Friday, February 09, 2007

Singing Is Ripping Your Heart Out And Handing It To Your Audience

Call me the craziest person on the planet, but I hate American Idol. I believe that you can give a dose of reality without being cruel. I can't stomach cruelty - there is NEVER a good reason for it. A.I., especially during the auditions, is saturated in it. I can't watch it.

A lot of my loathing boils down to a bad experience I had in college. A bad 3 1/2 year experience.

I was a musical dance theater major in college. I had a vocal scholarship and a healthy dose of self confidence going in. One of my professors (who was actually a visiting professor from another university) could have been Simon's Evil Twin Sister (SETS). Given the fact that she didn't have a british accent...I guess I could call her Simon's Evil Twin Sister Adopted At Birth By An American Family. This professor made it her mission to give us all a "healthy dose of reality".

We were all required to get up and sing every week. This meant a lot of prep work and memorization. Critiquing was involved, but all singers know that critiquing is how we improve. But SETS didn't seem to agree with the notion. Every week, one girl was told by SETS in front of our class that she was a flake and that SETS was determined to cure her of it. This had nothing to do with her vocal technique. That girl lasted one year. A guy was told weekly that he would never be a lead because he would never be good looking. He lasted two years. Our class kept dwindling and the MDT department struggled to undestand why they couldn't keep students.

Every week, I was told that I did not "do it right". I felt lucky to have ducked under the radar of SETS, as she had proven she could be so much more cruel. She made up for all of that and more at juries. Juries were held at the end of each semester. Each student had to sing, dance, and do a monologue in front of judges. My last semester I was singing in front of 6 judges , including SETS. It was always a stressful, nerve-wracking time. But after my song, SETS spoke up: "That was terrible. You can't sing and you really shouldn't be in this program." I was exhausted. I had mono and didn't know it. I hadn't slept for nearly 24 hours. With this comment I felt like I had wasted all my years of college. Two professors, including my vocal coach started arguing with SETS while the drama professors came over to me. I was in tears and still had to perform my monologue. The drama profs tried to help me turn my emotion and anger into my advantage for my monologue. They sat down as I started. Not three sentences in, SETS started to speak again. All the judges shushed her. I stopped and looked at her, picked up my music, and walked out as the judges started arguing with SETS about my vocal scholarship.

I did not sing again for two years. I did not even sing hymns in church. It wasn't until my DS#1 was born that I started to sing again. Lullabies, Primary songs, and hymns - they were good medicine for my damaged spirit.

Those years in college were the most awful time of my life. I wouldn't wish that cruelty on anyone. I never went back.

One thing good did come from that experience. I learned compassion and I learned how not to teach. When I teach voice lessons I do offer critiques. That is how vocalists learn. But before any student leaves my house, I ask them to list three things they did good in that session. The first few times are the hardest. No one likes to compliment themselves. I usually have to help them along with suggestions. Once they learn that they can't leave until they do, they play along and find three good things. Then it is my turn to list three more good things. The lesson ends on a positive note (oh, pun definitely intended) and the students leave my house standing a little taller.

We're taught that adversity makes you a stronger, better person. I just wish that adversity didn't have to be so darn painful. I probably should thank SETS. It was a horrible lesson but at least I get to finish the ending.


Sandy said...

Carrie, I loved reading about the fourteen days of Valentines. What an awesome idea!

Sandy (Nana Texas)

Soozcat said...

I remember you talking about this--briefly--while we were in college. At least my poor college experiences the first time around can be placed squarely at my own feet. SETS, the evil hag, seemed to have let the power go to her head something fierce if the response of everyone else at juries was any indication.

Don't you think it's strange how the human mind works, though? We seem to be wired to hang on to negative feedback. Even if everyone else who was part of your juries had said complimentary things, you'd probably only remember the comments of the one sharp-tongued serpent in the crowd.

I'm glad she didn't make you stop singing forever. That would've been a real shame; you do have a beautiful voice, and ignoring such a gift would be an affront to the God who gave it! Sing out, Carrie!

Virginialover said...

What a bittersweet story! It makes you wonder what went wrong in that woman's life that she had to lash out on others.

I have a hard time watching the first episodes of AI. I love watching the real competition, but I think that the judges are definitely a meaner and more brutal bunch now.

Any word on the move?