Saturday, May 8, 2010

Students and Teachers

Why does anyone sing? Singing is a way of expressing feelings. Making beautiful music while expressing those feelings can fill you with joy, even when the feelings in the music may be despair, depression, malice or whatever. When I sing I try to express those feelings, whatever they may be, and at the same time, I experience the joy of making music. And once I realized I had the potential to make it sound pretty and on occasion, to me, what sounds beautiful, I wanted to improve, improve, improve. I long for consistency in what I know I can do. So that essentially answers the next question of, why do I study? Simple. I enjoy singing. I enjoy learning the techniques. I enjoy finding the emotions in me, in learning how to get them out into the music. I enjoy learning how to connect to the music and how to meld together the emotions and the techniques. Of course there's almost always some aspect that doesn't show up when I try to meld it all together. But that's why I continue to study. I'm not looking for a career. I just want to enjoy and make beautiful music.

I don't have the academic background of reading music and understanding all the vocab and notations. Sometimes I feel like that holds me back. Other times I wonder, am I just using that lack of knowledge as an excuse? An excuse to not study something, or an excuse as to why I "can't" do something? I'm sure I can read up on it or even find out about an intro class at a nearby music school. And even if I don't, I don't think I can or should use that as an excuse. (Thank you to Susan Eichhorn Young's blog, Once More With Feeling for helping me realize that. It came to me as I typed the paragraph.)

I do love to do research and will listen to advice from different people. Note I say listen... not follow. I feel it is my right and also my responsibility to search out info and enrich myself, to learn as much as possible. I also realize that it's my responsibility to filter out the nonsense from what works for me. But then I wonder, without the formal musical background and without a great deal of experience as a student and as a performer, am I qualified to figure out on my own what to ignore and what to take into consideration? Is it wrong for me to test something out on my own if someone suggests something? Or, should it become part of the lesson with my teacher? How do I figure out when it's appropriate to proceed on my own, and when do I ask for her input? I mean, realize that if I want to go out and learn musical terms and so on, I don't need to bring it up in a voice lesson. There's not going to be a vocab quiz. It can only help me to know all the musical terms. But what if an experienced singer offers advice or something to try... what then? It seems so tricky. Is it ok to tell my teacher about it and ask her opinion, or should I simply try things out on my own and not tell her? But then I think, is that sneaky in some way? It's so confusing. If a student mention to his or her teacher, "I read..." or, "Someone suggested I try it this way..." is it in any way an insult to the teacher? Is it stepping on the teacher's toes? Does it imply somehow that they haven't been doing a good job? Or does it show that you, the student, are excited and want to try out different things? I honestly have no idea.

The only perspective I can bring to this is my own experience as a teacher. I am a teacher of English as a Second Language, although I am currently not teaching. When I did teach, my students were both adults and children, at all levels - from beginner to advanced. For me, teaching went far beyond the time spent in the classroom teaching the lesson. There was tons of prep time. Besides keeping up on the latest language-acquisition theories, I was always writing and tailoring lesson plans to fit my students' needs. I always wanted input from them on what they wanted to learn. They all had different goals. Children want to make friends. Adult ESL students want to be able to understand their children's doctors and teachers, to be able to communicate effectively with their employer and other members of the community. Some ESL students had high English proficiency but wanted to work on their accents. Others were looking for subject-specific vocabulary. The point is, as a teacher, I not only wanted my students to tell me their goals, I needed them too. And like voice lessons, language lessons also require a level of trust between student and teacher. Anyone out there who has studied a foreign language and then tried to use that language "for real," will know how difficult it is to speak a new language. So again I wonder, is the voice studio any different? Or does it depend on the specific relationship between the particular student and teacher?

Before I sign off, I want to urge my readers not to read into this more than what I've put on the page. I'm just thinking about the idea of the teacher-student relationship and what it entails.

1 comment:

tcarstetter said...

Susan, you are indeed an inspiration to all aspiring singers! If only more students would have such dedication and devotion to their gifts they were given. It has indeed strengthen me to continue to push and run and on with my studies in literature and journalism.