Winning

Being a singing teacher isn’t supposed to be a competition. It shouldn’t be so that teachers of singing try to beat out other teachers by making themselves the flavor of the month on YouTube. Life, of course, isn’t like that.

If you are in private practice, you have to generate a lot of students all the time to make a decent living. You don’t get paid holidays, or benefits or sick leave or retirement funds. You don’t get sabbaticals, you don’t get summers off. In fact, if you don’t work at staying in business, you could easily not survive. You have to make yourself known and if you advertise, and some people do, you need to make money by teaching in order to advertise that you teach singing!! If you are in a tenured position at a university, you have other priorities.

Publicizing your studio isn’t the same as claiming to be bigger and better than everyone else. Letting people know that you exist and what you stand for in your work is sensible and required if you are self-supporting. Bragging about yourself in extreme terms and making claims to be “the most successful” or “the most famous” teacher of singing is just poor judgement.

Sooner or later, if you know what you are doing, the word gets out and your studio fills up by itself. It can get so busy that you have to turn people away. You might even become known outside of your town or city and get asked to come to other places to share what you know. All of this comes because you seem to be good at what you do — teaching other people to sing.

There are more than enough people to go around in a big city if you teach. There are always plenty of singers who want to learn to sing and, as long as the place you live is relatively safe, there are students who will come to you for lessons no matter where you are. The top professionals may only go to a few of the most well known teachers but others, with a lower profile, could end up at your door as long as you know what you are doing.

What then can be said of the folks who are busy promoting themselves even when they are successful, busy, and have more than enough students? What do we think of the woman who has to present herself in New York, on her own resources, when her home and studio is in LA? She doesn’t need to come here or go anywhere else, she says she is very busy there. What can be said of the person whose name shows up on any kind of Google search related to singing who is always promoting her book and her method, which she names after herself? What about the man who has created a new term for himself (singing teacher wasn’t good enough). I think it’s “Voice-ologist” or something like that. In his mid-30s, he wants the world to know that he is THE BEST.

We are not sports stars. We do not have to get out on the court and beat the opponent on the other side of the net. We are not racing the clock to see who can teach the student in the least amount of time. We are not going to do better because the other person isn’t doing so well.

This profession is not about WINNING. It is not about “I am better than you” but sometimes you wouldn’t know that. It can get to be about selling your books, courses, tapes, and videos, about getting yourself hired at functions, showing up on the roster at conferences or promoting your long list of stars. It is about knowing what you need to know about the human voice that is sensible, grounded in function and science and practical. It is about knowing how to speak in simple terms, using regular English (not jargon) and about understanding style, repertoire and professional criteria. It is about being respectful of others whose teaching is in alignment with those things, even if, here and there, you disagree with that person on some pedagogical point.

In the several years of writing this blog I have mentioned two or three times my own courses in one line. I do not use this blog to sell anything. I do not sell products at all. I do not have merchandize to sell, except for the courses I teach at the colleges where my work is offered, and one set of laminated cards to use with a course. I was INVITED to these universities, I did not contact them. They contacted me. In fact, I have not once solicited the organizations that have invited me to be a keynote or major speaker at a conference. Others, like me, have been given the same respect, because they have earned it through years of diligent application of serving their students’ needs.

I believe there is room for everyone who wants to teach with integrity and there are many ways to work effectively. I also believe that teachers of singing do best when they cooperate rather than try to battle each other to see who wins.

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2 thoughts on “Winning”

  1. Thanks so much for a thorough, thoughtful and honest blog post. I live in a big city where I observe a great deal of self-promotional advertising and networking. It’s nice to see that someone I admire, like you, takes the high road on this issue.

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