Updated: Feb 27
A couple of decades ago, my roommate Shirley didn’t like to deal with things she didn’t like to deal with. For some people that translates to pragmatism. For Shirley it translated to never-ending personal chaos.
One day I watched her peel a parking ticket off her car and throw it away. I asked what (the hell) she was doing and found out ignoring parking violations was just a thing she did. Normally. Like, she got them fairly often. In my mild horror I told her, “If you get a boot on your car, don’t even ask me for money”.
Her sincere answer completely threw me: “Why”?
To me it was obvious: if you cause something, you’re responsible for the effect.
In our physical world, the law of cause and effect is ironclad. The physics that regulate our lives on this spinning sphere are predictable and measurable. It’s possible those rules also apply to bureaucracy, hence my alarm regarding Shirley’s cavalier attitude toward her citations. However, in the world of interpersonal relationships, cause and effect can be a bit squishy. Cause can appear inadvertently, and effect can be unpredictable.
Interpersonal Cause and Effect is a big deal for voice teachers and other professionals whose workplace includes the inner recesses of their client’s psyche.
Too often voice teachers forget about the context of their students' singing.
They instruct based on what they know to be right and healthy, and that instruction may not be applicable to the environment or style in which the student sings.
For instance, a teacher may believe that a particular vowel should be produced in a particular way in a given situation. This is what he teaches his student. His student, however, may be a singer in a rock band. So although the instruction is solid, it’s not applicable to the context in which his student is singing. She’s in a situation where she can’t hear herself, and the aesthetics of her genre are such that, if she did follow her teacher’s instruction, she’d sound inappropriate.
That well-intentioned and pedagogically correct voice teacher thought he was doing his job, showing his student how to create a healthy sound. But in fact, he was creating Cause. The Effect might be something along the lines of
the student doesn’t feel understood or appreciated for her musical endeavors and quits lessons with no explanation.
The student feels exasperated by her teacher’s lack of knowledge and quits lessons with no explanation.
The student tries to comply with her teacher’s instruction and ends up with vocal damage.
None of those things are what the teacher had in mind. He didn’t know he was creating Cause, because he was acting without awareness of context.
Because of the intimacy of what voice teachers do, and the complexity of the human soul, creating Cause is unavoidable.
Sometimes we say things that are as innocent as a baby bunny and that cut our student’s egos to the quick. We can, however, look to the typical and frequent reasons we create Cause and make conscious decisions.
There’s a good-sized handful of issues that are typical and oft-repeating in a voice teacher’s studio, and that initiate Cause and Effect. Failure to appreciate context is only one, but it’s an important one particularly where your singers of popular styles are concerned. For them, context is everything.
Meredith Colby is the author of Money Notes: How to Sing High, Loud, Healthy and Forever. She's a voice teacher the the creator of Neuro-Vocal Method, which uses brain science research to teach healthy CCM/Popular voice. To purchase Money Notes or learn more, click HERE.