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" That's true," said the father. So he dismounted, and put his son on the ass.
They had only gone a little way when they met a third man, who exclaimed :
" Well, I never ! There's that boy riding the ass while his father, who is so much older, has to walk. I never heard such a thing!"
" Yes," said the father; " that man is right too." So he stopped the donkey and got up on it, with his son in front of him.
They had not ridden very far when they met a fourth man. " What cruelty ! " he said. " Two people riding a donkey which they are better able to carry than the donkey is to carry them ! "
A Story and Its Moral
The old man stopped the donkey, got off, and made his son get off. Then they tied its legs together, slung it over a pole, and, putting the pole on their shoulders, trudged on, carrying the donkey. The donkey did not like it. It struggled to get free. As they were crossing a bridge, it did get free, and it fell over into the water and was drowned. So the man succeeded in pleasing no one, and lost his ass into the bargain.
That is what I have seen happen in the case of girls over and over again. Everybody they meet has a word of advice to offer. And it is not always disinterested advice. The friends have some relation who is giving lessons, and they feel that if she could get the young singer, with her beautiful voice, as a pupil, it would make her fortune. These people notice the weakness of the girl's character, and begin to talk to her.
I need not describe the way in which they talk. Anybody with the least imagination will guess the sort of talk. It is intended to lead up to the young singer asking what they think.
" Well, if I were you, I'd take counsel with someone else beside your teacher. It's well to have a second opinion, and two heads are always better than one."
Naturally the girl says; "Whom do you advise me to consult ? "
"Well," replies the disinterested friend, "I'll introduce you to a woman who, I think, is the ideal person to help you at the present time."
In due course the introduction is made. The young singer is probably asked to meet the teacher at lunch or tea. They have a delightfully confidential chat.
"Of course," says the teacher, when she hears the name of the person with whom the girl is working, you're in good hands - splendid hands; couldn't be in better ! "
It would not do, of course, to run down the old teacher, as that might awaken suspicion, and every effort of the new teacher is directed to disarm that.
"Still, if you were to come to me, I think I could show you how to do this a little easier, or that a little better."
Now, these two words "show you" mean a lesson.
The girl goes, and is shown. The new teacher lays herself out to be charming to the girl. She invites her to her house, probably gives a little dinner or party for her, takes her out, and gradually induces her to leave the school at which she has learnt all she knows, in order to go on with the second teacher.
In time, a third teacher does just the same as the second; then a fourth does the same as the third, and a fifth gets her away from the fourth, and so it goes on.
Here you have the picture of the girl who disappears. Like the old man, she listens to every word that is spoken to her. She tries to do everything that everybody says. The result is that, like the old man, she loses the one thing she had in the world - her career - and is drowned in the stream of oblivion instead of crossing it safely by the bridge of success.
On the other hand, if a girl falls into proper hands, has a really good teacher, abides by the advice given by that teacher, and never fails to take the things which offer, she is well started on the high-road to success.
She will often have to accept work for the sake of her reputation, and seize the opportunity of singing where she may be heard by the right people, even though there is no immediate financial return for it. In this world there are wheels within wheels ; and often, by setting one small wheel in motion, a larger and distant wheel may be made to go round. .
E. H. Mills
Let the young singer who has come safely through her period of probation in the school remember that fact, and remember, in addition, that the chief agent in the world is the public. The public makes and the public destroys a reputation ; the public decides, and the public creates a demand. The best way, therefore, for a young singer to win success is by appearing before the public and singing at concerts as often as it is possible. Very often, it is true, engagements are made through the agents, but the agents are of little use for making an artist's reputation. They are of great use in making their own business.
The agents of olden days were really impresarios. They made an artist's reputation, as Strakosch made Patti. To-day, however, we have few, if any, such impresarios.
If a girl desires to turn her success into money, she must be able to spend money. Many great artistic reputations have been made by money. Obviously, I cannot mention names. Still, it is a well-known fact that rich people have given so much money for the necessary advertising of a great artist, someone with undoubted talent.
Points which Make for Success
One must have talent. That goes without saying. No one can succeed in the long run without it, for the public knows instinctively what is good art, and the charlatan is bound to be found out, however much money may be spent. So I am afraid that the girl who wishes to succeed as an opera singer must have money behind her to pay for the necessary expenses of bringing her prominently forward.
With all her training and with all her advantages, let the girl who wants to succeed avoid a swollen head." Such a possession always makes its owner disagreeable to meet, and she will be avoided as far as possible. If, however, a girl is supremely gifted, she may succeed in spite of it; but how few young singers are there in the world who are supremely great !
The question of training is an entirely different matter. No real education can be completed under three or four years. To talk about a few finishing lessons with a fine teacher is a farce. Yet how often do girls come and ask for them !
These three or four years that I have spoken about are only the rough work of the school. That time will be needed to acquire a repertoire of twelve operas, which is the least any girl ought to have who wants to . succeed in her career. And when she knows those operas, she must know also exactly what she means to do and what she can do.
It is no use, if you are a bird, wanting to be an elephant, and it is no good, if you are an elephant, wanting to be a bird, or trying, if you are one thing, to be the other. Here, again, character comes in by enabling a girl to do exactly what she is best fitted for, and by giving ballast to the mind.
A very important point, which is not often understood by beginners, is never to sing when in bad form before anybody, but especially before agents or directors.
Beginners think: " I must follow the call. I must not lose an opportunity."
A mistake, a great mistake ! These business people who hear singers are very tired creatures. They have no time to waste, and Tittle patience, and they only judge what is presented to them at the moment. A singer who begins by saying : "Excuse my being husky, but it is bad weather, and I have just had a cold, but last week I had a marvellou3 voice," will never be believed, even if she speaks the truth.
Just as little will the public and the agents believe a singer if she has to disappoint at a concert on account of illness. Nobody thinks a singer is ever ill.
Nevertheless, I give this further advice: whatever may be the consquences, never sing when you are ill. No one will be grateful for the sacrifice, and the singer may ruin her voice for life.