First, I want to wish everyone a (belated) Happy Thanksgiving. Even those who don’t observe this US holiday, I still send my wishes to you. Because when you wish someone a Happy Thanksgiving what you are really doing is expressing to them your own thanks for what they have given to you.
And that is what I want to do, express my thanks to each of you who read my writings and send me questions about the voice. Just by visiting you give my work meaning. So thank you and to show my appreciation I have an offer for you at the end of this post.
Second, I want to talk about a big challenge many of us face at some point in our journey of vocal understanding. The fear of the unknown.
What inspires this discussion is an experience I had this week. I had an initial consultation with a talented soprano who was curious about my approach to training the voice.
She had read some of my material and was interested in the Lamperti teachings as well, which are a main reference for me in my concepts. She seemed very motivated so we scheduled a meeting on Skype just a couple days after she first contacted me.
When we met I really enjoyed talking with her and she was a wonderful person, so I was hopeful that we would continue working together.
I felt an affinity to her very quickly because of the experiences she shared about her difficulty finding a teacher that she felt she could progress with. I had exactly the same feeling when I was her age.
So we had our session and I explained the concepts we would use to learn to coordinate the body to behave as a musical instrument. If you are reading this it is likely you are at least somewhat familiar with what I teach.
And that is where things sometimes get difficult for people. What I teach is not like what most of us have been taught. Just about every person I work with says at some point that what I am showing them is totally different than what they were previously taught to do. Sometimes it is completely opposite.
Most recognize a thread of truth in what I say, even of they don’t quite get it yet, and give it a try. Some feel in the experience of doing things that it makes sense and feels right. Even though it is so unfamiliar.
Then there is the occasional person who has almost a road block to letting the concepts in. Usually the concept of becoming aware of the larynx being an active part of the situation throws people off. This is what I saw in this potential client.
I want to say very clearly that I don’t blame this person at all for being hesitant. It is absolutely normal to hesitate in working with someone new that is presenting concepts that are completely unlike what you already know.
The interesting thing is the people who react in this way to my teaching have all been similar: career oriented with a fair amount of schooling and degrees.
Singers in general are right to be careful. Especially if they aspire to a professional career, they can’t afford to go down an unproductive path.
That is where the irony, at least to me, comes. The reason these singers find me is because all of the schooling and private training they have invested in has not provided the results they are so desperately looking for. So they are searching for something different that will.
But they are held back by something we all have to deal with, fear. We have fear of the unknown, fear of taking the wrong path, fear of hurting ourselves or our chances of a career.
Sometimes we even have a fear of things working out and achieving results we only dreamed of. I know fear of success can be hard to imagine, but it does exist for some. I think it might be related to fear of change.
I know this fear personally, so I can understand and I never would hold it against someone. So I want to say again that I am not being critical of the person I met this week. In fact I still hope she decides to work together because I feel she has a huge amount of potential that I would love to help bring to realization.
But it made me want to speak generally about this situation. It might resonate with others, so I feel it is worthwhile. That is the reason for the offer I want to make, which is explained at the end. Try to be patient and stay with me here, though.
I generally avoid talking about myself, but, I feel this fear too. All the time. Every time I have an idea to write about or I want to make an instructional video I feel it. And over the last couple years the fear has tended to win.
All we can do is keep fighting. As I said, I was at a similar point in my career when I was in my late 20s. I had finished my Masters degree but didn’t feel like I really was in command of my instrument.
I had tried just about every teacher I could find in my local area. But I wasn’t finding the information I was looking for. I basically wrote off teachers. I just kept practicing and working on my own. I didn’t really make a lot of progress but I did keep getting more familiar with my equipment. And I kept learning through my teaching.
Then after about two years I found David Jones in New York. I read everything he published on his website, I eventually contacted him by email and explained my situation and asked him a few questions.
The questions had to do with technical concepts that I was interested in learning because I thought they were the key things to help get over the hump with my voice.
I did not ask him who he had taught that I might recognize and if I could hear examples of their singing. I didn’t ask him to prove himself to me. I didn’t ask him for a discount or other concessions. (Tip, just by asking some specific questions you should be able to get some insight into whether the teacher knows enough to validate further investigation)
Because of his generosity and the fact that I was traveling to see him, he did offer a slight discount because I was buying six lessons in one week. He also offered an air mattress in his studio for a place to stay so I didn’t need to pay for a hotel.
He even took me to breakfast at the diner around the corner a few mornings before we had our lessons. This gave us a chance to discuss things and get to know each other even better.
That was January of 2001 and it marked the start of a whole new path for me. I didn’t end up singing professionally like I thought I wanted to. But it did start the process for me to become the expert on the functioning of the voice that I am now.
Two months later I went again. And then I went one more time in June. Then Sept. 3rd, 2001 I moved to New York to study regularly with David. My hopes were that I would be able to take the process to completion and be a finished product within a few years.
That isn’t how things ended up. But I did still completely change the course of my life. And 14 years after first connecting with him I’m still working on improving my singing and my teaching every day.
The point is we all come to a fork in the road where we must choose our way. There will always be a familiar choice and one that is more unknown.
I guess what I am trying to get across is sometimes we just need to take a chance. We need to take a chance on ourselves. And try something that we aren’t sure about which might be scary.
It is literally the Robert Frost quote about taking the road less traveled. And it does make all of the difference. Even if it doesn’t turn out the way you might hope for, we always get something significant out of the choice.
We never know what might be the small change that over time becomes a very big difference in our results. There are no guarantees in life. We just need to determine the best we can that someone is worth our time and money and then go for it. And if it is not working don’t be afraid to cut your losses and move on. But if you don’t ever take that step into the unknown you will never reap the benefits either.
Like Michael Jordan said, you won’t make every last-second shot to win the game, but you will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. You just have to step up and be willing to take the big shot, even if it might not turn out how you want.
So to encourage you to take a chance I am going to offer you the same deal I am offering our friend that I met this week.
My normal rate is $100/session. In celebration of the absurd shopping stimulus days that have been invented for this weekend – being Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday – I want to reward you for taking a chance with me.
If you commit to investing $100 for a session with me I will give you a second one gratis. Which basically works out to two sessions for $50 each. Half price.
If this interests you and you are ready to take a chance at changing the course of your vocal development just contact me either in the comments below or at email@example.com – but you must let me know before Tuesday my time.
To help allay these fears and to show that there have been others that have felt and feel the same uncertainty about trying something new I want to ask anyone who has worked with me and can share their feelings before and after meeting me to do so below in the comments.
Thanks to those of you who have taken that step out of your comfort zone and thanks to those of you who are considering it. I hope this will give you the nudge you need to take that step.
Thanks, Brian. Hope things are going well for you all.
Please read my comments on Michael’s testimonial page, as the blog is only allowing me 300 characters. Michael is a supreme technician, and his understanding, and patient application thereof, are peerless. He is a gifted and generous trainer who you will always treasure. Please read my testimony!
Comment from a Client in Brazil:
What I would say if I were to describe my work with Michael is, like The Beatles’ song, “We can work it out”. It is really amazing how open he is to all I bring to class, no matter if it is an Italian air, French mélodie or even a pop song I used to sing some years ago and now I feel I can sing. I have had lots of teachers throughout my professional life, like most singers who are desperately in search of someone who might guide him to explore and be in full command of his instrument. But mostly what happened was that I bumped into professionals who were not at all fortunate in their own career as performers and that were there to show off the potential of their voices, or teach me many vocalizes which purpose were never clear to me, often saying that my goal was to be able to sing the full tessitura of my range. In a nutshell, Michael has been guiding me so that I have ownership, practical knowledge and command of my instrument. But it takes one a really attentive approach, individual, together with patience and support. We can work it out, is what I hear between the lines. Sometimes I come to class tired, other times feeling like giving up – because we all know that singing is awfully demanding, as we must manage are ourselves, not an external instrument – and he is always there, focused, calm and wise about what I have to do to reach my daily targets. Each day I feel I know my instrument a little more and my I feel my voice is blossoming, gaining the individual colors and weight solely mine. I can say I am really lucky to have found Michael, who is the vocal coach I had been searching for my whole professional life. Thank you, Michael.
I forgot to mention that you can always look at the testimonials on the Testimonial page.