Updated: Oct 20, 2019
I am so overdue to write a blog entry! However, maybe I was subconsciously waiting for inspiration, and I found it today.
I was reading through the 75th Anniversary Edition of the Journal of Singing, a fantastic scholarly journal from the National Association of Teachers of Singing. This is the voice teacher's equivalent of the journals that physicians read to update their knowledge and skills, like the CMAJ. This edition of our Journal has reprints of fabulous articles from the past 75 years. My eye was caught by one in particular.
In 1972, Victor A. Fields wrote a scholarly article entitled "How Mind Governs Voice". I would bet the farm that this title is already resonating with you! Fields said:
Basically, it is the mind that sings, not the voice. You can say or sing only what you can think. Therefore, you sing only as beautiful a tone as you can think, since your voice always follows your thought.
Fabulous! And so true, as we have all discovered when we try to sing when we're on the verge of tears. Standing there in our voice lessons, filled with negative self-talk, thoughts like "I suck!" or "I'll never get this right!", we struggle exponentially more to make that beautiful tone we are trying for. Our voices are following our thoughts!
With this in mind, we singers have to work consciously to be mindful as we sing. We benefit from staying in the moment, not running a critique of every note we have already sung. We humans can be so cruel to ourselves. Singers must practice self-compassion and mindfulness of our thought patterns. Positive, reasonable, hopeful thinking is a much better friend to a singer than self-flagellation.
This is where a good voice teacher can help. We need to be mindful of how our students are feeling and what they are thinking, and encourage positivity throughout the lesson. Later in his wonderful article, Fields says:
Joy is the great corrective.
He goes on to remind us that joy enhances everything in the body - breathing, muscle relaxation, the release of vocal mechanisms! Fields says:
SINGING IS ESSENTIALLY AN EXPRESSION OF JOY.
I am going to put that on the wall of my studio.