I've been discussing this with several students over the last few weeks and thought I would write a bit about it today...
Why are you studying? How are you studying?
Often, we have a large idea of why we study but it never gets more specific than that. When the studying becomes nebulous the development tends to not focus either and we can wander around endlessly looking for a magic bullet but claiming nothing.
I always ask a prospective student the question, "what can I do for you and with you?"
It allows me an opportunity to find out where that singer believes they are, in order for me to begin to assess their needs, wants, realities and possible delusions (!!).
I may hear "I want to be a professional singer", "I want to be a better singer", "I am a dancer who needs to develop my voice", "I am an actor who needs to use my singing voice", "I want to be an opera singer", "I want to audition for singing roles", "I want to be a music theatre singer".
These are the broad responses. These broad responses are important because they create the broad strokes of the end result as it looks at the moment.
What more is there??? Here are the important factors: teacher and singer must work TOGETHER to create REALITY and FOCUS in order to discover what those broad stroke statements mean. It is not, nor should it be left exclusively to the singer nor the teacher. A singer is standing in front of a teacher to discover the knowledge to access their instrument and growth. The teacher is there to meet that singer and impart the knowledge they have to work with the singer.
Vocal and artistic awareness is crucial to this process - from both singer and teacher.
This relationship is parallel in many ways with a personal trainer and a client at the gym! The large goal must be acknowledged to find out how to build a regime in order to build toward that. In the process, we must tailor that regime to accommodate the individual client - physical aptitude, ability, commitment, availability, willingness, and mental aptitude.
This is the same for the singer's regime. An ongoing developmental plan must be blueprinted in order to create the best possible process for that singer! That plan must be focused, flexible and pliable in order to accommodate ongoing changes of direction, psyche, physicality, natural vocal ability, intention, and all the other things that come into play. The regime must be fluid, pliable and PERSONAL.
No singer is with a teacher for the same reasons. No singer sings for the same reasons as another singer. Perhaps the LARGE goal is similar, but the path and the journey is unique and personal, and thus, the regime or plan of study must be as unique and personal as the singer!
The development of a vocal plan or vocal plans, should encompass the large goal - which will be more general, - and with each smaller goal and smaller umbrella of development, the vocal regime or plan will be more detailed and more specific.
These vocal plans should encompass WHAT THE SINGER NEEDS - needs and wants have to be acknowledged as hand in hand in many cases. Often, the need comes before want as it provides the framework to acquire the want. Wanting never materializes without DOING.
So the large umbrella of the obscure goal needs to have footsteps along the way. It is up to the teacher and the singer together to discover these footsteps!! Both need to acknowledge that this creates a much more focused and directed and AWARE developmental movement. It holds both singer and teacher responsible for the process every step of the way!
A singer's goals may change in this process - and this is FINE! Perhaps what you thought was your goal becomes clearer as you as you develop these smaller focused goals in order to move forward. Perhaps your goal COMPLETELY changes directions because you are developing this smaller focused goals!
We must be willing to find these focused developmental plans. We must, as singers, DEMAND to create them with our teachers.
As teachers, we must be RESPONSIBLE to this process. We are required to be honest, forthcoming and clear. We must find a singer where they are, assess their development as it stands and give our professional option of what needs to be done - immediately, within a short period of time and over a longer period of time. We need to recognize that develop can follow its own timeline, and we must be flexible to accept those changes and be willing to adjust to the needs of the singers we work with!
As teachers, we are not readers of the future - and cannot say a singer will have a career , or will not have one. We need to know what we can offer each singer within these small focused goals and footsteps to allow a singer to find the detailed journey they have chosen to walk, for the time they walk with us!
So, begin to ask your questions - of yourself, and of the teacher and coaches you work with. Why do you study? Answer with a large overview. Then, how do you achieve those goals? What are you developing? Where are you now? What seems to be the foremost issue to deal with NOW? What will the next step and the next regime be? How long does that take? How can I watch the progress and see it become behavior? Does my overall goal need to be there? Am I being realistic in ability? Realistic in time?
As an example: if an actor comes to me at 45 and has never sung before, and has no music background, and says her large goal is to be a professional opera singer, chances are that goal is too broad and not completely realistic! However, if that same 45 year old has an aptitude, an instrument that has potential, perhaps the realistic larger goal is to be the best singer they can and audition for community and local productions.
Another example: Perhaps a developing singer comes to a teacher wanting to develop the upper extension of the voice. As the teacher assesses, she/he realizes that the upper extension is not going to happen until the core strength of the middle voice is re-balanced. This must be discussed, examined and a course of action must be given, so the singer can create the TRUTH of the goal-oriented work. Working to discover what NEEDS to be done and HOW to do it, can then take us to what we thought we WANTED in the first place.
So - the questions are to you now - why do you study? What are your goals? Do you discuss and prepare the regime with your teacher? Do you follow blindly? Do you push back? Do you realize your potential by DOING or are you wandering aimlessly? Are you being lead with nebulous "mysterious" no-answers? Or are you and your teacher ACTIVE in your regime and development? Do you BOTH inform the development and the ability of the process? Do you BOTH acknowledge your responsibility in this process?
More specific goals, and more specific work, and WHY will give the responsibility of DOING to both singer AND teacher AND coach. This gives us tangible development - something we can measure physically, technically, musically and artistically.
Creating goals creates responsibility to the process and to the possibility!
Dream - and then realize! THIS is possible!
Susan Eichhorn Young
Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking.
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