The Singer, The Teacher, The Coach oh my!

The Singer, The Teacher, The Coach oh my!
Sunday musings...

I have written about this before, but it seems to come up again and again...

What is the ethical protocol in this group relationship?  Where are the boundaries? Who determines them?  How fluid is it?

Big questions,  big answers, and even bigger questions.

Sadly, with all relationships, the personalities, egos and professional and personal ethics of each human being play a huge part in determining these boundaries.

I will try to address it from a neutral position.

Each entity in this "family" needs to know their raison d'etre.  They need to know what they bring to the table,  where their skills are,  and simply why they are doing it.

The balance and boundaries for a singer,  depends on that singer and their experience and development.  Often young inexperienced  singers will have a much more difficult time staying firm with boundaries as they seek out expertise to guide them.

On the other hand,  some so-called singers have more ego than experience or talent, and in combination with a forceful personality will try to tell a teacher how to teach, or a coach how to coach.

Boundaries and balance of teaching and coaching are the same.  Big personalities that need ego-stroking, that do not want to be held to the standard of their position will often cross the boundaries intentionally.

How is this controlled?

Singers need to get wise.  Fast.  They cannot be railroaded or moved if it is against their best interest.  Singers need to know the differences between a teacher and a coach.  If that is clear in their minds,  then they determine the boundaries, should they be crossed.

What are those boundaries?

Professionally speaking, the teacher's expertise lies in the development of the instrument.  This means technique and all things voice.  This is the primary responsibility of the teacher:  to work with the singers to develop the technical aspects of the voice.

The coach's expertise lies in the musical, stylistic and language aspects of the music, as sung by the singer.  It is not the coach's responsibility nor his/her place to try to teach technically.

A singer must, and I do mean MUST take charge in those boundaries.

If a coach knows your teacher's language, and/or has played for you in a lesson they can often remind you of a teacher's information while coaching.  Example "that interval is flat.  Remember what your teacher said about xyz? Keep that in mind when we do it again".

If a coach doesn't know your teacher's language,  and he/she knows it's a technical issue, often a simple "there's a technical thing you need to deal with here, ask your teacher about this line".

If a coach begins to teach you technically,  the boundary has been crossed.  Both of you are responsible.

How do you handle it?  You can simply ignore it and concentrate on the coaching aspects, or simply say you will take those technical issues to your teacher.

Ignorance is not bliss in learning how to determine relationships and boundaries in this dance!

Coaches often can ask for a different kind of sound, a different kind of vowel,  suggest more breath,  more legato, more of something!  They can point out mistakes, misreads.  They can work on the stylistic choices and how that style needs to sound.  These are the coaching elements.  But technique?  That is the teacher's domain.

Ultimately, singers, it is YOUR voice.  If you don't stand up for it,  nobody can.

Knowledge is power.  You gain knowledge by studying AND coaching.  There is also great power is knowing the difference and who does what and why.  Great power lies in establishing the boundaries so what you learn can be genuine and flourish.

If the boundaries are not respected,  then find another teacher or find another coach.

Do not "put up with" anything that doesn't feel right, or that doesn't serve you positively.

Know why you stand in front of the people you do - what are you there for?  Your reasons cannot be blurred.  This allows you knowledge to hold everybody in your vocal family responsible for their raison d'etre and to keep the boundaries firm.

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

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