The Ugly Email: Fear vs. Freedom in Singing and Life

Posted on 10. Mar, 2011 by in Communication, Performance, Singing, Speaking

Thanks once again for the terrific comments to the last posts. It’s really powerful to hear the insights from you and it’s a great learning experience for us all to understand what you have gone through and what your views are.

In this post I am going to share an email I received.  It’s a perfect example of what we talked about in the last post, and a perfect example of why I do what I do, and probably why you do what you do. Out of courtesy, I won’t reveal the writer or the names he mentions, but bear with me and I think you’ll find this very interesting.

The unfortunate flip side of becoming more public and reaching more people is that you also become a target for abuse.  This is also something every successful artist unfortunately has to deal with.

If you haven’t read the previous post, please click here to read it first so this makes sense to you.

The email I received was from a gentleman who has not done my program, has not studied with me and does not know me. It reads:

"I'm open to new methods and information but I'm (beyond) sceptical about your claim that you can train anyone (who isn't born with a very special gift) to develop a four octave range from a one octave range through the use of video tapes…. I want you to know what I think and how your promotions come across to a real singer who's been through all the hoops, humming, exercising and vocalizations for many years. I can still at 69 years of age sing a ringing high C and (even an E) but I've kept myself in excellent physical condition and had a teacher in Toronto (long deceased) called… (name removed out of courtesy) who also taught … (name removed out of courtesy).  I'm delighted to have been born with a very special gift, so I've never boasted about my voice. But a gift is a gift!  Show me someone who could barely sing and now boasts a four octave range in perfect pitch!"

Now the first question is where on earth did he get the idea that I claim that anyone can develop a four octave range?  I have never made such a claim, nor do I even think a four octave range is necessarily what to strive for.  Most successful singers do not have or need a four octave range.

But the bigger problem is this belief of “the gift”.  This elitist, old-school thinking of being special, of being a “real singer”, is exactly what has stifled the joy of singing for so many. 

We sent him a polite email to clarify that I do not claim that anyone gets a four octave range from my program.

You might think a person might just leave it at that.  But instead he fired back.  And here’s where it gets really interesting.

It turns out that he had not at all heard me state that anyone can get a four octave range.  Instead, he had seen a video in which another person expressed the joy he had gotten from my program as he has now been able to release some of the tremendous pain he’s lived with since childhood – ever since his dream of singing was crushed as a young boy by a man of authority who had told him he could never sing because he didn’t have the “gift”.  That he mentioned his increased range was a side note. The real gist of his story (which, by the way, has inspired many and has received many thanks) was apparently completely lost on our ”real singer” friend with the “gift”.

But our “gifted” man is stuck on the four octave issue and chooses to fire back with another email. It begins with:

"Please note that your response is totally incorrect."

He then continues to proclaim his importance – just as we talked about that people who desperately try to hold on to their authority do (I used the extreme cases of Mubarak and Khaddafi as examples in my previous blog post)

I coach a number of singers and consult with three choirs to demonstrate vocal techniques. At least 20 people have asked me about Per's claims, and I'm naturally compelled to tell them some of these claims stretch credibility far beyond its most extreme tensile strength!  … These claims are highly misleading and I'm surprised someone hasn't threatened legal action for false advertising… I studied and sang with …. (name removed out of courtesy) and I can tell you that this video is nothing but a scam!"

He then goes on ranting about his greatness and continues his accusations until he ends the email with:

Shame on all of you!"

Evidently, he still hasn’t embraced the fact that I never have made the claims he so desperately wants me to have claimed.

Now, in the event he seriously fears people will believe I create four octave ranges in everyone without the student having to do anything, I hereby proclaim publicly that this is not the case.

But the subject matter here is to understand fear. What makes him so afraid that he must write such an aggressive letter to someone he doesn’t know or know anything about in the first place? Has his authority been questioned by the 20 people who have mentioned my teachings? Is he challenged because someone who was abused as a child (abused in the sense that he was led to believe that he didn’t have the “gift”) can experience such newfound joy of singing – joy that our “gifted” man perhaps never has experienced.  Is he afraid that repeatedly claiming who he has studied with is the only way to give him greater stature?  Is he afraid his “students” are doing research on the Internet and are curious about other views and methods?   (Every tyrant is also afraid of others receiving information and will do everything to spread disinformation).  We don’t know of course, and it is not for us to make a judgment.

So why am I writing this?  

Because I fear that there are a tremendous amount of abused children and adults in this world who will never realize their true potential.  I fear children and adults live with beliefs that they don’t have a “gift” and are therefore shut down, while being exposed to the incredibly offensive talk about “gifts” – as if proclaimed (self-proclaimed) “gifted” people are special in the eyes of a God while they aren’t. 

Luckily, the world is also filled with an enormous amount of people who have achieved tremendous success and happiness despite the adult world’s attempt to push them down. These are the inspiring people who have over and over again proven that the adult world’s beliefs of talents (“gifts”) was completely useless and utterly wrong.

I fear a lot of people are oppressed by people who claim authority because of who they have studied with rather than because of who they are. I fear the world will not become a better place unless we recognize why anger, jealousy and hate exists. And I fear that as a result of my own success, will I need to shield myself more and more from abusive people, and will I then become less accessible to people who want my help?

Yes, I experience fear like everyone else, and therefore I act and do what I can to create changes and improvements.
Perhaps this can inspire a desire to reflect before one lashes out at someone (especially someone you don’t know). Perhaps it can help someone who is, or has been treated badly, or had their desires stifled in some way.

Feel free to add your opinion below and, by all means, sing with freedom!

Please add a comment:

154 Responses to “The Ugly Email: Fear vs. Freedom in Singing and Life”

  1. Capt ernie stadvec (Ret)

    10. Aug, 2013

    I am an 88 year old retired pilot veteran of two wars. I took your course to improve my speaking voice for m internet TV show Ernies TV .com. It worked and the bonus was that, believe it or not, it improved my singing voice to the extent I enjoy it and have found a new hobby and plan to soon incorporate some singing into talks and shows I do for civic groups and nursing homes. I constanlty review your lessons because they are so helpful. Keep up the good work. Check out my intenet show-Ernie’s
    Best regrds
    Capt. Ernie (Ret)

  2. Therese Zumi Sumner

    05. Aug, 2012

    Hi just sent a LONG comment and see that I missed my mail so sending it now in hopes that my comment not ??
    Therese Zumi in Sweden

  3. Chava

    11. Jul, 2012

    The world would be a better place to live in if it were filled with beautiful music, and not hate-filled noise!

  4. Philomena Nally

    08. Mar, 2012

    Why is it that some people always want to put others down? Jealousy? Maybe fear you might be better than them? I think we have to learn to rise aboue it! I’ve come to a point where I will except the opinion of others, but I don’t have to take it on board. I think especially as a singer I can’t afford to let negativ comments effect me to much. If I let it seap in, it will surely effect my performance!

  5. Judi Brown

    22. Feb, 2012


    Here’s a quote by Albert Einstein: “Great Spirits Have Always Encountered Violent Opposition From Mediocre Minds.”
    I’m not accusing Mr. Ugly Email for having a mediocre mind, maybe just an overly conventional mind rather than an INNOVATIVE mind. Conventionals and innovatives seem to clash. — Do I ever know it!

  6. Mark

    09. Feb, 2012

    I am sorry for such a nasty email; I don’t believe it was justified.

    There is a growing school of thought, supported by artists such as cellist Yo Yo Ma, which maintains that talent is overrated. World-renown soprano Dawn Upshaw is one who publicly states that with enough hard work and dedication, anyone CAN learn to sing. However, I don’t think that implies that any one of us can be the next Dawn Upshaw, or Thomas Hampson, or Bryn Terfel, or Placido Domingo, or Renee Fleming, or …. pick your favorite. Is it true that ANYONE can learn to sing, just like anyone can learn to read? We will never know unless we, as nation, nay as a world, teach the art of singing, like reading, to everyone. And that isn’t going to happen.

    There is a parallel school of thought that maintains that anyone can learn to have relative perfect pitch. Personally, I think it’s a strecth to say that ANYONE can learn to sing, just as it is a strech to say that anyone can develop relative perfect pitch, or play the cello like Yo Yo Ma, or swing a golf club like Tiger Woods.

    But that’s not what is important. What IS important is that we can all better ourselves in what we enjoy doing. We can always improve our game, where the desire so exists. Voice is my primary instrument, and while I have functional piano skills, I will never be a concert pianist. And goodness knows I can’t draw, which is to say nothing about my golf game, a sport I don’t even like to play!

    Another example might be swimming. Can ANYONE learn to swim? My experience a former swimming teacher is that most persons can learn to be safe, more or less, in and around water, but not everyone has strength, coordination, body type or lung capacity to learn to swim long distances in open water.

    Of course there is a bit of salesmanship in the introductory video. (Okay,maybe a lot of salesmanship!) But that’s to be expected, and it is incumbant upon the viewer to be a critical consumer. I didn’t pick up anything to the effect that the course promises to make a star out of anyone; no product or teacher can make that claim. (And any teacher who makes such a claim is in violation of the Code of Ethics as laid out by the National Association of Teachers of Singing.) I have not yet purchased the program, but I am seriously considering it for the simple reason that it appears to address the biggest challenge to the male voice: passagio. I have not yet had a voice teacher who knows how to effectively overcome that challenge. That said, I would never expect the course to be a complete replacement for a good teacher, but it certainly may offer some fresh perspectives.

    If it (the course) does help my passagio, then that’s great! If it doesn’t, then the worst I would be out would be $140 (or something like that)–less than the cost of 2 or 3 voice lessons with a private teacher. And Goodness knows that I have wasted far, far more money on lessons with a bad teacher. But that’s another subject, for another time.

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