Fix me!

When I was working on my master’s degree in flute performance, I shared an office with five other graduate assistants. We had many fun and funny conversations in that office. It was a great place to let off steam at the end of the day. One of my office mates was a very smart flute major named Lynne.

Lynne would talk about having a technical problem and going into her flute lesson and saying “Fix me!” We wished that we could go in and get taken care of, like a car needing a repair. It was amusing to ascribe the role of mechanic, magician, or even Svengali to our terrific flute professor.

Of all of the music majors in school, and of all the professional musicians I know, singers are definitely the most likely to feel constantly dependent on a teacher to keep them singing well. Singers aren’t inherently more stupid. Rather, we have possible complications to our art which are exceedingly complex. “Fix me” is something many of us singers sheepishly say, in effect, more often than we’d like.

The invisibility of our instrument, and the malleability required of it in order to express words, makes it seem more mysterious than a woodwind instrument. This mystery allows a lot of insecurity to creep in. Because we aren’t sure of causes and effects, or perhaps because of constantly changing physical conditions and issues, we are inclined to seek help a lot more often than our fiddle-toting colleagues.

Once you’ve orbited the sun a few decades, however, you should start seeing trends both in your personal singing issues, and in the kinds of remedies a voice teacher might prescribe. After some years of study, it could be reasonable to expect that the teacher has given you tools to handle most of the issues around warming up, staying strong and limber, recovering from illness, and getting a new song into your voice.

If you have been studying singing for more than 10 years, and you don’t feel like you can learn moderately difficult repertoire on your own safely, then it’s time to find someone who can teach you how to learn. It’s not just embarrassing to need spoon-feeding of all vocal projects; it’s expensive and will hold you back from your potential.

It’s always good to ask for help when you need it. But how hard have you worked at not needing it?

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