When I tell people that I teach voice, a surprising (well, surprising to me *smile*) number of them ask me what that means. That’s when I usually say “I teach singing lessons” or “I teach people how to sing.” But as I stand on the other side of another semester of teaching including the last middle school musical, I realize that it’s more than that.
See, I have discovered that teaching people to sing has a lot to do with allowing people to be themselves.
I especially see this with young students. They want to sound like all those singers they love. They contort their young voices into imitations of what their favorite singers are doing. And sometimes it is successful, but it rarely sounds natural. Because that is not how their voices sound.
So we have to spend time learning what our “real” voices sound like. The easiest and most natural way each student can sing the note or the song or the exercise. And we often have to let go of an idea of how we want to sound to accept the way that we actually sound.
Let me be clear, this is not about dashing hopes or setting limits, this is about exploring the instrument each of us is given and finding the fantastic sounds each singer can create with his/her voice. Easily and naturally. One student might have to work slowly and for a long time at something that seems to come easily to everyone else. Another might have a flair for interpretation or improvisation. Every singer has something she wishes she did better and something he takes for granted that everyone else can do.
But I have come to understand that we have to love our voices for what they are, not what we wish them to be. And in doing that we learn to love our selves a little bit more.
I am fascinated and gratified to discover (and rediscover) how much of our identities are attached to our voices. That’s why my favorite way to meet singers is by singing with them. (And, it is part of why I started Songtaneous all those year ago.) I have a number people who I see rarely but know very well because we have sung together.
Singing makes connections and communities. And teaching voice always, always, always teaches me something about myself.