The Freshman Juries Problem

This is a complaint primarily about American universities and conservatories.

Common sense will tell you that people have different vocal abilities inherently. Some students will start lessons singing rather well compared to their peers, and these can be tricky to teach. There are teachers who believe that all students coming to their studios must go through the same process of being taken to pieces and built back up again, regardless of what they came in with. For some teachers it is more disturbing to encounter an untrained, relatively well-coordinated voice than a previously poorly-trained one. Whatever the teacher’s issues with varying levels of initial ability, it makes no sense to treat every singer exactly the same.

If it is necessary for a student to go through a rebuilding period, and they have to perform a college semester jury or some such required examination, why not let them do things that will not screw them up psychologically? Rushing to get a song together when you have been told that you don’t know the first thing about legato means that you know that you are going to fail in the eyes of that teacher. Not cool. If it is really, really necessary to stop performing songs for a period in order to address technical issues, how about using that jury slot to recite a song text, with excellent diction and expression? Or how about not requiring a jury with a repertoire sheet, if this “rebuilding” is really happening? Or even have student and teacher engage in a discussion before the jury of what is being accomplished in the rebuilding period? Just kidding on that last one, which would be Ego Hell for all.

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