Weekly Teaching Tip – June 9, 2014
by Leigh McRae
As this forum is for teachers my messages and tips are primarily about the potential pitfalls that we will experience with students.
Time after time I am reminded of the title of this message. If I told you that I had recently built a piece of furniture from a bit of timber that I picked up at the hardware store yesterday and was now considering selling it as an antique, you would immediately know this to be untrue. There are no ‘new truths’. Truths with a capital ‘T’ are already established.
For many of us involved with IVTOM we have accumulated 1000’s of hours of hands on teaching, research, contemplation and desperation. Whilst we keep an open mind to new ‘discoveries’ we know that they grow out of well-established foundations and not some gimmick.
Some time back I had a student defect to another teacher on the Internet that is promising the ‘latest scientific knowledge’ available. They explained to me (via SMS mind you) that whilst they respected me etc they felt that my methods were not working quickly enough. This student is constantly hoarse, cannot sing past a B above middle C at best without flipping, cannot hold a harmony nor sing a vocal lick yet she has been signed to a 3 album deal because apparently she has ’swag’. When I attempted to ascertain relevant information, i.e. how often are you doing what I have prescribed, what is your vocal rest like, sleep, water intake etc they were not ’really sure’ but thought that they were doing my exercises ‘enough’. I can assure you that my methods were attempting to address the myriad of vocal problems that this person has, they however were impatient that after 2 or 3 lessons I had not provided the ‘magic bullet’. As Seth Riggs said to me one time about Tina Turner, ‘I can’t teach her if I can’t reach her’.
It is worth mentioning that it is mandatory policy in my studio that students fill in a ‘Daily Discovery Sheet’ provided via an introductory email that a student receives prior to commencing lessons. In short this is nothing more than a calendar that allows for a small entry on the days that they practise. Also included in that email is a link to my ‘Warm Ups App’ in order to guarantee that the student has something with them wherever they go. Their lessons are recorded and the final track on that CD explains in full what I want them to do. My last words to every person that leaves my studio is simple and has now become a bit of a catch phrase ‘ remember it is what you do when you leave here that counts’. I check the Discovery Sheet on a regular basis and if the student is being honest it will be filled in appropriately.
As teachers we know when the practise has been done and when we are being hoodwinked. I give 1 warning about doing what I have asked and if the student doesn’t comply then I ask them to explain why we should continue to work together.
I still offer a money back guarantee on lessons that are not considered satisactory. I am pleased to announce that no one has taken this up as yet. All in all I am committed to the idea that I want to be the last voice teacher that the student ever has to visit. I do occasionally move someone on if their requirements demand i.e. to a speech pathologist or a repetiteur if they are more classically oriented as this is not my speciality.
If I can offer anything to aspiring teachers it is this. Set a new standard not the one that is being currently dictated by a decline in vocal expectations, TV shows and ‘haircut’ singing. The only way that we will ever return to a time where singing is valued as the art form that it should be is to set the bar high and not settle. Some will like it, some not. I know that as teachers economics are a consideration to some extent, but hopefully you are not hanging on to someone because you get ‘paid’.
That being said I’ll tell you this one for free…there is only one thing worse than having students defect and that is keeping them and not demanding the best that you and they have to give.
Today vow to Step Up and set a new standard!
Till next time.
Leigh McRae (less cranky than usual)