Professional Relationships Part 3: Teachers and Coaches

Professional Relationships Part 3: Teachers and Coaches
Friday musings as the professional relationship topic continues...

I have written much about the responsibility of these important relationships.

The teacher/singer,  coach/singer relationships can perhaps be the most "sticky" due to the intimate nature of TRUST in the studio.

However,  we must develop a professionalism within that space from BOTH sides.

As a singer,  you must know WHY you are there.  You are not paying your teacher nor your coach to be your friend, your therapist nor your enabler.

You are not paying your teacher nor your coach to abuse you either.

The boundaries of these relationships sometimes get murky, and you must be able to see clearly in order to establish the guidelines.

A teacher is NOT responsible for your mental health.

A teacher is responsible for creating a safe place in which to discover your voice and develop your technical behavior.

A coach is responsible for helping you find the intricacies of style and language and form and characterization.

HOWEVER,  personalities get involved and when personalities get involved, it gets personal.

As a teacher, I genuinely care for my singers.  I will not blow sunshine up their asses,  but I care for who they are and who they are becoming,  as singer, as artist and as human being.  That is my nature - I happen to be a nurturer.

However, my job is to give them a technical understanding of their voice and lead them to a solid technique.  I cannot DO it for them - but I can set up a foundation of discovery for them to take responsibility for.

I need to know what is best for the student - and in doing so, sometimes I must send that singer on.

Singers also need to know if it's time to move on, they can.

Ultimately,  if you aren't getting what you NEED in a PROFESSIONAL CAPACITY from your teacher or coach - for what they are trained to do, then you need to move on.

Ultimately, as a teacher or coach, you have the right to keep working with a singer or NOT.

None of us is stuck.  We need to handle our business as business.  This allows for a clean slate and no mess.

What are you looking for in a teacher?

If you are looking for  shrink - that's not a teacher.  Those aren't my credentials.

If what the teacher or coach offers is what you are looking for, then that professional relationship can be forged.

As with any relationship,  we can often overlook foibles or glitches in personality if what we are gleaning and gaining from the sessions are true and purposeful.

However,  anything negative that creates a dysfunction in that professional relationship is not to be overlooked!

You don't need to pay someone to abuse you.

A teacher doesn't need to keep a space for a singer that simply isn't doing the work, or isn't able/willing to respect the professional relationship.

Again, MUTUAL RESPECT is key.

If the boundaries are clear,  teachers/coaches and singers can have healthy and profitable relationships that work! Imagine it!

If the boundaries are clear, and someone crosses it or disrespects it or disregards it, then it is easy to sever the relationship.

Sometimes,  it is just time for change.

Sometimes, life/schedule/needs  dictate change.

Don't just walk away from a professional relationship.  It doesn't take angst to simply say in person, via email  (I believe in putting things in writing) a simple "thank you and I'm moving on!"

Or in a teacher/coach position  "it's time for you to find something new".

Sometimes,  we just need change.  We don't always know why.  We just need to experience elsewhere.

We don't have to explain it.  We just have to DO it and make it clean.

"Time for me to discover/time for you to carry on and discover" is part of the process!

I can honestly say, that with all the professional relationships I have forged with my teachers and coaches who in turn, were professional with me,  I have continued to keep in touch with them, and would be able to call them up and say "could I sing for you?" and if they had room and inclination would welcome me.

These are crucial relationships in the development of the professional self and the artist self.

Recognizing who you are with and why you are there and what it is for is part of how we continue to explore our place in our artistry and in the business.

I will always respect, and in many cases, ADORE the teachers and coaches I have worked with who recognized the professional relationship.  Many I have become friends with - but even when we work, we still know the boundary of that professional relationship.  When we work, we work.  It is teacher/singer, or coach/singer.

Ultimately,  YOU the singer must find the teacher and coaches that you can respect and learn from and with,  as well as finding those that offer YOU respect in turn.

Pay for the service.  Play no games.  Love or care about the human being.

Know and recognize and respect all boundaries from both sides.  If you expect respect you have to give it.

Enjoy the process and the development of these often lasting relationships!  Even if it's time to move on, it doesn't mean you have to cut that person from your life if it has been a solid working relationship!

Walk away from the relationships that are negative, abusive or simply wrong.

Either way,  none of us are "stuck" in a relationship unless we want to be.  And THAT is a problem that is definitely for a psychiatrist to riddle out with you!

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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