July 15, 2013

Finding a good voice teacher

García-Viardot Method c. 1915
You can find interesting things when you conduct research at a library that has access to historical newspapers. Of course, there are many databases in which to search, newspapers being but one place to look. You have to know where to look and what terms to enter. That's the joy of the hunt! 

You can see the terms I was using and what I found in the photo to the left. What did I do with the name of the voice teacher I found? I dug deeper, or at least tried to, using other databases. Unfortunately, I came up empty-handed, at least for today. However, I do know that a Mrs. Charles G. Hurd announced to the world that she was teaching the García-Viardot method in a California city in the first decade of the 20th century. She probably studied with Viardot-García herself, or one of her students. 

Have I encountered liars and fakes? To be sure. The thing is: they alway seem prone to overstatement which rings false. I see voice teachers do the same thing today.  

Learn to sing in 6 easy lessons! Anyone can sing! The only vocal technique you will ever need! Blah, blah, blah! Youtube is full of this kind of stuff. Guess what? I could show you pages of copy from a hundred years ago that indicate the same thing. They used to call it charlatanism. You don't have to actually know anything: you just have to look and sound like you do. Talk fast, put a smile on your face and utter superlatives at every juncture. Either that or look serious, and spout lots of facts about anatomy and physiology (which can't teach the student to sing). Of course, you can combine approaches and really mess with a person's mind. Such is the art of artlessness. 

But let's be constructive here. How do you know if a voice teacher is worth their salt? Check out the teacher's students (Viardot-García herself said "students make the teacher"), and where the teacher studied and with whom. Find out if the teacher can demonstrate what they teach, that is, can they sing? (Would you learn to speak French from someone who knows all about the history of France, but has never been to Paris, and doesn't speak French?) Then go and take a lesson or two. This will give you a lot of information. 

Mrs. Charles G. Hurd? I'd love to know if she was the real deal. I'll find out eventually. 

2 comments:

  1. Seems like sound advice you are giving out. As a working musician, it took time before I knew what to look for. A frustrating thing is that people often seem to be more interested in logistics than quality. Caveat emptor!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment, Kirstin! It does take time! A little research can go a long way.

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