I’ve been teaching various theatre camps all summer (part of the reason I haven’t been visiting your blogs as much) and last week was Musical Theatre. One of my students was an 8th grader who graduated in June, but she came back to be my assistant and also to participate.
On Friday, we had a performance for the parents. This student was the last one to perform. She sang a very long, complicated song straight from the score of a Broadway play—not a watered-down arrangement, the real thing. And she nailed it. NAILED it! It was perfect musically and dramatically. Not "pretty good for a kid." Perfect. It’s a dramatically demanding song and she sung and acted magnificently. She couldn’t have done it better and if you had heard it, you would not have believed she was 14.
As I stood in the corner listening to her, I got a bit teary and choked up. Not only because it was beautiful—which it was. Not only because it was powerful—which it was. But because I knew what this student had gone through.
I have directed her in plays and taught her in choir and given her private lessons now for three years, so I know her fairly well.
When I first met her in 6th grade, she had a pretty voice. But she had some bad vocal habits that she developed by trying to match the pop stars she heard on the radio. And, while her voice was pretty, it wasn’t terribly strong.
Her acting and stage presence were virtually non-existent. I gave her a small, featured solo in a play that year to see how she would do. She stood there stiffly and rigid, singing softly and without any energy.
So, how did she get from that point to where she is blowing audiences away?
Part of it, to be sure, is maturity. But there is so much more than that. This student is one of the most teachable students I have ever had. She wants to learn. That means that she willingly accepted all the criticism, correction, and feedback I have ever given her. She never rationalized, justified, or argued. She hasn’t pouted, had tantrums, or even scowled or frowned when I corrected her. She works to implement whatever feedback I give her.
Because I don’t have to worry about her ego or being diplomatic or hurting her feelings, I have been free to teach her far more than I normally can. She listens and then practices what I tell her until she can apply it.
She didn’t learn by being told how wonderful she was or how great her voice was. She learned by having someone who knew more than she did critique her and tell her what she was doing wrong and how to fix it. That’s important.
Correction and seeing our flaws is not pleasant, ever, but for her, the goal of being an excellent performer is far more important than just getting warm fuzzies.
It has me thinking a lot about the way I respond to counsel and correction from those who are in a position to teach me. Especially, the Master Teacher.
P.S. I'll be up at YW Camp for most of this week, so if you don't see me on your blogs much, that's why.
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