Building Trust in the Vocal Studio

“Authentic and positive relationships are not built in a day. Put your best and most honest self forward and then trust the process. A mentor of mine said that experience is just time in disguise. Neither can be truncated or expedited. You just have to keep showing up, keep expanding your reach, keep learning and growing, and individual relationships will fall into place as they should.”
~Grace Stern,
from TomatoSass, a Blog for Women in the Music Industry

Brené Brown continues to give us gifts of magnificent proportions.  I just saw her talk on the “Anatomy of Trust” and wanted to rebroadcast it’s existence in case someone out there happens upon this blog and has space for 20 minutes or so of life-altering goodness.  (video below, btw)

I love technology and our ability to freely broadcast transformative information!  So much it makes me want to cry, but I digress.  On with the show.

Brené’s research reveals how trust functions, and in typical BB fashion she brings it home through real-life stories and her wide, open heart.  This video settles like warm hugs in your chest the same way a deep and intimate talk with your bestie does, at a time when you need it the most.

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Basic Vocal Tone

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.

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How To Get Along?

Yesterday someone suggested I write a proposal for a conference presentation on how to get along.  More specifically,  about how people in the professional voice arena can create avenues of goodwill and constructive dialog.  Maybe – be friendlier to each other, and more open to exchanging ideas?

His point was, “its lovely when voice professionals come together and get along, but how do you do that?  What makes that possible?  We need someone to talk about it.”

I don’t know how to write that proposal yet.  I’m not sure how to instruct others on how to “get along” when I have so much to learn about it myself.

Please understand, my chosen profession (call me crazy for choosing it) is fraught with historic tension, fear, anger and strained relationships.  I won’t even claim to understand this psychological history, because I don’t and don’t want to.  I have heard enough stories and experienced enough relationship woes between voice teachers to know something is potentially awry.

Do relationship problems exist more chronically or pervasively in voice than in other professions?  Who cares.  They exist, and there are historic “dividing lines” between voice scientists and voice teachers, classical singers and pop singers, university faculty and community voice teachers.  Many lines have been drawn in many people’s heads, and you can probably think of a few more than I’ve listed here.

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The Voice Can Do Many Things

In viewing the following video yesterday, I was reminded that the human voice is capable of so much . . . more.

Often in voice training, or when learning new vocal skills, we give in to the fear that we might hurt ourselves, or produce ugly tones, or worse – do something “outside of our genre.”  Gasp!

This limited line of thinking keeps us from exploring the range of textures and dynamics we are all capable of, and it also robs us of the inherent joy that comes with making sound.  All kinds of sound.  For someone as skilled as the following vocalist, we have to imagine the freedom with which he explored different parts of his voice!  What kinds of weird sounds did he experiment with in order to discover such different voices in the same voice?  How much fun are those sounds to make?  And how much fun is he having singing on different sounds back to back?

Before anyone gets their pedagogical thinky-minds in a bunch over his “technical issues” (should you be inclined to go there, teachers), take a moment to hear this voice for the magic it is – a voice full of ability, life, and a reminder that we are usually capable of more than we realize.  Especially vocally!

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Giving Mad Props and Just a Little Critique

I get tired, y’all.

Tired of constant negativity, finding fault, and altogether tired of our culture’s obsession with focusing on what’s wrong.

These traits exist in me as much as the next person, and I am learning to be more patient and loving with myself on this subject.

But, I also believe in giving compliments, encouraging people, and focusing on ALL the things that are going well.  I think it is a powerful and effective way to build relationships and help ourselves grow.  And from what I can tell, this is not necessarily a popular way to be.

In fact, I’m going to go as far as to say that focusing on the “what’s right” of a situation, or seeing the most positive aspects of something or someone, is often perceived as naive, weak, or just plain dumb.  I’m okay with that because I’ve discovered that being ultra positive works better than being ultra critical.  For me, and obviously not everyone.  Remember, we all get to decide how to play the game of life.

Imagine This

A beautiful woman enters the room.  She is impeccably dressed.  Tall, with flowing black hair.  Her lipstick is the perfect shade of red, and her heels match her suit as if they were designed by the same person.

And then  – she starts to sing.

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