Thursday, December 5, 2013

What should teenage singers wear?

A classical music blog included an entry by a music teacher critiquing Jackie Evancho's performance on the Queen Latifah daytime talk show on December 3, 2013. Here's my response to some things she said about Jackie's outfit on the show.

re: “The outfit was rather “grown-up” for a 13 year old girl. Charlotte Church has just spoken out about this kind of thing. Jackie take care, keep hold of your innocence.”

Seriously? True, she didn’t look Amish. And someone in the Taliban would be appalled. But if you think her outfit was what Charlotte Church was talking about, that’s preposterous. Church was talking about Madonna, Miley Cyrus, Rihanna–musical celebrities who have appeared in public nearly naked. And of course Church was talking about her own previous choices, which she now blames on others.

Here’s an easy way to see this. Google “Charlotte Church,” select “images,” and scan the first hundred or so photos. Then scan “Jackie Evancho” and do likewise. There’s no comparison, even if you exclude the images of Church after she was an adult.

Without a doubt the music industry looks for beautiful singers who are also beautiful in appearance, and then seeks to “sell” that beauty. It’s the profit motive at work. But Church seems to be glossing over the fact that, as she now says, she didn’t want to be singing what she was singing, didn’t want the innocent image she first had, and did want to do whatever she felt like–as her adolescent antics soon revealed. I think you’ll find that Evancho feels more self-actualized and less rebellious than Church felt at the same age, and thus is less inclined to act out.

You warn Jackie to “keep hold of your innocence.” Did you know that she wears a Purity ring? I think at this time she’s the only professional singer not in the Christian music genre who does so. No one wants to see her married and pregnant at 16, but at the same time no one should seek to keep her a child either. She is not a child now, and never will be again. She’s an adolescent. A teenager. And I think most would agree that she dresses toward the conservative end of all American 13 year olds.
It is as bad for teenagers to be forced back into childhood as it is for them to be forced forward into adulthood. Society still hasn’t outgrown the peculiar notions of girls as fragile porcelain dolls perpetrated by Anglo-American Victorian culture. Nobody matures instantly. They have to somehow bridge the difference between innocent childhood and knowledgeable adulthood.

We should all hope that Jackie Evancho gets the support she needs to make that transition, such that when she can sign contracts herself and is legally responsible for herself, that she then has the tools and maturity she needs to do so. Gaining those tools can’t start at 17.9 years of age.

re: high heels make it hard to breathe for singing

So opera stars always wear flats when they sing at concerts? That’s not my recollection. But perhaps that’s a compromise they make. Do you have any scientific evidence for this assertion? A link perhaps? I’m not saying you’re wrong but I’d like to see more than a simple assertion of this.
[I'll add a link if and when it's forthcoming]

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