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Outlets for Vocalists.

This is, in some respects, a painful subject. Too many men and women say to themselves: “I’ll study the voice. I may sing; if I cannot, I certainly can teach.”

The professions seem to parallel in this particular; failure to succeed in the struggle to get into the front rank drives them into side-issues and too fre­quently into quackery. There is much to be said in defense of those who study the voice to sing, with the “if” as a hopeful contingency; they most assuredly must do fundamental work, and do it well to give the question a fair test, and if their efforts are at all commensurate with the im­portance of the subject they can hardly avoid arriving at something worth while as singers or teachers.

While there are a few most notable exceptions, it is only justice to the pupil to expect him to prefer a teacher who has trophies to recommend him. On the other hand, real artists, great artists, rarely find the proverbial rainy day con­fronting them, for success as a singer means a fortune. To reason the ques­tion to its logical conclusions we might urge that the singer who was so im­provident as to disregard the inevitable future, when his own voice would be of no further value as a source of income, could hardly be trusted with the re­sponsibilities confronting others with voices. The history of individual at­tainment would also be a factor. Those who were acquainted with Campanini’s brilliant and meteoric emergence from, and return to, obscurity would hardly place confidence in him as a teacher re­gardless of the heights he reached; while if Nordica, with her record of patient effort and ultimate success, should open a studio, she would have the confidence of pupils at the outset.

Contact with the vocal art to any professional extent is eminently calcu­lated to equip its votaries with some qualities that are not necessarily in­herent, such as Confidence, Self-reliance, if not Boldness, all of which might be comprehended by the one word Assur­ance; and it is this quality that must be estimated upon when people lay claim to a right to pose as teachers. While failures are not promising material to make successes of, many successes have been built upon failures, and since the failures of singers can­not usually be held to be so much their own fault as that of their teachers, it is perhaps only fair to allow them to use themselves as the horrible exam­ple, with the claim that the experience renders them all the more able to steer their pupils clear of the rocks that proved their own destruction.

We have as an outlet for vocalists the church, the stage, and the studio. The first is, because of the rapidly increasing popularity of vocal study, becom­ing a question of close competition; only the best equipment and inheritance being accepted by the churches who are willing to pay enough for the support of the singers. It was not long ago that singers who were not sufficiently well qualified to aspire to the stage were content to accept the emolu­ments of the choir-loft; to-day, those who cannot pass the rigid test for church-work console them­selves by accepting more or less desirable positions in opera companies, light and otherwise. There is altogether a different complexion to the operatic outlook than that which obtained when many of the present teachers were pupils. The number of com­panies who give musical creations under the caption of light opera is at present great and increasing, and those who are not good sight-readers, but who can do a few special vocal tricks, find engagements.

Serious study more often leads at first to the church-choir; superficial study to the light opera. It is to be noted that grand-opera ranks are more frequently supplemented from the choir-gallery than from light-opera singers. There is food for reflection in this; it points clearly to the truth that the train­ing necessary at present for successful church-work is identical with that for good operatic work. Of course, only as far as it goes; the added features relating peculiarly to operatic work being readily acquired if the fundamental work necessary to good church-singing has been accomplished.

After the church and the stage, we have the studio; it is here that we find a higher plane of attainment than can possibly be demanded by the other outlets, which explains why there are so many pronounced failures. If all who would teach can look back upon careful preparation for a career and identify it with thoughtful experience in the work of teaching, they belong in the studio and will succeed there. It is the ephemeral success used as a magnet to attract impressionable people that is answerable for much or most of the atrocious vocal work that is so greatly to be deplored. Whatever outlet you seek for your talent, let sincerity of purpose and a well-developed conscience stand as a mentor over your actions. This is, indeed, most important if you elect to deal with other people’s voices.

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You are reading Outlets for Vocalists. from the May, 1902 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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