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Reality Vocal competitions vs reality

As a vocal instructor, I have had quite a few students  go forward with attempting to audition for these reality shows; The Voice, AGT, American Idol, etc...yet many of these students are not ready vocally and may never be. A few years back, I went to a AGT audition, since so many of my students were interested in camping out in NY to audition.... as you know,  it is a cattle call at first; they have the participants audition in a group of 8 in front of a computer techie. There are no judges. I watched the masses wait for days and  hours in NYC only to audition on an "x marks the spot" in front of a video camera. The waiting was inhumane...they had booths set up for beverages and snacks for sale. After the audition on the "x", the producers then scan the 90 second auditions for the ones they invite back to the live auditions which are only 100 so I was told.
As a vocal instructor, how would you go about your discussions with the starry eyes singer on the" reality" of reality tv auditioning? Howard Stern, Christina Aguilera and Simon Cowell and company  make our lives in the professional a challenge when we have been in the trenches in vocal pedagogy and they have not even a clue as to what makes a healthy and successful vocal technician. Has anyone else had this issue in voice class, vocal lessons? I had a gal in 7th grade go to NYC from western Mass...convinced her parents that because she "applied" she had a shot...I am her chorus previous lessons and no previous work in any educational vocal program.
Any thoughts?
Is it possible for a journalist go behind the scenes and do an expose on this process so our sensitive and novice performers understand  the reality of this talent reality concept??
on July 15, 2013 9:30am
Dear Kate:
Somewhere along the way, these people will realize that what is on TV is staged... plain and simply. Sometimes, occasionally (almost by accident), there can be a TV show that has validity, veracity and depth. But more often than not, the drivel that is broadcast as vocal "reality" shows has more to do with winning a ratings race, and getting money from sponsors and ads, than it does with proving which singers have better talent.
When students come to me to discuss these reality shows, or sit-com soap operas like "Glee", or whatever is the fad at the time, I calmly point out that these shows only portray a thinned-out, homogenized version of what someone thinks is reality in a performing art... I only need to point out one simple fact: They never show the hard work, diligence and practice that goes into rehearsals and performances. Then, students quickly see the shows for what they are...
I dare say journalists are part of the problem. They play into the hype and glitz - and shallowness - of these shows. In some cases, their employers are the same media giants that own the rights to these shows, and are trumpeting them for their own narrow purposes under the guise of 'news'. Besides, its easier to take the media-fed bylines and marketing drivel, and only act to magnify the hype, than to really delve into the crux of the problem (which is them!). Besides, could you imagine the headline on such an article? "38-minute TV Show Proves Artistry Requires Hard Practice and Work. Details at 11..."
Sorry to be so pessimistic and down on "modern culture", but I find the junk on TV to be garbage and see it as my purpose to calmly educate my students on how to discern between REAL modern culture and the trash on the "boob tube". 
Ron Isaacson
Germantown, MD
Applauded by an audience of 5
on July 16, 2013 3:07am
So, so true!!! How about the snaggletoothed winner in the UK who went on to do an album of Italian songs and opera.... just because Pavoritti sang it in Italian it must be "the original language" (as he bragged somewhere). Wrong again, he never did the research necessary to properly credit the write of "the First Time Ever I saw her Face" whic was written by the great English songwriter Ewan McColl for his wife, American, Peggy Seeger.

And these kids don't have a CLUE about who wrote what and when - they don't even know the Beetles, much less the great American Songbook.
So, not only do they fail musically, vocally, they are also uneducated and unaware of all that has gone before. 

I will admit, there have been a couple of unique talents that I have seen over the years (I tend to watch on YouTube, as I don't own a TV). Most of them have faded into obscurity.
I am always thrilled to see a music teacher and/or serious music student, such as graduates of Westminster or Berkeley, etc, be taken seriously. They have put in the hours and continue to do so.

What I truly, TRULY hate is the exploitation of the LITTLE KIDS on these shows - the one who started crying during Edelweiss which got the judges all teary-eyed, so they patted her on her back and gave her another chance... Hey, guys, have you watched the movie??? Don't you RECOGNIZE the exact spot that the Captain broke down (yup, same place she did - funny thing about that...) Let's talk set up!!  But, seriously, kids shouldn't be singing like that - sounding like 40 yr old divas! They won't GET to 40 without help and hard work...
Rant over for this morning... ;)
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 16, 2013 3:31am
The sad truth is, AGT and American Idol, yada, yada, yada, are no different in the attraction to the uninformed and unformed young singer or dancer or comedian or...than what happens with young athletes seeing the "success" that awaits them in football/baseball/basketball (I leave the other sports aside, because they're not so popular nor so media-saturated that there is an equal amount of unreality in their pursuit by younger kids).  Ron's point is to the point:  it takes so much hard work, diligence, grit, patience - and those are not necessarily character traits well-developed at 15, 16, or 17 years of age - and the media hype up the end product without focusing on the long process it takes to get there, if you get there at all.  When I was in college, the emphasis in physical education was "lifelong sports," because the "glamor" sports (such as they were at Middlebury College in VT!) were also not glamorized to an excessive extent - and you couldn't get an athletic scholarship at Midd, period.  Well, that tends to put a clear message out:  you're here for an education; we want it to be as broadly based, as "humane," as possible; and an over-emphasis on sports or anything else is not going to serve you well, and we the administration will not be party to that.  But sadly, there will always be an element who will believe in their own "star" irrespective of what calmer, wiser heads may tell them - and in the very rare instance it proves to be true, hype or not, I congratulate them - but always with reserve, because they have no real idea of what happens AFTER the apparent initial success.  How many young guys, looking at the "boy bands," would be willing to recreate themselves and grow and develop over time like Justin Timberlake, whatever you may think of his singing or talent or whatever?  Very, very, very few.  Success in this country, unfortunately, is always touted as being "just around the corner" - but it's amazing to me how that street corner keeps moving out of reach.  For those kids who will listen to us, great; those may be the kids who will give the art they're interested in the time and patience and determination it deserves, and who will in fact go on to contribute significantly to their art and to the world around them. 
But there will always (a very long word, no matter the language) be one or two who will ignore us "stupid old fogies," who of course know nothing and never have and never will, and they'll throw themselves into that lion's den. The Bible talks about Daniel and his experience with the lions; but do you think the ancient prophets would tell us the stories of the ones who went in and didn't come back out?  That may be the first instance in recorded history of media "spin."
Applauded by an audience of 1
on July 16, 2013 10:45am
Good viewpoints, all!  I would only add three more perspectives:
1  The cruelest thing about the initial rounds of these shows is when they bring in the terrible singers to the televised audition in front of the judges.  As already mentioned, these people have already been auditioned in the cattle call, and are chosen BECAUSE they are so bad just so the American public can have a laugh at their expense.  While some KNOW they are bad and just want the public exposure, I really feel sorry for those who are so naive that they think they have promise, and then are belittled in front of the judges.  That's just downright cruel in my opinion.  
2. What helps to fuel the fire of some of these starry-eyed teens, I think, is the prevalent perspective in our American culture:  "follow your dreams, even when others discourage you or say they can't be fulfilled."  While this perspective of hope is a positive influence, I think it has also led some unfortuante souls down a primrose path.  As already pointed out, such people don't look at the work involved to achieve their dreams, and, in the case of the arts, don't look at the need for an aptitude and basic talent to even get into the arena.  
3.  Though I too have had a basically negative view these talent shows, I have found one reassuring thing to take away from them:  on the shows where the public votes as to who advances and who is eliminated, I have been rather pleasantly surprised that in most cases, the public has chosen the better vocalists (a relative term, of course).  This has given me a little hope of my own -- that maybe the public isn't as hopelessly blind to vocal talent as I had assumed.  That at least has made me feel a little better about these competitions, artificial though they are otherwise.  
Nice thread, and I appreciate all of your comments.
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