I believe that the very effort that one makes to sing is an aid to health and happiness. It sets up a more harmonious rate of vibration in the body, and continued singing will help to re-establish such vibration as a natural habit. Everyone should learn to sing, and there are few people in the world who cannot be taught enough about the art of singing to be able to express themselves through the singing voice. The people who cannot do so should try to find such expression through the study of some musical instrument. The world to-day needs all the music that it can possibly get in order to save it from materialistic thought, and to overcome the deep unrest that prevails the world over. Music can be made to preach a gospel of peace and good will to all men, a gospel of joy and happiness that will bring glad tidings to the world.
I have found among teachers of singing a dogmatism of thought that can hardly be exceeded by any other professional body. Each teacher seems to have a method that differs in some respect from every other method, and each teacher is absolutely certain that his way is the only perfect one. It does not stand to human reason that all these differing methods can be perfect. The probability is that each one may have some one or more elements that are good, and if all these good elements could be brought together, something in the nature of a perfect system might be worked out. But after all, no matter how perfect a system may be, something more than method is required. Music flows from the great Over-Soul into the lives of those who are receptive to it. If there is no receptivity, then a singing method does not make it. The beautiful soulful voice is a product of an intuitive receptive life, a life filled with the higher emotions. Method can never supply anyone with emotions, but it may add greatly to artistic production. It is usually found among teachers of singing that they emphasize some one particular phase of their work more than any other. Perhaps one has studied anatomy or physiology, and, as a consequence, the student has to be instructed in a regular course of both. Again, another teacher has made a great study of breath and its control, and this forms the most important part of his instruction. With another it is resonance, and so we might go on enumerating one thing after another. What the student needs is not the development of any one particular thing, but the use of everything necessary to artistic singing. Some years ago I had the pleasure of meeting a famous Italian pianist, and was much surprised, as well as pleased, by his method of instruction. He had two pianos in his studio, and if the student, while taking a lesson, made a mistake in technique or interpretation, he would go to the other piano and play the particular passage as it should have been played, instead of immediately pointing out the wrong way, as the majority of teachers do, thereby impressing upon the student's mind the incorrect rather than the only way - the correct way. The result of this was that the pupil's mind was free from the confusion of having two ways to consider. I have known some teachers of singing to spend a third of their time in telling their pupils that they were doing things in the wrong way, while if they had employed the same time in showing them how to do things in the right way, the student's mind would not have become filled with fear, neither would it be confused by the two ways of doing things. There is one way of doing everything, and that is the right way; and only the right way should be impressed upon the minds of the students.
Teachers of singing, as well as all other teachers, need hope to impart to others only that of which they are in possession themselves. There are many teachers who would have to give up their profession and resort to other means for a livelihood if they realised the truth of this. If they wish their students to produce a certain tone or tones, or in fact, whatever the student needs to do, the teacher should be able to do it himself and so set the example. Very often it is a difficult matter for the student to hear his own tones in the same way that he can hear the tones of another; when such is the case it becomes necessary for the student to listen to the tones and to have the ear impressed by them. If the singing teacher cannot produce the quality of tone he desires from his pupil, then he is not fitted for the vocation he is engaged in. No matter what profession one takes up in life, there must be thorough study and application in order to make that profession a success. Singing, in one respect, is like any other art, practice helps to make perfect, and one can only hope to become a thoroughly artistic singer through the daily use of the voice. The main thing is that the practice should be regular, but not necessarily of long duration, for I think perhaps that two-thirds of the work attempted by the teacher of singing could be done better in other ways. Breath control is needed in order to sing well. One might take lessons in breathing and learn breath control in a very thorough way without consciously relating it to singing; or, again, one might make a thorough study of elocution for the development of the speaking voice and so acquire resonance and good diction. In such study the facial muscles would be developed; resonance would be brought into the voice, and habits in mould forms established. This might all be done without connecting it in any way with the singing voice, so that when the necessity came for cultivating or developing the voice, the proper habits would already have been established to remain indefinitely. I find too often that the student is thinking about how he is using his hard or soft palate, whether he is using the resonant chambers of his head or whether he is controlling his breath. His mind is divided in its attention, and because of this he is unable to produce in a beautiful way. One can consciously do only one thing at a time and do it in the very best way. Therefore, when one sings, the whole heart and mind must go into the singing to the exclusion of everything else; for it is only in this way that one may hope to reach the hearts and minds of others. The student of singing should realise that the music is in his soul and that he is to prepare his body as a fit instrument to give outer voice to his inner feeling.