It’s the Story that Counts

March 3, 2014 – Weekly Teaching Tip
by Leigh McRae

It is that time of year again here in Australia where the 2 remaining singing reality shows are building up for the season. We have X Factor and The Voice running neck and neck in order to win the hearts and votes of the great-unwashed public. As usual I have a number of students in each competition. For the most part they are in these shows because they can sing, but add a little bullying at school story, or I was on drugs when I was a teenager tale and you can pretty much guarantee you’ll get a look in. Why does this bother me, or you for that matter? Am I just turning into a dishevelled cranky old man, am I jealous, or should I just go along and accept that this is the current way to do things?

Well the answer is none of the above, with the exception of being the cranky old man (just ask my wife and kids). I just cannot abide to the principal that your talent is based on your ability to draw sympathy. The students that are competing in these shows are encouraged, well more so it is demanded that they have a compelling story that can be told on camera and verified by their loved ones. In lessons time is spent coaching students on the possible affect this may have on their future per chance that they don’t get crowned the King or Queen of singing, as if it is not tough enough to have a career as it is.

I hear you thinking ‘well they don’t have to go on these shows’, and I agree, but just try talking them out of it. As a teacher it is my job primarily to train the voice and advise on the appropriate songs to sing at an audition etc. When the idea comes to them to go on one of these shows, or they get the phone call from the producers offering them a ‘special’ audition their eyes roll back in their head like Jaws coming in for the kill, and in spite of overwhelming and often first hand information provided by singers who have actually won these shows, they still go ahead. Once again it is my job to train the voice and advise the appropriate songs to sing, but that soon changes as someone called a producer now advises them and it is frustrating to say the least. It reminds me of my mentor Seth Riggs arguing with Natalie Coles’ manager in which the manager was complaining about a particular sound that Seth was getting Natalie to produce. Upon hearing this complaint Seth turned to this guy and said, ’the day I ask a white Irishman about a black gospel sound will be the day I die’. My sentiments exactly!

As fellow teachers we all experience the frustration of being told by a student that aunt Mavis thinks I should sing this, and my school teacher thinks I should sing that. I am polite enough to ask what the background of aunt Mavis is and when I hear that she is a massage therapist, I answer politely that she should stick to that. In this day of flippant students who are easily influenced by the availability of poor information we as teachers have the opportunity to remain solid and unwavering. They will go and try some of the lame brained approaches on the Internet. They will try something that their guitarist tells them etc. If it works then rejoice, if not… We don’t need an ‘I told you so’ approach just be patient, stand your ground and be ready to pick up the pieces.

Negative about television shows you might be thinking, no just truthful. I have never attempted to talk anyone out of going on a show; I have done my best to explain to them that it is an uneven playing field and must be treated accordingly. Alas I have passed out the tissues to way too many that were miserable (including winners of these comps) who simply didn’t identify with what they had allowed to happen to their life.

Everyone has the right to be wrong.

Our students turn to us as the stalwart in their career and often their life. We as teachers need to know this stuff in advance because we are the people who will remain in the life of students forever whether in person or memory, that’s how important it is.

It is the story that counts, the one about them becoming successful on their own terms.

Be proud of yourselves my friends and keep up the important work that you do.

Lets not give in to mediocrity and false promises.

Till next time,

Take care.

Leigh McRae (The cranky guy)

Related Articles