Some time ago I received an email from someone who found my site. They had a question about a technical issue they were having difficulty with. But they also went on to ask me to validate my assertions so they could “subscribe to my philosophy”. I want to share the email as an example of what not to do when making an initial contact with someone you are asking for help. The main reason being, if the person you are contacting is the real deal and can help you they aren’t going to respond well to this approach. And if they are not insulted they probably are not the kind of teacher that could help you.
Also, I could not find on your page anywhere examples of or testimonials from students of yours. Would you be kind enough to send the names of some people who have studied with you so that I may evaluate the application of your techniques by listening to recordings?
Thanks so much for your time.
Thanks for writing with your question. I have a page of testimonials, you can find them here:
Second, I understand your desire to assess the validity of my teaching. But I feel it is bad form to make the kind of request you did in an initial contact. You are asking me to use my time to gather names to send to you so you can assess me. Just to be clear, you wrote to me with a problem you’re having. You are asking me for help. I don’t know who you are. I’m not proposing anything to you. So why do you think it is OK to ask me to not only help you with a problem, giving my expertise away for free, but to also ask me to submit my professional skill for your evaluation. I just feel that is a poor way to initiate a potential working relationship.
The fact is we evaluate each person we come in contact with as either someone who can help us move forward toward our objectives or not. If you didn’t think I could possibly help, you wouldn’t be writing to me. But hearing other people singing isn’t going to help you find out. The testimonials might, and they are there for you. I’m not sure how you missed them. The link is right on the main menu bar.
But listening to anyone I have worked with can’t give you any idea of what you might get out of working with me. There are too many variables to be reliable. What you need to ask yourself is does what I say make sense. Even if it is different from what you’ve been taught or have heard before. Do the explanations make sense.
The reality is you can’t know until you’ve tried it out yourself. And you can’t assess that unless you are trying things correctly. And if you don’t understand what I’m talking about (which is likely because what I say is different) you can’t do it on your own. So the only way to assess the information I’m talking about is to try it guided by me. Other than that you just can’t make an accurate assessment. I have no need to prove myself. You probably feel I do. But really you need to prove to yourself if what I’m saying is valid.
I received this response: Thanks so much for taking the time to respond, I appreciate your comments very much.
Please accept my apology for offending you and allow me to explain: I have just finished my Master’s degree in Opera Performance at an advanced age (35), and I don’t feel like my technique is where it needs to be to have an operatic career, and I don’t have any time to mess around.
I have had several voice teachers over the past six years and often their opinions of their own technique is very high, and yet, they so often seem to contradict each other. The same holds for guest artists and givers of Masterclasses.
With so many people offering such different advice, I don’t think that it’s unfair to try to evaluate the information one receives based on the quality of the source. It also seems reasonable that if one looks for a teacher, one should judge that teacher’s quality based on their results in the form of students who have studied with them, since what one asks of a teacher is to develop their students to their best potential.
Also, because I found your website via an ad on facebook, and, face it, we all know that anybody can advertise, I felt like I needed a way to judge your authenticity before I subscribed to your philosophy.
I did find, after you pointed it out to me, the page of testimonials, and am very glad to see that it was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.
I am sorry that my request for references seemed inappropriate to you, and I am very appreciative that you were kind enough to respond to my question even after a perceived insult on my part.
I understand your feeling of urgency. That is a good thing to have. The first thing that comes to mind is you have to figure out how your voice works. Learning a technique won’t do that for you. You need to understand without any doubt how to get your body to behave as a musical instrument.
That is what each of us needs to do. And it is an individual thing. But at the same time it is universal. That is how the truth works. I don’t teach a technique, even though my background is associated with the “Swedish-Italian” school. I don’t have a high opinion of my technique because I don’t have one. I adhere to the principles of natural function. Which are available for anyone to perceive, if they have the sensitivity.
See, the functioning of mechanisms of every kind is defined by how it is designed. A motor functions in a certain way based on its design. The Human leg works in a certain way based on how it is designed. You could go through every mechanical apparatus and say the same thing. This is the TRUTH of that mechanism.
The voice is no different. It is designed by nature to function in a certain way through a combination of the natural activities of the larynx, respiratory system and pharynx complex. What this certain way is might not be obvious at first glance. But it is our task to explore what we are provided and figure it out. We need to see the truth of the vocal instrument. Which no one can own. It is there for you to see if you will just look. Anything else is just opinion.
You will never find satisfaction in your voice without this self-knowledge. You can’t discover it by following someone else. You need to be able to judge for yourself if the information makes sense both intellectually and in application. The reason so many techniques contradict each other is because of what you said, they are OPINIONS. Opinions about the voice will never give you a solid basis for your singing. You need to discover and go deeply into the FACTS.
And no one, including myself, can claim to own the facts of the voice. What I talk about is right there for you to investigate and evaluate yourself. I can only assume you haven’t read very much of what I’ve written. Or you’ve gotten so turned around by the opinions of your past teachers that you can’t see the reality of the voice when faced with it.
Your statement, “With so many people offering such different advice, I don’t think that it’s unfair to try to evaluate the information one receives based on the quality of the source… one should judge that teacher’s quality based on their results in the form of students who have studied with them, since what one asks of a teacher is to develop their students to their best potential.” is not exactly correct. Or at least not completely accurate. Yes, the results are dependent on what the teacher provides. But they are also dependent on the reception of the singer.
As I said, the differing advice is opinions. And your belief that you evaluate the information one receives based on the quality of the source is mistaken. It seems like it should be true, but it isn’t. Information should be evaluated not based on the source, but on the information itself. If something is true is it true because of who said it? Or because it is just true. If a fool states something that is true, is it less true than if a respected person states the same thing? Of course not.
In the same way, if a respected person says something that is false, does the fact a respected person said it make it true? Of course not. But this is what we all have been led to believe. There are “experts” all over saying things that are just not true. And no one is investigating these concepts for themselves to see if they are true. They just believe it because of who is saying it. Too many are just taking what is put out there without going into it for themselves.
This is how big name opera singers and teachers can give completely incorrect information. You would think that someone with years of experience as an opera singer would speak the truth. But it is not always so. And when they do it is not because of their stature as an operatic legend. It is because the information itself is true. Which would be true regardless of who says it.
That is the point I try to get people to recognize. I am constantly investigating the nature of the voice. The things I say are not true because I say them or because I heard someone else say them. They are my observations of what is true. And the proof of their validity is when someone else also observes these same things and sees the truth of the mechanism. It has nothing to do with me or the “VocalWisdom Technique”. If something is true, meaning an accurate representation of what actually exists, it will be true for anyone. Even those of opposite techniques.
I have had, what I feel, successful progressions and I’ve had people stop before I felt satisfied with their progress. But none of that has anything to do with what may happen for you. When I found the one teacher I have been satisfied with I hadn’t heard any of his singers. I knew by the information he was providing that he had what I was looking for.
I should say also, you made no mention that you were looking for a teacher. I’m still not sure if that is part of the reason you wrote to me. (Perhaps you wanted me to prove myself just so you could decide if you should listen to my answer) So you can see that from my perspective you asking to assess my teaching was completely inappropriate. There is more than enough information on my blog for you to assess what I’m providing. Then if that seemed worth exploring then you could ask for an introductory session. If you are looking for a teacher then you can only assess things by actually working with that person. Listening to what they’ve done with someone else will not give you an accurate assessment.
You refer to subscribing to my philosophy. That is part of the problem you are having. There is no philosophy with the voice. It is rooted in reality. Philosophy is opinions. It implies there are different ways, or beliefs, to do something with the voice.
This is a mistaken point of view. As I said earlier, there is a certain way the voice is designed to function. If you use the body in that way there is flexibility to apply that function to whatever you desire to express vocally. Whether it be Operatic or not. Singing or Speaking.
Just to be clear about my position. There is nothing wrong with assessing a teacher’s ability to communicate accurate information. But to make that kind of request in the first contact is inappropriate. Just as he stated that anybody can advertise, so too can anybody write to someone who has a website. How do I know his intentions are sincere? How do I know he is worth the time and effort it will take to fulfill his request? I don’t. And to demand things from anyone is not the way to get them to want to help you.
It is like saying, “I want you to give me your knowledge, but first you have to submit it to me so I can deem if it is worthy of my time”. Well, that knowledge is not come by easily. Anyone who has it has gone through a lot of time and effort to develop it. It is not something you can just have packaged and buy. (Although people still try) It is something that must be transferred from one to another. And that takes time and effort on the part of both people. It is like a gift. It must be given, it can’t be taken.
To have that kind of attitude is just insulting to anyone who actually has that knowledge. And guarantees that they will not want to share it with you. If it isn’t insulting to them they most likely don’t have the knowledge that you’re looking for.