In response to several disturbing reports sent to us at Classical Singer, as well as numerous requests, we created the Voice Teacher Abuse Survey to examine in a broad and general way the prevalence of abuse by voice teachers of their students.
Abuse is an ugly and loaded word and great care must be taken in its study. Some incidents are clearly inappropriate and constitute clear examples of abuse. Others are not so clear and the singer can misunderstand intent. We divided the survey into these areas: Sexual Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Effects of Abuse, and Individual Information—with the hope the survey will provide insight to each individual voice student as to what the broader singer population experiences in their lessons in comparison with his/her own.
The survey was available on the Classical Singer Community website as well as through hard copy in the magazine. To keep the results balanced, we asked that all singers respond to the survey, whether or not they felt they were subject to some form of teacher abuse. We are pleased to report that the strong majority of the 405 responding singers report they have wonderful teachers.
The survey is not scientifically constructed and the phrasing on several questions could have been better. We appreciate those singers who offered helpful improvements. But the results are still telling. We hope you will look at the statistics and note that a 1% answer equates to approximately four individuals, and a 40% response has application to over 150 singers. Those are big numbers and indicate some alarming trends.
If you feel that your situation is unhealthy, read through the articles in this issue on this topic carefully. Discuss the situation with an independent, levelheaded person you trust. Make sure your interpretations are accurate. Review if you are communicating your needs and reactions to your teacher clearly. Then, if the situation warrants, take appropriate steps. Avoid being vindictive, spreading rumors and always take the ‘high road’ in your actions. If you are unsure what to do, please contact the Classical Singer office: CJ Williamson at cjw@ classicalsinger.com, or P.O. Box 95490, South Jordan, UT, 84095. We’ll help get you on the right track.
(Responses may not total 100% due to rounding or due to some questions not receiving answers.)
1. Is your teacher touching you in places or ways that make you feel uncomfortable?
2. Is there oral contact to help “open your throat?”
3. Are you being told sexual or deeper emotional contact with the teacher is necessary to help you free up your emotions so you’ll be a more emotive singer?
4. Are you being told to lie down and then your support muscles are manipulated in sexual ways?
5. Are you being told to raise your skirt or lower your pants so that support muscles can be seen well?
6. Are you being asked to place your hands on inappropriate parts of a teacher’s body to feel support muscles?
7. Does your teacher frequently criticize, humiliate or undermine your self-esteem?
8. Do you feel you can’t discuss with your teacher what is bothering you?
9. Does your teacher ridicule or scream at you?
10. Does your teacher tell you that you are not ready for even the smallest singing jobs despite years of study?
11. Does your relationship swing back and forth between emotional distance and being very close?
12. Do you feel obligated to have lessons just to avoid an argument?
13. Do you sometimes feel trapped in the relationship?
14. Has your teacher ever destroyed objects or threatened you?
15. Are you afraid of your teacher?
16. Do you feel that your teacher does not value your thoughts or feelings?
17. Does your teacher get angry and jealous if you talk to another teacher?
18. Does your teacher blame you for everything that goes wrong in your lesson or with your voice?
19. Does your teacher constantly compare you with his other students?
20. Has your teacher convinced you that he/she has “the only true gospel of singing” and that you’ll be excommunicated and doomed to vocal ruin if you leave?
21. Are you being socialized through master classes or other social activities with other students into accepting that the concepts above are normal and acceptable?
22. Are you being cornered, hemmed in at restaurants or by other students and the teacher and being brainwashed?
23. Do you get upset at the thought of going to lessons?
24. Despite being well prepared, do you find yourself feeling angry or crying at your lessons?
25. Since you started with this teacher, have you come to dread practicing and performing?
26. Have you lost the joy of singing you started out with?
27. Do you feel you couldn’t be a singer without your teacher?
28. Have you lost the ability to make musical decisions without your teacher’s help?
29. Are you constantly worried about pleasing your teacher?
30. Have you lost your confidence in singing?
31. Have you lost your drive to succeed?