BWW Blog: NYC Vocal Coach Robert Marks - Stage Parents
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by Guest Blogger: Robert Marks
Immortalized by Rose, the quintessential stage mother in Gypsy, stage mothers (and fathers) have often been characterized as pushy, annoying, meddling, gossiping individuals who will stop at nothing to help their children get ahead in show business. Well, yes, I've encountered some of those types of parents, but in my experience they have been in the minority. During my four decades in the industry, most of the parents I've come in contact with have behaved professionally and fairly, while continuing to do anything necessary to help their children achieve their career goals.
Young performers must rely on responsible adults for so many aspects of this business: to schedule appointments, travel with them to lessons, auditions, rehearsals, and performances, and most importantly to keep them safe and healthy. But another essential component to being responsible parents in the entertainment industry is to provide a safe haven for their children's inevitable fears, uncertainties, hurts, and disappointments that are part of this industry.
I'm a vocal coach, and have spent many years preparing singers of all ages for auditions and performances. I've provided piano accompaniment for thousands of auditions, and have clients in almost every Broadway musical. But you wouldn't believe how many parents think they know better than I do about what their child should be singing! If I gave trumpet lessons, probably no one would offer performance advice. Certainly no one would expect that after one lesson, an instrumental student would be ready to audition for anything on a professional level. But many parents think that a lesson or two is enough to prepare for most any audition. And after a decade of watching "American Idol," everyone seems to be a judge.
To help a young performer develop the skill set needed for a show business career, find knowledgeable, professional coaches you trust, and listen to their advice. They can't know exactly what will happen at each audition, but their years of experience will offer a good vantage point. Personally, I welcome parental input, but hope that it will be constructive and supportive, especially in front of their kids. Many parents ask me if their child has the "potential" to pursue a career in show business. I feel that my job isn't really to judge, but to help all my students perform as well as they can. Whether it leads to a paying job depends on many things that are out of our control, the biggest two being luck and look.
One very helpful reference book is Raising a Star: The Parent's Guide to Helping Kids Break into Theater, Film, Television, or Music by experienced talent agent Nancy Carson http://amzn.to/fzy18T. In this book there are answers to many of the day-to-day problems that come up for young performers. Topics include auditions, resumes, how to avoid the devastating frustrations that come with a career in show business, and most importantly, how to allow kids to look natural at auditions and interviews.
In my experience, most show business kids will not end pursuing performing careers as adults. But whether they end up in related fields such as casting, producing, management, directing or writing, or some entirely different career path, the valuable experience they develop of being able to get up in front of people will serve them well.