monday musings: learning to be vulnerable to learn

It’s humbling teaching/guiding voice teachers. Teaching teachers can be delicate work. 

Day 1 of Contemporary Commercial Music Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah University began with Marcelle Gauvin’s presentation on In search of Authenticity and posed that we learn to become “way-show-ers”. I love that!

marcelle ccm2019.jpg

When I first came to the CCM Institute as a student 10 years ago, I knew I needed to know more. I was open to learning new things, to be corrected for better teaching practices, yet I still felt defensive when I heard of a better way, or a more efficient way. Not so defensive that I wasn’t willing to change my teaching practices, though that took a few years to really show up in my teaching - change can be hard. It felt like a sting or punch to be presented with a contrary idea, or to be corrected. 

In my healing journey, I read about codependency a few years ago. I connected to this term recognizing my need to be right all the time. I realized why my gut reaction is so defensive when someone points out i’m wrong, or might be wrong, or might need to know something else. My need to be right was (on stressful days, still is) deeply connected to my need to feel in control, and therefore safe. My heart would race and I’d hold my breath when presented with a contrary idea to mine, or to be told I’m wrong. This was true in every aspect of my life, not just teaching. It is vulnerable to feel like I don’t have all the answers. It feels vulnerable not to be right. 

Learning to embrace self-confidence and self-worth without outside affirmation has been comforting (self-soothing) and made it easier for me to admit I’m wrong, to being more open to correction or just to learn new things. It has made me a better student, and teacher! Learning to embrace vulnerability gives me courage! I’m not so bristly now when someone counters me or when someone asks me something I don’t know. Even in the first year of teaching, I thought I needed to know it all! If people are coming to me to learn this skill, I needed to know more. In fact, I always know more, just not EVERYTHING. 

“I don’t know” has become a practice. I tell my clients that “I don’t know” is always an option when I ask them something. I ask my clients questions frequently (sometimes every few minutes) :

‘how does that feel?

‘how do you experience that sound?

‘where in your body do you notice movement or tension?

‘What body part are you most aware of during that exercise?

Most people don’t know how to answer these questions at first. Their mind and body need to connect to figure out what I’m asking first, usually something they’ve never had to feel and think for/about. “I don’t know” is always an acceptable answer! 

I’m very grateful to be ever-learning, and a guide for all my clients who need training to make the sounds of their heart come out the way they want. I am humbled to be a part of the wonderful faculty here at the CCM Institute at Shenandoah University. 

I’ve been hemming n hawing around the terminology of voice teacher/coach/trainer lately. I’ve settled on Voice Trainer to represent the exercise physiology approach I take with clients.  “Way-show-er” is a lovely term to describe what we do in the studio to help clients discover and develop their own authentic artistry as a singer.  

May we all find comfort in vulnerability and life-long learning to become better teachers and humans!