This Should Never Happen in the Voice Lesson Environment!

What should private lessons be like? The voice lesson environment should be:

  • Respectful

  • Thought-filled

  • Interesting

  • Engaging

  • Productive

  • Worthy of the investment of each party’s time

What should private lesson not be like?

  • An emotional burden

  • Abusive

  • Brainless

  • Boring

  • Pointless

  • Sexually uncomfortable

  • Unclothed

  • And they should never involve sexual touching or any touching without permission

Those last few are jarring, aren’t they? I hope you’re asking, “Is this a real thing?” But then you’re probably saying, “Yeah.”

A vulnerable child, teen, college student, or adult might become the victim of a sexual predator in a voice studio. It seems to be rare. In the professional organization of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, which has a strong and honorable Code of Ethics and active Ethics Committee, the topic of abuse is discussed by the National Board on a regular basis.

They ask, “Has any abuse happened that we know of?” and “What can we do to make sure it never does?” Colleges and music schools are also aware of this evil possibility and are training their teachers about prevention.

voice lesson environment

What can a student do to ensure this never happens to them in the voice lesson environment? The easiest thing is to record every lesson on a smartphone. The mere presence of a recording device will be a substantial deterrent. Recording lessons is common practice… with the added bonus that listening to the recording, even once, can accelerate learning dramatically. It also serves as evidence in case of a transgression.

There is a flipside to this coin, however. Teachers are also sometimes victims of unwanted advances. In my experience, sexual advances toward teachers happen at a much higher rate than toward students. I don’t know a single teacher who has sexually abused a student, but I do know one male teacher who had a student offer an exchange of ‘pleasure’ for lessons. He declined, laughed at the suggestion, and taught her how to sing anyhow. Another male teacher told me that a new female student took her shirt off during the lesson – her idea – just in case he “wanted to see her breathing better.” He left the room until she put her shirt back on and discussed the situation with his department chair. I’ve had two adult male students make advances toward me. One took my clear rejection and remained an excellent student. The other left my studio.

This happens. And we must take preventative measures. Be smart. Record lessons. If the person you’re with makes you at all uncomfortable, discuss it and take steps to not be alone together. Don’t let a creep ruin your music making!

Nancy Bos