You Get What You Pay For

Finding a teacher in NYC is not hard.  Finding a good one can be.  It seems everywhere I look there’s someone teaching voice or piano, whether they are trained in the instrument they are teaching or not.  The quality of teaching in an overpopulated, high-demand area like New York can vary greatly.If you want to study you need to pay a teacher, and hopefully they will give you a return on that payment.

I coached a singer recently where this topic came up.  She studied with another teacher, who, in my mind, said a lot of nothing.  I think it was a situation where this teacher had great performing credits, but not great teaching credits.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: just because you can perform, or have a performing career, doesn’t make you a great teacher.  In fact, some performers can be so good at what they do, they don’t stop to think how they are doing it.  They’ve never had to work at the mechanics of their skills, so they don’t always know how to articulate them to students.

I’ve seen this in some teachers.  It’s incredibly infuriating to hear them say “just do it,” or “just get better,” thinking that if they say it enough times, that’ll help.  Students, on the other hand can get blinded by a performer, and think he or she is a great teacher.

It takes all kinds of people, and teachers.  We all respond differently to different styles and technique methods when studying, so finding the right teacher with whom you can connect is important.  As my friend and I spoke about all this, I urged her to demand more out of this teacher.  It’s ok to ask for clarification; hopefully the teacher has the skills to demonstrate, or explain what they mean in a way that is more understandable.

I also urged her to consider that teachers are being paid to teach.  They want you to keep coming back.  This teacher told her that he would slowly reveal his method over three months, and that only then would she truly be able to perform.  Blah, blah, blah.  It all sounded manipulative.

Anyone who is that withholding is selling you on something.  So rather than actually teaching, he is coddling and complementing the students.  If that makes everyone happy, then who am I to judge?  I’d prefer a more straightforward approach, and be honest with the students.

Some teachers will tell you anything to get your money.  Be aware of who you’re working with, and what they are actually saying, not just the complements and promises for greater knowledge the next class.



2 thoughts on “You Get What You Pay For”

  1. Ciao Micah,
    I couldn’t agree more with this post. I was once introduced to a teacher in Kiev who told me I could only sing on an “oo” vowel for the first month of study together. Then he kept saying “forte”, “forte”, to try to get me to sing louder. Add into this mix that we could only communicate in Russian, and I decided that one lesson was enough and never sought another one from him again! Luckily, I was fortunate enough to find a different teacher who could speak 3 languages, was singing with the National Opera, and who did not reduce me to “oo” and “forte” for the rest of my study!

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