Friday, August 6, 2010

Grieving a Loss -- Yet Another Voice Teacher is Gone

I wasn't sure if I wanted to write about this, but since it is part of my avocational journey, I must.  So, here goes:

I recently received word from my voice teacher telling me that she would no longer be able to accommodate my lesson time in her studio.

One reason I didn't want to write it, was because I feel embarrassed to admit I was rejected and not one of the more desirable students.  I had thought I was doing pretty well, and was finally beginning to put together a technique. I was working hard towards my goals, and I was excited about the progress I was making. I felt that I had momentum going and was not prepared to come to a screeching halt unexpectedly like this.

I had hoped that this new thrust would be the one to take me to a point, at long last, of a basic mastery of my vocal instrument.  I say "basic" because mastery is a lifetime pursuit that is never fully attained due to the truth that there is always more.  But I have always believed there would come a point where technique became secure enough and awareness of the ins and outs of vocal issues became such that a singer "arrived" at a moment where she didn't need a teacher any more -- at least not every week -- except for a basic tuneup once in a while.

I have been very slow and long to get to this point, as I've noted on this blog. But in this late time of my singing life, I have finally sensed it on the horizon.

But now I have a temporary setback in that I am without a teacher.

This journey cannot be undertaken without a guide.

Here is how I'm feeling right now.  I feel like a person who had wanted to climb a giant mountain and had hired an experienced guide to help navigate the way to the top. Just when I got to the point where I could see some peaks, the guide can no longer continue the journey and must leave me there out on a ledge.  I feel stranded and alone on top of a cliff, close to the mountain top, but without a guide.

So, I sit on the little ledge.  First, I just cry.  "Oh, whatever shall I do now?  What will become of me?"  But since that isn't really going to resolve the issue, once that indulgence has passed I have to sit and think of my options.  First I have to make a decision, sitting there out on the snowy ledge by myself.  Do I still want to try to get to the top of the mountain or do I want to give up?

If I give up, I can just find my way back down to the comfy lodge at the foot of the mountain, go in and order a glass of wine, and sit curled up by the fire reading a nice book.  That would be very comfortable and nurturing.  No tough things to go through. No scrapes and bruises from grabbing onto rocks. No feeling exhausted from the exertion of effort. No getting discouraged. No rejection. No disappointments.  Lots of comfort and "peace." I can watch the young people come in breathless, with their rosy cheeks and talk about how wonderful the view was from the top.

But if I decide that I still want to try, then there's work to do.  I must begin the work of trying to find a new guide to help me get to the top.  As I make the rounds of the mountain guides, many of them might discourage me.  "Why don't you just take the nice little bus tour up with all the other older folk?  You shouldn't be exerting yourself at your age."  Or "Why don't you just admit that your body isn't made for mountain climbing and just take the cable car up?"

But I have to pick myself up and get out there and make the rounds.  Make the rounds until I find someone skilled who is willing to help me the rest of the way, and won't abandon me mid-mountain.

Finding a good voice teacher is a lot of work.  There is a lot of asking around, gathering of names, and then the legwork of getting to sample lessons .  Sometimes this work has to be done when you have a low level of confidence in your mission.  There are so many questions.  Will the teacher want me as a student, or find me undesirable as the other teacher did?  The kind of mission I'm on -- older avocational singer who's not giving up -- is one I have to sell, or at least find the right kind of person who would get on board with me and help.  I can't do this if I'm not feeling like I'm believing in my mission myself.

So, the first work I have to do, before I make one phone call or set one foot on the pavement, is to find a way to believe in myself again.  This is the task that will help me get the job done.  A way I've used to achieve this in the past is to pray and renew my spirit, so that's what I'll be doing as a precursor to getting out there to embark on a new fresh stab at getting to the top of the mountain. The clock is ticking, but it's still not too late for me to get there.


  1. Don't give up.

    I'm someone who has not gone down the lessons/teacher route, because I've always felt that by looking at and listening to other singers around me in choir I learned more. Also, I know I don't have the ability to be a professional singer, and that is not my goal - I'm happy to be in a great choir, be in semichoruses, and do the stuff I do.

    But if you feel you need a teacher, find another one. If your teacher has gone, she has lost you - you have not lost yourself. You're still here, and all you need to do is search and the right teacher will appear.

    You'll be fine, but first you need to understand that people come and go in your life - the constant, true part of the journey is always going to be yourself. So take pride, be strong, and find the next teacher.

  2. What great comments you have left, Daharja. Thank you! Of course you are right.

    Right here and now is the time to tap into that true part of the journey which is myself, as you so aptly put it.

    I found out when I was at the Westminster Choral Festival that there is a LOT of vocal knowledge that can be obtained from being in choir, especially on the higher level. I'm reading up on choir singing because of it and I'll be posting some more of what I got from the festival and am even using now to further technique.

    Thanks again!

  3. I don't know you or your voice, so please consider what I say here and if you don't think it applies to where you are, ignore it.

    As a teacher and singer, I have been the teacher needing to cut back(and agonizing about how to tell the people I was cutting), and I've been the singer that there wasn't enough time for. I am at a place vocally where not just any old voice teacher or coach will do. I need someone that really knows their stuff if I want to feel like I am getting something for my money. Unfortunately, because I'm not out there trying to get singing jobs, the students that are on the performance career track get the good teachers and coaches. I don't know if this is the case in your situation, but whatever the reason, I know it can be frustrating to be at the bottom of the priority list.
    But here's what I've learned: I knew a lot more than I thought I did. Having to go it alone forced me to really focus on my voice and what works for me, not on just doing what someone told me to. If you really feel like you need to find another teacher, then do that, but don't discount your own knowledge and wisdom. Your posts here show that you do know a lot about singing and about your voice and that you take opportunities to learn more. I really like what Daharja said about the right teacher appearing. You will find what you need.
    I've had an amazing year working mostly on my my own and learning more about my voice than in all my years of voice lessons. For me, I was the right teacher.

  4. I'm sorry to hear about this unexpected change in your singing journey. Are you sure it wasn't something relatively innocuous like new scheduling constraints or commitments that caused you and your teacher to part ways? Can your former teacher refer you to some new teachers?

    Perhaps, in the grander scheme of things, you've been set free to find a teacher who will take you along the next leg of the journey, possibly further and faster than previous teachers did. I hope this is what's in the cards for you.

    In the meantime, remember that people like us sing because we love it and because we have to, no matter what level we reach now or in the future. No person or event can take that away from you.

  5. Jeannine and Blue Yonder, thanks so much for your thoughtful words. It was so great to sign on and read your helpful comments.

    The situation is a little bit of what each of you have said. The disappointment of not being a priority when schedule cuts were necessary is the painful part. This is the first time I've had an experience like this, so processing what it means and what I need to do is unfamiliar territory in my thus far vocally sheltered life.

    That being said, this is nothing that can't be worked through,like all of the experiences we go through in life, as both of you seem to recognize. In fact, working through it has the potential to be of great benefit.

    Jeannine, I have been wondering if it's time to work on my own for a while. My one issue is the upper register extension. It is still technically foggy for me, and if I just had that little bit of help to figure out that part of my voice, I think I'll be much more able to work on my own.

  6. I'm sorry about your teacher. The only thing I would advise against is "working on your own". If you feel you are at a critical point where you have certain things under your belt but not others, it's important to have a teacher. I have a good one, if you're interested, but I'm sure many other people have suggestions also. Good luck!

  7. BabyD, Thanks! I have collected a name or two to explore as possibilities for new teachers, but I would be glad to have the name of yours to check out as well. Would you send it to the e-mail address in my google profile? Thank you!

  8. Not to state the obvious but why are you focussing on the negative here. Your teacher was obviously a good one and brought you further along your journey. Why not celebrate the gifts the teacher has given you instead of choosing to use the word abandoned. Why not celebrate the fact that they were able to give you any of their time and the benefits of their wisdom and expertise for the length of time you did study with them. Part of learning to be a musician, part of BEING a musician is the ability to internalize what has been taught - by one teacher or from many. If singing is truly your passion then there should be no doubt. The fact that you even question whether you should continue speaks volumes.

  9. kaijar, Thank you too, for your comments. Just like with all kinds of experience of loss, the celebration often comes after the initial sad feelings have been processed and dissipated.

  10. Something else to consider - maybe this has nothing at all to do with YOU. Maybe your teacher had other commitments or has personal health issues and is being professional about it. And another thing to think about - was your studio primarily avocational or primarily professional? If it was the latter - again you should count your blessings that you even got to spend some time with a great teacher!! I have had many teachers over the years and the great ones - no matter how short-lived - are the ones who leave lasting and permanent impressions on me personally and artistically.

  11. I didn't post a comment earlier because I couldn't log in to my blog. Have fixed the problem. Anyway, I just wanted to say how sorry I am that you have had to go through this. I know that I would be absolutely devastated. I hope you are continuing to pick up the pieces and look for another teacher.

  12. Peg, Thank you so much for your expression of caring. As you probably already know, the emotions of an experience pass and then it's time to get practical and solve the problem. I have already taken steps to move on and have set up a couple of trial lessons with some high level teachers in the Fall. I will be posting some follow-up on how it is going soon. I'm sure you and everyone will already know that it's bound to have a happy ending. We just have to see what happens!