After viewing and responding to a post on a singer message board, it got me thinking about this baggage/experience issue. The singer who had posted had said that "every" teacher brings baggage into the studio. I objected. Vehemently! She clarified and began talking about experience...but it occurred to me that baggage and experience were used synonymously and that just couldn't be a good thing to view it that way and enable it.
These are my musings please remember...I don't claim to be a psychologist!!! However, being in the studio one-on-one with a teacher and student can lead to some interesting findings over the years about human nature, about the nature of professionalism or lack thereof, about what needs to be in that space and what clearly doesn't!
To me, baggage is something we all carry if we've lived more than a day! Baggage can be psychological, emotional, spiritual, and it tends to be the "negative side" of this topic. That stuff that shapes us but not always in a positive light, nor in a completely conscious one. It's heavy, it's hard to set down, it's unpredictable...
Experience however, is something else. It can be psychological, emotional, spiritual, but it also has a DOING and a BEING that we have learned from. It is a positive tangibility in our lives. We have taken our DOING and learned from it in order to draw an understanding and a way of living and in this case, a way of teaching to BENEFIT others. Experience - "good" or "bad" - when used for a positive end, can be illuminating and ultimately fulfilling and rewarding!
Let me give you a personal example: I believe in two kinds of voices: musical voices and natural voices. I was a musical voice and needed to learn to claim my instrument and how it worked. I struggled with the innate musicality of my voice and my inability to claim the physicality due to tensions, physical issues I needed to overcome etc etc. For YEARS I wondered why I had all this struggle. Now, if I had allowed that to become "baggage" and visit that upon any singer who decided to study with me, I would have been negative, abusive, and unsupportive of said singer's development, because that "baggage" would not have allowed me to MOVE PAST IT to do my work.
Instead, I realized that if I HADN'T gone through some of those vocal hardships, I wouldn't have learned HOW to sing and in learning HOW to sing, and figuring it out detail by detail, I was able to BUILD A VOICE. And in building a voice, I could teach someone to find theirs! That was illuminating and marvellous! And that is what I CHOSE to do.
We can make a DECISION to change the negative to a positive. We can also make a decision to not do it. If we believe we cannot, or decide to visit our baggage and not our experience on our singers, we have NO BUSINESS TEACHING.
Baggage happens just by trudging through life and for purposes of this blog, through this business. Experience is how we CHOOSE to handle it and deal with it and how we can TRANSFORM IT into something worthwhile and positive to shape our ability to DO MORE.
One cannot experience life if there is too much baggage in the way. Learning HOW to learn is key. Learning how to leave that baggage at that studio door in order for you to be able to teach/able to learn is NECESSARY and CRUCIAL.
You can only create experience by DOING IT. Making your baggage more important will not give you true experience. Baggage STOPS you. Experience MOTIVATES you.
Baggage is that stuff we carry that we haven't dealt with completely - or at all. We cannot visit that on others. It is not theirs!!! Baggage does not give you an excuse nor a green light to be abusive, unprofessional, or manipulative in a controlling or power hungry way. If baggage exists - acknowledge it and unpack it in privacy! Baggage should not be "passed on"!!! Carry your own shit!!!! Your baggage should not be visited on ANYBODY else, ESPECIALLY in the studio! That goes both ways too - teacher to student AND student to teacher.
Experience - allows us to BREATHE and CONTRIBUTE. Why? Because it allows us to demonstrate from a place that might have a negative beginning, yet we have learned something positive from it. Experience can also be POSITIVE immediately, because it allows us to see more deeply into our area of expertise!
If you are spending money and getting baggage in the studio, you must leave. That is not what you are there to do. If you are teaching from baggage and not experience, you aren't teaching. If you don't know the difference, you shouldn't be teaching. If you DO know the difference and still choose to lead with your baggage, shame on you and how dare you!
Know the difference, and strive to claim the differences between baggage and experience. We are not robots and the complexity of the human spirit creates many interesting twists and turns as we interact. However, part of this complexity is the ability to recognize and decide. Where am I today? What do I need to do today? How do I do it most effectively? With whom do I work? What do I need in order to reach them? What am I willing to push aside to do my work? What CAN I do? What is needed and what is wanted? What is possible?
I believe these are the beginnings of knowing the difference and making a difference and making a contribution that is allows for growth and possibilities, and not dark impossibilities.
Drop the bags at the door and pick up your true experience and walk into the studio with care!
Susan Eichhorn Young
Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking.
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