Weekly Teaching Tip – Oct. 17, 2016
by Leigh McRae
Every week I receive calls from students informing me of their various ailments and why they cannot attend their lesson. Not withstanding a serious illness or family crisis my reaction is always the same… what would you do if you had a show tonight’? I once heard a fellow teacher express to one of his students that ‘amateurs do it when they feel like it, and professionals do it because they must’.
I treat everyone in my studio as if they are professional even if they are not yet performing for the public. Quite frankly I am fed up with the excuses that I hear but I will spare you my rage in this article.
There are a number of things that you can do with a student who feels that they can’t sing. You can (and should) have a series of therapeutic exercises to assist them in relieving their symptoms and at the very least get them to be able to get through the performance with the least amount of further stress to the voice. I am a huge fan of the straw exercise as demonstrated by Dr Titze https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xYDvwvmBIM
I have experienced the benefit of this exercise in my own voice and witnessed the same in countless other singers. Water, steam, some types of tea, massage, hypnotherapy, silence and steroids( in extreme cases) are also a part of a vocal strategy. You name it and I’ve done it and encouraged others as well.
Of course In the perfect world your voice would always function without strain or excess effort. it would never respond to the environment, cold weather, air conditioning and reflux. Nor would you ever raise your voice against your spouse, children or an idiot driver who nearly runs you off the road. So now you can return from Narnia and get real.Unless you live like a monk you are going to give the voice a knock here and there, and If you sing for a living you will need to develop some strategies similar to the above. As teachers we should not let students weasel out of lessons because they ’don’t feel like it’ (not withstanding something serious of course).
I just returned from Europe where I competed in the Berlin Marathon. After Berlin I went to visit our IVTOM teachers in Poland and Vienna (a big shout out to them all) where we had a wonderful time.I conducted private lessons with singers facing the same challenges that I have seen in all the places I have taught in the world. After Vienna I went to the UK and decided to surprise my old mate Jeremy Secomb who is currently playing Javert in Les Miserable. It was a great thrill to see him perform magnificently and then surprise him at the stage door. This is a guy who until recently rubbished singing teachers. He once told me that singing teachers did more to install fear and insecurity in performers than anything else…ouch! Recently due to some vocal challenges Jeremy had to consult a singing teacher. When I asked him what he learned he responded ‘I now know how to do it on the days that I don’t feel like it’.
If we can teach our students this important lesson, then our task will be complete.
For those of you going to Atlanta, have an awesome time.