NEWSLETTER – 2013 No. 1
by Elena Greco
March 31, 2013
Well, here we are again! Last time I promised to be more succinct. That will not be a problem! Deluged with work at music and survival jobs, I have had little time to do any recreational writing this quarter. So just the facts, ma’am!
I grew up all over the country, moving every year or two due to my father’s work. I continued moving and traveling until I was about 30 – it just didn’t seem normal to stay in one place for more than two years – when I finally settled down to focus on inner travels for a while. Now I seem to have the travel bug again. I had thought I might visit the 17 states I haven’t yet visited or lived in, but finally realized there was a reason I hadn’t been to those places, which is that they don’t hold much appeal for me (do I really need to go to North Dakota?). I decided instead that I would visit the places I really enjoyed and wanted to visit or revisit – places which might not be with us much longer, at least not as we know them, due to climate change, pollution and developers. Sedona, AZ, Arcata, CA (redwood forest) and San Juan, PR, are places I have loved in the past and haven’t been to in a long time; I think I’ll start with them. Sevilla and coastal southern Spain, Granada and Barcelona; Crete and Rhodes, Greece; Venice and Paris; Baden-Würtemburg, Germany (land of my paternal ancestors); and England, Scotland and Northern Ireland (land of my maternal ancestors), are next on my list. (Suggestions for places to stay and visit at these locales are welcome!) However, with a concert coming up in a few weeks, a very stressful time at the heinous but necessary office job, and 20 songs to learn in Spanish, Catalan and Basque for the concert … I will be postponing travel for a while. So I decided to travel at home! “Home” being New York City. So many of the places I travel through on a daily basis are vacation destinations for those who are not New Yorkers. I’m snapping my favorite neighborhood places in Central Park (half block from my apartment) and on the Upper West Side (my home), and some of the famous and not-so-famous tourist spots on my daily route to rehearsals and work in Midtown West Manhattan. Look forward to seeing pix of my “journey” in the Summer Newsletter….
Boundaries. Two recent major events in the Facebook world of classical singers and musicians brought up a very important issue.
A singer posted a private (emphasis on private) voice lesson he had with a New York voice teacher on YouTube, where it could be viewed and commented upon by anyone in the world, and where thousands of people would see it, WITHOUT that teacher’s permission. For those who are not in the classical singing business, this is unthinkable. No one had even considered that someone might do this.
Singers record their vocal coachings and voice lessons; this is a necessity for most of us to get the most from the session, and to make artistic decisions as well as technical ones. Since you are producing the sound, you cannot possibly hear what it actually sounds like. I had never thought that anyone would actually post a voice lesson on YouTube, since most people wouldn’t want anyone to hear this very private learning experience. Because of this singer’s unbelievable stunt, every teacher and vocal coach I know is now wondering if they should have students sign a contract stating that they will not share their recordings.
A lot of people were understandably outraged, but what I didn’t see was the recognition that the student violated the teacher’s boundaries in a huge way. First of all, posting someone’s professional work for public view and comment without getting their approval is a gross violation of that person’s boundaries. It humiliated the teacher. He had been teaching a very challenging schedule for several days and was not in good voice himself, and he was teaching someone who was very inexperienced and had vocal problems. I have no idea if this teacher has a reputation for being good or bad for voices, and I don’t know what technique this teacher uses, and I don’t care. I noticed that he really tried his best with this student, and I think that is all we can ask of anyone. It is the student’s decision where they feel they’re getting what they need and whether to move on to another teacher. Whatever occurred in the lesson is irrelevant to the fact that the singer violated the teacher’s trust and humiliated him in front of the entire classical singing world (if something is posted on YouTube AND Facebook, you can rest assured that almost every singer out there knows about it). This violation of the teacher’s trust has ramifications for all of us.
When you meet with someone professionally to have an intimate session, there is an expectation of privacy on the part of both parties, just as there is in a therapy session. To make that meeting public without the consent of the other person is a betrayal. There is no possibility for real communication if both parties cannot feel secure that their trust will not be violated. And if a voice teacher, or a therapist, or any person who offers private services of that nature, cannot feel that their words will not be posted on the internet so that the entire world can hear them, they cannot relax and be themselves so that they can offer what only they can offer, but instead have to maintain a filter, always keeping in mind that this “private” session could become public. I would hate to have a lesson where the teacher restrains herself from saying the thing that might make a world of difference to me because she fears it might become public and be taken out of context.
Some people actually suggested that “bad” teachers should be exposed, and that it was perfectly fine to violate their trust by publicly posting their lesson in this way. Do these people really think that it is ethical to put someone’s words on the internet for the entire world to hear when they were not told that that would be the case? In other words, do they not have ethics, manners, decency or an understanding of personal boundaries and trust? I am thankful that those people are not friends of mine. If they were, I suppose I could expect that they would post any personal conversation we had publicly on YouTube at any time. What kind of relationship would that be? It would not be one.
The other side of this situation is the effect that this will have on the professional life of the singer who was foolish enough to humiliate his teacher in this way. What teacher or coach do you think is going to work with this person now? No one of repute. Possibly someone who arrogantly seeks publicity and actually wants huge numbers of people to hear a lesson would use the student for that purpose. This singer can no longer look forward to a career in the classical singing world. I would hope that if other singers do not have the ethics not to do what this singer did, they would at least have enough concern for their professional life not to do it.
The other event was the one that had everyone talking last week. During the week that many on Facebook were changing their profile images to one that supported gay marriage while Congress was discussing this issue, a vocal accompanist Tweeted and posted on Facebook a nasty insult to a coffee shop where a lot of singers live that dared to put that same image on their sandwich board. Her nasty remarks went viral, and virtually everyone on Facebook who has anything to do with the classical vocal world now knows of her bigotry. In a profession where there are a significant number of gay people, this was not very smart professionally, to say nothing about the public knowledge of her bigotry and the impression that her crassness made on those in her profession. She will not be hired in the vocal profession by anyone of note in New York again, although I’m sure she could find employment as a vocal accompanist in another location. North Dakota, perhaps?
I have recently seen singers on Facebook saying derogatory or disrespectful things about big-name singers or their skills. There does not seem to be a sense of respect for those who have gone before them, for one thing, people who are human and therefore flawed, but who are great artists and deserve respect. Additionally, I don’t understand how these people do not see that not only will their own Facebook Friends see the posts, but that many of those Friends are Friends with those same big-name singers, so the singers they have insulted, as well as people who work with them, will eventually see what they have said. In short, many people in the business, some of whom are responsible for hiring or who have a say in hiring, will know what they said. If you don’t have any respect for people who have made it to the top in the business, at least have enough concern for your own career not to shoot yourself in the foot.
The common thread in these incidents is that they all concern not honoring someone else’s boundaries. Honoring the other person’s boundaries means respecting their privacy, not doing something you know would harm or humiliate them – in short, making them feel safe with you. First, blabbing what a colleague or teacher said to you to others without first gaining their approval means that they will never again trust you. It also means that no one else will trust you. Second, in doing so, you have caused harm to that person, a trauma that will require some healing on their part. Sociopaths do not understand this, because they do not, or cannot, experience empathy. The rest of us have a responsibility to think how our actions and words affect might affect someone else.
Beauty. You’ve probably noticed that I post a lot of pictures on Facebook – pictures of animals, landscapes and beautiful scenes that evoke a particular feeling. There is a purpose in my posting. What do these images have in common? They all contain beauty. This is no accident on my part. When I joined Facebook a few years ago, I made it my goal to share some beauty every time I posted to Facebook. It is my way of bringing a little healing to my Facebook Friends.
What happens to you when you look at a lovely landscape? A baby animal? A beautiful scene? There is a physiological response to beauty that has a very beneficial effect on our bodies and minds and hearts. It causes a relaxation effect, which promotes the parasympathetic nervous system to respond. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is responsible allowing the body to heal, and it can only operate when we are relaxed. Its counterpart in the autonomic nervous system is the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which prepares us for “fight or flight,” and is in play when we are stressed. In order to be healthy, we need a balance of the two, but in our current lifestyle, these aspects are often grossly out of balance. Every chance we get to experience beauty is a chance to heal. Our lives are becoming less beautiful, as nature is destroyed and many of us spend much of our lives in an office or at a computer, and I believe one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to experience as much beauty in our lives as we can.
The Flavor of Spain™ Part 2. Yes, it’s almost here! Join us for Part 2 of The Flavor of Spain series on May 1. Click here for full information and program: www.elenagreco.com/music/egmp/fos2. What beautiful music this is! I’m excited that soprano Risa Renae Harman and cellist Mike Lunapiena are joining Richard Gordon and me for this further exploration of Spanish art song. A video presentation of images, music and historical points of interest introduce live music, guiding you deeper into the “flavor” of Spanish music. You will leave with an understanding of how this unique sound came into being, as well as a deep appreciation for this amazing genre and the beauty of the Spanish language in song. I hope you can join us!
And speaking of joining us, at the end of this year I will begin production on an opera that will be presented Spring 2014. Though it might seem early, I am beginning to think about singers for the cast. If you have any interest, a non-stressful way of introducing yourself vocally and getting acquainted with me informally would be to attend The Music Salon. Plus you’ll get to meet a bunch of wonderful singers and have the experience of performing in a supportive environment! Also, Elena Greco Multimedia Productions™ is always looking for singers and instrumentalists who are committed to authenticity in performing to join us in upcoming events. There will be three productions a year now, so there will be lots of opportunities for singers of every fach and instrumentalists of every instrument.
The Vocal Accompanist. Really, I’m almost finished with the article about the art of accompanying. It has taken me much longer than I originally thought it would, and I apologize for the delay. I had so much material and it grew so large that I have had to split it into separate topics, which will make for a better read anyway. Soon, I promise! The first segment addresses the public perception of the vocal accompanist, and how that might be elevated. It also talks about what drives these dedicated musicians to persevere at this important profession even when it sometimes does not get the respect it deserves. Expect the post of the first segment it in the next week, after the interviewees sign off on it.
Thanks for joining me, and I hope to see you again here in the Spring edition!
(Please note that this Newsletter is, and contains, copyrighted material, and I ask that you not use it without crediting or asking me, for the usual legal and professional reasons. Additionally, if I have not provided credit for images, it is either because I could not find the source or because I have purchased the rights.)