Over my long career as a voice teacher, I have trained many young people that have gone on to huge success in the entertainment industry. In this three part series I will share some insights for the creative child and the parents raising them. In the first part of this series I touched on what defines a creative child and how parents can avoid some of the pitfalls that come with raising a creative child that you can read here →. In this part of the series I want to discuss the elements parents need to focus on to avoid common mistakes when raising a creative child. These elements will help parents prepare their child for what lies beyond.
A creative child, let’s say a young actor, is going to have a different education than the “normal” child. I’d suggest trying to get the child working in the field ASAP (not because you are living vicariously through your child) because that child needs to learn what the real demands and environment of the field are. Actors, singers, etc., work on a daily basis with people that most will never even meet in their lives. Sheltered from these personalities, the child may end up being freaked out and not able to cope with all the personal variables in the equation. Being exposed at a younger age will create acceptance of people that may not be like your typical next door neighbor and let them be around all aspects of the professional world. They’ll be exposed to all of the different opportunities to make a real living in the field, which are many.
Letting their education solely come through school related productions or local theater groups, performing art schools is an absolute mistake. There are too many political factors, parents who don’t know what they are doing, teachers who do not know what the industry calls for influencing the education. To take that route guarantees the child, when they do start trying to do something professional, will not be adequately prepared. The education/training process needs to be viewed pragmatically so that the child can move into the professional world. Speaking as a voice teacher, that has trained many young people that have gone on to success, avoid a teacher that lives in the opera ghetto. Select someone that teaches behaviors that will help, not need to be overcome. To make the wrong decision is akin to training to be a professional golfer by working with a math tutor. Get your child into training that is focused on the target instead of away from it.
Avoid self-esteem based arts education at all costs
Aw, self-esteem, ain’t it wonderful? The concept of self-esteem in the education of a creative child is your enemy. Let me give you a few examples.
I have two locations for Your True Voice Studio. One in Chicago and one in Naperville, an affluent suburb. There are many self-esteem based performing arts schools there, yet very few successes come out of them.
One brags that every child is center stage. Well, how is that even possible? Even someone that moves into a successful career as a performer will not always be center stage. To perpetuate this awful myth, they do not have auditions, and if they are doing “Annie” there are 25 casts with 25 Annies. This is fantasy. Just like anything else, a serious young performer needs to learn sometimes they do not get the role. To subscribe to this philosophy is to build delusion. Delusion that you will succeed by showing up. In a conversation with the owner, I was told, “It’s not our goal for them to get better.” Ok. Why anyone would go there, I cannot fathom.
Another well known institution gives the appearance of excellence without the demands or appropriate instruction. The parents basically run the joint which undermines serious instruction and cause higher level teachers, which they’ve had, to leave. Music, dance, and acting instruction are offered, not because of the inherent value, but because of how they enhance self-esteem (because you get some kind of trophy), grades, etc.
For the creative child, the inherent value of self is enough, and what should be focused on by teachers that have a real track record in developing talents preparing for a professional life. Teachers should also offer insights education through exposure to other aspects of the industry as young as possible. This is not to say that recognition, awards and applause are not important to the developing creative child. They are. However, it should not be the point, but a result of the correct course. It is not the goal, but the result. Many young people in self esteem based arts programs end up being deluded into a false sense of their future because of the constant medals, trophies, and being told they are going on to Broadway! It’s basically “Waiting for Guffman LIve.” Once the false awards, etc., stop these young souls come crashing down to reality and quit. What a shame.
In the final part of this series, I’ll be sharing some of the stories I’ve heard from parents and what you as a parent can do and expect when raising a creative child.