Why do voice teachers hate each other?

The title of this post is strongly worded because I’m interested in getting your attention.  Did it work?

Several years ago I heard someone put it this way: “you can put a group of saxophone players in a room.  They will talk about mouth pieces, reeds, horns, music, and have a great time.  Put a group of voice teachers in a room, and you’ll have a war.”

This may be a huge exaggeration, but there is a shred of truth in there somewhere.

The voice teaching profession is notorious for high, emotional drama and lots of my studio vs. your studio.  There are territory issues, personality issues, secret-method-keeping issues, and a whole host of other issues that I don’t fully understand.  And I’m not entirely sure I’m equipped to delve into this topic, except that my wish is to see it get better, not worse.  So . . . that means I need to be brave (right now, not later) and talk about it instead of hoping someone else out there does something to build bridges of kindness and goodwill.

One of the biggest reasons I think we fight is because we don’t have a codified language in our profession.  There are 7 different ways to say the same thing, and if you’ve ever taught a student who had any kind of “voice training” in the past, you know it takes a good amount of communication to cross reference/discover/ferret out what they understand and then find words and terms that make sense to you both.  Face it, “chest voice” means different things to different people.  How it’s presented and practiced can vary widely, and that’s IF someone uses the term at all.  Can you imagine what the world would be like if the field of civil engineering was still trying to decide what to call their techniques and materials?  We would have no bridges, no streets, no water drainage systems.  It would be a mess.  And personally, it feels like a mess in the voice teaching world sometimes.  Good thing I enjoy communication and a good ole fashioned challenge.

Another reason I think we have trouble getting along is because we spend a lot of time in our studios – alone.  We teach, discover great things about voice, help people, try to keep our businesses or private studios intact, and don’t realize that the isolation is setting us up to create territory rather than sanctuary.  It’s so important to have connection to other people in our profession so we can share ideas and keep growing.  Once again, I get it, I really do.  Teaching voice is a very private, individualized interaction, and what we each do is the same, but also very different.  My question becomes: how can we honor our private teaching space and also create more communication between teachers?

One possible answer to “not getting along” is the development of vocology or voice science, and then learning to share that science in non-threatening ways.  As we learn more and more about how the voice functions, it might lead to common language and evidence based practices.  Might.  That is yet to be determined, but I’m hopeful and will remain hopeful forever.  I believe that if we are in the middle of a mess, the story is not yet over.  And I am also dedicated to creating healthy dialog in my profession.  That’s the best we can all do – something, even a little something.

Last weekend on a trip to LA, I had the privilege of meeting 3 vocal coaches of renown.  Gerald White, Reid Bruton, and Missi Hale.  Between the three, there was more than a half century of experience and dedication to the craft of singing and teaching voice.  These are voices you have heard on television, radio, and in movies.  What struck me about all three was their willingness to share and talk with a complete unknown from Nashville.  Trust me, when you meet a fellow voice teacher there is a shadow of trepidation, even if it’s unwarranted and just a knee-jerk reaction to *whatever* fear is left from *whatever* has happened in the past.  (at least for me)  They were kind and open and interested in talking voice.  It was a dream come true – to find others who want the same thing.  To put our humanity above our “methods” and “camps” and “voice ideology.”  We were voice professionals talking voice and having a truly great time.  (at least it was to me!)

Here’s the thing: this is happening all over the place.  Voice teachers don’t HAVE to hate each other just because some of them have been hateful in the past.  And there is more helpful sharing going on now than maybe . . . ever.  We do have the internet, true?

These are ideas for thought.  I don’t have a lot of answers, except to keep doing little things to foster healthy communication and relationships in my profession.  It won’t always be easy or even always work, but that has nothing to do with my hopefulness for the future of this life-altering profession.

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