Over these past few weeks, it feels like the world has been up-ended.
Schools are closed. Events are cancelled. We're working remotely, if our jobs allow. Those employees on the "front lines" are working harder than ever. We're trying to figure out how to conference-call and homeschool our kids, all while minimizing our physical contact with the outside world and trying to maintain some sense of normalcy. But we all know it, deep down: there is no normalcy in these times. Nothing about this is normal.
Although I'm teaching online and much of my other work as an independent voice studio owner is continuing as normal, I've nonetheless found myself with some extra time as most of my other routines have ground to a halt. And I've found myself filling that extra time with two particular things:
The first is keeping in more frequent touch with my family and friends. We humans need connection during times like this, and I'm so thankful for the technology that allows this even during a time of social distancing.
The second thing? SINGING.
Despite the fact that I have no rehearsals or gigs coming up, I have been singing A LOT more than before. Not because I feel like I *should,* but because I feel like I NEED to. I don't feel pressured to learn new rep. I don't feel pressured to polish up my aria package. I don't feel pressured to be "productive." I find myself singing whatever I feel like, for however long I want.
Why? I think there's two reasons:
The first is physical. We take deeper breaths when we sing, and deep breathing is good for the body. We take in more oxygen. We relax certain muscles. The slower pace of our breath tells our nervous system to calm down, and - let's face it - we could all benefit from a calmer nervous system these days.
The second is emotional. Music, and especially singing, can be an effective expressive outlet. Even if you're not singing something that encapsulates how you feel in that moment, you are still using your voice to communicate something. And the intense focus on something good and beautiful takes your mind off of the calamities.
As a result, my practicing has become less product-oriented and more process-oriented. I'm able to go at my own pace, really listen to what my body and voice need that day, and respond accordingly. I'm more relaxed, both physically and mentally, and feel freer to explore sounds and vocal modes that are not my classical MO. Curiosity and discovery has been my motto. This mindfulness has been freeing, in many ways.
And so there are a few conclusions I've drawn that I'd like to share with you.
The arts are so vitally important, and even more so in a time like this. Even if you're not creating art yourself, I'm willing to bet you've availed yourself of more art lately - whether it's music, film, literature, movement, or visual art. This is because the arts make us more human, and we need them. I hope that, as a society, when the world returns to normal (whatever that will look like after this), we can look back at this time and remember how we took refuge in art, and never take it for granted again.
I hope that I, as a singer, can look back on this time the next time I'm hastily warming up for a gig or rehearsal, or on those days when practicing just feels like one more thing to cross off my to-do list. I hope that I can remember that mindful singing is more effective, more productive, more authentic, and more beautiful.
Authenticity is what makes art beautiful. We are not perfect, and our art will never be perfect. As we (rightly) strive to be the best artists we can be, I hope that we don't let the pursuit of perfection get in the way of producing something that is meaningful. And so I encourage YOU - no matter what it is you do - to share what you create, even if it is not "perfect."
One of the ways - and perhaps the main way - I share art is through teaching. It gives me great pleasure to help someone achieve their musical or vocal goals. If you've always wanted to take a voice lesson, why not now? We'll meet virtually, of course, and I'll set you up with all the resources you need to practice. You can learn more about my studio here.