Bias (n): a particular tendency, trend, inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned(1)

I am biased.

I am biased in a great many ways; right now, I am talking, as I usually am, about singing. Like the vast majority of voice teachers, probably you, I come from a background in classical singing. I grew up singing in church choirs, and then I took lessons from a classically trained singer, and then another, and then another; I even ended up at an undergrad program where music students were not permitted to sing musical theatre music in their lessons… ever. It should not come as a great surprise to anyone that I like the sound, feel, power, color, expression, and difficulty of classical voice. Music performed by the greats is truly the pinnacle of the human experience. Sound about right?

You’re reading this, so I am confident that you either agree with me that classical voice technique is the bee’s knees, or you are furiously scrolling to the comments section to tell me how wrong I am; if you are in the latter group, hang in there. For me, in the vocal techniques, you have classical at the top, followed by legit musical theatre, belt, rock, older pop, new pop (that breathy Billie Eilish quality), and then finally country. I can’t stand country singers; how dare they sing like that.

I told you initially that I am biased; I have a strong predisposition to the styles I love… and hate. And hey, it’s really not my fault. I grew up going to a church with a solid traditional music program; my parents listened to a lot of classical music at home. When they did listen to musical theatre music, it was the great classics or modern shows in a classical legit style. And even the language we use in our field plays into my preconceptions. You might have caught the word I’ve used, legit. In the language used to describe contemporary commercial music (CCM), you have legit and belt. How can I be blamed for agreeing with this language? Legit is better, right?

This is where I will probably get myself into trouble. No, legit is not better than belt. I find myself genuinely disgusted with that term, and yes, I know it is just a word, but there is more to it than that. “Words will always retain their power. Words are the means to meaning, and for those who listen, the enunciation of truth…(2)” or as Dr. Jack Schafter puts it, “Words cannot change reality, but they can change how people perceive reality. Words create filters through which people view the world around them. A single word can make the difference between liking a person and disliking that person. If a friend describes the person you are about to meet for the first time as untrustworthy, you will be predisposed to view that person as untrustworthy, regardless of the person’s actual level of trustworthiness. The single word “untrustworthy” creates a filter, or primacy effect, that predisposes you to view the person you are about to meet as untrustworthy. Thereafter, you will tend to view everything that person says or does as untrustworthy.(3)”. I am influenced by my biases even without knowing that I have them. How we talk to those around us, the side commentary, and one-off statements of value heavily influence those, who come after us.

I am a voice and singing teacher, and I am committed to excellence in my craft. I am responsible for teaching students to sing healthily and to the best of their ability regardless of my biases. Some of you may be lucky enough or unlucky enough to instruct only in a classical style, but for most of our profession, that is not a reality, and should it really ever be the goal? Isn’t the goal really mastery of the vocal instrument? How can you say you have achieved that goal if you are only an expert in one or two styles? Even though I prefer to sing and listen to certain singing styles, all healthy styles are worthy of praise and study.


(1) Bias. (2022). Retrieved from

(2) McTeigue, J. (2005). V for Vendetta. Warner Bros.

(3) Words Have Power | Psychology Today. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2022, from

Josh Manuel


About The Author

Josh is the founder/owner of Manuel Creative Arts Academy in Dayton, OH, where he teaches voice lessons for students of all ages. Josh is a graduate of Wright State University in Dayton, OH, and is currently working on his Masters of Vocal Pedagogy at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ. Josh’s performance experience has consisted of various operatic roles and membership in multiple choral ensembles. Josh is an active voice researcher exploring the interactions of airflow and intensity.