"For the flower, it is fully open at each step of its blossoming."
~ Mark Nepo
Yes it has been a LONG time since my last entry...
A lot of life has happened along the way and my “Singing Train” has jumped the track many times, or so it seemed, but the NEED and desire to sing has never been stronger and my train is once again speeding forward! Hurray!
I have doubted myself and have wondered at times that if life makes singing feel "so hard," is the Universe trying to tell me to stop singing? But then the flame of my desire to sing burns so deeply I know this is not true! And so, I have had to learn to trust, again and again, like the rose ("Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow, lies the seed, that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose" Amanda McBroom from her song The Rose) Truly, if we show up and are present every day, life unfolds perfectly in the rhythm and ways which are perfect for us, as told in Mark Nepo's quote above.
I have spent the past 4 years learning to sing in a completely new way, a way which fits my giant instrument (and any size instrument, truly!) This "New Way" is along the lines of “Bel Canto” or the ancient Italian way. For those of you who already sing this way, Bravi Tutti! You are blessed! For the rest of us who; 1.) Have been trying to make every “concept” various teachers have given us into a physical reality; 2.) Who by way of squeezing and shoving air, have been attempting to "get the sound out" and/or; 3.) Who have been trying to force physical manifestations to happen, which in reality should only occur naturally as a byproduct of things happening correctly on the inside... I encourage you to learn to sing in this ancient, perfect way!
Singing in this simple, perfect Bel Canto way, by getting out of the way and letting the voice work as it is biomechanically designed to work, with respect to the physics of sound and by only controlling the few simple things that it is our job to control - is mind blowing! Singing like this has not only profoundly changed my singing, but my entire life! I owe a debt of gratitude to all of my voice teachers over the years, who have certainly taught me some things of value and were, I must trust, right for the "stage of blossoming" that I was in at that point in time, but I will always be exceedingly grateful to Carol Kirkpatrick for opening up the world of Bel Canto and beautiful singing to me. Carol is now semi-retired and rarely accepts new students, but if you want to support someone who has meant so much to me and if you want to learn the business of being an opera singer, I highly recommend you buy her book "Aria Ready" 2nd edition available from Amazon and many other places. You won't regret it! Her website is also aways filled with terrific information!
I can honestly say that I have never sung better... Yet, while I continue to improve, singing gets easier and easier, with no fear of high notes or low notes! But the biggest concept that must be incorporated for singing well is TRUST. Good technique is mandatory for success, but if a singer can’t trust that she/he will be in tune, will sing the correct pitch, will sound beautiful and will sound like the best version of themselves, then all is lost...
When we don't trust ourselves, singing becomes a battle or a game or an illusion and the harder we TRY to make these things happen, the more elusive these goals become.
For a technical "jumping off point, I would encourage you to find a teacher who a.) Sings beautifully themselves – age is not a factor if one sings well b.) Knows the secrets of Bel Canto AND how to help singers from the "opposite end of that spectrum" learn how to reach the Bel Canto standards at their own pace: physically, mentally and emotionally. This journey has taken me 4 years and even if it takes you 2-6+ years or however long it takes, its WORTH IT!
The sad news, is that Bel Canto (Literally meaning Beautiful Voice in Italian) is a lost art and I feel so blessed to pass along all that I am learning, as it becomes appropriate, to each singer who studies with me. However, finding a teacher who can share this information successfully with you is worth it. In the meantime, I would encourage you to read the article published in Scientific American in their January 2008 issue on page 94 titled "The Human Instrument" by scientist Ingo R. Titze. This explains in layman's terms, the physics of sound as it relates to the human voice and will open the door of Bel Canto to you. If you can't find the article, please email me and I will help you find it.
The demands of singing professionally DEMAND excellent technique; For example an Opera Singer may need to sing virtually non-stop, full out, for 4-5 hours singing on the resonance, as no microphones or other amplification is used, while a Broadway Singer or Jazz/Pop/Rock Star needs to perform 4-8 shows a week lasting 2-4 hours at a time. But truly excellent and beautiful singing, capable of moving us, exciting us and propelling us into action, inspiring us and/or healing us, with any genre of music , can only attain these levels with TRUST, because in the end, we can't hear what we TRULY sound like from outside of our bodies during the act of singing (More on that in a future blog) and often times an opera singer, who has no assisted amplification, singing on the resonance on stage in a big hall with orchestra... hears nothing but their own "noise" as all of their sound has left their body and there is nothing left for them to hear...
We must do the process, have fun and trust! This is both exhilarating and, in the beginning, terrifying, to become a pure vessel for the sound... a conduit in which that magnificent form of energy we call sound moves through us, out into the Universe, to its ultimate destination... the audience. This requires total trust. It is due to the lack of trust, I feel, why it takes most singers many years, if not decades, to achieve their potential.
Trust can not be taught by a teacher, but a good teacher can lead you to the realization that you need to add dedication to self-work on your "inner life" and belief systems to attain the level of trust necessary for success. Often times some form of counseling or therapy is required, especially if there are stage fright issues present or unresolved childhood or other life trauma keeping the singer from a high degree of trust.
One of the biggest hurdles we singers face is the desire to listen to ourselves sing while we are singing! This is the antithesis of trust, because the physics of singing prove that we can't hear what we sound like outside of our bodies from within! Why do we listen to ourselves, disrupting this critical process? Because we live in fear that we are not good enough... I love this quote from Mark Nepo's Book of Awakening: (a book I read from every day and I encourage you to get it also!)
"We do ourselves a great disservice by judging where we are in comparison to some final destination. This is one of the pains of aspiring to become something: the stage of development we are in is always seen against the imagined landscape of what we are striving for. So where we are - though closer all the time - is never quite enough. The simple rose, at each moment of its slow blossoming, is as open as it can be. The same is true of our lives. In each stage of our unfolding, we are as stretched as possible"
Mr. Nepo also writes "The paradox is that in true interior ways, the only path to deep safety, that sea of inner peace, is through the shifting sands of risk. Risk opens safety. It doesn't shut it down. Only through the risk to open can we inhabit and receive strength and fullness of what is whole..."
So I encourage you to each always strive for excellence, on a path toward your singing and life goals that stays present in each moment of each day with a heart filled with gratitude... Be grateful that YOU get to SING! If you trust your body, trust your heart and most of all TRUST YOUR VOICE great things are possible.
Until next time, let the light of your heart shine through your voice.
Yours in song ~ Karen