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As a vocalist, I have become all too familiar with the crazy shenanigans that come along with the lifestyle of perfecting one's voice and preparing for performance: drinking twenty five gallons of water per day, considering caffeine and alcohol to be the elixir of vocal death, adding a dozen lemons and a bottle of honey to each cup of tea, religiously using Neti Pots, all while massaging your own larynx and sporadically making, what sound like, jungle noises in an effort to keep the muscles warm...all of the time. I have done it all. Right down to the crazy mantra and breathing rituals before each performance. Ok, so maybe I exaggerate….but the obsession of vocal perfection conjures up quite the lifestyle, not to mention quite the complex.
As my vocal experience grew, I couldn't help but notice that there were always a select few performers who would skip the entire ritualistic process outlined above and somehow were still consistently capable of bringing down the house with every single performance. In fact, their performances simply got better and better. And, as much as I was left absolutely flawed watching said performers, in awe of their undeniable consistency and perceived vocal ease, I cannot lie and say that a part of me didn't feel bitter upon reflection of my own inconsistencies, convincing myself that I was working day and night trying to perfect my voice. What was the difference? And, more importantly, why did I feel so bitter towards these people?
Without delving too deeply into specifics, shortly after graduating from The Boston Conservatory with a master’s degree in voice performance, life hit me from several different unexpected angles. My life, as I had perceived it, seemed to flip itself upside-down, while effortlessly kicking music to the back burner of my existence. The transitions I was forced to endure brought to my immediate awareness that the one and only thing I had control over in this life was myself. I took that fact very literally and immediately took the initiative to take charge of the one thing that I could, and that was my physical health.
The turning point. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was laying in my bed, at my parent's house, for the 23rd hour straight, after working a fifty hour work week, in a career that only fulfilled my void sense of security, completely unrelated to music. I had spent almost the entirety of that Sunday sleeping. Waking up in a fog, I went to the bathroom and I looked in the mirror. The very last thing I felt was happy with the person I saw looking back at me. I was frustrated with her, disappointed with her, sad for her, mad for her, and somehow still exhausted. The only thing I wanted to do was pull the covers back over my head, block out the sun with one of my darkest sheets, and hope to the high heavens that I would wake up rejuvenated for life again. In an effort to entertain those ideas, I plopped back down into my bed. I then opened my phone to kill some time and stumbled across a photo of a woman running with the quote,
"That voice inside your head that says you can't is a liar"
written on the photo. I don't know how that one quote got through to me, as no one else seemed capable of doing so, but it did. Next thing I knew, I grabbed my old New Balance sneakers - equipped with a toe hole - an oversized Led Zeppelin sweatshirt, pulled my hair back and went running out my back door. I was successful for a whopping quarter of a mile.
I spent the duration of the run back home oscillating between a walk to run pattern, while repeating to myself "Yes. I. Can. Yes. I. Can. Yes. I. Can." I ran back into the house, looked at myself in the mirror and suddenly felt..... different. I felt, sort of… happy? Proud? Maybe even empowered ? Here's the thing - I have always been active. But, I had never really known what it meant to push my body to the edge and I certainly had never wrapped my head around successful consistency.
After making this realization, I decided to break down my mental boundaries and push myself to edges of my reality that I didn't know existed. I felt unstoppable. In three months time, I was running five miles in thirty minutes, had hired a personal trainer and sought out a holistic nutritionist. Suddenly my life consisted of a regiment of running, yoga, weight lifting, organic food, filtered water and so so so many self help books. One of my particular favorites was the book entitled "Being of Power" by Baron Baptiste.
I tend to veer towards the extremist personality type, so when I make a choice to do something, it is usually all or nothing. Because of this, I began to experience drastic changes. Not only had my body begun to transform, but my energy levels sky rocketed, my confidence grew, my self-love began to come out of the shadows, my emotions stabilized, my mood generally was soaring, I was sleeping like a baby, my relationships polarized and strengthened to those who positively impacted my life, and my mind became sharper by the day. I suddenly found myself in a constant state of awe, receptivity and excitement. All I wanted was for everyone to realize how easy it was to feel this good! I wanted everyone to know that the tiniest steps, made consistently each day, towards healing the physical body spilled over into healing everything else!
Then, something happened to me that completely blindsided me. I was cleaning out my bookshelf to find my binder full of Master's Recital music. I smirked, and sat down at my piano to reconnect with these songs that had seemed to completely engulf my being just a couple of years before. I opened my mouth to sing and I literally did not recognize my own voice. It had entirely transformed. My voice was more consistent than I had ever heard or felt it, my range increased by five half steps... as in I suddenly was singing high C's as if I had never smashed my head against practice room walls thinking that frequency would just never come out of my body, my passagi (breaks between chest voice, middle voice and head voice) were seamless, and my breath support seemed effortless. My vocal cords no longer felt like I had bricks attached to them and my voice sounded as though it literally lost 100 pounds. At that moment, I realized one of the most important life lessons I could have ever realized
It was the realization that my voice was, and always has been, a PRODUCT of the condition of my entire being - Body, Mind and Spirit.
I had indirectly overcome vocal inconsistencies that had been plaguing me for years, simply by working diligently on healing my body, which snow-balled into mental, emotional and spiritual healing as an indefinite side effect. I then went down memory lane and mentally revisited each of those performers in my past experience that always seemed to shine through the sea of singers. Each one of these individuals had, whether they realized it or not, achieved exactly what it was that I had accidentally discovered. They were all conscious of their well being, first and foremost, above any other thing in their life. Fitness, nutrition, sleep and spiritual practice simply were no question in the lives of those whom I am referring. It was through this experience that I resurrected music, along with a deep desire to integrate my new found understanding into both my performing and teaching practice.
As a holistic vocal coach and author, I have made it my responsibility to expose this reality to my students and readers. It is my purpose to make sure that you do not ever feel as though your voice, in this current moment, defines your level of talent. You are not victim to your voice, your voice is victim to your state of being, NOW. Once this is realized, vocal success literally becomes a tangible goal, waiting patiently, in the palm of your hands, to be molded by YOU. Are you ready to transform?