This summer, I had the pleasure of working with many young artists, most of whom were in high school. I started the summer with a 2-week teaching tour in Australia. I then came back to New York to be the music director and voice teacher for Wagner’s Summer Musical Theatre Institute (my tenth year with that program). I finished the summer with a month of teaching voice at NYU Steinhardt’s summer programs, one focusing on contemporary styles and the other on musical theatre.
All were fantastic experiences with gifted, affable colleagues who collaborate to the benefit of the students. Yet, in all of the programs, I perceived a growing issue: young artists afraid of trying new things. A glassy-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights look that signaled some sort of mental or emotional power-down. Not a willful ignorance, mind you, but a true disconnect that suddenly separated us, teacher and student.
This wasn’t across the board, of course. Some students were able to easily incorporate ideas and soar. But for others, I felt as if I couldn’t get through.
Was it just me? After talking to some of my colleagues, I realized they were coming up against the same barriers. I wondered what we could do help this issue.
“What are they so afraid of?”, I kept asking myself. I suppose I could have come up with some theories, but instead, I decided to talk it out with two really smart early-career singers and two valued teaching colleagues. Below is our zoom discussion.
I’m incredibly grateful to Heather Statham, Anthony Turner, Alexa Cepeda, and Gabriel Trimbur for sharing their insights on this important topic. It underscores how easily negative thoughts can become the root cause of a technical problem and how important it is to address this head-on as a way of discovering more full-hearted singing.
Over the summer, I took Sheri Sanders’ Rock the Audition Teacher Training Program with a handful of colleagues I have come to truly adore. I’m loathe to admit this, but it was my first time being a student in a classroom setting in… quite a while. The classes were all great – Sheri creates such a wonderfully supportive and fun atmosphere – but they have also reminded me of just how hard it is to be a student again, how willing we have to be to fail before getting it right. Moving past fear is often the only way to do that.
We must keep creating safe spaces to allow students to do that work.
Check out our new book “Mastering College Musical Theatre Auditions: Sound Advice for the Student, Teacher, and Parent” now available on Amazon.
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