pop/rock jazz, tap and traditional theatrical dancing. All of it is beautifully choreographed. Most of the dancers are young. How did they get to be so good at so many kinds of dance? I’m sure it was because they were exposed to them early on and worked at each of them for years. When you get here, and you go to auditions, you find out quickly, they want you to bring your jazz shoes, your character shoes and your ballet shoes to the same audition. If you don’t do all of those styles, you go to classes and learn to do them, or you go home.

Our choristers in the Brooklyn Youth Chorus (www.brooklynyouthchorus.org) sing in a classical head dominant sound (with the Philharmonic and other groups), they sing in a mixy sound (with people like Brandy, Michael Jackson and The Grizzly Bears) and they sing a kind of belty mix with Elton John and other rockers. We train them to do this by teaching them to do various register balances in mid range on purpose. We have not had any health problems and we have not have anyone develop vocal pathology in 20 years. That’s a lot of kids. We don’t tell them this kind of versatility in singing is hard or potentially damaging, we just make sure they learn correct physical and aural patterning and we make sure they get the best information about vocal production they can understand. It seems to be working.

The people who sort of sing classical music and who sort of sing other styles don’t sing any of them well. Perhaps that’s OK, especially if it is just for their own enjoyment. If, however, the person has professional aspirations and they come here to NYC (or go anywhere else where there is high level professional music) they find out quickly what kind of standards singers are expected to have. It’s a kind of school, the world of professional singing, but not one that has books or grades, just opportunities to succeed or fail.

If you want to dabble, that’s fine, but don’t come here thinking that will be enough to give you a career.

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One thought on “Why You Can’t Dabble”

  1. So true! It took me a DECADE to get to the point where I felt as though I was “pretty darn good” at both Classical and CCM singing. And, even then, rock booking agents still referred to me as “the choir boy.” It’s incredibly difficult to be great at more than one style.
    Jeff Costello
    Certified Level III
    Somatic Voicework(tm)
    The LoVetri Method

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