Jun 28, 2006

letter to my ex-voice teacher

I finally wrote my voice teacher from Ricks College. I've been contemplating it for a while. Tell me what you think... I tried hard to make it sound like how I feel--- it wasn't his fault, necessarily, because it was my decision to accept his feedback as the truth, etc. But it was still a difficult experience in part because of, well, him. What do you think? Did I do an OK job? It was a neceesary vent... I'm very glad I finally did it. I think I can completely move on, now.

Well, as long as he doesn't send a nasty letter back. :( Eh, he probably won't even read it, right? He'll prob'ly throw it away because that's what we all do with unfamiliar names in our inboxes.

Here it is:

You don't know who I am, Brother Snorflebluss(not real name). So I'll tell you-- I was one of your first voice students at BYU Idaho. Actually, it was Ricks College then. I don't know if you remember me or not-- I was a small girl with long, blonde hair.

I decided to take this opportunity to write to you because I was just discussing the BYU Idaho music scene with my cousin, who is attending there right now. At any rate, I mentioned that you were my voice teacher, and we discussed majoring in music, etc.

I've been thinking about writing you for a long time. I kept deciding not too, because I didn't want to send you an angry letter. I want this letter to be reflective and possibly helpful to you, rather than accusatory or off-putting.

Having said this, let me state one thing: My experience with you, in conjunction with the natural intimidation that accompanies first-time college attendance, destroyed my self-confidence. I did not sing for two years after I left Ricks and went on to BYU to major in psychology. I tried on a couple of occasions to reinstate voice lessons, but was unable to loosen up enough until I met my current voice teacher. I still take from him-- it has been 4 years now. It took about two of them to get back to what I consider to be my ability level at the time I started with you.

Why did this happen? Well, a lot of it had everything to do with me, not you. I was dependent on your opinion as an evaluation of my value as a singer. Instead of growing with constructive criticism, it shattered me.

Again, having said this, I must go on to say that I had a hard time feeling that you desired my success as a singer. You told me, at one point, that I ought to change my major because I wasn't a good enough vocalist.

I have three things to say about that:

1) Voice quality does not necessarily indicate skill. You can have good technique and have a voice that is not like Renee Flemings. It took me a long time to accept this about myself-- I have a different kind of voice, and can still be an enjoyable person to listen to/watch perform. I just had to find my groove (lol) and genre.

2) Voice quality certainly does not indicate teaching ability. My dream was to be a choir teacher, not an opera star. I learned, after I reached byu, that there were music education majors, even with an emphasis in voice, who didn't sing as well as I did.

3) Even if the above two were not true, your job was to help me become better. And even if you felt that my voice quality made it impossible to help me become good enough to be a bona-fide vocal major, you ought to at least have helped me figure out what my strong point were, and capitalize on those. For instance, I have a very good ear. My voice has amazing agility. And, I can really project. None of these things came up in our lessons-- we spent the whole time, I felt, talking about what my voice ought to be that it could never be, therefore I ought to change my major.

Not only that, but I was very good at music theory and sight-singing. It came very easily to me. I remember, when I auditioned for the Womens' choir there, that the auditioner told me that music was a good major for me because I was so good at tonal memory and rhythms, even sight-singing.

I finally enjoy singing again, though every once in a while I still choke up before I perform. I say this to reassure you that this experience did not do significant long-term damage to my ability to keep my talent where people can use it-- in other words, to use my voice the way God intended me-- as a tool for touching those around me.

As I said, I hesitated to writ this letter before. But I have finally decided to write it in the hope that you'll glean something from this that may help you in your future teaching endeavors.

All the best,



Maren said...

Well said.

Lucy Stern said...

It is too bad that he tore you down the way he did. Please keep up with your singing even if it is just in the shower or in the choir at church. You can still be a choir director right there in your ward. Hopefully he will read your letter and learn some bedside manner from it.

NoSurfGirl said...

thanks :)

This has been a good moving-on experience.