What If That Doesn’t Work?

I love teaching voice lessons with the Institute for Vocal Advancement technique in Austin, Texas!

There is no limit to the amount of raw talent and desire you get in a great music city like this.

In addition to my private studio, I am blessed to work at the Austin School for the Performing and Visual Arts (ASPVA), a performing arts high school in downtown Austin.

As you can imagine, teaching high schoolers can be immensely frustrating. And the frustration isn’t because of the constant asides and nattering of my students. I find that stuff entertaining.

The real frustration comes from being the teacher who is also learning.

With the talent that Austin and ASPVA attracts, I am often working with a very talented singer, who through no fault of their own is not responding to the exercises the way I expect.

And the most frustrating part is the knowledge that it is all my fault.

When I see a student who defies my understanding of the IVA technique, I am humbled with the knowledge that there is so much more to learn.

I know it’s not the technique that must change. It is the exercise and moreover, the attitude of the teacher.

I recall my mentor teacher, Gene Raymond, telling me about how Seth Riggs, founder of Speech Level Singing (SLS) would grill him.

Seth would ask Gene: “If you have a student doing this, what exercise do you give them?”

Gene would give his answer.

Seth would respond: “Very good, Gene.”

Then after a second, Seth would ask: “What if that doesn’t work?”

Gene would pause, think of another answer, give it.

Seth would repeat. “Excellent, Gene!” and with a quickness “What if that doesn’t work?”

It is not the technique or the student that must change, it is the exercise and the quickness of the teacher to supply another creative solution.

Now, anytime I catch myself feeling frustrated, I need to shoulder the responsibility completely, thinking of my next move. I will ask myself: What if that doesn’t work?


Crossing out Plan A and writing Plan B on a blackboard.

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