June 1, 2017

The Downside of Dogmatic Loyalty

There are certain things about which it is important to be dogmatic, ultimate truth being one of them. But I recently saw anew how harmful it can be to hold too tightly to the mutable ideas gathered early in life – especially in college.

My wife and I are music teachers in our community and took a “vocal pedagogy jaunt” earlier this week. We are geeks, but this simply means that we traveled to Pennsylvania to each take a lesson with our college voice teachers as well as one another’s. We found it enlightening, gleaning new insights not only about singing and teaching but about each other as we observed our respective musical “origins.” It was a fun trip.

However, I experienced a slightly rude awakening as my naïveté was exposed once again. While Hannah Faye took her last lesson at Messiah College only five years ago, I had not taken voice with my most helpful singing instructor at Clarks Summit University (then Baptist Bible College) in over twelve years. As he and I tried to solve some of my problems in a short session, I confessed which concepts remained with me from my undergraduate days in his studio.

Come to find out that he has abandoned many of those ideas in the interim. Not just abandoned – disavowed!

He now views many of his former teaching tools as counterproductive to beautiful singing. While I do try to keep polishing the critical lens through which I view the world, I had barely reexamined my basic singing principles since college. That is too long a time to go without change, and I should have anticipated the jolt.

If you’re not continuing your education and revisiting your basic assumptions, you might end up alright. Perhaps being set in your ways will work out if the world never evolves. But one day you may wake up to find that the earth orbited away while you remained anchored in space like a Lutece Particle.

Your own teachers reshape their understanding, and your parents break their own rules. In many cases, that’s how it should be. Morph sometimes.

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