Weekly Teaching Tip – Sep. 23, 2013
by Leigh McRae
Today as I write this I just got off the phone with Seth Riggs. It is in fact his 83rd birthday and I called him to say hello and extend my best wishes. After all these years he is still teaching ‘in protest’ as he says just as passionately as ever. Whilst waiting for Seth to take the call I happened to see Josh Groban on the Ellen DeGeneres Show. I remember Josh well when he had a scholarship with Seth and I recall that he really sang well as a young man. I’ll dispense with my thoughts of how he sings now and allow you your own opinion, however I have heard him sing better. Seth Riggs is a name synonymous with Voice Teaching. Whether you like him or not (and I’ve done both sometimes on the same day) he stands head and shoulders above almost all other teachers I’ve ever met.
You might be thinking, Leigh where is the tip? Be patient it’s coming…
During my 14 years with Seth and the subsequent 10 since I parted his organisation I have continued to refer people to him for lessons. Some of them returned amazed and some not, but they all told me this…that guy is the most passionate person about voice that I’ve ever met…
We as teachers are challenged every day. If you are a keen observer of the current climate of singing around the globe you know that the overall standard is not improving and that is not just specific to pop, it is on Broadway as well. We are at an all time crisis of rewarding mediocrity, and it is slowly killing our industry. For those of you reading this who know me you may be very surprised that I seem a bit negative. Let me assure you that I am not; I just have to face facts.
I like a great many of you have had my fair share of extraordinary students and been able to work in the most incredible environments where the art form of singing was respected and revered. Recently however I was involved in the audition process for a TV show which is well known in many countries. I lasted 3 days before I broke my contract and left the show (something that I have never done before). When the company threatened to sue me, I responded that I would in turn go to a rival television network and expose all of the disgraceful ways that they manoeuvre the lives of singers who are willing (sadly) to allow their vulnerability to be exploited, interestingly they left me alone with the line, ‘you will never work for us again’…I trust that they keep their word!
The truth is I would rather starve than be involved with this kind of treatment of the art that I have had the pleasure of serving for most of my life. So for me as long as there are people who are wanting to become great singers I am going to continue to’ teach in protest’ and do my part to lift the expectations of singers who probably don’t know any better as they witness the instant fame that surrounds them.
So my teaching tip? Keep teaching!! We are needed now more than at any other time that I can remember. All things go in cycles. I survived the 80’s in a band that was not interested in sequenced music with a drum machine and played my own songs my own way. The main thing for us is to hang in there, continue your education and be ready because when the tide turns all of the singers who were in the top 1,000 of season 780 of the x-factor/ voice/idol or whatever will return to the karaoke bars with their sad stories and so too will the $25.00 per hour singing teachers who are currently attracting these types of students.
Yes I’m opinionated, but I learned that as well from the best.
What I write about has not been proven wrong yet.
Hold your heads high my friends and continue to fight the most noble fight, and I will be right there beside you.
Much Respect to you. Leigh McRae