Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Vocal Prosperity and Parental Management - When the Push Comes to Shove Part II – Then What…?
As I mentioned in my previous blog, Vocal Prosperity and Parental Management - When the Push Comes to Shove - Hats Off!?, I taught quite a few children as well as adults, especially in previous years. Once case specifically stuck in my mind. In 2000, I got a phone call from a parent who had an eight year old child who was actually already, according to the father, a child sensation in the singing and performing world. He even had a manager and was just about to break through to the music industry at large. After I agreed to the evaluation and assessment appointment (Introductory Session), I could see that the little boy looked like a young Michael Jackson and actually even sounded somewhat like him, with the exception that he was already experiencing some vocal problems. He was naturally talented but definitely “played it by ear”. I decided to take the case upon myself and our journey began. The father was not only a guardian but also played the role of the manager and later even a producer. It was quite fascinating to see how the father was progressing. It was also fascinating to see that the boy was growing and gradually becoming a teenager, with all the consequences attached to that transformation. Once I first spotted it (they were coming and going to their lessons for several years in between their recording sessions in LA and elsewhere), I asked the father when the development would finally stop (as the boy was quite ready to sing professionally) and they would finally obtain the record deal? The answer was always, “He’s not ready yet” or “They want to exploit my son.” Meanwhile, he had multiple offers on the table from various record companies that were ready to sign this child – soon to be a teenager – sensation. That puzzled me a little. Why wouldn’t he choose at least one offer out of least dozens and finally get on with it. I guess I was asking way too many questions and between the ages of 11 and nearly 14, they disappeared for almost three years from my view. I was almost certain that they ended up somewhere in the States and a new sensation Michael Jackson alike was just about to break through at any given time. I hadn’t heard a thing until I got the next call from the Father/Manager of my student. He said that they were ready to come back, as the boy was experiencing vocal range problems, as now he was nearly 14 years old. I said, “Of course, bring him over and let’s evaluate it.” When the door opened up in my studio I saw an over 6 feet tall fellow which was nothing that reminded me of the little boy I once taught. He said Hi to me with a bass voice and I understood that everything from this point on would be really different. First of all I learned from the Father/Manager that he never took any offers from the Record Companies and decided to produce his son himself “indie style”. He was traveling with him all over North America and recording different songs which started to sound, instead of better, actually worse, as the boy’s voice had deepened completely and never could reach his fascinating high notes, which he had been able to reach in the past. Moreover, I have learned that they had been studying with different vocal coaches here and there who no doubt mixed up my student to the bone. He got confused and then depressed, as he understood that something had drastically changed, but he did not know how to deal with it. The worst part was that he, in his mind, was still a child sensation, ie. did not go to school, used tutors, slept until 4pm as he was going to bed at 5am. In other words he was living the lifestyle of a star, but unfortunately never became one. To watch all of this was extremely disheartening, but in my opinion the problem was not with my student, but with his guardian/manager, who also very much so enjoyed the process of traveling and recording with his son. And before he knew it, they both had “missed the boat” and their “train was definitely gone”. Sad but true. I saw and met the parents who had the best interest at heart for their children, but at the same time they were a little bit too selfish and too self absorbed and some of them nearly ruined not only their children’s careers, but also their children’s lives.