by Guest Author
“The only thing better than singing is more singing.”
I was diagnosed with nodules when I was in my Masters’ degree – for classical voice performance. When I was in the ENT’s office, I realized that I didn’t know anything about how my voice worked. Not really.
Sure, I’d been taking voice lessons since I was in high school, sung in choirs forever, and I had even taken one semester of vocal pedagogy. But that didn’t teach me about my voice. I just hadn’t been paying attention.
So here I was in this chair – alone – crying. I barely heard what the ENT was saying. I just didn’t know what this meant for me – for my singing career that hadn’t even started yet. I heard him say that this was most likely caused by “vocal misuse and abuse.” This is, as I know now, an unfortunate standard line still used in too many clinics. I was doing everything that teachers and coaches and conductors told me to do! How was I abusing my voice? I went on immediate and complete vocal rest, found a speech therapist, and dropped out of the lead role in the opera. (And then had another night of crying about that.)
by Guest Author
Michelle Markwart Deveaux
“There can be life and movement only when you no longer accept things as they are now, and look ahead toward that which is not yet.”
I have this habit of trying to control stuff. And of course, it’s always the stuff that I have no business controlling, like what other folks think of me.
I call this feeling the “Grasp Ghost”, for reasons that will come apparent in a bit.
This Grasp Ghost rears its ugly head most when I am trying to launch a new service or product for my voice students or voice teacher clients. It comes often when I am simultaneously working on a proposal for a workshop while telling my three year old to stop jumping on the coach. The Grasp Ghost also likes to creep into client emails and try to make me defensive.
The good news is that I am familiar enough with this pattern that it does not shock or scare me anymore. It used to wreak havoc on my soul. It would throw me into a state of perfectionism and defensiveness. It would make me care more about my feelings than my actions, and make me forget that my primary joy is to solve the problems presented to me.
I now have a practice that I use to combat The Grasp Ghost. It’s a thought process and physical action that was deeply inspired by the late Henry Nouwen.
I shared it with Liz when we first met, and she asked that I tell you, her readers, about it too.
by Justin Petersen
Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes once wrote,
“We are all of us three persons: the one we think ourselves to be, the one others think us to be and the one we truly are.”
This plight is never so acute as when applied to the student singer and how they perceive themselves through their voice. In my work, I have found that one of the most important things to do is to help singers find their ‘basic vocal tone.’
In his book Voice: Psyche and Soma, Cornelius Reid makes an exceptionally important point often skimmed when examining his substantial pedagogy: the topic of aesthetic listening and its inherent dangers.
Aesthetic listening is hearing a voice in a way that overlays aesthetic and stylistic preferences onto the mechanism (‘the one we think ourselves to be’). For example, a classical voice teacher might prefer darker, rounder tones and would train students to emit sounds in that way. A musical theater voice teacher might go the opposite way and entrain a voice into a very bright, brassy, forward sound. Both are ‘specializations,’ a term borrowed from Peter T. Harrison in his book The Human Nature of the Singing Voice.