Singer’s Bill of Rights
As a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, I am bound by the NATS Code of Ethics. However, in addition to this Code of Ethics, I deeply respect what I believe to be the following rights of my students.
The singer has the right to individualized instruction. Every singer is different—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach to vocal technique is rarely sufficient to help individual singers realize their full potential. While approaches to vocal technique should be clear, research-based, and experience-tested, these understandings must be flexibly applied to meet the unique and specific needs of each individual singer, helping to bring that singer’s coordination into better balance.
The singer has the right to accurate diagnoses. Although having a highly trained set of ears is crucial for all teachers, it is not enough for a teacher simply to identify a singer’s vocal challenges (e.g., regarding timbre, vowels, passaggio negotiation, etc.). The teacher’s job is to help the singer identify the specific physical and mental causes of the challenges he or she is experiencing—where the coordination is not optimal, or what aspects of technique are out of balance.
The singer has the right to effective prescriptions. Just as a prescription usually follows a diagnosis in the medical field, the voice teacher must offer the singer concrete physical suggestions, monitoring tools, and/or vocal exercises to help him or her address the identified issues, systematically and healthily. Moreover, these tools and exercises must work, not only in the studio with the teacher’s supervision, but in the practice room, where the singer learns to be his or her own teacher.
The singer has the right to question the teacher, respectfully, about anything relating to their work at any time. The teacher’s job is to explain concepts of vocal technique in as many different ways as necessary to help the singer grasp those concepts and put them into practice. The teacher should present evidence of various types (both experiential and scientific) to help the singer come to his or her own conclusions.
The singer has the right to expect clear and steady vocal progress. It can take several years to fully balance a voice, and sometimes longer to repair vocal damage. However, assuming the singer has a consistent and concerted practice routine, if he or she is not making clear and steady progress throughout the process, even from the very beginning of his or her work with a teacher, the responsibility resides as much with the teacher as with the student.
The singer has the right to seek out and entertain opinions other than the teacher’s regarding his or her voice (e.g., from coaches, colleagues, conductors) and regarding vocal technique (e.g., from reading the vocal pedagogy literature). If the singer receives opinions that contrast with his or her teacher’s, he or she has the right to discuss these differences with the teacher openly, and see if common ground can be found.
The singer has the right to be respected as a full partner in the work of balancing his or her voice. Pavarotti was famed to have said, “There is no teacher and there is no student, only two minds that come together.” While the teacher must have experience, research, and tools to offer every singer, the singer’s knowledge, perceptions, and experience of his or her own voice should also be honored.