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  • Writer's pictureMeera Belle

The Teacher/Pupil relationship...

Becoming a private teacher with my own music studio was a real revelation, and not just because it was my first fully-fledged business, but because I came to realise I had to establish control of the teacher/pupil relationship on my own, without the 'auspices' of a school hierarchy or board or principal behind me.

I had to decide the rules and I was the person responsible for all behaviours within my business as well as negotiating all public perceptions of it.

The absolute basis of good teaching is the establishment of respect between teacher and pupil and when you are dealing with all ages and stages, that can get tricky! You can have much older people who are very used to being the one controlling it all and who don't deal well with giving that control up in the studio in order to consider new pathways to learning and listening. Then you get much younger students who may have only just come into the school system proper (later primary years onwards), who are either precocious and need 'taming' OR they are excessively shy and need heaps of slow encouragement.

In between you have the teenagers...hoo boy! Brimming with drama, full of changes, and overflowing with hormones, they can be the most delicate dancing of all!

But through it all there needs to be one simple thing. Respect.

I was reminded of this over the weekend when I presented my first Lecture at the first Voiceology Conference in Sydney. Watching the other presenters go through their stories and their knowledge, hearing about the amazing challenges and trials faced by pupils and teachers alike,

I was struck by the level of respect shown to organiser Marion Rouvas - founder of Voiceology - and deservedly so.

Marion has single-handedly saved the voices of countless singers who were not treated with respect by their teachers or their medical consultants.

Suffering from various vocal issues, which were either caused by teachers too disrespectful not to realise they were not doing any favours to their pupils, or health consultants too lazy and dismissive of the 'dramatic singer' upset about their voice to properly investigate. these singers found Marion and Voiceology Australia and simply never looked back. The respect and even love shown for the journey Marion led them down was very obvious.

Marion also spoke about respect - the respect she now expects in return for her expertise and her time. In much the same way any professional would expect to have their contract with you for business taken seriously and treated with due consideration, she spoke about how she's changed her teaching to ensure pupils understand what is going to be expected of them: timely attendance (or a good excuse offered), payment for services (unless otherwise negotiated and agreed), and PRACTICE.

Timely attendance? Absolutely. Teachers like me organise an entire term ahead of that term and so time is set aside specifically to teach whoever is booked in. That means not turning up leaves teachers twiddling their thumbs in their studios, frustrated because that time cannot be offered at late notice to anyone else.

Payment for service? Yes! While private teachers understand financial strain very well, they are also having to pay their bills on time. Good teachers will always be approachable for payment terms, however. You should only have to ask.

Practice - here's the absolute biggy. If singing students wish to improve their voices, they must practice, and practice well. They must be prepared to put the work in to see the results. Teachers often have to put up with students who believe they are better than they are and so that teacher has to weigh up pointing this out against affecting a student's self-esteem - that's incredibly tricky.

However, there is NO escaping the fact that you cannot improve or make meaningful gains as a singer without practice. The voice is a series of muscles and they need to be worked and led to the right production of sound repeatedly until this becomes second nature and can evolve, develop, grow...

As one of my teachers told me early in my own training: "Learn to love the scales and they will reward you with a superbly flexible and healthy voice".

How much is enough? Ask your teacher, they will respect your question as much as you've respected them for asking!

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