How Music Education Steals Our Voices

Updated: Jun 5, 2020


I'm recovering today. Yesterday (for a bunch of reasons) I was hit really hard by the collective pain that is caused by our music education system. 😢

The profound loss of joy, meaning, and music weighed upon me like an anchor on my chest. I was vacillating between teary and crying most of the day.

Can I talk about this?

I don't know. It's politically incorrect in the world of voice teachers. It's the pain so many of us share but don't acknowledge to one another. Or even to ourselves.

But it's also true.

I tend to say things that are true, and that other people don't seem to want to say. I say them out loud. Always have.

Here's what I was thinking of. I was thinking of young...let's call her Kate...I was thinking of young Kate who has a lovely voice, is a natural singer, and who gets praise and attention for singing. She loves to sing. She sings the songs that she hears in her everyday life; popular music. Let's just say it's country music.

Kate loves singing country music and is good at it.

So Kate thinks, "What could be better than making a living as a singer? Nothing. Nothing could be better than that." So Kate starts taking singing lessons. Whether she started before or during her college experience doesn't matter. She started lessons. They were classical lessons. Almost all lessons are classical lessons.

Kate knew this didn't seem right. But she was young. She didn't have a sense of advocating for what she wanted. She had been trained not to listen to her inner voice. She trusted the teacher. She was part of the system. She might have been told that classical technique was applicable to all singing.

So Kate spent four, or five, or eight years taking classical voice lessons. Secretly, her love, her presumed happiness vehicle, the ship that would take her to her dreams, was quietly leaving the dock, then the harbor. By the time Kate realized she could no longer sing the music she liked in a way that she felt good about, that ship had sailed.

Now she doesn't know what to do. She's pretty good at singing classical music. But she doesn't listen to it. She just sings it. She listens to country music, and can hear how wrong she sounds when she sings along. Her confidence in her singing is diminishing. Her sense of self is rising up and realizing that this was not the outcome that she signed up for.

Yesterday I was crying for the people who lose years, or even decades, of the joy of their singing because they were shuttled onto the Education Track. The people who graduated with a vocal performance degree - because, hey, if you want to be a professional singer, you'll learn how to do that in college, right? - and in the end, stood outside the college gates saying WTF am I going to do now?

And don't even get me started on those people who tried to follow their bliss anyway and ended up with vocal damage along with the trauma that MUST accompany THAT experience.

I'm saying it out loud. Artists trusted educators, and those they trusted stole from them. It wasn't malicious. But it wasn't loving or caring either. It didn't respect the musician, it selfishly pushed an agenda. And those pushing that agenda weren't even aware or caring about WHAT that agenda was rooted in.

(And that will be ANOTHER politically incorrect blog post.)

They weren't and they aren't. Because it's still happening every day.

#mytruevoice 😶

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