Letting people go

Today I had to tell a long-time student’s mom that I could no longer work with that student anymore. There have been too many no-shows, examples of thoughtlessness, “forgetting” checks, breaking promises … and I haven’t been doing the student any favors by accepting excuses, rescheduling missed lessons, or accepting payment weeks late. It has to stop for my own self-preservation as well as to teach the student that there are consequences for bad behavior.

I’m sad about this. I hate letting good singers go, even if it’s for good reasons. And this student has a great deal of potential – great musician, fine young voice, and smart.

The two students that I’ve had to let go because of trust issues were both people who professed to be beyond-devout Christians… and I’ve caught both of them in lies.

Putting together the fall schedule

I just sent out an email to my students to set up the 2009-2010 schedule. I lost about 10 people at the end of this school year – 6 graduated, 4 decided to move on for various reasons. But I replaced 6 of them, and several of the current roster decided to increase their lesson times from 30 minutes to 45 minutes. I was surprised – last year I had decided to phase out the 30 minute lesson time entirely because longer lessons are so much more effective in helping the student apply the technical things we do in the first 15 minutes to actual singing. But with the economic crisis, I wasn’t going to push it. I didn’t have to. People wanted to do it.

Also, I’ll be teaching vocal pedagogy at Carroll University again this fall. I’m excited about that – I really enjoy helping people find their teaching voices so that they can help others find their singing voices. Plus I’ve decided that the income from that gig is going toward a … wait for it … cleaning woman. (Reinemachefrau!)

Heading out at the end of this week for Jeannette Lovetri’s Contemporary Commercial Music Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah Conservatory. I’m doing the first two levels of the program and will be certified in Levels 1 and 2 of Somatic Voicework. I’ll tell you what that means when I get back!

Top Ten Things That Make Me a Happy Voice Teacher

1. When a student posts a line of a song I’ve given her or him as his/her Facebook status – “I’ll find myself at the end of the world where the earth and the sky are one.”

2. When a student tells me she’ll remember singing the Dead Nuns Chorus from Carmelites for the rest of her life.

3. When a student tells me that she loves opera – and she’s only 13 and came in to the studio a year before only liking bluegrass and boy bands and I haven’t even given her opera to sing, she’s just heard other people doing it and wants to do it too.

4. When the parent of a student who has just done her first ensemble recital tells me, “Your studio is full of really nice, supportive kids, and they made my daughter feel at home.”

5. When someone tells me her high school senior project is about vocal pedagogy.

6. When a kid who formerly only followed heavy metal headbanging tells me that he is now obsessed with Wagner. (Honestly, it’s not that much of a stretch.)

7. When a girl who formerly swooned over the Jonas Brothers now swoons over Placido Domingo – at least on recordings.

8. When a brand new student can read the IPA I’ve written on my dry-erase board.

9. When I told my students that Richard Miller died, and most of them said, “OH NO!” (Again, my base is grades 9-12.)

10. When students see a song from Street Scene or Lady in the Dark or Threepenny Opera and immediately blurt out, “I don’t mean to be curt, but give me that vial!” (See L.A. Law)