Games Voice Students Play — Past Teachers’ Failure

Evan Bortnick

Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden

I’ve been noticing lately an increasing tendency, in blogs, in facebook and on singing/teaching sites in general, towards indignantly commenting about how many ‘bad’ voice teachers there are out there. This tendency seems emphasized by the frequency of my own students complaining or condemning past (or present) teacher’s efforts. Now I’m sure there is as much incompetency in our profession as there is in others and a neutral report of past experiences which haven’t worked is valuable information. BUT, (and that’s a big but), it’s easy for such ‘voice-teacher-bad-mouthing’ to turn into a real “Game” in the Berne sense. In other words, it’s a ‘hook’, inviting the teacher to react in a VERY specific way. The reason, of course, why I’m aware of this kind of ‘game’ is because I’ve played it myself over the years, many times and in both positions (student and teacher). I don’t believe this kind of game-playing makes you a ‘bad’ person. I do believe that it profoundly gets in the way of learning how to sing!

A student comes into his/her first lesson and regales the teacher with stories of other teachers’ failure. The typical (often even expected) teacher reaction is an inflated sense of competence, mirrored by thoughts like; ‘with *ME* everything will be different!’ There’s nothing wrong with a strong sense of personal confidence. But such utterances (either spoken or unspoken) send a message to the student that THE TEACHER is responsible for the student’s progress. This undermines that important last step of singing training; the students self-reliance. In the last analysis, we want the student, when no longer a student, to be able to learn, rehearse, audition and perform by his/her own lights.

A students’ training goes in phases. In the earlier phases, reliance on the teacher is an important focus. In the later phases, we teachers do everything we can to liberate the student from this reliance. Bad-mouthing X-teachers is a subtle form of reliance. I admit to being tempted myself (at least in my thinking) to project any and all lack of ‘success’ onto past teachers. Recognizing this as an immature reaction (not unlike blaming personal character flaws on your parents!) is an important step to interrupting this game.

Evan Bortnick

Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden


About evanb54

I'm a passionate, curious learning junkie--- an X-Opera Singer turned Voice Teacher, Voice Teachers Teacher, NLP Lehrtrainer, Off-Path Coach, Cranio-Sacral worker and a few other even less mainstream things. Everything I've learned or taught revolves around THE VOICE. The Voice as a tool of artistic expression. The Voice as a tool of emotional transparency. The voice as a tool of flexible communication. More information can be found at my Institute Site: The Wiesbaden Academy of the Vocal Muse Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden, Coaching, Voice Pedagogy
This entry was posted in Audition, Authenticity, Congruence, Emotional Intelligence, Lessons, Music, Opera, Pedagogy, Performance, Performance Training, Presence, Singing, Teaching, Voice and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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