I have always loved to sing.
I think I came out of the womb expressing joy through song! My happiest moments, even when I was very young, were singing show tunes at the top of my lungs in the kitchen while I cooked. My dad called it the Donna Factor. His mother’s name was Donna and she would also sing while she cooked. I can remember her singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and “Goodnight Ladies.” She didn’t have an amazing voice but she sang with such joy and abandon! She loved music!
I am married to an Australian. One of the fun things about that is that we take trips back to Australia. Can I tell you about Australian birds? They make some of the loudest, most obnoxious sounds I have ever heard.
There are whole flocks of birds in the morning that are singing at the top of their voices – because they are happy, because they are alive, because that is their design!
I sang for many years with the freedom of a bird!
But, somewhere along the way, I lost that freedom. I began to listen more critically. I was told that a note was out of tune or that the sound wasn’t being made in the right part of my face. I was struggling to understand the language or what to do with my tongue. I was told that I was too loud. I became embarrassed and afraid to be heard. I still sang but quieter. I still sang but I was afraid of who was listening. I still sang but I didn’t want anyone to hear me.
What had been so joyful and free and non-judged had turned into something else entirely. When I sang I was worrying and listening to critical voices. I was full of tension. When I sang, my stomach would be in knots worrying about the pitch, worrying about forgetting the words, worrying about messing up.
How deep is my desire to be heard?
Someone said that singing begins with a wish to communicate. At first, this seems totally not related. Why don’t I first get all of the vocal problems figured out and fixed and then I can tackle my desire to be heard. Isn’t that funny? The important igniter, my desire, is the thing I want to put at the very end of my process.
I am learning a whole new way in TVF.
I am learning a new way of singing and a new way of being.
Jeremy Chance says: “The clarity of your intent is what allows you to cooperate with your design.”
I have reconnected with why I sing and I’m trying to start there. As I get out a new piece, I am beginning with my desire. More specifically, I have begun to understand how that feels in my body. When I want to communicate, that creates something different in my body. My body cooperates better with the voice and I am able to sing with freedom. Amazingly, it also makes me really happy!
Before I started TVF, I would say that I was a decent singer but my body was still ashamed of my singing. When I sang, I was pulling down into my pelvis trying to make myself smaller. When I sang, I was not getting a full breath because I was afraid to move. When I sang, I was overwhelmed with nerves. F.M. Alexander said, “You translate everything, whether physical, mental, or spiritual, into muscular tension.”
These things have begun to change. I am celebrating the difference that I see in my body but more than that I am celebrating the changes in my thinking.
Now as I go into a performance or rehearsal, I am reminding myself of my desire. My desire to communicate and to be heard.
Maybe this is easy for you. But I know that there are some of you that are just like me and even thinking that you want to sing because you want to be heard sounds egotistical. I am with you. But how bizarre is that idea? I want to sing and maybe if somebody accidentally hears me, that would be okay.
Let’s take that to another example. What if I was a chef and I was really embarrassed for anybody to taste my food? Clearly, we would all be confused about why he or she was cooking food if it wasn’t for someone to eat. Do you get it?
I want to be a bird. I sing because of my design. I sing for you to hear!
I sing because that is what I believe God created me to do.
When I connect with that understanding of my design, I am free from the critical voices.
Karen Archbold is TVF Director of Operations (fancy title for the person who keeps everything running smoothly and Peter sane!) and a member of the TVF Pro Certification Program. She is based in the Chicago area and spends her time being a mom to three beautiful girls, making music, teaching her fabulous students and drinking expensive Australian tea!