Updated: Feb 14
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.
I know it can be seen as 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.
Here's what I was thinking of. 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. 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. Most lessons are either straight-up classical lessons, or "crossover" lessons bathed in classical values and beliefs.
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 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, the thing she loved, her presumed vehicle to happiness, 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. She's aware of 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, " What 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. (Cuz that would be me.)
I'm saying it out loud. Many young artists have 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 of WHAT that agenda was, or what it meant. They chose (and choose) not to be cognizant of how pushing their agenda was affecting the life experience of their students. They did not take responsibility for the emotional pain, the physical struggle (or damage), or the reality of financial hardship their misguided instruction was inflicting on their students. They got to stay above it all; feeling superior because "classical singing is best/correct/applicable."
And as hard as it is to believe, this story is still happening every day.