The critical gaze. Or: maybe I should practice more.

I’ve been fortunate enough to perform with a corporate events group this last year and recently a video was taken of our show. While there are plenty of things that are good about the show, there’s plenty there that needs work. I’m always thrilled by the performances of others and a little perturbed about my own and the video I watched was no different.

I’m used to hearing my voice but not at a live gig. One of the things I noticed was an ease on stage and a level of stage presence that I’m pretty happy with. I’m not a great mover but at least in this show I look comfortable.

But my voice. Oh dear. Oh shit. I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board. We sing a lot of pop based songs and I’m in no way a pop singer: I’m more of a jazz/country/musical theatre singer. I don’t hate my voice (much) but as usual it sounds very different to how I imagine I’m singing.

One of the main problems I have is that in pop music I’m a real alto. Not as low as my female counterpart in the show, but I thought I was keeping all my vowels bright, wide and forward. NOT THE FRIGGING CASE. My tone sounds like it’s sitting in my cheeks. Fine for classical singing when you’re trying to sound like Maria Callas, but not when you’re pretending to be a rocker from the 80s.

Also, where did all that vibrato come from? It’s not a lovely bright twangy vibrato: it’s a wishy washy OMG did I just lose my core vibrato and warble on the end of my phrases vibrato! Damn. And let’s not talk about frigging intonation. Now, I’m going to forgive myself in a live event where I can’t even hear myself, let alone pitch the notes correctly. But dayum, girl, get the first note right!

I admit, I’ve been coasting. Part of the problem seems to be the ageing voice. When you’re used to carrying a lot of vocal weight from classical singing, to go to a bright pop sound is actually quite difficult. In truth, we all sound like we could use a good clean up. Which is unfair when we’re listening to a live recording.

So I’ve just recorded myself doing a couple of my solos and feel better about them already. I’m a quick study and can work out pretty fast the issues with vocal reproduction, but I really need to practice consistently every day if I’m going to be an attractive soprano and not an elderly caterwauler.



Gigs! I got gigs! And happy/sad today.

Well, just as my life takes a turgid turn for the boring, a great thing happens: I start getting gigs! Not very frequent at the moment, but they are good for me as they pay for stuff and I get to have fun on stage with a bunch of great folk. This is important for a singing teacher, that my own performing legitimises my teaching practice. My gigs are seminars about happiness – I’m blessed to have some lovely people who think I can actually sing and perform, who have asked me to do this stuff with them.

And for the first-ever time I went to the physio today because I have a super sore shoulder muscle. Its from doing lots of piano playing and computer sitting – I’m doing some crap things to my alignment that affect my neck, which then affects my back – mostly sitting down for too long and for too many years while teaching singing. I’ve been strapped up to make me keep squeezing my shoulder blades together. I’m tired already. I really hate chronic pain, and my back injury is in no way a spinal or bone-based condition, it’s muscular and can totally be fixed through exercise. Meaning I have to go to the gym and work out a truck load so that I don’t feel all muscle-achy. I want a massage. Oh, the pleasures of ageing. Not.

On the dark side, my DH’s mother has taken a turn for the worse. She’s 87 and in frail health – has been for years. On Saturday night she had a fall (as you do at 87), and then a stroke. It’s relatively minor, but at 87 even a minor stroke can mean catastrophic events. We’re waiting with bated breath to find out the outcome. Meanwhile I’m in all kinds of grief because a stroke was what finally took my beloved Granny Moose at age 89. I know the outcomes of these things. I’m hoping my MIL recovers well enough to make it to Christmas but there are no guarantees. And I grieve for her husband, who has lovingly looked after his wife for more than forty years of ill health. He was distressed and sad and even though at age 87 he knows the end is inevitable, the shock of the stroke has surprised even him. I’m particularly fond of my FIL, and I worry for his health and happiness as his wife slowly declines.

So happy/sad today. But at least I’m writing my Post Doc properly now.

Back to the grind, in every sense!

DH and I arrived home from our Christmas holiday and we’ve returned to the usual grind of New Year activities. Today, I’m talking about grind. The grindstone, hard work, honing and polishing and refining of New Year’s resolutions and other travails.

I’ve identified four main areas of grind for me. The first is, of course, my health and fitness. Like so many during this holiday season, I’ve eaten and drunk way too much, and I’ve done no more exercise than an elegant stroll down the beach. Well, ok, the stroll was 8 kms long. I’ve probably put on half a kilo, but I’ve stuck pretty well to a pared down diet, with dessert being the main culprit. DH and I were married 5 years ago December 28, right in the heart of the festive season, so all our revelries occur in one week. Cunning, huh. And, of course, far too much drinking. Less than I would have this time last year, but still! So it’s back on the diet wagon (and aren’t I relieved about that!) and I have my first personal training session tomorrow afternoon. Ugh. That’s gonna hurt.

The second grind is to complete the works on the house we’ve organised. For me, that means sanding and painting during VERY hot weather. It’s going to be vicious. But it’s important to get a start on it before our carpenter comes back to build the remaining fence.

The third grind, and probably the hardest, will be to start up my reading and writing for my doctoral thesis, which is due to begin again in February. I had a lovely break from it and I feel much better now, but it’s time to get cracking again. I tried some of it today and boy, all I wanted to do was get up off the computer and clean the house or literally do anything other than study. That was hard. But it’s a resolution I’ve made to myself to complete it this year, as expected. So I’m starting with my methods chapter, because I need to do the reading for Narrative Inquiry methods again, and start to shape the chapter from its rather bloated state at present.

The fourth grind, and one much easier to sustain, will be to begin my singing teaching again. I love my teaching and while I’m enjoying the holidays, I’m looking forward to developing my practice for the year ahead. My times are quickly filling up and then when uni starts: whew! It’s gonna be a challenge to maintain the study and the teaching, as I’ll be teaching about 30 hours per week. In fact, I have to do as much study as possible before teaching begins because it’s so hard for my brain to switch from one activity to the other. I’m dying to do some professional development n singing teaching but until I finish the PhD I won’t have the time – or the money! So I’ll have to content myself with some reading instead this year.

4 grinds. A big year ahead.


Oh no! $129 on one book and it’s NOT VERY GOOD.

So, as a singer and PhD candidate researching singing, I was deeply interested in the new Potter and Sorrell publication: A History of Singing, published only 2 weeks ago by Cambridge Uni Press. I stumped up $129 for the privilege to have it sent out and it arrived, parcel post, this week. $129 is a substantial amount for a book. I am always prepared to spend good money on books when they contain something I might find useful. Well. Ahem. I was a wee bit disappointed.

Not by the writing, which is fine. Not really by the content, which, when you add it to Potter’s other works about singing, is a useful addition to his oeuvre, but because there is nothing new in it for me. Bugger. The authors write about the history of the conservatoire and quote Burney. I’ve read Burney. Bugger, and more bugger. Luckily, they do make a pretty contentious argument about the conservatoire environment on page 215, which is about the most useful paragraph in the book.

And some of the chapters are just plain weird. Why name the chapter currently titled “A great tradition: singing through history – history through singing” when it’s really “Classical music of the Indian Subcontinent”? Obfuscation there, IMHO. And why is it in the section called Recorded Voices? The layout of this book makes no sense. And also, why a bloody apologia at the beginning of this chapter? What is there to defend? I’m not sure why the authors are defending a perfectly reasonable subsection in their book. No-one has offered up a kategoria as yet. Why jump the gun?

Anyway. I’m a bit grumpy about it. So I now have to wait for the Oxford Handbook on Singing. Which isn’t due for publication until I’m ready to submit, darn it. On the other hand, my reading of Richard Sennett’s excellent book “The Craftsman”, which cost me $14 including postage, is making up for my financial loss on the other book. There are lots of stickies in this book, and I’m only up to chapter 4. It’s great. This book, plus my books on Cultural Psychology are becoming very useful theoretical underpinnings for my study. Definitely.

Now. Back to work on my last narrative.

And, just for a change, I’ve got some Monteverdi madrigals (Book 3), recorded in 2002 by Delitiae Musicae, Marco Longhini conductor, (Naxos) playing in the background. I’ve missed my Renaissance/early music connections. Earlier, I listened to Canteloube’s Chants D’Auvergnes, sung by Veronica Gens. Amazing how soothing to the savage breast music can be. Especially this grieving one.


Book nerd alert.

I’m a sucker for Fishpond, Amazon (until they began charging like a wounded bull for their postage) and the Book Depository. There. Got the ads out. Now, why am I a sucker for these book distributors? Because I can find ANY book on them published in the last 30 years or so. And even books published much, much earlier. I put a regular maximum budget on my book buying because it is my one great vice after wine and food. And because I could easily spend thousands of dollars on the things. And because I can’t get the books I want anywhere else. Retail bookstores simply do not sell these types of books.

My most recent purchases over the last month include (I’ve got a little list):

Vygotsky’s Mind in Society

Wenger’s Communities of Practice

Rogoff’s The Cultural Nature of Human Development

The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology

Cole’s Cultural Psychology: A Once and Future Discipline

Lehmann, Woody and Sloboda Psychology for Musicians

Kitayama and Cohen Handbook of Cultural Psychology

Some of these books I read last year or earlier and I’m sick of having to remove stickies from the books upon their return to the library, hence, I’ve bought them. I’ve seen a couple of other books just recently that I simply need to have: John Potter’s History of Singing, and the Oxford Handbook of Singing. They’re out soonish. Another book I’m tempted by is Music Education in the middle ages. Tempted, if only because it gives me an overview of early educative practices that might feed into my knowledge about the master-apprentice approach of opera singing from 1600 on.

Oh, and just a little plug for my OWN book on Singing. Co-edited with Scott Harrison, Springer are publishing our edited volume of Perspectives on Teaching Singing: a celebration of Singing Pedagogy in the twenty-first century. Due out July, 2013.

So, told you it was a book nerd alert.

So, New Year’s Resolutions: how you going with that?

Ok, this is a bit of a brag post. Because I’ve managed to get some work at the University for this year, in precisely the area I’d hoped for: teaching singing in Musical Theatre to about 10 MT singers. This, I hope, opens the door to more teaching and performing and money and, let’s face it, kudos. It’s casual rates, no special treatment: if I get sick or something I don’t get a payout or anything. I get nothing other than a superannuation contribution. It pays no more than I already get in my own business. But it’s a start. And it’s ongoing in the sense that if I teach them well, professional singers will come to me and I’ll develop a stronger studio because of it, with a good name and stuff.

So I had another look at those resolutions of mine. Number 7: get more work at a university: tick. Achieved. Once my PhD is submitted then I’d like to double the work somehow but I’m not holding my breath. I think if I can get some casual lecturing and some RA work to meet the shortfall when my stipend stops then this will keep me going nicely. I don’t need heaps of money. I need fun and goals.

Number 4: Sing. Yep, I’m doing some every day, but the usual things are occurring when I’ve not sung for a while: I’m getting minor illnesses, small throat things that are not the result of poor singing technique. Miniature colds. Can’t explain it, just have to work through it. The voice is becoming more fluid and it’s becoming a little easier to sing, but it’s hard to tell at the moment because of the illness. What I am enjoying though is playing with breath management techniques. I’m mucking around with appoggio and accent methods – two slightly different breath approaches, and I think appoggio works better for me – gives me a more spun sound and the voice doesn’t sound pressured.

Number 5: Audition for the chorus. Can’t do that until around October, November. So 9 months to get my voice fighting fit, unless I want to have a shot at the generals in March – not sure I have the capacity to audition in March. I assumed, stupidly, that chorus auditions were in May. They’re not.

Number 9: Pay off the credit cards. Slow but steady wins the race there. They’re coming down, although because I’ve just bought airline tickets to London in March my credit card is getting a minor beating. However, money will come roaring into my business account soon, and I AM making headway. I plan to have halved our bill by June. We just applied for a low interest credit card with our bank, which they gave us. You know, the type that has a low balance transfer for 6 months? So I’ve a chance to reduce our costs because we won’t be beaten round the head with ridiculous interest payments for a while.

So I’m making headway on those resolutions. And now that I’ve been posting aimlessly for a while, I think I’ll go and do some studying for resolution number 1: the PhD. I had a great day yesterday and I think it’s keeping going. Mornings I’m not doing so well, but I’m getting something significant done every day. Yesterday I managed to transcribe a whole section of lesson data for one of my narrative chapters – the new one. I’m trying to put together the next chapter but I’ve been procrastinating over the last 15 minutes of interview data that I’ve yet to transcribe. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve listened to it heaps of times, I just need to write it out now.

I’m not going to mention the sporty fun resolutions. The house and garden resolutions will come with the extra paycheck. And my cabaret has to sit and wait until I’ve written a couple of songs for it. I can actually write music, but it’s derivative. I don’t care: nothing is original anymore. And cabaret thrives on derivation, anyway.

Sunday and it’s a cold one.

This week has marked the coldest week in Queensland since I arrived here in late 2007. This makes me very happy and also very sad, as I know this sublimely cold weather will not last very long in Brisbane. Nevertheless, I am currently loving the small snap freeze of winter in June – when it is SUPPOSED to be – here in the Southern Hemisphere, and I am looking forward to heading south in a few weeks for more of the same. As I remarked to my long suffering husband just recently, I have not experienced a proper winter since 2007. This, for a woman who prefers full clothing coverage – of the blues jeans, white collared shirt and black jacket uniform, is a disaster for someone living in a subtropical climate such as Brisbane.

Well, my interviews on Friday were rippers! Really unguarded, open interviews with my participants, where it was a conversation as much as an interview. In my opinion, these often generate the richest data, because it’s through the unguarded response to a chatty comment that is often the closest to the truth of that person.

As we saw on the news in Australia just recently, a silly young girl called Kim Duthie slept with a few guys who just happened to be AFL footballers, and then did some silly things to get media attention for it. She attracted media scorn and approbation when she admitted (still on camera but thinking she was off camera) to the presenters that she had lied about her most recent claims (of having lied about sleeping with them – it’s a double lie, meaning she was telling the truth about sleeping with them. Confused?). This off-hand remark  and the way in which it was uttered, in its simplicity and apparent artlessness, was the killer moment. The unguarded moment. Check out her arm clutch of the guy she was sitting next to – ancient unconscious feminine wiles at their most primal.

Anyhoo. I’m not really interested in her story. What I AM interested in is the story of my two participants. Who are rich and beautiful and exciting and flawed people. One who is a young, vibrant, big-voiced soprano with a huge future ahead of her if she wants it, and another whose teaching is subtle, assured, enriching and a wonderful example of full engagement with the student and the act of teaching. A superb glimpse of a rewarding teaching and learning experience.

And in other, unrelated news, today I finally bought my husband the 19th century mahogany chest of drawers I have been threatening him with since I married him. Why now? Because even though I am saving money, and paying off the credit card, and doing all the good things that should be done to buy a house, I am struggling to call our house a home. The pennies will take care of themselves, which they are, but the big dollars are harder to come by. So, in a way I’m accepting that we may never have a house to call our own. Certainly not until I find a full time job. Then it will be easy. So, for now, I need to feel like our home is a sanctuary for us. And while we continue to live out of boxes and can’t put our clothes away, I don’t feel like this house is our home. So, I did it. I bought him a big but not enormous chest of drawers, with age and beauty and dignity. It’s only late 19th century and mahogany veneer on the drawers, but it is beautiful and finally our bedroom can feel like a proper bedroom. And it was no more expensive than a brand new chest of drawers. I had been looking for an affordable chest of drawers for him for years. As hubby said to me: why now? And I said: why not? We’ve never been able to afford it before, we’ll never be able to afford it again, we can’t really afford it now, what with our current credit card debt, but hey. We’re not travelling this year, so really, we CAN afford it. If we really want it. So there. But no Xmas gifts for you this year!

My case-studies are so different!

Well, here’s a thing. Not that I didn’t expect this, but I am finding that my cases are all intrinsically completely different. And this is a challenge. Why? Because the first case I looked at was quite easy to delineate the areas to analyse, and there is plenty there within the particular transcripts I’ve selected that will contribute to the narrative and the discussion chapter.

In the current case there is so much else to look at other than episodes, that I am wondering how I am to create a narrative out of my data. Which parts do I analyse? What do I analyse? This case is very difficult.

There is so much struggle in this second case. I worry about how I might sensitively represent the issues surrounding this case that, at heart, spring from a problematic student, in a regional town. I need to talk about the repetition of the learning elements, that the teacher patiently refers to again and again and again, throughout the semester. I need to talk about the student’s “incapacity” to learn and develop and what may be contributing to this incapacity. I need to talk about some of the different approaches the teachers employs to try and help the student’s understanding. I perhaps need to talk about why the student was admitted in the first instance. Because all of these contribute to a frustrating semester for both teacher and student.

It’s so different to the other case, where the student’s understanding was quick, intuitive and impressive, and where a continual dialogue about understanding concepts was evident between teacher and student. Do I have issues with the current teacher’s approach? I have to think about this. I suspect the teacher has worked so hard with the student already, and I notice that in the last few lessons some voice building and specific, targeted exercises were attempted that showed good feedback from the teacher and a deeply impressive show of patience. I am aware that my own feelings about this case study are compounded by my attitudes toward the student (basically, get with the program kiddo and do some bloody work, use your noggin, think, do some research, practise, and stop wasting everyone’s time). I am heartened by comments made by the student that refers to an open, collegial relationship with the teacher, but the struggle the teacher has with this student: is it worth it? Is the student motivated enough to try, to practise consistently, and to not be so darn afraid? Has the teacher tried to use other pedagogical approaches? Has the teacher openly said that if the student does not have the music learnt by week 3 that there will be no lesson until all the notes and words are memorised? I think I would have. This is more about me, though, and not the teacher. Maybe the teacher has already tried this approach. Maybe the teacher has found that the best way for this student is the current way. Luckily, these are questions I can ask the teacher AND the student, because I have yet to organise my final interviews.

Something I intend to do this week.

Presentations and the hell of the night before

I gave a presentation today. My presentation, which was thirty minutes long, went extremely well and I was congratulated on my spoken English. I was also congratulated on my ability to read stories well. I am thrilled with how my presentation went, and while I have some reservations about how to sort and deal with my subject matter, I am overall thrilled with my work. I feel, rather than elated, more happy that I was able to do my work and have it appraised in front of a willing audience who were quick to praise and slow to criticize.  A thrilling moment, possibly made worse because now I have to send this to my supervisor for reflection and discussion. UGH. So, because everything I do re: me is on this blog, here is an excerpt of my autoethnography and my thoughts on my development as a thinker.


I knock on her door at the appointed hour, perfectly on time. She greets me; I make some inane comment about her glamorous appearance, eager to please. She ushers me into her studio, a big, purpose built room at the rear of her house. It is quite dark in the room, and I have to ask for more light so that I can see my scores.

I place my bag on the floor, prop my music on the wooden stand, position myself in the recess of the black grand piano and grab the pencil she leaves on the lid. She sits at the piano, looking up at me closely, as light from the large bay window falls on the keys. We chat a little bit about the weekly happenings and she gossips madly. She wants to tell me about her life, about her experiences with appalling people.

She asks me if I have warmed up. I reply that I have had a bit of a yell, but I am not fully warm. I am nervous already. She asks me to sing some exercises. At once a nerve racking and yet thrilling ordeal. Before I have finished the first scale she stops me, peremptorily. What was that? She demands. Sounds like a dog howling or some sort of bullfrog. This said with a twinkle in her eye. I understand: I am not offended. I trust her opinion. I sing again, she stops me again. I’ve done it the same way. I can’t seem to get it into my body how to change my sound. I sense something wrong about my vowel shape or mouth position. I can’t change it at first. She is patient. She tries to explain it another way. Think of the sound like you are walking across a deep gorge on a tightrope in very high heels. I gape at her. What? Like little jewels; pearls strung on a necklace. I don’t understand what she means. She opens her mouth to sing the phrase and a flood of glorious sound emerges, warm, beautiful, perfect. Like that, she says. I try to mimic the sound but my ears and voice are not responding. I can’t copy her luminescent quality. I am not discouraged. I listen, I watch. I mimic. Sometimes she nods; sometimes I am doing it right. Usually I am all wrong. But today, today I discover my mask resonance, at last. It is an epiphany. I am elated. She is relieved.

I begin a French chanson without accompaniment and we analyse it word by word, phrase by phrase. She tells me my vowels are appalling. She tells me my French is appalling. I am discouraged by my attempts to sing French as my vocal line and phrasing are not good enough. I don’t want to disappoint her and I am frustrated by my inability to sing this subtle music to her or my exacting standards. I scribble on my music with her pencil, trying to write a pidgin English phonetic translation of the French words. I feel mealy mouthed and muffled and I am not pronouncing the words properly. I even stumble over the pronunciation of mischievous: I start to say mis-CHEE-VI-OUS, but it’s not the normal way I say it, and so I stammer. She corrects me. I let her correct me, even though I know I have no problems with the English language normally. I can’t retort. I feel utterly stupid and dense. I am dumb with slowness. Why do I pronounce the word wrongly? Am I nervous? She is a formidable person and I sense she enjoys confrontation. She can be unpredictable. I feel a bit afraid of her at times, and I don’t want to disappoint her or upset her as this time in my lessons is special. It’s my time.

We move on to my German repertoire. I have no trouble singing German. She leaves it alone as it’s not her specialty and she recommends I go to someone who can better help me with the music. She names someone well known in the industry and I jot down the name and phone number. She wants me to know as many influential people as possible – I feel she is building me a network. She is very generous and I am grateful to her for this help. She is very encouraging of me despite my apparently appalling diction, my awful technique. I must be doing something right as she is supporting me in developing my future career.

My voice at the end of the hour is fresher than when I began. She looks at her watch, looks at me mock regretfully and announces the lesson has ended. I thank her and leave, checking that my lesson the following week is at a mutually agreeable time. I hug the things she has taught me to myself, determined not to forget them. I decide to experiment with some of her better concepts and images on my own students as a way of keeping them in my memory.


This is a distillation, if you like, of several singing lessons I had over the years. Everything I have related here has happened at one time or another. In this recreation I’ve emphasized some threads that have emerged in my study as being crucial, and possibly unique, I believe, to singing teaching and learning, which I will unpack for you shortly.

The title of this talk today – we ARE our instrument, is one of several comments made by my participants in this study, and one made by singers and writers about singing generally. As musicians, singers house their instrument in their bodies. Their instrument also serves as their communicator and it can be argued that their voice IS the conduit to their soul. Of voice education, Renee Fleming, American opera singer and author writes:

“in a young singer’s training, a teacher and a student have to develop a terminology, to find a language in which they can easily communicate. The essential component is rapport. The student has to feel cared for, because singing is such an exercise in vulnerability. The voice, after all, is the only instrument that can’t be sold. You can’t say: “I really don’t like this one, so I’m going to trade it in for a Stradivarius.” …For that reason it’s also important that teachers be able to navigate through a person’s psychology. Criticism can feel extremely personal when you are the instrument that’s being discussed” (2004, p. 21).

Singing teaching, then, becomes as much about caring for the psychological wellbeing of the singing student as it is about the development of their vocal technique and artistry. Singing teaching is about finding a common language in which to communicate. Fleming argues that rapport between student and teacher is essential in singing training. Clemmons, researcher in voice, argues similarly, when she writes “the emotional connection rapport creates between teacher and student is dynamic and significant. This connection creates a sense of relatedness in the student that fosters motivation. Because the relationship between rapport and motivation is so strong, the relationship’s success can be an indication of the success of the student” (2006, p. 209).

Communication, rapport, personality, instructional skill and instructional systemization are five areas identified by Abeles in 1975 to codify behaviours and activities in the applied music lesson, and it might be argued that these areas remain pretty much at the core of all one to one learning and teaching. These are rather dry terms, however, that fail to really unpack the unique qualities of learning to sing, which has at its heart the need to understand the voice as a physiological and biological element of our bodies, a tool developed over aeons to become our primary form of communication, and a tool subject to emotional upheaval: we cry, laugh, scream with our voices, we choke, we sob. So when I talk about singers being their instrument, I see that a core element of their identity as singers requires that they possess the ability to communicate through music and lyric the meaning of a song, and their emotional embodiment of the song. Take the voice away and one takes away a vital part of the singer’s identity. Criticize the voice and you criticize the person. This is significant for a singer and one area that has enthralled me during this study.

My background is reasonably similar to that of my participants in the study. I come from a middle class, well-educated, urban-based Australian-born white Anglo-Saxon family and my parents believed that the individual, not the state, pays for extra-curricular education. They provided my four younger sisters and me with enriching learning experiences such as music lessons and concerts and ballets and opera. Money, although tight, was never an issue where education was concerned and at every step my parents supported me in my music making. As a child I learnt piano, cello, and, from 16, I learnt singing.

In singing lessons I was the student and the teacher was the master. In a retrospective haze, I recall feeling that my singing teachers were the fonts of all wisdom in regards to classical singing, although I certainly did not feel this way about any of my other school teachers. I did not expect to be friends with my singing teachers, nor did I expect to go to them for personal advice. I did not consider my singing teacher to be my psychological advisor. I think I was in awe of all of my singing teachers, each of whom offered a unique perspective into the life of the working classical singer. I recall being extremely compliant in my lessons, which is not my resting state, I must admit. As you will have noted from my account, I also experienced fear, and respect in my lessons. I trusted my teachers implicitly, but I frequently felt bewildered by their teaching, and I was never asked to reflect on how I made a sound or understood a concept. At times I was subtly denigrated by my teachers, whose superior skill and experience was often used as a weapon against me, a potential competitor, particularly by the younger women teachers, who I suspect saw me and other sopranos as a threat in a cutthroat industry. Most of the time, however, I was treated well, and my teachers were, in the main, helpful and thoughtful people who taught me the mechanics and musicianship and artistry of singing as best they could, given their experience as teachers and singers. I experienced, many times, great joy and elation when I finally mastered a skill, and the concomitant disappointment and discouragement when I was unable to grasp a concept.

What I have found by examining my own experiences is a series of deeply held assumptions that I attribute to life-long cultural values espoused in part by my education-rich upbringing, my personality type and some tacit notions of teacher as master and student as willing sponge. Are my experiences characteristic of those now experienced by young and emerging singers? Do they hold similar beliefs and values to mine?