Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When students leave

I don’t know about you, but every time a student leaves me to go to another teacher, I feel both anger and loss. If I really look at myself, I think there is also a fear in me that I haven’t given enough, and a sense of personal inadequacy.

I heard a lovely expression once, derived, I think, from zen buddhism. “Teaching” it says “is impersonally guiding those with affinity”. I don’t think this precludes compassion; a compassionate response is the reason the Buddha taught in the first place.

If we guide others impersonally, but compassionately, we give them our best, but are able to let go when they decide to move on. The saying also demonstrates that teaching is not possible without affinity. I think I am a good voice teacher; but I know that my process of seeking out answers through explicit understanding is not for everyone.

There are singers who are better off, in my opinion, just singing, rather than thinking about singing. It is my personal feeling that those singers may also need, at some point in the future, to understand how they go about singing, if they want to preserve the voice, and progress in their art.

This type of singer is probably better off working with someone who will just let them sing. Sooner or later, if they start with me, they will leave. My job is to guide them impersonally, but compassionately, to the best of my ability, and in my own fashion; then, when necessary, let them go without rancor. “Senza rancor” said the lady in the opera, and I agree with her.

The way I teach is conditioned by my own particular history, how I got into trouble as a singer, and how I got myself out of it, wht my natural talents were, and what I had to learn. Whatever your teaching style, there will be students out there who have a real affinity for it.

To a certain extent, I will adjust the content of my teaching to suit the particular needs of the student; but I know that on the most basic level, my personal approach to teaching comes from a belief in the cultivation of awareness. When I hear from a student “I sing better when I don’t think about it”, then I know that the clock is ticking.

Let the conscious mind understand, guide, and then get out of the way. That, to me, is the path to freedom.
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