Coaches and Professors

For some time now, I’ve observed a certain strange difference between the way both individuals and the media differentiate between collegiate coaches and college voice professors.

Both professions prepare students, at least in theory, for a professional career involving both brains and athletic ability. And don’t tell me that’s not true. Professional athletics require more than physical skill these days, and no classical singer can succeed without being an athlete, although I certainly grant that the proportions required in each field differ, as well as differ within each profession.

One obvious difference is that coaches are paid much, much, more than are voice professors. In fact, the top collegiate coaches are not only paid more than the top voice professors; they’re also paid more than the top classical singers.

But it’s more than money. I see news story after news story about coaches, about how they influence and shape young men and women, about how important they are in the lives of those would-be professionals. There’s virtually no coverage of voice professors, even though they also shape and produce professionals on a one-on-one basis, just like athletic coaches do.

It’s almost unknown to the general public that the best of collegiate singers are not only athletes, but competitive athletes, yet the results of those competitions are seldom reported even in collegiate newspapers or websites, let alone in larger media outlets, even when those competitive singers have a better record than an institution’s sports teams.

Classical singers have to memorize an enormous amount of music, sing it professionally with no teammates to help them while performing all alone on a stage. Even in singing opera, each singer is largely performing solo with all eyes on whoever is singing. Singing classical music requires considerable physical stamina… and singers don’t get oxygen between songs.

It’s been said that no one considers singing teachers important in developing singers because anyone can sing, but the majority of people can play some sport, yet sports coaches are paid and heeded.

Of course, the simplest reason why no one pays any attention to voice professors is that classical singing isn’t a big money activity for universities. In fact, developing good singers is one of the most expensive college majors, because it requires even more one-on-one instruction.

All the same…the distinction suggests that both collegiate alumni and the general public have far less interest and understanding of real higher education than they profess, and that both understanding and interest have continued to wane over the years since, over a century ago, there were few collegiate sports, and all were low budget.

And that reflects, in my view, a more than disturbing trend.

4 thoughts on “Coaches and Professors”

  1. Tony says:

    The highest paid employee in 40 states is an athletic coach and in 28 of those states it is the football coach with the remaining 12 being basketball coaches. Athletic programs are so expensive that at many institutions students will typically pay a fee of $1,000 or more per year to support these programs.
    While there are a few college football and basketball athletic teams that are very profitable, the vast majority of college sports—including most football and basketball teams—do not make money for the institution. The importance of high-visibility football and basketball teams seems to be in their role in creating publicity for the institution among prospective students, financial generosity in the hearts of alumni, and excitement for the communities in which those schools exist.
    It may be that college football and basketball are a more accurate reflection of American values and ethics than the non-profit academic institutions in which these teams exists.

    1. Tony says:

      Meant to say “public employee”

  2. Rural_Defender says:

    i fear Tony is correct, that school sports are a better reflection of the valuess than academics, science and intellectual pursuits. Which is why we are losing the tech edge this country used to hold over other nations. at our core, we’d rather see our athelets beat others in the olympics than see our country lead the world in medical and scientific inquiry. one we can see on the TV, the other we’re not interested in because we can’t understand it. (using we to mean U.S. society.)

  3. Sam says:

    I’ve never been interested in sports but as an outside observer I’d say their perceived value is in their ability to create social cohesion.

    I think that whilst sports are inherently competitive and winning is highly prized you don’t have to be especially good at them to enjoy them. As a child if you can run around with a ball and throw it even if your aim isn’t the best you can still have fun with your friends. Just being physically active is a large part of the enjoyment.

    Whilst a number of other academic pursuits require physical activity of some kind such as playing a musical instrument or performing open heart sugery it is a much more restrained type of activity and often requires a higher level of skill before you can start to enjoy it.

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