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About Method.

Much has been said of late, both in the columns of The Etude and else­where, concerning “methods”; but in all the endeav­ors to show the weakness of one method and the strength of another the main point has been lost. The word “method” is used with two quite different meanings. Sometimes it refers to a certain way of using the voice—a method of voice-production; and again it means a prescribed course of training—a method of instruction.

“Method,” in the first meaning, belongs no more to one teacher or singer than to another. It is a common right of the human race. The singer has analyzed his voice and selected from its various func­tions those that are musical, developing them until they are at his command. These vocal functions are his stock in trade—his colors, with which his work of art is painted. He has found and developed the artistic possibilities of the voice that Nature has given him. But he has created no law. There is nothing on which he can put his seal and say: “This is my creation.” He who first found the music in the human voice never put his name on a “method.” We do not know who he was. The feathered songsters taught him melody; the air was vibrant with the sound of the cataract. Nature’s primal laws of sound are the foundation of our music. Nature’s laws of vocal physiology are our laws of voice-production. Nature, then, is our one and only great author of “method.”

The other meaning of “method” is, as has been said, a system of instruction. But why should a teacher be restricted to a given course of training any more than a physician should be restricted to a single drug? It is as absurd to treat a case of depressed larynx with exercises for post-nasal expansion as to prescribe a gargle for a broken leg. One may, of course, have a preference for one kind of treatment: a sort of favorite prescription. Indeed, one may be­come a specialist, and treat only his kind of cases. But vocal teachers with specialties treat all kinds of cases the same way. A specific is not a panacea; and a given routine that will prove effective with one voice will ruin another. When a law of Nature is broken, the fault must be found and a suitable remedy applied. That is all there is to method. Art may do much to remedy natural defects; but Art is the pupil of Nature, and ceases to be Art when she works in disobedience to Nature.

It may be objected that not all voices are un­healthy. Every teacher knows that almost every voice he has to deal with has something the matter with it. When a voice is perfect—in placing, color, resonance, vitality, flexibility, and all the require­ments of singing—it is time to sing, not to study method.

Pupils and parents have a great respect for names. A “method” advertised with an attractive name draws many pupils who never stop to investigate the char­acter or ability of the teacher who is its exponent. Perhaps in years to come the enlightenment of the public will make it possible for teachers to live by their own intelligence—as they would always prefer to do. Then we shall hear less of “The Only Author­ized Exponent” (who is more numerous than the “original McKinley man”) and “The Originator of The Method” (heaven forgive him for what he originated!).

The first requisite of a teacher is the power of analytical observation. Every pupil presents a new problem or a new combination of problems. The teacher must study his pupil before he can teach him.—R. E. S. Olmsted.

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