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on switching teachers...Help!

September 10 2009 at 9:12 PM
SiMiChiamano  (Login SiMiChiamano)
NFCS Member

 
So I'm at a crossroads.
I just got my bachelor's degree in music, and after a bunch of opera workshops learned that I am lacking the most basic of technique. I have been with my last teacher for 2 years, and the most frustrating thing is that I thought THIS time I had FINALLY found a teacher who was known for being a good vocal technition. My last few teachers have been unspeakably bad, and I did feel as though I was improving, but after this summer I realized that while my teacher was trying give me technique, she was instead coaching me.

The reason? In my 20 - 22 year old brain, I thought that the more music I learned, the better musician I would become, so I spent the last two years diligently putting on recitals, and operas, and going to workshops.

I sat down with my teacher after the last workshop and asked why even though I had felt some improvement, I was nowhere near where i thought I was. Her anwser was that I was constantly doing things that were too hard for me, and even though she tried to warn me otherwise, all I did was try to prove her wrong.

Okay, so its my fault, right? My fault that I didn't listen to my teacher, etc. etc. I was honestly relying on my gut. For example, I wanted to sing Gretchen and though my teaher said I wasn't ready, singing the piece didn't hurt at all (in fact it felt very comfortable), so I worked on it for a few weeks and she eventually conceded. Is this a wrong approach? I've always heard that you should trust your own body rather than yourself, but perhaps I took this too far.

After a long discussion with her, she told me that now that I had realized my error, she would be willing to teach me technique the right way, but only if I did what she said.
Can I still trust this teacher? What if I had never figured this out? Doesen't a teacher carry some responsibility for the student's progress, especially when she knows the student is going down the wrong path?

I have the possiblity of studying with another reputable teacher, more expensive, but who says I have potential and wants to work with me. I took a lesson, and I liked his teaching style, but how do I know that I don't end up in the same place another 2 years down the road?

Sorry for the rant...I'm just really frustrated because after 5+ years of supposed vocal training, I didn't get into a voice lessons program for non - majors at a big university.



"nothing is to be feared...only to be understood"

 
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Anonymous
(Login Weillfanatic)
NFCS Member

What's your email address?

September 10 2009, 11:38 PM 

I'll flick you an email happy.gif

 
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SiMiChiamano
(Login SiMiChiamano)
NFCS Member

Re: What's your email address?

September 11 2009, 12:39 AM 

alina.goldman@gmail.com

"nothing is to be feared...only to be understood"

 
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Baheritone
(Login Baheritone)
NFCS Member

You're putting the cart before the horse.

September 10 2009, 11:50 PM 

Yes, it's your fault.

You're expecting, at 20-22, to have an experience of a 30 year old.

You were right about one thing. Learning more music will make you a better musician. But that doesn't mean you have to sing or perform everything you learn. You can learn things without singing them and through that process learn musicianship, different ways to interpret phrases, etc.

At your age the relationship between a student and a teacher is different, or at least I think it should be. You have to relinquish some control to the teacher because you simply don't know what the boundaries are yet. People are going to disagree with me on this, but there it is.

Another thing that's getting in your way is that it sounds like you're getting too many opinions...too many cooks in the kitchen. Going to all those workshops and getting all that input when you don't have a foundation to work on is not a good thing. You have to know how to filter those comments to where you can make them work with the technique you've learned, not switch a technique to fit a comment you received from a person who heard you for a very brief moment in time.

I would advise against switching teachers because it sounds like you've done that many times already. Stick with it, do what she tells you and see how it works. Put the brakes on performing until you have a technique to work with.

At the early levels you have to limit your focus to the studio and only to the pieces that are going to help you build a technique. You have to realize that there is plenty of time to do the things you want to do. These operas have been around for 300 years, they're not going anywhere. Narrow your focus and see what results you get.

______________________________________
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PinoNoir
(Login PinoNoir)
NFCS Member

I agree... excellent advice nt.

September 11 2009, 6:43 PM 

nt.

 
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Kleinod Mein
(Login kleinod.mein)
NFCS Member

Agreeing with Baheritone

September 11 2009, 3:06 AM 

I have several thoughts here.

1. When you're an undergrad, your teacher is both your technician and your repertoire coach, unless you went to some rare school where you get regular, weekly coachings as well as a voice lesson. The distinction comes a little later. Your teacher is responsible for your repertoire, your technique, your lyric diction, your interpretations, and your performance skills.

2. Yes, your teacher should say something if you're going down an obviously-wrong path. However, be aware of several things here: a) a teacher can talk until they're blue in the face. If you don't listen, it's not their fault. Some students make themselves difficult to teach. Remember that they've been at this longer than you have. b) There are more options than the "right" way and the "wrong" way. There are ways, and some of them will be right for you at a certain point, and some of them will not. Some of them will feel wrong or unnatural because you've never done it that way before, but that doesn't make it unhealthy of wrong for you or for what you need at that point. You don't have the benefit of years and years of perspective about your own voice and what it does, and sometimes these people really do know what they're talking about! I read this in a book somewhere, so no credit to me on this, but the book people said that you should spend more time saying "yes, and..." in a lesson than "no, but", and I suggest you embrace this. Consider what your teachers say first before you disagree. Take it with a grain of salt, but treat it as though it were accurate first, then ask your questions. And then ask for clarification and make sure you really understood what you were being told before you blow it off. I suggest not setting out to prove your teachers wrong, as a general principle.

3. I don't know exactly how old you are, but let's go with the oldest choice you gave, 22. That's VERY young for a masters. It's not even about how smart or talented or mentally ready you feel you are. It's about the fact that your voice hasn't had much time in the oven yet. There's no rush. Unless you have an absolutely tiny voice, in which case, keep working. Keep working either way! Take lessons and coach the pants off your audition rep! And set reasonable goals. Always become a better musician. You either move forward in your musicianship, or you stagnate. Don't stagnate.

4. If you feel you're lacking basic technique, that's partly because you're still at the stage of basic technique. Don't expect to have the voice or the technique you'll have when you're ten years older. Be okay with being young, because (while I'm sure you're tired of hearing this), you're very young.

5. There is NOTHING wrong with singing repertoire that you can not just handle, but sing really, really well. Ask yourself: could you be hired professionally to sing the stuff you're singing? If the answer is "no, but you can hear that that's what I WILL sing", it's too big/not right yet. While school programs do accept based on potential sometimes, don't bank on potential. Show them what you sing now and sing really well! No one is impressed with hard rep that you're barely getting through. Sing what you can sing ten times back to back!

6. This: "...she told me that now that I had realized my error, she would be willing to teach me technique the right way, but only if I did what she said." Sounds like you've stepped on some toes there. It also sounds like you were bound and determined to sing the rep that you chose for yourself, come hell or high water, and that your teacher didn't have much choice but to accept that you were working on this stuff with no regard for her opinion about it. Would you like that, as a teacher? Chances are pretty good that she hasn't been trying to ruin your voice or your life with her rep choices. However, if you're going to work on stuff that she hasn't approved regardless, it doesn't matter if you perform it in public; if you're singing it, you're singing it. Not much she can do about it, is there? That shows her that you have little respect for her professional opinion and are going to do whatever you want to do, in your 20-something-year-old ignorance, either way. You might be doing her a favour by moving on to someone else! If you feel you've learned nothing, ask yourself if you were really listening in the first place.

7. That said, and your difficult attitude aside, it's also true that not every teacher knows what is best for every student. I'm very willing to grant that. There may be a better fit for you out there (and a more gratifying student for your teacher!). It might be best to move on, but remember that there are no guarantees. No teacher can give every student everything s/he'll ever need, and no teacher never makes an error. But overall, I suggest more listening and less asserting of your own opinions!

 
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Katherine
(Login katherine65)
NFCS Member

BOY, DO I DISAGREE!!!!

September 11 2009, 9:28 AM 

Assuming that what you are relating of your conversations with the teacher is accurate, I am appalled at that remark about "Now I will teach you technique." What has she been
doing, for God's sake? She withholds technical work because .....what? You're not humble enough?
She has relinquished her responsibility to you. If she knew anything whatsoever to teach you, she should have offered it and made you aware of the problem a long, long time ago. This is nothing more than her covering her ass and putting the blame on you instead of where it belongs. If you
have not acquired a decent technique by early twenties, then you have the wrong teacher. This does not mean you are a finished artist. Maturity brings musical understanding that is impossible for the young. (Sorry, but I'm an old lady and a teacher for nearly 40 years and I know this.) The other posters are correct that there continues to be plenty to learn. But you should feel you know how to sing basic repertoire for your voice DECENTLY. If this is not the case, then you have been shortchanged by this so-called 'teacher.' I REPEAT, she should have taught you what she supposedly knows and, if you resisted, booted you out of the studio. That is what I would have done. Unfortunately, she knows nothing. Working on repertoire is not a substitute for teaching someone to sing. Grrrrr. I get so angry at stuff like this.
Katherine

 
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Baheritone
(Login Baheritone)
NFCS Member

Normally, I would agree with you

September 11 2009, 9:37 AM 

However, judging by the original post (and, OP, feel free to correct me if I'm misinterpreting), it sounds like she's done a lot of teacher hopping already because she hasn't found what she wanted.

My contention is that she isn't aware of what she needs and the current teacher has tried to tell her that. If the student isn't willing to listen, there isn't much a teacher can do, right? Maybe she should have booted her out and maybe that's a lesson the teacher learned from this. I think it's fine she's willing to try again with the student even though it's may not be something I would have done.

I knew a soprano in undergrad who was a really good singer. She studied, she listened to rep, she learned all kinds of rep, was incredibly smart in things operatic. What she lacked was focus and kept bringing new arias to the faculty coach. A new set of arias every week. While she had a basic technique (something the OP thinks she doesn't have) she never could get anywhere because she never focused on something long enough to progress and thus she never went anywhere professionally. Her teacher tried to reign her in, the coach tried to reign her in, all to no avail. There's only so much one can do if the student doesn't want to listen.

All of that's based on how I read the OP's post. If I'm misinterpreting, the OP should feel free to explain further. happy.gif

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Katherine
(Login katherine65)
NFCS Member

That's true, Baheritone.

September 12 2009, 9:59 AM 

What burned my b*tt was that remark about "now I'll teach you technique."
No point in repeating the rest of my post. As far as teacher hopping,
considering the absolutely DISMAL state of voice teaching these days
and the almost impossibility of finding anyone who knows what s/he's doing,
teacher hopping can be a GOOD thing. Maybe it means she has an instinct
for when she is being BS'd. happy.gif I still think it is the teacher's job to get
control - or at least try. I don't think this is done by being a
dictator; it is done by reason, explaining and persuading.
If they won't go along, then you fire them. I've got one now who has been
with me four years and I think we are done. The person actually told me
with his very own mouth in the last lesson that he sings better when he doesn't
do what I ask him. He has delusions of grandeur and thinks he is ready to be
a soloist. Not. Anyway, I realize there are two sides to this story. It's just
that,as a teacher, I think there is something fishy about what the teacher said,
assuming she was properly quoted.

 
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Kleinod Mein
(Login kleinod.mein)
NFCS Member

You only disagreed with one of the many things I said here

September 11 2009, 6:08 PM 

And that was actually something I didn't specifically address. I absolutely agree that a teacher should teach technique. And there are teachers that don't, and that's not right. HOWEVER, the entire gist of what I was saying here was that it sounds like the OP wasn't listening to what she was being told in the first place! In which case, it didn't really matter what the teacher said or didn't say!

 
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HT
(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS "Time Out" Corner

Wait a minute

September 11 2009, 9:52 AM 

I haven't had any coffee yet so I'll apologize if in my blurry-eyed state I am reading this wrong, but it seems like your teacher gave you good advice and you ignored it and now you want it to be her fault?

The truth is that we all have to figure out this stuff on her own. Did people tell me all the things I needed to figure out on my own well in advance of figuring them out myself? Absofuckinglutely. Did I listen? hell no.

If you want to change teachers you are well within you rights. It's your voice and your money. But if you want to blame your teacher for not locking you in her studio and keeping you from doing things you couldn't do instead of just saying so and assuming you were an adult and capable of following good advice and accepting the consequences when you do not, well that's a very weird way of looking at this.

So, here's what I think you need to do.

1. You got some feedback. Write down what people told you. It might seem weird but somehow things become less abstract and more concrete when we write them down. (Also, sometimes things weren't as bad as how they sound when we repeat them over and over in our heads.)

2. Listen to recordings from performances, rehearsals, lessons, coachings or whatever you have. Do you hear the things people are telling you still need to be addressed? Do you agree? (Sometimes people are wrong, btw, even people who are important in the business).

3a. Take this information to your teacher (if you still want to work with her) and discuss what you need to do over the next few months to address these issues.

3b. If you decide to go to a new teacher, make sure that new teacher is on board with these issues that need to be addressed. Don't waste time with a teacher "everyone says is great" who isn't interested in working on the things you have decided need to be a priority.

4. Get to work.

Houndentenor

"Get the trash off the street and back on the stage where it belongs." -- Bette Midler



    
This message has been edited by Houndentenor on Sep 11, 2009 9:54 AM


 
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Susan Eichhorn Young
(Login Susala)
NFCS Member

Re: Wait a minute

September 11 2009, 8:22 PM 

well said HT! I think those of us who are teachers and who have had and been those strong-willed students, we recognize that it's about the WORK and the stubbornness can work for you or against you - but your readiness to REALIZE will allow things to work in your favor. If you realize you've fought against, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate what you bring and how the personalities of you and your teacher work or not work together.

WORK IS KEY! (I feel a blog entry coming on...check in tomorrow!)

 
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HT
(Login Houndentenor)
NFCS "Time Out" Corner

In the end...

September 12 2009, 5:01 PM 

we are all our own teacher for every subject. Yes we have people who serve as tour guides through the labyrinth and archives of knowledge and hopefully they lead us the right way. But they can't do it for us and even if they couldn't they shouldn't.

I used to tutor Music Theory as part of an assistanceship. It was amazing to me that about half the students who showed up thought I was going to do their homework for them. As if. I can part write just fine thank you. But I did help nudge them in the right direction as the worked through the problems. That's what I think a teacher's job is. They keep you from going out of bounds while you figure out how to do what you have to do. Singing is a weird thing to teach. There are some things we all have in common but we all have to figure out how to do it for ourselves. I keep using sports metaphors but I can't think of anything similar. I can show you how to swing a bat and I can give you pointers if you are doing something wrong, but I can't do it for you. You just have to keep doing it until you get it right and then do it another few hundred times until you always do it right. There's no magic to this. Just sweat.

Houndentenor

"Get the trash off the street and back on the stage where it belongs." -- Bette Midler


 
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TenorVox
(Login TenorVox)
NFCS Regular

Sort of off-yet-on-topic,.... an amusing nasty rant. [NSFW]

September 12 2009, 5:14 PM 

http://www.movieline.com/2009/09/i-will-not-help-you-pick-out-your-fcking-headshot.php

Yesterday, A History of Violence screenwriter Josh Olson ruffled some feathers (and inspired a round of huzzahs from any writer, reader, or producer whos been slipped a screenplay by a friend-of-a-friend) by publishing a manifesto in the Village Voice decrying the widespread practice of asking acquaintances for free script notes. Today, Movieline takes a cue from Olsons welcome service to Hollywoods put-upon and exploited professionals, inviting someone from a different part of the industry to vent similar frustrations. Enjoy. (And learn.)

We know youve been working very hard picking out your headshot, but before you go looking for some professional feedback, you might keep in mind the following piece by All About Steve casting assistant James Overland.

((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((


I will not help you pick out your fucking headshot.

Thats simple enough, isnt it? I will not help you pick out your fucking headshot. Whats not clear about that? There arent even any contractions in that elegantly direct, uncluttered statement, so that theres not even room for you to determine, like a lunatic, that the apostrophe in a wont or shant is a symbol that means I will help you pick out your headshot. I simply have no interest in helping you pick out your fucking headshot. None whatsoever. Not even a little. Do you see how Im holding my index finger and thumb together tightly, so that theres no space between them? That lack of space represents my lack of desire to look at your headshot, much less help you pick one out. You see, if there were a tiny bit of space between my fingers, you might interpret that as a small desire to lay on your floor among dozens of photo proofs of your fucking headshot, trying to decide which ones lighting properly accentuates your cheekbones. There is no desire. None. OK, I think youre getting it. Moving along.

If that seems unfair, Ill make you a deal. In return for you not asking me to help you pick out your fucking headshot, I will not ask you to hand-wash my dirty socks in your sink, or dust the hard-to-reach places in my fucking apartment, or give my constipated dog a canine enema, or whatever the fuck it is that you do for a living.

Youre a lovely person. Whatever time weve spent together has, Im sure, been a merry-go-round of pleasure for the both of us, as we whirled around again and again in circles, me on a ceramic Clydesdale, you in one of those god-fucking-awful swan chairs (and why the fuck would anyone sit on anything besides a horse? Its baffling to me.), hooting and throwing our arms in the air, deliciously carefree while remembering how simple everything was when we were children without Hollywood careers that required looking at stack and stacks of headshots of people wholl never draw a real paycheck in this town. But still, we had a grand old time, Im sure, as we shared a funnel cake topped in powdered sugar and some strawberry-like substance that probably contained no actual fruit and chatted about how Peter Berg is the greatest director who ever lived. Yes, we bonded, and yes, I may have given you a shoulder rub that may or may not had a strange sensual tinge to it after you playfully dabbed a spot of that powdered sugar onto the tip of my nose, so cute, and yes, I wish you luck in all your endeavors, and it would thrill me to no end to hear that you had booked a great gig with the headshot I had no part in selecting, and that your headshot has been blown up to poster size and is featured in the lobby of the sketchy photography studio where you had it taken. Hold on, was this an extended metaphor, or did we actually go to the carnival? I cant remember because Im so fucking torn up about you asking me to help you pick out your fucking headshot. Thanks a lot, asshole. Where was I? Oh yes:

But I will not help you pick out your fucking headshot.

At this point, you should walk away, firm in your conviction that Im a dick. Or a tool. Or a douchebag, choose your own dismissive epithet to describe my seemingly selfish behavior. But if youre interested in growing as a human being and recognizing that it is, in fact, you who are the dick, tool, or douchebag in this situation, please read on.

Yes. Thats right. I called you a nasty name. Because you created this situation. You put me in this spot where my only option is to acquiesce to your demands, inconsiderate as they are, or be the bad guy. Of course, if I thought about this for a moment, I suppose I could politely decline your request, truthfully stating that Im very busy with my professional obligations at the moment and just dont have the time right now to help you pick out your headshot, and thank you for understanding, youre a wonderfully mature person, and wed probably still part as friendly acquaintances who once shared a magical day at the carnival. But that seems incredibly complicated, doesnt it? Now in addition to making me potentially acquiesce to your demands or be the bad guy, youve made me try to think up a reasonable, hypothetical solution to our dilemma, and all the blood is rushing into my face. I dont like this sensation one bit. My therapist says its a sign Im letting things bother me to an unhealthy degree, and immediately do my breathing exercises or the stabbing pains in my temples might return, perhaps with a mild fainting spell. That, my friend, is the very definition of a dick move. Do you want me to faint, even if its not that big a deal, its just a little harmless fainting, not some Gran Mal seizure thing? I bet you do, dick. This is all your fault.

I was recently cornered by a semi-attractive young woman of my barest acquaintance.

I doubt weve exchanged a hundred words, though I have stolen a naughty peek down the front of her blouse once or twice, because while shes not all that great, you know, pretty decent rack. Maybe three times, tops. But shes dating a friend, so, you know, off limits to my advances, mostly. He could go on a long business trip and something could happen, accidentally. Anyway. She cornered me in the right place at the right time, and asked me to look at her contact sheets for the headshots she keeps having re-taken because shes never quite happy with how they come out and terribly indecisive about which new one to pick. She was up for a speaking role in one of those late-night chat-line commercials, the kind with all the porny looking women pursing their lips seductively while clutching the cordless phones through which theyll find a soulmate (you, if you have a valid credit card), and wanted to get a professional opinion.

Now, I normally have a standard response to people who ask me to help them pick out their headshot, and its the simple truth: I have two piles next to my bed. One is headshots from good friends, and the other is headshots and Polaroids that agents have sent to me that I have to look at for work. Every time I pick up a friends headshot, I feel guilty that Im ignoring work. Every time I pick something up from the other pile, I feel guilty that Im ignoring my friends. If I look at yours before any of that, Id be an awful person. Some nights the dilemma becomes so upsetting that I sweep both piles onto the floor in a fit of frustration, roll around in them for a little while while pulling at my hair, eventually falling asleep, my gentle sobs a lullaby of vexation.

Most people get that. But sometimes you find yourself in a situation where the guilt factor is really high, or someone plays on a relationship or a perceived obligation, or someone bribes you with a slice of Double Fudge Mint Oreo Xplosion from The Cheescake Factory, because Im utterly powerless before that particular offering. Then, I tell them Ill read it, but I if I can put it down after my eyes scan from the top of their heads to the middle of their foreheads, I will. They always go for that, because nobody ever believes you wont get all the way down to their lips once you start. Theyre so very wrong about that. Ive bailed at an unairbrushed frown line many, many times. Try me.

But hell, this was just a contact sheet with 36 little pictures of her, and there was no time to go into song, dance, or fake a fainting spell, and it was just easier to take it. How long can a contact sheet take?

Weeks, is the answer. As in, more than one week, but fewer weeks than would constitute a month, which would just be an absurdly long amount of time.

And this is why I will not help you pick out your fucking headshot.

It rarely takes more than a quick glance at a photograph to recognize that youre in the presence of someone attractive enough to be in a television commercial, but it only takes a flash of gap-toothed smile as they hand you that photograph to know youre dealing with someone who should never be on camera.

(By the way, heres a simple way to find out of youre an actor. If you disagree with that statement, youre not an actor. Because, you see, actors also have functioning eyeballs, or its very difficult for them to read their sides at auditions.)

You may want to allow for the fact that this nice lady had never had a proper headshot taken before, but that doesnt excuse the inability to keep her eyes open in the majority of shots, or to smile without exposing her entire tongue and looking, quite frankly, totally insane. In half of the proofs she felt the need to get her fingers into the frame while making a peace sign, in others she had that tongue inserted in the middle of that peace signs V to simulate, presumably, an oral sex act. Her eyes crossed, uncrossed, darted in opposing directions that may indicate an ocular disorder. Her name was misspelled on the top of the sheet. I could go on, but I wont. This is the sort of thing that would get you tossed out of background work in a club scene in Entourage, where youre not supposed to do anything but look over and smile as Turtle and Drama bicker over who gets the first swig of champagne, finally collapsing into a pile of noogies and headlocks.

Which brings us to an ugly truth about many aspiring actors. They think that having their headshot taken doesnt actually require the ability to sit or stand still and smile in appealing fashion while a photographer tries to find their best angle, the optimal lighting, and an interesting pose for their subject. Having your headshot taken is widely regarded as the second-easiest way to find an agent, after blowing a guy in a suit you met at the Coffee Bean who claims to be on an important desk at CAA. Anybody with $50 can have their headshot taken in a shady-looking bungalow on Highland Avenue, right? And because they believe that, they dont regard casting professionals with any kind of real respect. They will hand you a headshot without a second thought, because you do not have to be a professional photographer or a director or a studio head to work in casting.

So I looked at the thing. And it hurt, man. It hurt like the first time you share funnel cake with someone at the carnival and they get all weirded out that youd like to give them a nice shoulder rub to help with digestion. I was dying to find something positive to say, and there was nothing. Because heres the thing: not only is it cruel to encourage the hopeless, but you cannot discourage an actor. If someone can talk you out of being an actor, youre not an actor. If I can talk you out of being an actor, Ive done you a favor, because now youll be free to pursue your real talent, whatever that maybe be. Teaching. Accounting. Voiceover work, whatever. And, for the record, everybody has a talent. The lucky ones figure out what that is. The unlucky ones keep sinking all their tip money or grad school stipends into new headshots and asking me to help them pick out the best ones.

To make matters worse, this girl (and her boyfriend) begged me to be honest with her. She was frustrated with the responses shed gotten from friends, because she felt they were going easy on her. We love the peace sign thing!, one would say. Do more with the tongue and the fingers, its sexy and hilarious!, said another. What if you took some laying on a couch, while eating grapes? sabotaged yet another. They wanted real criticism. They never do, of course. What they want is a few tough notes to give the illusion of honesty, and then some pats on the head, maybe a shoulder rub while youre delivering the allegedly rough appraisal. What they want always is encouragement. Do you have any idea how hard it is to tell someone that theyve spent literally an entire afternoon sitting on a stool while some guy with questionable hygiene sticks an SLR in their face? Do you know how much blood, sweat, tears, and wasted therapy hours that would be better spent on anxiety-related fainting issues goes into that criticism? Many, many hours. My therapist says sometimes I obsess about what people who give me their headshots to critique really think of me, which I totally dont. Who cares what they think? Not me, thats who. Fuck you, Dr. Horvath, stop putting destructive ideas in my head. So after I cleared the doctors nagging words from my head, I finally got down to business.

My first draft was ridiculous. I got out my red grease pencil and started circling some of the tiny versions of her head on the contact sheet, scribbling notes and symbols (!, !!!, ?, etc etc) across the images, and after a while, found Id marked up virtually every face on the page. So I wiped it clean and by the time I was done, Id come up with something that was brief, easy, just a couple of circles around faces, light on !!!, and considerate as hell (smiley faces were involved). The main point I made is that she mightve been trying too hard with the peace signs and off-putting pantomime cunnilingus. She was way more interested in standing out and looking mildly deranged than in just having an attractive representation of herself reproduced on a glossy sheet of paper. It was like buying scissors and hacking away at your locks without learning the basics of hair-styling. Youll learn a lot along the way, I said, but youll wind up with an asymmetrical mess atop your head that might work if youre an anime character, but not if youre someone trying to land a commercial gig.

(I should mention that while I was circling away with my grease pencil, she pulled the ultimate amateur move, and sent me an e-mail saying, If you havent looked at it yet, dont! I have new pictures! Look at these! In other words, I ran into a guy at Ralphs who said he takes really affordable, professional headshots at a fraction of the cost of my previous guy but with much better results, so I went off with him, did a new set, and I feel like these will be much better, even though they wont.)

I advised her that is all she was interested in was finding a great headshot, she should find a photographer and stick with him, or if she really wanted was to be an actress, start at the beginning and take some classes, maybe those ones at the Scientology Celebrity Centre because they seem willing to work with people who are a little touched, and start studying seriously.

And you know what? I shouldnt have bothered. Because for all the hair I pulled out, for all the mild cutting I did worrying about giving her a real, professional critique, her response was a terse, Thanks for your opinion. And by the way, I notice every time you look down my shirt. Every time. Perv. And, the inevitable fallout a week later a mutual friend asked me, Whats this dick move I hear you pulled on Whatshername? Shes got a decent rack, but come on, lets not stare all the time. So now this girl and her boyfriend think Im an asshole and a breast-ogler, and the truth of the matter is, the story really ended the moment she handed me that contact sheet. Because if Id just said No then and there, theyd still think Im an asshole. Only difference is, I wouldnt have had to spend all that time trying to communicate with someone who just wanted a pat on the head, and quite possibly a nice shoulder rub that might make the criticism go down a little easier and provide a couple more glimpses of cleavage, because hey, I should get something out of this deal as well. Actors can be so selfish. Its a selfish vocation, honestly.

You are not owed a look, a glance, a once-over from a professional, even if you think you have an in, and even if you think its not a huge imposition. (It is. Huge, the imposition. In case I havent made that clear.) Its not your choice to make. This needs to be, er, clear when you ask a professional for their take on your headshots, youre not just asking them to take an hour or two out of their life, youre asking them to give you gratis, a Latin word meaning free Greek? No, Latin the acquired knowledge, insight, and skill of years of work. It is no different than asking your friend the house painter to paint your living room during his off hours. Well, maybe a little different, because that involves ladders and brushes and fun white overalls with those cool paint-spatters all over them. But its pretty much the same thing, but with headshots.

Theres a great story about this caricaturist who has a successful stall on Venice Beach. Some guy told the artist hed pay him to draw a picture on the back of a Federal Breasts Inspector t-shirt hed just bought at a nearby stand. The artist whipped out a Sharpie and banged out a sketch, handed it to the guy, and said, One million dollars, please.

A million dollars? the guy exclaimed. That only took you thirty seconds!

Yes said the artist. But it took me fifteen years of drawing the caricatures of snot-nosed kids and their awful, awful parents at Disneyland to learn how to draw that in thirty seconds. It was a hellish place to work. If you took more than five minutes a portrait, Goofy and Donald would work you over with a week-old churro. Those things are like iron. I suffered oh how I suffered! to hone my craft. I still vomit any time I see those mouse ears.

Like the cad who asks the professional for a free look, the guy simply didnt have enough respect for the artist to think about what he was asking for. If you think its only about the time, then ask one of your non-casting friends to look at the headshots. Hell, they might even enjoy your headshots. They might gaze upon you with a newfound respect, thinking you could actually look like the hotter version of yourself in those photos. It could even come to pass that they call up a friend in the movie business and help you get an audition, where youll trade your dignity and a grudging handjob for a walk-on role in the next Leo Dicaprio picture, and soon, all you dreams will come true. But me?

I will not help you pick out your fucking headshot.

)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

snerk

Love it.

=X>}=



T.V.



-- I AM the people my parents warned me about. --

 
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Susan Eichhorn Young
(Login Susala)
NFCS Member

yep loved it!

September 12 2009, 9:00 PM 

it is BRILLIANT isn't it?!

 
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Claudia Friedlander
(Login divajock)
NFCS Member

As a voice teacherÂ…

September 11 2009, 10:09 AM 

My expectation is that all of my students will make steady, measurable progress and that they will understand the specific ways in which our work together will result in the technical proficiency they desire. With very few exceptions, this is the case, but if they are not making progress it drives me nuts and I do everything I can to improve the situation, i.e. it is my responsibility. If they are really committed and do not make the kind of progress I expect, then either I am not communicating well enough with them or I am just not the right teacher for them. I have never been able to understand how a teacher could work with a singer over a period of months or years while the student fails to make progress!

I do not know whether in this case you need a different teacher or whether you should recommit to your current teacher. However, if a student of mine were pursuing repertoire and performance opportunities that were making technical progress difficult or impossible, I would talk to them about it right away - not wait for two years - and insist that this change. I think that you shouldn't be getting into battles with your teacher over what repertoire will facilitate your technical growth - but at the end of the day, it is the teacher's responsibility to draw those lines and make sure that you are getting what you need. They aren't helping you if they allow a situation to continue where they think your repertoire choices are getting in the way of progress.

Good luck! and whether you stay with this teacher or find a new one, remember that you are paying for their advice, so do your best to follow it. That's the only way to know whether they can help you for the long term.

 
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Katherine
(Login katherine65)
NFCS Member

Excellent post

September 12 2009, 10:00 AM 

You said it much better and with less heat than I did.

 
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The Masked Researcher
(Login The_Masked_Researcher)
NFCS Regular

Umm... well... let me see if I understand you...

September 11 2009, 10:32 AM 

You went through a four year undergraduate program taking voice lessons with a teacher.

To improve your own musicality, you took on many projects, recitals, concerts and workshops, with repertoire that went against your teacher's advice. Then, even if your teacher didn't agree, you would work on the repertoire and bring it to them week after week until they finally relented.

I learned many things from my teachers... many of the things I learned were good, and many of the things I learned were "how not to do it". But one of my teachers had this policy. If you made a mistake, musical or otherwise, they would tell you once. If you repeated the mistake, they would tell you a second time. If you repeated the mistake yet again, they would never bring it up again. Many students, myself included, would come and realize the mistake at some point and ask the teacher why they didn't mention it this past time. The response "Well, I told you twice and you decided it wasn't important enough to listen to me, so I'm not going to argue!!!"

In my own undergrad, my teacher let me select all of my own repertoire, and I would bring in huge lists and recital programs that I had planned. And continuously I would recieve lower marks (from juries and panels) than other voice students who programmed more suitable repertoire. Later in life, I asked him why he didn't say anything and he responded "You needed to learn that lesson on your own, and you wouldn't have listened to me even if I had said something!!!"

Now, playing devils advocate, after 5+ years of vocal training, you probably have learned some things. Some good, and some "how not to do things".

With the "big" standards (Gretchen being one... and big not as in vocal big, but all together big), its not about whether it feels good or not. Its about have the vocal, emotional and interpretive maturity to do justice to the piece. Now, I listen back to some of my first recitals and cringe at how awful some things were, and how different that same rep is now in my voice. Sure, you can sing Gretchen at 20-22, but use it as an exercise and something that you build over time.

IMHO, when I have students who constantly question me and my reasons, and still go against me, taking on repertoire and auditions that I don't approve of, I fire them on the spot.


Back to the Stacks
TMR

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
Albert Einstein

 
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Willisbe30
(Login Willisbe30)
NFCS Regular

Let's clarify...

September 11 2009, 10:38 AM 

Your teacher has been telling you all along not to do things that you did anyway? Or when you sat down with her after two years, she told you for the first time that she didn't want you to do all these things? The responses you are getting here vary apparently according to how they understand this particular issue.

From your post it sounds to me that you have been unwilling to do the work that your teacher has wanted you to do, so she's been aiding and abetting you in doing the things you want to do, somewhat against her own better judgment. As a teacher, I would have probably told you to find another teacher if you were unwilling to listen to me, but I can certainly understand why she would have taken the stance it appears she has taken.

You will not reap the benefits of a good teacher if you are not a good student. Learning vocal technique is like learning how to swing a golf club. It takes constant, diligent attention to detail, and daily practice of technique for technique's sake. Learning repertoire does NOT teach you technique. The golf equivalent is to just going out to play every day having spent no time warming up or practicing at the driving range. You'll get a little better from doing it regularly, but if you really wish to improve, you have to spend hours swinging your club at nothing. Just my two cents.

_______________________________________________
"I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it." - Pablo Picasso

 
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SiMiChiamano
(Login SiMiChiamano)
NFCS Member

to explain where I'm coming from....

September 11 2009, 11:36 AM 

My issue is that for two years I didn't realize I was doing something wrong. I've always been given material way out of my league, so when I started working with this teacher, I thought I would just concentrate on song repetorie. I was thinking that the more songs I sang, the closer I could come to singing opera.

It sounds silly now, but I have always been taught through singing pieces, and I thought that I was just being lazy by not constantly throwing myself into the fire.

As for listening to my teacher, I really did try to listen. I wrote down the excercises she gave me, and I tried to follow her song corrections. My feedback was generally "this is starting to sound better" on the vocalises.

For the songs choices, I would come to her with a piece and ask if it were alright; sometimes she would dismiss the piece without hearing it or after hearing it once, and I would say, "wait, I do feel comfortable with this, let me work on it for another week and show it to you." A week or so later, she would say, "you know, this isn't awful" and I thought I had been right to want to work on it.

Later, I brought a few arias to her thinking she would completely dismiss them, but she would say it wasn't bad. I honestly felt as though I was improving, and I really was trying to be careful picking repetoire that wasn't going to kill me.

When I spoke to her that last time, she said that she had just given up trying to say no, and was just trying to keep me from hurting myself.

"nothing is to be feared...only to be understood"

 
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