The Role of the Voice Teacher

Weekly Teaching Tip – June 20, 2011

I must admit, I get discouraged sometimes and I wonder if what I am doing really matters. Hopefully most of you saw the posts I put on our IVTOM facebook site last week about my student, Dia Frampton. I worked extensively with her up until about a year and a half ago. We have been mostly out of contact since then as she has been touring and pursuing her professional career. On the one hand I am very happy and excited for her as I am for all of my students that have success. On the other hand, I am hesitant to claim her too strongly because thus far she hasn’t been a great example of mix or the work I did with her. She is a wonderful girl and has worked hard and so I am happy for the attention she is receiving. It is frustrating though because I know that she can sing so much better than what she is showing.
Dia came to me trying to be a hard rock singer, wanting to develop her high notes and strengthen them. We worked hard to get her mix going well and I have 2 CDs of hers that shows that she really can mix well and sing strong, with great control throughout her entire range. Yet, for whatever reason this is something she hasn’t demonstrated on “The Voice” TV show that she is currently on. Whether it is a “style choice” that she is making, or whether she is “afraid” or whether she has been encouraged to sing “light and airy” and to use her falsetto instead of mixing I don’t know. So, the question comes up, “Am I doing any good in teaching what I am teaching when what really seems to matter isn’t so much vocal control and good singing, but good song choice, style, emotion and marketing?”
It is often discouraging to me when I hear popular and successful singers that are not singing well. Because of technology they can sound good on the recordings, but live they are flat, pulling chest, flipping and all kinds of things that are unhealthy and to me just demonstrate improper singing. I realize that the ultimate goal of anyone that comes into my studio is to be successful in singing; to get the part at the audition, to impress the director, producer and record label, and most importantly to get the reaction from the audience. Does good vocal technique even play a part in the success of the singers anymore, or is it all have to do with a great song, style and marketing?
My answer is that ultimately I am a teacher of voice. My duty and obligation is to good and healthy singing. Yes, I try and help my students with song choice and style and I try and help them understand what they need to do to be successful in the music and entertainment business. After all, what we are ultimately trying to do is to help students sing songs well. As we continue to teach and encourage good technique our students will have better control, less vocal problems and longer careers because of the technique that we are teaching them. What they ultimately choose to do with it and what the music business encourages them to do is largely out of our hands. However, I do feel that they have a better chance of success because of the good singing and vocal control that they learn from us.
We cannot ignore style, presentation, song selection and marketing, but our first commitment and priority still needs to be to good and healthy singing and vocal production. This will ultimately give our students the best chance for success and to love singing and sing well all of their lives.

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