I have been teaching singing for a very long time now. My roster of students varies. I teach professional performers who are wanting to keep their voices in shape, people who are aspiring to be professional performers and I also teach hobbyists – people who just like to sing for fun. I teach students of all ages. The students who have the most to gain are my teenage students. A person who begins serious vocal training as a young teenager has the opportunity to develop skills that will enable them to have a singing ability as an adult that their peers who did not begin training until later simply do not posses. Listen to Adam Lambert next to many of his peers on American Idol. This is an example of a singer who started early and committed great time and focus to developing his art.
There are also many vocal contests open to high school age students that reward the winners with nice scholarships. The earlier a student begins, the more likely they will be able to place in these contests. A student who has aspirations to be accepted in one of the many prestigious performing arts programs in universities and conservatories will need to begin their audition process in earnest during their senior year in high school, and if they have only just begun their training, they will have little chance of being accepted in a decent program.
You can see why it is important for a teenager who is serious about a singing career to begin their training early. Yet it is not only when a student begins their training that is important. It is how they manage their time and other activities. Becoming good, let alone great, at any skill requires a great deal of practice and commitment. The student who has many different activities going on in their life may have an enjoyable time during their high school years; but unless they learn to become committed to their career at a young age, they will not develop the required skills necessary to succeed at their chosen art.
I can’t even begin to count the times I have encountered great vocal talent from a young singer and seen that talent squandered. They will have volleyball, soccer, cheer-leading, piano, guitar, violin, and voice lessons all on top of the already very intensive homework load that is required to maintain a high grade point average. These students tend to cancel lessons on a regular basis due to the unreasonable activity load they have loaded upon themselves. Frequent cancellation of lessons is always a tell-tale sign that a student is not focused on their career. It is up to the student as well as their parents to prioritize what is important and eliminate what is not. If singing is what they want to do, then they must understand that talent and wishing is not enough. The vocal world is very competitive no matter what the style of singing in question. Daily vocal technique practice, song practice, building repertoire, coaching, auditions, rehearsals, music theory, and other important activities will take up most of a singer’s time.
People don’t seem to want to face the hard, cold fact that in order to excel, one must make certain sacrifices. But if the student is trying to excel in something they absolutely love, then they will want to do little else. Now of course there must be balance in a young person’s life. I’m not suggesting that a student have no social life, or fun activities at all. What I am saying is that it is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect that coming to a voice lesson once per week is all that it takes to build a professional, let alone world-class voice. The students that I have taught who have really made it as professional performers, showed great discipline, commitment and professionalism at a very young age; and most of them had great support from their parents. If this level of commitment is not going to be honored then it would be best to simply regard singing as a fun hobby and not give in to any illusions of a professional career. A professional singing career doesn’t just happen. Remember, overnight successes always come on the heels of years of labor.
Great singers start young. Great singers are very committed to their art. Great singers make great sacrifices. Great singers have discipline. Great singers love their art so much that all the labor that goes into it is pure joy.