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Dealing with a Toxic Voice Teacher: Signs of Narcissism and Tips for Students

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Dealing with a toxic voice teacher can be a challenging and discouraging experience. Voice lessons are meant to be a safe place where singers can grow and improve, but a toxic teacher can create an environment of fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s necessary to recognize the warning signs of a toxic individual and take steps to disengage or set boundaries. Voice teachers are essential to the singing world, helping aspiring singers develop their craft and hone their skills. However, as with any profession, some individuals exhibit toxic traits and, in some cases, even narcissism. This article will provide an overview of toxic traits and narcissism in voice teachers and share three anecdotal stories that illustrate examples of toxic behavior during voice lessons while providing tips on how to deal with a toxic teacher.

Toxic traits in voice teachers can manifest in many ways, including bullying, manipulation, and favoritism. These behaviors can cause students to feel demotivated, anxious, and insecure. Narcissistic voice teachers, in particular, often prioritize their own needs and desires over those of their students, leading to a power dynamic that can be damaging.

One of the most common examples of toxic behavior in voice teachers is bullying. This can include shouting, name-calling, and belittling students in front of others. For instance, a student shared that their voice teacher constantly criticized their pitch, making them feel inadequate and worthless. This behavior significantly impacted their mental health, and they eventually had to stop singing altogether.

"One of the most common examples of toxic behavior in voice teachers is bullying."

Another example of toxic behavior is manipulation. Voice teachers who exhibit this trait may use their influence to persuade students to do things that are not in their best interest. For example, a voice teacher may pressure a student to perform in an uncomfortable or painful way, such as singing in a higher key or pushing themselves beyond their limits. This behavior can be especially damaging to students who are still developing their confidence and may not know how to stand up for themselves.

Favoritism is also a toxic trait that can cause students to feel excluded and unworthy. Voice teachers who exhibit this behavior may only give attention and praise to certain students while ignoring or criticizing others. For example, a student shared that their voice teacher would only compliment those who were already good singers, while neglecting those who struggled. This behavior led to feelings of resentment and discouragement, and the student eventually stopped attending lessons altogether.

While toxic behavior can be damaging, it’s important to note that not all voice teachers exhibit these traits. Many voice teachers are passionate about helping their students to develop their skills and achieve their goals. However, it’s essential to be aware of the signs of toxic behavior and to take action if necessary.

If you’re a student experiencing toxic behavior from your voice teacher, it’s important to remember that you have the right to set boundaries and to advocate for yourself. This can be challenging, especially if you feel intimidated or afraid, but it’s critical for your mental and emotional well-being. Consider talking to a trusted friend or family member, seeking the advice of a therapist or counselor, or even switching to a different teacher who is more supportive and nurturing.

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Warning Signs of a Toxic Teacher

1) Verbal Abuse: A toxic teacher may use harsh language or belittle their students, leading to fear and self-doubt.

2) Gaslighting: A toxic teacher may manipulate their students into doubting their own perception of reality. For example, they may say things like, “You’re not remembering correctly,” or “That’s not what I said.”

3) Criticism without Encouragement: A toxic teacher may only provide negative feedback without offering constructive criticism or encouragement.

4) Lack of Communication: A toxic teacher may refuse to communicate with their students or provide feedback, leaving them feeling lost and unsupported.

5) Inappropriate Boundaries: A toxic teacher may cross personal boundaries, such as discussing personal information or making inappropriate comments.

Anecdotal Stories

Jill, a student in a vocal program, had a teacher who would often berate her during lessons, telling her that she was a terrible singer and that she would never make it in the industry. As a result, Jill began to feel anxious and nervous before every lesson, and eventually, she stopped singing altogether. It wasn’t until she found a new teacher who encouraged her and helped her build her confidence that she was able to rediscover her love for singing.

Mark, another student in a vocal program, had a teacher who constantly criticized him but never provided constructive feedback. As a result, mark felt like he was constantly failing and was discouraged from pursuing his passion. When he finally spoke up and told his teacher how he felt, the teacher dismissed his concerns and told him he was being too sensitive.

Sarah, a student who had been working with a teacher for several years, noticed that her teacher’s behavior had changed. The teacher began crossing personal boundaries, asking her inappropriate questions and making suggestive comments. Sarah felt uncomfortable and scared, and eventually, she had to cut off all ties with the teacher.

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Tips for Dealing with a Toxic Teacher

Set Boundaries: If the teacher’s behavior is particularly harmful or triggering, it may be necessary to limit contact with them. This could involve finding a new teacher or taking a break from lessons altogether. Again, it’s crucial to prioritize your own mental and emotional health. Use “I” statements: When setting boundaries, try to use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. For example, instead of saying, “You’re being too critical,” you might say, “I feel discouraged when I receive a lot of negative feedback.” This can help the conversation stay focused on your own experiences and feelings. Setting boundaries doesn’t have to be confrontational or aggressive. Instead, you can assert your needs in a calm, polite manner. For example, you might say, “I understand that you’re trying to help, but this isn’t helpful for me. Can we try a different approach?”

Seek Support: It’s imperative to have a support system when dealing with a toxic teacher. This can involve talking to friends, family, or other professionals about your experiences.

Consider Switching Teachers: If the situation becomes unbearable, it may be time to switch teachers. This can be a difficult decision, but it’s important to prioritize your mental health and well-being.

Seek Counseling: If you’ve experienced trauma or abuse from a toxic teacher, it may be helpful to seek counseling. A therapist can provide support and guidance as you work through the aftermath of the experience.


Dealing with a toxic teacher can be a challenging and discouraging experience. However, it’s important to recognize the early warning signs of a toxic individual and take steps to protect yourself. Whether setting boundaries, seeking support, or switching teachers, there are ways to deal with a toxic teacher and continue on your path to becoming the best singer you can be.

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