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The Faults of the American Girl


There are two big faults with the American girl who would sing. One fault is her temperament and the other fault is her hurry. She is a very proper girl and very nice girl, but she has not the temperament that makes the great singer—the soul of it all. She may have the technic and the ability to study and the range of voice to take the high notes, but she lacks the temperament of the Italian, the French, the Polish, the Russian. She does not get excited, because she is too cold. Art is excitement and fervor and the great, glorious enthusiasm back of it. The American girl is of the Anglo-Saxon race, and she is cold.

Another fault of the American girl who wants to sing is her hurry. She does not take time to learn thoroughly the A B C’s, but she wants to read at once. “I want to sing Marguerite in six months,” she says to the teacher, “hurry up, please, hurry up.” And then she says: “Now Dinorah—quick, I must learn Dinorah in three months.”

Now this is all wrong. There should be system, system, system. It is the only way to learn music. All the great singers of the past learn that way—all the great singers of the future must do so. It is not right to fly from this to that thing until you know the A B C’s. The great painter cannot paint his first picture so it is a masterpiece. No, no. He makes many failures, and he learns by each picture that he paints. He knows his colors and his lights and his shades and by and by, after all the tiresome A B C’s, he paints a great picture. And so with the great artist. There can be no hurry and no big star role at once. Learn right and learn long is the advice I give the American girl. Do not hurry so!

Why, when I was four years old, my father, who was only a poor peasant, started me playing on a piano which he himself had made. At six years I was at the violin, and when I was twelve years old I was both learning and teaching. At nineteen I had made my début, but I had studied for fifteen of my nineteen years. My mother’s maiden name was Sembrich and my father’s name was Kockanski. So I took Sembrich as my stage name.


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