Many times I have heard that lovely little saying “Those who can, do, and those who can’t, teach”. Would that this were never the case, but it, sadly, sometimes true. I think it was true in my case. I started teaching when I was 22, in Connecticut. I did so because I was asked, and worked with a few high school students and someone who had been brain damaged in an accident. It was always fun and easy for me and I could hardly stop once I began. Lessons would go on and on. At that time, though, I was intent on becoming a professional singer. I had done quite a few shows in Connecticut and was beginning to go into New York more regularly for classes and lessons. It was in my mind to teach only as something to do “on the side to earn money”, not to become a career teacher. Even though I liked teaching, it wasn’t my goal. I was going to be a star! (Yes, I’m blushing now).
I got to the Big Apple in 1975 and quickly discovered how truly difficult it is to get any work here. It was even hard to get non-paying gigs. You had to fight to get an opportunity to perform for free!! Nevertheless, I looked hard and got some nice opportunities, although I got paid only the smallest amount of money and realized immediately that I had better start teaching again or I was going to starve. Without much effort, I developed a relatively stable voice studio out of my apartment and made just enough money to keep myself alive.
After three years of knocking around, and with the end of my marriage looming, I was tired of beating the pavement, and had to confront that the angel of show biz had not, and probably was not, going to come find me so that I could get that star on my door. What was I to do? I knew I could get a job in an office, as I had been very successful at that in Connecticut. I could wait tables or tend bar, or I could keep teaching. I guess we know what I chose.
It was at that point that I decided to make teaching my life focus and to become the best damn teacher of singing I could. It was also then that I found the Voice Foundation for the first time, and saw the way to make this goal possible. To say that my world opened up then, is too mild a statement. While I couldn’t control getting hired as a singer, I could certainly control learning about singing and the teaching of singing, and that is what I did. The rest, if you know me, is history.
I think that I would not have been interested in teaching had I been very successful as a performer. Performing would have occupied me and I would have devoted myself to becoming a better actor and dancer, resting on my singing skills, as I knew that they were good. I wouldn’t have had time to investigate science and medicine and I wouldn’t have encountered all the confusion that’s out there in Voice Teaching Land. In fact, practically nothing that I do now, would have been likely, had I become a STAR, or even a consistently working vocalist. I owe my present skills and knowledge to my failure.
So, it is true, sometimes, that those who don’t (in this case, have a career as a singer) teach, but if being a career voice teacher is a profession (most definitely), then those who are teaching singing because they want to and because they want to be very excellent at it, certainly don’t fit the old saying. How about a new one — “Those who can teach, do, and those who can’t, stay away from it”. I like that much better, don’t you?