Do you watch American Idol, or America’s Got Talent, or The Voice? It never fails. I don’t really watch these shows, but whenever I do, there is always one or two singers that, according to the judges, have “distinguished” voices.”Interesting” voices.”Unique” voices.
What that means is that their tone, style, and phrasing are not typical of a singing competition. There have been times that I have watched these shows and seen singers that I have liked that have not had what I would call a typical singing voice. An indefinable quality that just seems to work.
Now, the problem.
I have been doing music and worship in church my whole life. I have vocational and volunteer real-world experience – singing and playing piano, guitar, and other instruments. It has taken me a long time to get proficient at what I do.
I fear that today’s youth are getting the impression that skill and training are not necessary. All one needs is a “unique” voice.
And you don’t have to get BETTER. You don’t have to IMPROVE. Just embrace your uniqueness and belt out the tunes.
The singers on these shows that I have liked, while unique and interesting, shared common qualities. They could match pitch. They had breath control. They knew how music worked.
I have witnessed examples of young singers who, through little fault of their own, have embraced their “interesting” voice without the training and skill to back it up. That’s the part these shows leave out, mainly because the singers already possess the skill necessary to sing well.
As musicians and church leaders, we need to take every opportunity to stress the fact that just being able to carry a basic tune and having a “unique” voice is not necessarily sufficient. Training, hard work, practice, and a dedication to the call of God are what are important. It isn’t good enough to let these young musicians flail in the wind, attempting to figure it out for themselves. They need guidance, particularly from the gatekeepers of the serving opportunities – it isn’t a bad thing to have a budding musician serve in a lesser capacity while they hone their skills. In fact, it is an honest approach. The touchy aspect of dealing with singers, however, is that the voice isn’t an instrument – it is a part of a person. It’s an identifier. Your voice is you as a sound. Criticism needs to be dealt out very gently.
But honesty is necessary all the same.