By Ariel Andrew, Special to the Sybaritic Singer
Having a big voice means that several people will have oh so MANY opinions about, well everything.
What you should be doing and what you should not be doing.
What you should be singing and what you should NEVER sing.
What programs you should do and what you should never even bother applying to.
… too many opinions. Far too many. But you know who you can trust?
Your beautiful, perfect, amazing, outstanding, voice teacher. This person is the defender of your voice, guiding you through the treacherous downfalls and evil clutches of the world. Right?
So, throughout my small life as a singer, I’ve had a plethora of teachers, and there are so many pros and cons to several types of teachers. I’m going to use my own teachers (past and present) to help list them and hopefully help you if you’re struggling to find your own teacher! **
**: I’m not a crazy lady and I will NOT be using real names. Y’all are crazy if you think I’m going to be that shady. We aren’t dishing out the tea today.
This voice teacher is… frustrating. He seems to want the best for you, but his tactics about doing so are just off-putting. He may yell, and that’s not exactly a bad thing! Some students do well with a bit of aggression, but you should be able to tell when a student is uncomfortable with yelling or using tactics like demeaning their state of being. So, what happens when the yelling doesn’t work? Well Manipulative Marty changes to…
Back Handed Becky
See she’ll compliment the heck out of her pupil. Never an ill fitted word will be the first thing out of her mouth. Instead, it’ll be the second. Maybe the third. You see, this also isn’t a bad thing! Sometimes this slight mind game is what a singer needs. For example:
“That was absolutely lovely! I thoroughly enjoyed your consistent effort for a beautiful legato line! It wouldn’t be a bad thing to emote a little bit more into the words. What do you think?”
I think Ms. Becky is trying to be helpful and encouraging! However, Ms. Becky in an alternate universe may say something like this.
“You sound good for someone who has no concept of what the piece is about.”
Some people may fly with this, while others would find this so abysmal and hate every little nuance. Ms. Becky is the type of teacher, however, who doesn’t realize that the words she has said and the tone she has placed them in can be a bit… persnickety to say the least. So we leave Ms. Becky and move onto…
Honestly, there’s nothing wrong with a David, but there’s also nothing all that helpful. He sits at his piano in his old age and only praises… but that’s it. He doesn’t ever say if you’re needing work or if you’re having issues. They just want you to feel good about yourself and let you be. Now, that, for some of us, sounds absolutely marvelous. To never be wrong? Sign me up!
But come on, we can’t allow the delusion to cover our mind. We all know we need someone to push us but also nurture us in this way. So with a heavy heart, we say goodbye to David (and probably bake him a cake of some sort because we loved him dearly) and move onto…
This one may get under your skin if you hate people that nit-pick every. little. thing. And not the big things like wrong vowels or the words, but the way you take your onset breath to what you’re wearing (which you can kindly excuse yourself because if you’re telling me what to wear in a non-constructive way I’m going to say excuse you and to leave me alone). This teacher is one I hear from my friends a lot that they are upset with. However, Ms. Nancy isn’t a bad teacher at all! She is just particular. This kind of particular can be toxic and cause a singer to become neurotic and lose the joy and passion, but it could be helpful too! But you know what? Ms. Nancy isn’t the lady for you. So who do we move onto?
Alex is the teacher who does no wrong in your eyes. They know your voice inside and out. They can figure out your technique issue before you can blink. You both can laugh together and bring it back to focus and figure out a solution to grow as an artist. Alex makes you think with your head and your heart- never choosing but always collaborating. Who is your Alex?
Obviously it’s Ms. Nancy!
Oh wait no, it has to be Mr. Marty!
… Wait, is it David?
Well, sadly, my wonderful friend, it could be any of them. It could be all of them. It probably is. At this point I know you’re silently cursing under your breath at me and you want nothing more to do with me (that’s very fair honestly) but allow me to explain.
Who are we to place these teachers in boxes? Now there are obvious signs of a bad teacher (gives a light lyric Wagner or some mess like that), but honestly not every teacher is for every singer and that is okay. It can be frustrating trying to find a teacher (especially amidst friends who have their forever teachers in place and seem to be unwavering in their technique), but do not lose hope!
As someone who consistently is searching for that perfect fit, I haven’t had a “bad teacher”. Sure, I’ve met many people that I haven’t been able to click with or they felt as though they weren’t equipped to deal with my voice, and honestly, that’s okay. It can be a bit frustrating but hold on my young star. When you find a teacher, who fits all of your checkmarks, you’ll know. You’ll feel good about your lessons, you’ll feel like you’re progressing, and most importantly, they will never shame you out of your voice.
Take time in finding this person. Your voice is a huge investment that will take you far if you have a bit of faith and trust in your gut.
Ariel Andrew is a mezzo soprano who is slowly taking on the stages and theatres of the world one day at a time. Through her own experiences and journey, she is able to start writing about some of the joys and craziness that this lifestyle can bring. She hopes that her writing will inspire you and in some way help you as you take on this crazy lifestyle. Feel free to follow her on Twitter and Facebook!