#TheStories, part 12Editorial
In the second year of my undergraduate degree I decided to take part in a two-week vocal intensive run by my voice teacher and her husband, both opera singers teaching at different universities. The intensive was run out of their large summer home in New York State and involved mostly lessons with the both of them (along with a few guest artists) and sessions with the coach they had hired for the week, John.*
John was certainly a character – he was open and sad and dynamic. He made quick, broad generalizations about all of us in the program, often incorrect. John had taken a liking to my singing (or so I had thought) and appreciated my wit. He would slip in compliments about my work or my song choices in front of the rest of the girls in the program.
When I listened back to that recording, I remember feeling sick – my speaking voice was so weak and small.
One day he was going into the town nearby and asked if I wanted to join him. I agreed, thinking it would be nice to get off of the property for a while. On our car ride over, he told me about his recent separation and other personal details about his life. Nothing happened on the car ride, but he invited me to come to the pool house he was staying in so I could have an extra diction coaching with him on a song cycle I had been working on.
We started out working on German songs. When I listened back to that recording, I remember feeling sick – my speaking voice was so weak and small. After a song or two John began opening up. He said that more than half of the best moments of his past year had been with me. He told me that he and I would be like When Harry Met Sally.
He told me about an injury he had on his leg, and asked me to feel it. I sat there stunned. He yelled “TOUCH ME” and took my hand and placed it above his knee. I don’t really remember what happened after that – maybe I excused myself, maybe he realized he had gone too far.
At one point, I tried to express how uncomfortable I was, my teacher told me that I was an adult and I could have left at any time.
The next morning I woke up sobbing. I was ready to go home. When I talked to my teacher, we decided that I would stay but I would not continue with coachings. I thought she had been empathetic, but that changed quickly, too. Both my teacher and her husband made reference to me not being strong enough to handle private coachings, and that if I couldn’t handle it, it would be difficult for me to have a career.
At one point, I tried to express how uncomfortable I was, my teacher told me that I was an adult and I could have left at any time. I was 20. On my way back home, my teacher’s husband told me that they had decided to increase John’s paycheque for all of the extra work he had put in.
When I returned to school in the fall, I went into full detail to my teacher about what had happened with John. She half-apologized and made up an excuse for him, but told me they wouldn’t be hiring him back again. Three years later I saw photos from their program, with John smiling in the center.