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Ask the Rock Doc: 
Sound Advice for a Song 
By psychologist Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, aka Dr. BLT 
Rock Doc Theme Song

Details, and, in some cases, the method of communication associated with the following letter may be altered, to protect the confidentiality of the distressed person.

Dear Dr. BLT: 

Details, and, in some cases, the method of communication associated with the following letter may be altered, to protect the confidentiality of the distressed person.

Dear Rock Doc:

I’ve always been a straight A student, and I excel in vocabulary and reading, but the only subject I ever had passion for was music.  It has always been a dream of mine to be on American Idol.  I don’t even care if I make it all the way, I just want to be among the top 12.  I grew up singing in the childrens’ choir in my church, for weddings and for family gatherings.  This year I planned  to try out for American Idol, but prior to that, as a confidence-booster, I wanted to try out for a talent contest the youth group at my church was putting on at Christmastime, called 
“Bethlehem Star.”  Well, 30 of us tried out in front of a panel of judged, one of those judges being a Sunday school teacher who had previously always offered me nice compliments on my singing.  As it turns out, the judges berated me and my performance, even saying very mean things about me, and I ended up in the bottom three.  I was devastated, went home in tears, and I haven’t sang since.  Needless to say, I have given up my American dream of landing on American Idol.  As a matter of fact, I’ve just been moping around the house.  My parents have tried to encourage me, but their efforts have fallen on deaf ears.  If I was the suicidal type, I may have even tried that by now, but I’m too chicken to go there.  Please help me!

American, Idle

Dear American, Idle:

It sounds like your disappointment is real, and that you are looking for something more than a pep talk constructed of cheap cliches.  And the notion that true success is simply just the satisfaction that is gained by singing and expressing oneself through music, while true, is not really something we want to hear at the end of such a profound disappointment.  Let’s face it, we’re all human, and while some admit it, and some don’t, we are all gratified when others say we are doing a good job, and reward us by praising us for our talents, and by voting for us in contests and other events that allow us to see palpable signs of success.  There is a lesson to be learned as a result of your recent disappointment, but right now you may not be emotionally prepared to receive such a lesson.  So simply give it time, and continue to do what you’re doing: reaching out for support towards persons you trust.  

The Bee Gees said, in what would be one of their last hits as a trio, “Nobody Gets Too Much Heaven No More.”

How true that statement was, and continues to be when it comes to the dearth of support, encouragement and positive guidance out there for the average individual struggling to make it in this world.  Perhaps because nobody wants to be seen as a sycophantic lickspital, and/or because they are rarely the recepient of positive feedback, they avoid offering the same to others.  I’m not sure if you ever saw the movie Ordinary People, but in that movie, there is an angry, bitter, stingy mother who, in one particular instance, offered some very destructive criticism towards her son.  When confronted about her cruel words by her husband, she replied, “I was just trying to be honest.”  And while I don’t condone the swearing contained in the husband/father’s reply, I do understand the sentiment behind it.  He replies, “Well stop trying to be so ^#!*&% honest, and start being nice every once in awhile.”  Don’t get me wrong, offering false praise just to avoid hurting somebody’s feelings is an empty way to support a person, and honest feedback, when diplomatically delivered, is ultimately more helpful than false, or fulsome praise.  It sounds like the judges in the Bethelem Star competition failed to be constructive or specific in their criticism of you.  You may, in fact, have what it takes to be the next American Idle, but there may be something you’re doing wrong that makes your diamond-in-the-rough voice fail to shine.  If someone were to offer you feedback that was both honest, and constructive, perhaps, with practice and the guidance of a vocal coach, you could learn to smooth out the rough edges, if, in fact, there are any.  If, on the other hand, the judges were wrong, and the voting audience also misjudged you in their voting, then it is their loss.  

What I would encourage you to do is to sing for people you trust: people who won’t make one of two mistakes: either offer false, sugar-coated, empty praise, or vague, insensitively delivered, destructive criticism.  Now quoting Helen Reddy is going to really make me sound square and antideluvian, but I’m about to do it.  In one of her songs she said, ...Keep on singin’, don’t stop singin’/you’re gonna be a star some day...”   And though I can’t promise that the second line I’ve quoted you will come true in your case, and I can’t “promise you a rose garden, (or at least one that doesn’t have its share of thorns)” I do encourage you to keep on singin’, but, at least initially, only for people who can give you balanced and constructive feedback.  Let me know how it goes.

Dr. BLT, The Rock Doc

If you're a musician in distress, or the parent(s) of one, email Dr. BLT at: 

Dr. BLT, aka Dr. Bruce L. Thiessen, is a Christ-centered licensed clinical psychologist and university instructor who specializes in the psychology of modern music.  He uses his original songs as well as those of other artists to address the problems of his patients, including his biggest, sickest, most challenging patient--society.

His face and name recognition, particularly with teens, comes from his short part on a long Cake music video--the Cake video for “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” that earned the band a nomination for Ground Breaking Music Video of the Year on the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards. 



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