As we begin the academic year I’m reminded, as I see new faces in my studio, that those of us who teach voice do so much more than teach singing.
We teach them technique, artistry, music history, music theory, languages, diction, song literature, and possibly opera or pop or music theatre style. But it’s more than that…
Through watching us, we show students how to behave with their colleagues, model how to have a teaching career while singing and having a life outside of school, and how to handle the stresses of a life in music.
We teach them how to look professional in auditions, to own their bodies on stage and off, to treat these bodies with respect and as their one and only instrument, and to love and respect those physical houses.
As voice teachers, we need to remember that these students are not only coming to us to develop their singing voices, they are often looking for a grown up whom they may aspire to be like. Many of them have never seen someone who teaches music professionally. Some of them may never have had a parent in college, let alone one who was a music major. Usually, voice teachers are the only professors that have weekly, personal contact with these students and therefore we are responsible for being a cheerleader (or someone who needs to light a fire underneath them) for them. We can remind them of why they went to school in the first place, why they love music, why they want to get a degree in this. Sometimes, we are the only reason they stay in school when times get tough.
Studio teachers can decide to help students to become independent life-long learners, those who have something unique to say through their performing, and supportive colleagues. Teachers have great power to help singers grow, to feel empowered, to have confidence, and to lift up their peers. After all, singing can be likened to a spiritual excursion.
Sadly, most of us have heard stories about teachers who denigrate students for their appearance or lack of meeting singing standards, of those who treat technique as a mystical thing that cannot be attained by anyone on their own and therefore the teacher is always needed, of teachers that nearly destroy a students esteem in the name of giving them a thick skin.
It’s a good reminder for me, as I’m buried in emails and paperwork, that there is great power in our roles as voice teachers. My hope is that the professors who have inherited my beloved voice students into their graduate programs are thinking the same thing.