Ever since I was a little girl, I loved to sing. Back in the days when my mom worked at the Tompkins Square Library curating art shows I can remember singing to myself just for pleasure. Whenever a delicious meal was made I unknowingly would start humming at the table. In middle and high school I took this passion further and joined forces with friends and started writing, recording and even competing in band competitions. Although there were times when I felt frustrated with my voice, I didn't let it stop me from performing.
By the time I graduated from college I knew that I wanted to stick with singing and that I wanted to learn more about vocal technique. To satisfy these goals I started reading and taking notes on a book I found called The Voice Book and began a biweekly gig at a downtown cafe that lasted three years. It was just me and a man named Dana Leong on cello and sometimes only one or two customers but I was free to choose any style of music I felt called me. Over time I was fortunate enough to garner a record deal and eventually cultivate an amazing band as well as a specific way of working that we all truly cherished.
The only downside was that I still hadn't grasped a full understanding of how to "work " or control my voice. During winter when colds and flus are high I would get sick only at the end of my cold I would loose my voice. Sadly, this became a regular occurrence regardless of the season. Sore throat concoctions and vocal rest became an obsession! I would chart the fluctuations of my voice just to see if I could find any patterns to help me undo this affliction. Eventually I gravitated toward the Alexander Technique. Thank goodness! This new way of taking time to release tension throughout my body became appealing. It helped relax my mind and using less tension felt good! Who knew? There was also a side benefit. Being aware of my breath and body gave me a sense of ease as the mother of a wee one. But I still needed to find a voice teacher. I was looking for a way to fully express my musical impulses but I kept running up against a wall.
The year I recorded my last album I hit a huge roadblock when I decided to sing at a club downtown. There was no monitor and I had to push to hear myself in the PA system. Plus I was at the end of another head cold. As a result my slightly raspy voice lingered for months! That was when I knew that I had to get on a new training program. Ugh! I had a European tour with my band that summer and a new record to record and I was stressed stressed stressed because I wasn't able to sing how I wanted. Basic vocal exercises felt uncomfortable. I was trying to save face for my band. Not to mention I had a 4 year old who was a ball of energy who also needed me. All of this was a bit draining and emotionally overwhelming.
It took several months of committed retraining in Somatic Voicework but I never looked back. I saw how in sync the Alexander Technique was with SVW. Although I felt challenged in my singing, I was an A student when it came to going gradually and being an observer of my habits. Within Somatic Voicework I could make all kinds of sounds (even if they didn't sound great) that focused on feeling vocally comfortable. As a result my range expanded. I also realized even tho I had been singing my whole life I really hadn't analyzed what it was that I was doing and whether it was helping or harming me. I just went for the creative impulse without seeing how I could make things feel better and still be just as powerful.
And that my friends is when my true love and fascination with vocal technique and performance began. How do singers keep their voices healthy? What is it that creates a moving song? How am I able to push my vocal limits just so and still not crash and burn? How do other singers marry thought provoking lyrics, beautiful melodies and tough grooves together to leave me a changed person? And who is nurturing a child/several children? And who is still making certain to leave space to love themselves? This is part of what I consider being an empowered artist. If you are curious like me, please send a comment.