“I said the singer should have a finished technic in order to express the musical idea aright, in order to be an artist. But technic is never finished; it goes on developing and broadening as we ourselves grow and develop. We learn by degrees what to add on and what to take away, in our effort to perfect technic. Students, especially in America, are too apt to depend on rules merely. They think if they absolutely follow the rules, they must necessarily become singers; if they find that you deviate from rule they tell you of it, and hold you up to the letter of the law, rather than its meaning and spirit. I answer, rules should be guides, not tyrants. Rules are necessary in the beginning; later we get beyond them,—or rather we work out their spirit and are not hide-bound by the letter.
“As you may know, I was born in Nottinghamshire, England. I always sang, as a small boy, just for the love of it, never dreaming I would one day make it my profession. In those early days I sang in the little church where Lord Byron is buried. How many times I have walked over the slab which lies above his vault. When I was old enough I went to work in the mines, so you see I know what hardships the miners endure; I know what it means to be shut away from the sun for so many hours every day. And I would lighten their hardships in every way possible. I am sure, if it rested with me, to choose between having no coal unless I mined it myself, I would never dig a single particle. But this is aside from the subject in hand.
“I always sang for the love of singing, and I had the hope that some day I could do some good with the gift which the good God had bestowed on me. Then, one day, the opportunity came for me to sing in a concert in London. Up to that time I had never had a vocal lesson in my life; my singing was purely a natural product. On this occasion I sang, evidently with some little success, for it was decided that very night that I should become a singer. Means were provided for both lessons and living, and I now gave my whole time and attention toward fitting myself for my new calling. The lady who played my accompaniments at that concert became my teacher. And I can say, with gratitude to a kind Providence, that I have never had, nor wished to have any other. When I hear young singers in America saying they have been to Mr. S. to get his points, then they will go to Mr. W. to learn his point of view, I realize afresh that my experience has been quite different and indeed unique; I am devoutly thankful it has been so.
“My teacher made a study of me, of my characteristics, mentality and temperament. That should be the business of every real teacher, since each individual has different characteristics from every other.