Here I am in Cowes with my husband who is sailing in Cowes Classics. It reminded me of an article I wrote many years ago when I first started teaching about singing competitions. It was called something like “Do I teach my students to win cups or do I teach them to improve their singing?”
My argument was that I could spend time working on building their voice or give them the ‘tricks’ to win cups. I suppose I have always been slightly averse to competition since I was put into so many when I was young. It took me years before I actually won anything and I found it a very dispiriting experience.
In sport it is all about competition, it seems the only way to know how good your skills are and it’s all about winning and climbing up the ladder. Professional singing is like that too and sadly, in some ways, we have lost the true meaning of ‘amateur’ – to love what you are doing – in this competitive 21st century world.
Self-knowledge of one’s skills is a difficult thing to teach and I suppose that is where the new digital technology and real time visual displays and spectrographic analysis can help. I want my students to be self-critical in a positive way- to really be aware of the things they do well and not so well, so that they can work independently of me. We have a ridiculous situation in our University system where I finish teaching my students at the end of April and don’t see them again until September. I know the two semester system is something we have to live with but colleagues in Latvia were horrified to hear that my students had so little contact time with their singing teacher.
There are some amazing summer schools and resources out there. I do hope they are spending their time studying more repertoire. I am having a lovely time getting to know the many wonderful songs of Rodrigo at the moment. What a fantastic and under used resource, such easily accessible songs with subtlety, drama and humour. I can’t wait to put them in a recital.
I don’t want to compete with anyone but myself, to improve and search deeper into the musical meaning of the songs is my goal. I will leave my husband to do the racing!