It's a 2 blog entry day!
This is an ENORMOUS pet peeve of mine and given that schools are resuming and it's the time of year to begin "cleaning house" - let's address it shall we?
First, there are many in our teaching profession who are truly TEACHERS. They teach the student - they work for the best interests of the students and work to become obsolete so that they are teaching singers to teach themselves. Teaching is a skill but it is also a calling in my opinion. Those who are exceptional at it become mentors and change lives for the positive. Just like any other relationship, a teacher/student relationship morphs, develops and shifts. Sometimes it means the teacher releases the student to move elsewhere, sometimes the student knows its time to discover elsewhere. No one teacher is all things to all students. We must recognize that there are many reasons and needs and we must be mature enough and aware enough to keep the students needs at the fore.
Sadly, there are still so-called teachers out there who blur the lines. They may have solid information ; they may have certain aspects of technical knowledge/musical knowledge/stylistic knowledge that is worth learning; but due to other issues that remain THEIRS, they blur the relationship of teacher/student and do not put the student's needs first. There are those teachers that have control issues; have ego issues; have passive-aggressive issues; play psychological and emotional games;
Just like ANY relationship that develops along abusive lines, this is simply unacceptable. You the singer, are not there to enable somebody's psychological flaws! You are there to LEARN! And the teacher's responsibility is to create a safe environment in which you the singer can explore and feel safe to explore and learn and grow.
If for ANY reason, you do not feel safe, do not feel like you are learning, you are free to leave. Sometimes this has nothing to do with you or the teacher per se; sometimes the fit just isn't right. That's okay. If as a teacher, I don't believe I am reaching the singer, FOR ANY REASON, I will suggest they need to find somebody who can reach them. I often will help them find somebody who is a better fit!!!
How do you handle this decision?
Simply, you must be professional about it. You must be adult and mature and handle it with clarity and simplicity. Whether you are studying privately with someone or whether you are in a studio at a college or university, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR EDUCATION.
There are politics everywhere. Acknowledge it. Recognize the chain of command.
Whether you are in an academic environment, or a professional environment studying privately, PUT IT IN WRITING. An email allows you to have a record of it in case you need to refer to it later or forward it to a Dean or Chair of a department, or in a professional situation, simply have a record of your business dealings.
WHATEVER your reasons are for leaving a studio, a simple thank you for your expertise and your commitment to my vocal studies is all that's necessary. A simple "I have made the decision to change studios/move in a different direction" is all that is required. You DO NOT need to get into specifics. Keep it simple; keep it direct; keep it clear.
After you send that email - MOVE ON. Don't angst, don't question, don't re-hash. This is a professional decision that you have made and dealt with amicably. How the teacher responds is NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY!!!
You are under NO OBLIGATION to continue contact, especially if that teacher doesn't take it well.
Those of you in academic situations - cc your emails or forward them to the Head of Voice or the Chair of your department or your Dean. All or any professional exchange needs to have a paper trail. ALL OF IT IN WRITING!
KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT!!! I have learned in a similar situation, that even when you DO keep your mouth shut, people will make stuff up if they have no lives! Know your worth, claim your integrity, behave with intention and maturity and don't get dragged into the bullshit of political posturing and badmouthing! Eventually - and sooner than later - the "chatter" will end because you aren't fanning the flames! And the behavior of others will seek its own level and you will find yours.
Those of you in academic situations - this will hold you in good stead as you enter the "real" world and need to deal with difficult personalities later on!
Don't be bullied. Don't get wishy-washy. Be decisive. Be clear. Keep your own counsel and hold your head high. Find what you need from where you need it.
Rise above the games and be responsible for YOU. Do it with focus and clear intention. Do it with professionalism and with maturity.
If we begin to discover we as singers are responsible for our studies and we must seek out those teachers that can help us discover what we need to learn, we then feel we are on solid footing instead of trying to find a morsel of truth in amongst the mine field of some other agenda!
As we DEMAND the best of ourselves and others - as students AND as teachers - we will not enable the other behavior that does such damage to our profession and to the spirits of those who are put in the path of that destruction.
If you want to be treated as a professional, behave as one. Live as one. Conduct your business and your life with integrity and truth. DARE TO LIVE WITH PURPOSE. DARE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
I promise you, even if you have to experience moments of discomfort, you will rise above, and move through and move on - AND THRIVE!!!!!!!!
GO GET YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Susan Eichhorn Young
Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking.
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