The magic of singing
Good, joyful, expressive singing involves a connection between body, mind, and heart. Your body is your instrument and you learn how to play it. Your mind grasps the theory of music and the meaning of the words you sing. Your spirit (heart or emotional self) is activated by your personal connection to the meaning of the song. When you sing with your whole Self – body, mind, spirit - the listener feels the meaning and truth of the song. It is not so much a matter of your ‘sound’ as much as your commitment to the meaning of the song that makes it beautiful! Whether in group or individual lessons, I work to help students begin to be aware of and coordinate these three aspects of Self in their singing. In this way you discover and develop your unique voice.
Everyone can sing
This is hard for some to accept, but it is true. Singing uses the very same vocal mechanism that lets you giggle, wail, grunt, laugh, cry, and speak, so if you can do those things, you can sing! Our culture doesn’t include daily opportunity to play music or sing together, so singing feels more like a special thing, rather than something normal and natural. Many of us feel we’re not good enough to sing with others. Many of us did not grow up in a home where music-making was a regular family activity. It is this lack of constant exposure, and to some extent training, and especially belief, that divides 'singers' from 'non-singers'. In some cultures singing is an integral part of daily activities and rituals. People in these cultures don’t say “I can’t sing.” They just sing! We are not so genetically different from people in these cultures, so it must be environment that makes the difference. I encourage students to own their innate capacity to sing and create music. It’s too fun to leave to others!
Aren’t people just born with a beautiful voice or not?
I would say everyone is born with a uniquely beautiful voice! And yes, as in anything in life, some things come more easily to some people than to others. Not everyone can play basketball like Michael Jordan or tennis like Venus Williams, but that doesn’t stop people from playing – and enjoying - these sports! Athletes, both professional and amateur, work hard to maximize their talents. It’s the same with singing - with effort, passion, patience and persistence everyone can build on and improve their singing. If you already sing a lot, formal study will help you improve. If you struggle with some aspect of singing, lessons will help. Music is in us all and study will increase your capacity.
What if I’m Tone Deaf?
A person who is tone deaf is unable to hear differences in pitch. This person would speak in a monotone voice like a robot, and would not be able to distinguish music from noise, let alone tell the difference between Beethoven and the Beatles or between a saxophone and a piano. Most likely, this does not describe you! Tone deafness is very rare. Many people were told when they were young that they couldn’t sing. It’s not true! People learn to vocally reproduce pitch at different ages. Children who miss this opportunity can still learn to 'match pitch' in adulthood. Some people use their voices in a way that hinders free singing, and pitch suffers. This is correctable. With patience, it’s never too late to learn to sing! I enjoy working with singers who doubt their ability to sing. I know that when you want to, you can find your voice.
Excellence without Competition
I believe music and music-making are both an art and a wonderful - and fun - collaborative, communal activity. In my view, heavy competition is too results-oriented and promotes neither the art nor the joy of music. While I do invite students to participate in low-stress, supportive singing festivals that involve some evaluation, I also promote non-competitive performance opportunities for singers to share their artistic achievements and growth. I encourage all students to strive for their personal best and to support each other to do the same, to enjoy this process, and especially to remember that singing and music-making is fun!