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A spiritual path to music and life.
As far back as I can remember, I thought there was a deeper world than what was around me. Hidden, mysterious and wonderful. The door to something else, behind the nail in the wall. Nymphs and elves in the woods by my house. Something important hidden in a wonderful book, read while sitting in our green velvet armchair in the living room…so lost within the story that I didn’t hear my mom talking to me right by my side. Maybe it was because I learned to read by reading Through The Looking Glass/Alice In Wonderland…
My dad was a sax player, and he loved jazz, and I was his buddy, so he taught me about it. He took me to big band rehearsals from the age of 4, and I helped him put his band book together on Sunday mornings after the Saturday gig. I sang with my twin sisters all the years after that.
After high school I went to Berklee College of Music. Even though I was a singer, they didn’t have vocals at the time, so I played flute and studied arranging and composition. I was young but I soaked in the being-ness of a musician.
There were milestones along the way. Why I decided to keep singing, why I decided to sing jazz. From when I was child through college, that was a dramatic time in popular music. The Beatles, Woodstock, Cream, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendricks, Motown artists like Aretha. Bonnie Raitt, Little Feat. And on into the ECM Label, Weather Report, Pat Metheny, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Miles Davis, John Coltrane. The music was mind and soul altering.
We were passionate
about the messages.
THE MUSIC. WE
As I grew older…
I used my voice to make money, and to learn and have fun. I started writing, and found that my music writing was like my word writing. It usually reflected an intangible essence that I seemed to be reaching for. The way I expressed myself was in more ethereal concepts, rather than simple direct statements. I had to get used to that coming out of myself. It turned out to be a long life lesson, taught by music and the rest of life.
My mother and my sisters taught me about liking people and communicating. I taught myself about fearlessness. The ladies taught me about gathering people together. I taught myself about getting people into action. We were about giving help and love to our peeps.
When I started to teach, a large door opened up for me. I was forced to explain what I saw, in a way that could be understood and applied. I wanted to be truthful and kind, but get a result.
I started experimenting with my own states of mind, and decided that one was responsible for one’s own existence. Responsibility, for both the good and the bad, was challenging. But I came to the conclusion over the years that if I could confront anything and take responsibility for anything…then anything would be possible.
I taught myself about fearlessness.
I also recognized that I was probably not the person who was going to become extremely famous for my musical career.
I saw close singer friends receiving opportunities that logically I could have/should have gotten. I suddenly “learned” that every person has their own individual path, with their own challenges, their own karma.
I decided to settle in and learn to recognize what lessons the universe was laying at my feet. I’ve had great lessons.
Singers have an amazing job. We’re musicians. We’re part of the band.
Just like the pianist has abilities and a job to do in the band, the singer has one too. We are responsible for things like emotions, ideas, concepts, hopes, horrors. Doing all that with tone, rhythm, notes, speech and ideas. The more honestly we do it, the bigger theeffect. We are capable of changing the people who are listening. If you think about that…what could lead us to being great at doing that?
Philosophy of life
Philosophy of music
Musical theory information
Active ability to be free, to communicate, to be in control, to be controlled.
That’s a lot of things to find lessons on. This is what I do all the time. Look for those lessons, and share them.
It’s about balance.
The more I go through life, the more I understand what life is really about for me. I can’t speak for everyone. But I can speak from my experience and keen observation. There are relationships that match up across the board of experience. You probably have a few things you do as well, that you could match with this idea.
If you’ve ever done any action … riding a bicycle, water or snow skiing, golf, art, music, meditating, driving a car… you know Balance. Balance is not Force, it’s Focus resulting in effortless action; a Flow. I have for a long time understood and teach that balance and focus are the key necessities for singing well, even just technically.
I call the very basic actions “ABC”
Air. Body. Vocal Cord.
The 3 must be rebalanced all the time, to end up with Resonance which is the queen item in using the voice well.
And then of course, comes the expansion of the idea of where else balance and focus affect you…within your vocal performance, your life, your abilities, your temperament. When your balance and focus are off, something is amiss in your life. When they are ON, you exist in a state of Flow. You know what it feels like, you’ve felt it. It’s when you’re the happiest and most comfortable.
So how do we build these various muscles? The vocalist's walkway to truth is in expression. Voice is elemental, fundamental.
Refining and cultivating an ability to
vocalize your humanity is the key.
For 99% of us, our natural talent is not the primary action that brings us to success in singing. We actually DO have to be a student and map it out. We DO have to think about the actions and practice them. We must free up our resources so that we can start moving into the realm of balance, focus and flow. Otherwise, our artistry will end up in a lower level of quality.
I am a “glass 1/2 full” type of person. But I also want to tell you honestly, you must confront the work and take responsibility for it. Most likely, since this is not only about the action of the body singing, you will find some personal, emotional issues rising up in your face. The bottom line is: can you confront something and take responsibility for it?