Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Singing Musician

Singer PracticingIt seems to me that too many young people who see themselves as on the road to becoming professional singers would be better served if they found a road that better suits them, or simply make a bargain with themselves to concern themselves with learning to sing for the sheer pleasure of singing and see what happens.

Youngsters and their support contingent tend to be ill-informed and confused or blinded by the notion that anybody, especially their anybody, has what it takes to make it big. They think that assembling a team of voice teachers and coaches (especially those whose charges have seen major success), recording a demo, auditioning for a TV talent contest and making the right connections are the keys to success. While I believe much of the so-called talent we hear and see is fabricated in this way from the outside instead of developed from the inside, and it may well be that the up-and-comers can make names for themselves by being packaged, produced and auto-tuned with little skill to show for it, the formula performers do not transcendent, unique singing musicians necessarily make. And the greater numbers of youngsters taking on the task of learning to sing and, more to the point for them, attaining fame, are destined to fail.

I remember sharing a lunch not too many years ago with a rather fine singer and instrumentalist who had toured internationally with a well-known group.  He was opening a voice studio in his area. He hadn’t officially taught voice before, though his background, lineage of teachers, and exceptional skill level and intuitive nature set him up to be a fine voice teacher. During our lunch, he rather innocently made a comment about some of the singers with whom he had begun to work. He expressed wonderment over their objectives, since they had none of the inherent attributes of a singer in the making or otherwise. It was a, “What do they think they can do with this?” moment. The gentleman and his area of the country shall remain nameless to protect both of us.

The bottom line is that people who are meant to be singing musicians in the most genuine sense, have certain things going for them. Forget about the pre-packaged pop divas and divos for a moment. What follows is my description of the singing musician, subject to further additions, upgrades and edits.

Singers who are musicians are compelled to make music. Singers who are musicians are driven by the desire to sing and play – even in the absence of an audience. Singers who are musicians make music all the time, everywhere and anywhere.  Singers who are musicians are curious about old styles, new styles, and are always looking for ways to infuse their music with something different, something more.

Singers who are musicians have music spilling from them. It spills over to writing music – which, done properly, requires learning about the structure of music. It translates to playing an instrument to support their singing and just because the temptation to make music by doing something other than and in addition to singing is strong in a singing musician.

Singers who are musicians are like kids in a candy store when it comes to all things related to singing – visiting a music store, viewing a chart, hearing a new song and imagining it in their own voice, actively seeking other singers to listen to and being inspired by their sounds.

Singers who are musicians never wonder, “What do I do next?” Singers who are musicians are always flooded with tunes, ideas, projects, and the desire to work at their singing and expand their horizons. Singers who are musicians generally need assistance in channeling the abundance of musical energy, to help guide them to their goals and keep them from derailing.

Man singing and playing the piano
Singers who are musicians are daring. Singers who are musicians are curious. They are inventive.

Singers who are musicians make sounds in less than ideal places, in less than ideal conditions, and under less than ideal circumstances. They can’t be kept down.

Singers who are musicians are driven to understand their instrument, the voice, and to care for the thing that conveys their inner being to the outside world. Singers who are musicians pay attention to and learn from sources of information, such as books, magazines, forums for singers and the like.

Singers who are musicians often don’t realize how competent they are. But there is a difference between turning from a duckling into a swan, unaware, and feigning modesty – which is indicative of an unbalanced ego.

What we too easily refer to as shyness is usually fear cloaked in embarrassment over something that has not yet happened, and that is unlikely to happen the way the fearful person envisions it. What is the worst that can happen? Does it even faintly resemble the end of the world? Does it mean the end of the beginning of a career? The answer is, of course, no. A singing musician meets the fear fearlessly.

Singers who are musicians don’t care what the rest of the world thinks of their level of competence. They are singing musicians, regardless.

Singers who are musicians train, and train, and train. Singers who are musicians find a way.

Like any artists, singers who are musicians are not necessarily motivated by or trapped by social and cultural norms or current modes and trends. There is a difference between behaving outrageously, however, and appearing to be outrageous to others because of a behavior or expression that emanates, organically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, or otherwise, from within.

Singers who are musicians, like other artists, might seem to move through the world at a slower or ‘other’ speed than their non-artist counterparts. Some singing musicians might seem to be detached, removed, distant, unfriendly or otherwise socially lacking. Frequently they are misunderstood. Because they are always working, and learning and growing, they may be labeled nerds, or misfits. They become cool, popular, in demand, when their artistry is sufficiently developed and becomes evident.

That Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hour thing? (The book is titled, Outliers: The Story of Success.) No-brainer. But a singing musician doesn’t sigh over the thought of the long road ahead, or waste any time counting to 10,000. They are too excited about and busy making music.

Sure. Singers who are musicians are often frustrated. They might worry about the future. They might experience tiny standstills. But they are not allergic to hard work. They know that hard work is the path. They are challenged by mistakes, of which there are none, by the way. Though they may be temporarily sidelined by poorly-delivered criticisms, they soon meet such rejection with rekindled inspiration.  “Never say die!” is the unspoken motto of one who is determined to be a singing musician.

Singers who are musicians entertain regular crises of confidence. But they will kick themselves in the rear end and move forward – or they are not singing musicians.

The crises always stem from some important business that the singer is not taking care of. The crisis of confidence always comes from within, not from the outside, and overrides the higher thought, action, purpose. It is the singing musician’s responsibility, because no one else can or will solve this for the singer, to replace the crisis with better energy – or quit.

If that last sentence stung you, you might be a singing musician. For you, quitting is not an option.

Singing musicians don’t make excuses. They make progress. They make music.

Jazz vocalist and singing bass player
Singing musicians come in all shapes, sizes and personalities, like all other people. While it would be nice for a singing musician to be a wonderful example of a human being, that is not always the case. But, realizing that being a successful singing musician is highly dependent upon working fluidly within the greater community of musicians, and dependent upon building positive relationships with those who might help along the way, the singing musician is best served by endeavoring to become a wonderful example of a human being. However, the singing musician who wastes time worrying about the world’s perception of them and trying to conform is, well, wasting time, etc., etc.

Mel Tormé and Nat King Cole were two examples of fine contemporary singing musicians of their time. Those who are too young to have heard of Tormé may know The Christmas Song (Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…). Tormé composed the tune and co-wrote the lyrics. In this YouTube example of absolute singing musicianship, Tormé sings and accompanies himself at the piano. Later in the clip, Tormé plays the drums while Nat King Cole plays some marvelous piano with his trio and another singer, June Christy. 

Pre-teen and teen singers considering auditioning for the various performing arts schools, take note. Increasingly, schools are asking what other instrument you play.  If the thought of learning an instrument strikes you as tedious, might cut into your social or texting time or interfere with soccer, too many theatrical auditions or other activities, you might want to consider an alternate major.

You may now resume singing. Do your exercises. Make exercises of your songs before you add polish. Think time and study time are as important as is actual application time. I applaud you very loudly in absentia. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Teenage Vocal Practice Conventions

Practice preparation that served me well back in my schoolgirl days.

1) Silently read anything that absorbed my thoughts for at least an hour or more in a quiet room. My voice was always fresh and easy to produce right after reading. I didn’t realize, then, that the reading was a form of meditation, promoting deep breathing and relaxation and sharpening brain function.

2) Singing right after eating mashed potatoes. Right after eating salty mashed potatoes my voice was always clearer – especially in the lower range. I remember remarking about this often back then. More likely than not the warm food relaxed me or relaxed some part of the vocal mechanism. Or the whole notion is just silly. Or there is some other reason why the spuds did the trick. You are welcome to try this on your own and report your findings. I would steer clear of the gravy, however.

3) Singing right after coming out of the local indoor swimming pool. The high notes were so easy to produce. There are multiple reasons why this might have been the case. Water cleared the sinus passages. Swimming laps is the best exercise for breathing muscles of the torso. I may have experienced temporary relief of undiagnosed allergies. And it echoed in there! I did suffer a serious rebound effect about 30 minutes after swimming. My head plugged up as if there were a blanket stuffed inside.

4) Singing after practicing playing my alto recorder. I highly recommend playing the end-blown flute for singers. My voice teacher had been training me to sing with a type of a rib reserve breath that, unfortunately, was encouraging me to hold my breath. I stumbled onto something more like the appoggio when I played the recorder.

5) Singing in the add-on room renovation. I was so sad when my parents finished the room. My ‘practice’ room was all cement floor and bare walls. This was much better than singing in the bathroom. Besides, with five people and one bathroom, singing in there was like tweeting is today. Only time for a commercial jingle before somebody started banging on the door.

6) Singing when nobody was home. I would light the plaster of Paris Baroque-style candlesticks atop the old out of tune player piano, turn off all the other lights and sing and play away. I couldn’t get rid of the family enough. Really. Those people just would never leave.

Notice that the key word threaded throughout is ‘singing.’ I would sing exercises, choral music from school, the Italian art songs my teacher had assigned, the coloratura arias my teacher had no idea I was fiddling with (that I shouldn’t have been fiddling with), some popular songs. I won a $25 savings bond at a pizza parlor where I sang a Puccini aria and a Burt Bacharach song. I wrote tips for breathing and tone production and such on 3X5 cards and maintained a file which I referred to when I practiced my vocalises. A few years back, the other opera singing teen from my small sports-minded town commented that no one had ever practiced when we were in school. I had been wringing my hands over the lack of practice on the part of my private students. I retorted, “I practiced!”

If you want to do a thing, you need to do the thing – and do it all the time. As many have said, a singer is a singer every moment of each day of their life. There are people who sing. And there are those who live their art. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Creativity, Discovery & Failing. It works that way.

Frustration is an integral part of discovery. Failure is an integral part of discovering or creating something.

Well-meaning parents often try to protect their children from failure, thinking that failing will defeat them, dash their hopes and dreams, keep them from being successes in life. It doesn't work that way. The protected people who don't know how to fail and get back up on the horse are inclined to quit, to cheat to succeed, to not lift a finger at all, and to expect, as my mother used to say, that the world owes them a living. Those who are given everything don't know how to want anything well enough.

Being required to want and wait to get is what helps us determine if that which we want is worth waiting for. Wanting to "do" something significant is the best kind of desire. Wanting and not getting is what makes us find creative ways to work toward doing or getting what we want. If we aren't interested in working out the scheme, the plan, the details of doing or getting what we want, we don't want it enough. And we are unlikely to be successful at whatever we are doing, or, ultimately, unhappy and bored with the thing that we had thought we wanted. And the enticing, titillating part of the journey to anywhere worth our time involves exploring, taking some wrong turns, making some missteps, getting lost and then finding our way out.

And another thing I've learned in life is that having few things makes us appreciate the few things that we have and the many things that we don't have even more. Having more things overwhelms us so much that we appreciate all of them less. I don't have everything. But I have more than I had growing up. My white elephant shop used rag doll with the nose scuff and the old, broken down piano my family borrowed when I was in high school meant more to me than a parcel of new dolls and a store full of brand new grand pianos ever would have or ever could have meant. When you've had to wait and wish long and hard for a piano, and when you've taught yourself to play (with no piano handy), the arrival of any old piano on the scene is a most amazing event.

Practicing (Oh, there's that hideous word, again, music students), is the means we singers have of getting what we want. Now, practicing isn't necessarily a fun thing to do. But, for those of us who want to arrive at some level of musical competency at some point, practicing is the main tool we have. So, fun or not, rain or shine, we get to our little practice shrines and we do our duty to our art and to ourselves. Sometimes we have little epiphanies on a regular basis. Other times, we work at it and work at it with few noticeable results. But, like I tell my students, the Ugly Duckling was in the midst of his daily transformation into a swan. Because the process was so slow, it was hard for him to see the change on a daily basis. This is why we have video and audio recording in the 21st Century! Well, it isn't "why" we have it. But you get the idea. At any rate, the fun happens on the other end of practice, when we've accomplished some part of the journey. And, if we get into the right mode of operating, the practice, itself, can be fun. It certainly can be an interesting journey.

Inevitably, within a couple of lessons a beginning voice student will say, "I'm afraid of practicing wrong." Or they'll ask, "What if I practice wrong all week?" I tell them they have two choices. They can practice what they think is right, or they can not practice at all – which will get them exactly nowhere. Sometimes this is enough to get them to relax. Other times, I need to add, "If you practice "wrong" the entire world will come to an end." Usually, this is enough to knock the irrational fear out of them – at least until the next lesson.

Some students don't get over this hurdle, or another one of the many hurdles along the way. They quit, or take time off (only to return to come up against the same hurdle again). Others, who want to become the best singing artists they can be, work through the frustrations and the failures. They are also the ones who will pick up a book, or peruse the Internet, or invent their own methods and techniques of practicing to help guide themselves through the process. They want to be proficient singers so much that they are willing to risk failing over and over again. This is how artists are born.

I just picked up an interesting new book by Jonah Lehrer titled, Imagine: how creativity works. Here is a clever promotional video for the book that inspired this blog entry. Enjoy! (Then go practice.)

IMAGINE: How Creativity Works from Flash Rosenberg on Vimeo.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Learning to do the Slow Work is Slow Work

It’s resolution time, again. It’s the time when people all want to lose weight, tone up and take voice or piano lessons. It’s also a time when people who have not been living authentic lives for years and years, for reasons good and not so good, are looking for an escape. People want to be beautiful. They want to look younger. They want to do glamorous things – like sing onstage. They want to reclaim lost time. And they want to take crash courses so they can reclaim that lost time instantly.

It doesn’t work that way.

Nothing happens instantly, no matter what the ads on TV will tell you. Sure, if you spend every waking moment exercising and watching ever morsel of food you put into your body, you can make significant changes in your appearance. I doubt that you can count on developing that six-pack or those bicep muscles, though, in six months or a year. If that were the case, there would be many more people wandering the streets looking like models and weightlifters. Think about the number of people you know who have resolved to lose it and tone it. Have they? If they did manage to make changes, did it last?

And you can learn to play a few songs on the piano with a down and dirty course where note names are placed inside each notehead, and you have a library of a handful of chords that you can call on to harmonize pop songs (though you might not know that those things you’ve been playing are called chords, or what a chord is if you were to trip over one, for that matter). You can limp along, with no technique, playing stiffly and non-musically and maybe even enjoy the experience. But allow me to be one of the first to raise my hand to tell you that you have NOT learned how to play the piano. You are doing self-limiting, surface-level “busy” work.

The person who succeeds at weight loss usually is one who has made the decision over time, not because January 1 is upon them and, whew, all of those holiday goodies finally have been consumed (until next year). The decision is made based on appearance AND on health, longevity, or because career and overall lifestyle will be enhanced. It might have something to do with a medical condition, or caring what a spouse thinks. It might have to do with a number of factors that all figure into a change of lifestyle and a new mode of operating. When the decision to lose weight is made over time it is, perhaps, a bit easier to deal with the long course of exercising and monitoring of diet that is necessary to make a permanent change.

Personally, I think that calling it weight loss is one of the problems. Who wants to lose anything? We should call it size adjustment, or something more innocuous and less emotionally disturbing or negative sounding.

The point is there is a shift in thinking that precedes the successful shift in acting to effect change.

On the other hand, learning to play the piano is a positive thing. You are adding a skill to your existing inventory of skills. You aren’t losing anything. But the problem with learning to play the piano, or learning to sing when it isn’t something that you’ve considered thoughtfully, over time, is that you likely are resolving to do it, in part, because it seems so removed from your reality, unattainable. This already sets you up for failure. If you make playing the piano (perfectly) or singing (like a superstar) something you must do in order to alter your drab, unsatisfying life, you’ve put in on a pedestal, in an ivory tower on another planet in an undiscovered galaxy, somewhere. Part of you wants to do it because it is something that other people do. It isn’t something YOU do. Great! So, let’s get down to lessons!

I don’t think so. How can you possibly succeed?

The person who does well with piano or voice lessons is the person who has reasonable but less than grandiose expectations. As with learning any new skill or habit, the successful music student recognizes that (as Aesop said and one of my young piano students recently remarked) “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Cut through the buts and make the “onlies” lonely.

Our little demons will try to speed up and shortcut the learning and changing process by throwing “but” and “only” at us. Sometimes I feel like a Ninja, deflecting a barrage of buts and onlies from a student. The mind is quick to try to find another solution when the slow, difficult process taxes our patience. When the first solution is nixed, the mind quickly runs another direction.

Piano student: But I have to move my bottom from one side of the bench to the other in order to play all the high and low notes.

Me: No. You don’t. You need to adjust the distance you sit from the keys and your arm and wrist and finger positions and allow your upper body to move with your arms, in the up or down direction, as your arms and the music requires.

Piano student: I would do that, only my arms aren’t long enough, and my wrists naturally bend this way.

Voice student: My tongue doesn’t want to go there (to the front of the mouth, the tip resting lightly behind the bottom teeth).

Me: First of all, your tongue has no mind of its own. You are in charge. Second, it will go there, if you work to relax the jaw and the tongue. (There is much more to this. But you get the idea.)

Voice student: But, maybe my tongue isn’t long enough.

Me: It is.

Voice student: (upon successfully finding the tongue position, allowing for a resonant tone). Wow! If only I could do that every time.

Me: With time and repetition, you will.

“I’ll try” is another defeating statement that the brain sends to the mouth and the mouth sends back to the brain. Don’t try. Just do.

“One Day at a Time” – Alcoholics Anonymous Slogan

It’s natural for human beings to try to make things easier than they actually are. But a person who really wants to learn something, really make changes that can make a difference in their life, must work hard and slowly and steadily to develop an evolved way of operating and thinking. Changing a habit, developing a new skill; these things are accomplished one step at a time, one day at a time. Complete dedication and regular maintenance are critical components. The person who means well often doesn’t do. The person who does well has moved beyond mere intention, to action.

In case you haven’t already considered this, or discerned it from this posting, learning how to do the slow work is, itself, slow work. Developing the mindset that allows you to jump on the scale, day after day, after having worked out like a fool and dieted as prescribed, only to see the same dumb number – or a HIGHER number – staring you in the face. You just keep plugging away at your workouts, in spite of it.

Developing the mindset that keeps you going to the piano, not minding the clock, and going over and over an exercise in a meaningful way, until you play that particularly important repetition and make that discovery that changes one teensy-tiny part of your technique. Then you applaud yourself and go have a cookie, um, unless you’re also doing the weight loss thing.

Don’t expect an external reward, by the way. In fact, expect others to punish you for your efforts and achievements. Take their laughter, denials, ignoring you altogether… as your rewards. And please ignore the sad truth that people with lesser skills may be rewarded even though you may feel you are more entitled and even though you may, in fact, be more deserving of a reward. That’s life. As my significant other always says, “Those people are put here by the devil just to upset us.” People will be threatened by your success. They may be embarrassed by your talents. They will be jealous of your accomplishments. And, chances are, they won’t even be aware of their thoughts and their behaviors around you and toward you – because they aren’t as evolved as you will have become.

Your work and your progress are your rewards. Get used to it. When you are thinking through your master plan to lose weight, shape up, play the piano or learn to sing, think, “If I were alone with this new physique, or this wonderful skill, on a desert island, would it still make me happy?”

What a great desert island! Hmmm. Now, if only I had a piano. Good thing I’ve lost all this weight and I’m looking so marvelous on the beach. Now, if only I had a mirror… or a really handsome lifeguard.

So much for the desert island.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Teaching Singing My Way

There can be huge differences between what different voice teachers offer and what those interested in taking voice lessons expect from lessons.

Here is a general overview of what I offer and what I do best.

I HELP YOU to do the following WORK (because a teacher is merely a guide, an extra set of eyes and ears and a knowledge source)

1. Finding YOUR true voice/sound - not a voice that imitates or mimics other singers

2. Balancing your voice throughout its entire range and all registers (because a singer who wants to sing comfortably and reliably unbalanced -- adding audible breaks, breathiness, etc. -- needs to know how to sing balanced, first)

3. Accessing all available notes in your voice (because you can't add notes to your range that don't pre-exist in your voice, you can only learn how to access them -- and they usually number more than you think they do)

4. Establishing a resonant voice technique that can allow you to sing unamplified and be heard in a reasonably friendly acoustic environment. For those who work hard, they may be able to develop a voice that can carry over an orchestra with ease. This is my goal for all singers. You can always sing and be heard with a microphone. Techniques are slightly different. But techniques that allow you to sing on a mic are easier to master, in my opinion, because they tend to be more cosmetic, than are the more varied and subtle principles of freely-produced and properly supported tone required for singing audibly, unamplified. A microphone can be an aid. It can also be a cheat and a crutch.

5. Removing affectations that keep you from developing your own voice. Getting rid of the breathiness, screechiness, the squeeze, the press, the push, the breath holding, the choked and muffled "cooking lady" sound, the added vibrato that doesn't sound as good as you think it does, the bleet, the uncoordinated vocal wobble...

6. Developing a flexible vocal technique that will allow for artistry -- rapidly sung passages, dynamics, vocal colors, legato (flowing, connected) singing, staccato singing...

7. ...which brings me to musicianship. Teaching sight-singing, music theory, rhythm, etc. I don't believe in learning songs solely by ear. The visual aspect of learning your music and understanding how your particular voice relates to the notes on the page is critical to your vocal development and understanding.

8. Teaching piano for singers. If you want to sing and you have no desire to minimally learn to play the notes of your songs on the piano in order to learn the music, I wonder about your initiative.

9. I help you to NOTICE things, so that you can own your technique and not remain teacher-dependent. I teach you to see and feel what's going on, because listening to yourself from the inside doesn't work.

10. No apologies. No excuses. I may be a dinosaur. But I prefer working with singers of classical, semi-classical and other legit or legit-related forms of music. Some new age and alternative music fits into this schematic. That said, I am pleased to work with singers of all genres of music -- musical theatre, pop, rock, jazz, rhythm and blues, folk, and so forth. Keep in mind, I am not an interpreter of all of those genres (though I do pretty well working with some of them). My background is opera, classical, art song (Lieder, mélodie, British and American song), assorted forms of religious music.
Again, my strength is helping you sort out your voice, establish a strong, healthy, acoustically sound, intelligent foundation technique and your personal sound. What you do with it from there is your business.

I may edit or add to this list along the way.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Subtlety of Learning

It's been too long since I last blogged. I live in awe of those teachers who are able to teach, take care of their business, participate in numerous other activities and pursuits and manage to find time to blog about it all.

As fall approaches, and I begin rallying my school-aged singers and pianists in preparation for the NATS Student Evaluations, performances, a studio recital, The Achievement Program (Carnegie Hall-Royal Conservatory) and MTAC Certificate of Merit (whew), I am reminded that too many of these students have little to no idea of how to study... how to deeply learn material... how to prepare their minds for the subtle aspects of becoming an artful musician, how to look for and then notice small improvements that lead to big changes, how to stop trying to "do" things that only interfere with the process, and how to focus on process over product.

Me: "Listening over and over again to someone sing the song is fine. But you also need to sit down at your piano and play the notes for yourself, learn to sing the song your way - not as a copy of a recording, speak the text, checking every word for pronunciation..." etc.

This is not what today's average singing student seems to want to hear. Deep learning and subtle learning aren't on their radar. Deadline for testing learning is what they get in school. Facts are crammed into their brains at the last minute, only to be forgotten after the test. This kind of learning does not produce artistry.

With all of this on my mind, I just stumbled upon this news story having to do with properly learning to meditate. There are interesting parallels to my teaching practice and philosophy. This article reflects the kind of teacher I aim to be, the kind of student I prefer to teach, and the kind of focused, self-less artists I hope to prepare for a world that is desperately in need of a few genuine, humble artists.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hocus Pocus Focus on the Fourth of July

The July 4th holiday offered me an opportunity to do anything other than teaching-related work. So, what did I do? I put on my teaching hat and wrote a lengthy response to a thread in a singers' forum. A singer was complaining about a quick fix offered by a voice coach to a friend of a friend and referring to it as hocus pocus. The friend's friend changed her posture and was able to produce a high note that was previously unattainable. My response may or may not have stand-alone merit. For what it's worth, here it is.

It would be interesting to see if this altered posture helped the singer to sing the notes slightly above or below the high note in question. And it would be interesting to be the fly on the wall at this coaching session, to see if the singer 'cared' about singing the notes slightly above or below. My first guess would be "probably not" in both cases. Quick fixes aren’t usually good fixes. And, in my experience, the vast majority of individuals taking lessons/coachings tend not to question. I have to dare to bore them with the information.

Some teachers and coaches resort to hocus pocus for many reasons -- none of them good ones.

Broad generalizations follow.

Singers expect to learn everything there is to learn in a few lessons/coachings. TV shows and contests make it seem like the progression is 1) audition, 2) stardom. Some Ts&Cs go with that. It's easier than fighting the singer to try to help the singer. People think that singing doesn't require the same foundation work as ballet, ice skating, golf, baseball... what have you. (In reality, it ranks right up there with skills like ballet in terms of training for strength, flexibility, control, nuance, total body involvement, life commitment...) People don't realize that, once you find something that works for you, it requires ongoing maintenance. You don't just learn to sing. Resting on those laurels stagnates a singer and wastes a voice. Good Ts&Cs know all of this. It requires a complementary class to teach it these days. And nobody would take the class (except for those who are somehow enlightened already).

People like quick results. People don't like to wait for things. People don't want to do the grunt work and look for answers themselves. They want everything handed to them. People believe what they want to believe, instead of seeking truth. Survival of the species, no doubt. How many young girls think they have modeling figures, because no one tells them otherwise? They don't see themselves clearly in the mirror, and those who would profit from the girls' desire to become models willingly take their money.

People want to be appreciated. They don't necessarily take coachings to learn anything. Years ago, a young lady came to me who needed lots of help. This was before I learned to cushion the obvious truth. After hearing her, I suggested a couple of things she might work on, to help her change the way she was singing. She stared, dumbfounded and said, "I don't want to change the way I'm singing." Silly, literal me. (She needed to change the way she was singing.) My next thoughts (to myself, for safety reasons) were why are you here? and what can I do for you, then? I had only been exposed to the "pat on the head and you're a star" school of teaching in what I thought were very unfortunate settings.

In another instance, a manager brought an actress/singer to my studio for lessons. She had a recording session set for two weeks from the date we met. (This happens a lot.) So, I asked the woman to sing a couple of notes right around Middle C. She couldn't. She couldn't sing those notes, or any notes. She couldn't sing a song, or hum a tune. ...

For a short time I worked with a brilliant woman who, until then, could do anything she set her mind to. When she had trouble with singing, she resorted to a throaty voice that would not have held up for long, and that wasn't giving her range, etc. Finally, frustrated, she asked me how long she would be able to sing the way she was singing. I told her I couldn't predict. I said, a year, a few years, 5 or 10 years... She said, "That would be long enough."

Learning to sing, improving one's technique or approach to songs... takes openness, trust, trial and error, willingness to fail, additional work on the part of the singer, immersion. Hopefully, the professionals training the singer are ethical and skilled enough to offer something of value, and to be worthy of trust.

The change in posture offered by this coach may have been a necessary integral component of producing an efficient sound for this singer. Very possibly this is a skilled coach with a good eye and ear. I wonder if your vocalist friend's friend knows why this change in posture helped. What were the mechanics? Did this person record the sound to see if it was something she wanted to keep producing in this way? Was she able to align her posture the same way and produce the same tone the same way, again? How can this change in posture contribute to her over-all singing? These are just a few of the thoughts that instantly flood my mind.

People who want to "do" singing generally are happier and sometimes more successful in the long haul than are people who want to "be" singers. Just another observation.

If I’ve gone a bit off topic, please pardon my purge. Yes! Good luck out there, indeed. May no singers find themselves in circumstances that would limit or detract from their ability to do (key word) the thing they love doing.