A Beautiful Thing

I can’t think of a more beautiful thing than teaching talented people to sing. As much as I enjoyed working with absolute beginners who had never sung for the many years that I did that, and as much as I still enjoy working with children, people who are getting back to singing after a hiatus, people who have been injured or ill, and people who have specific issues that bring them to me, I am happiest working with artists who are already at the top of their game, yet still want to improve and grow.

These people do what they do because they love it and are dedicated to it. They are willing to put in whatever effort or time is necessary to explore their own boundaries, to push them out, to remold them, to challenge their limitations and to go into new, not-so-safe territories. Not only does this take commitment of the deepest kind, but it also takes an inquiring mind, a generous spirit, and trusting heart and enormous courage. Most people are happy to hide — from themselves, from life, from hard work — an endless list. Artists, however, thrive on staring life in the face. They understand that their own vision is the source of their creativity, their body is the vehicle of expression (at least for performers) and that the meeting of mind and body is the heart – their emotional life. They discover that there is never an end, a finality, a place that growth stops. They address each musical moment as it comes, both surrendering and confronting whatever it brings.

How can you not respect such souls? How can you not be humbled by such intentions? Is it not a privilege to facilitate transformation for individuals who bring so much to the process?

Standing up in front of others, in front of an audience, is an act of generosity and courage. It is SO easy to judge, so easy to fail. It is so hard to develop all the abilities that great artists, and yes, great singers, must have in order to make what they do look so simple. It is such an enormous risk, to put everything you have on the table, over and over, and have people do whatever they will with it, even stomp on it or totally ignore it, and go on anyway, but people do, every day. It takes a certain kind of make up as a human being to hone yourself into the best you can be at any given moment but also know that you can never ever be perfect or never ever depend that what you have when it is almost perfect will stay that way.

These artists, these singers, lift the rest of us up. They do so sometimes in quiet, unacknowledged ways. Not all who are artists are publicly known and not all who are publicly known are artists. The people who strive to express their own unique artistic vision who must also hold down a job they don’t love in order to pay the bills are just as important as those who are making a living making their art. The students, too, have much to contribute, and are to be encouraged and admired, but are not in the same category, as real art takes a long time to burnish the artist. Youthful exuberance is sweet and fresh, but it cannot substitute for the wisdom of someone who has been pummeled by life.

It would take too long to write a list of names of the people who have come to my studio to work on their voices and their singing with me over the last 37 years. It would be an interesting list, especially if I included all those who stayed, sometimes for a very long time, coming and going over the years to keep on keeping on, and contrasted it with the group who took a few lessons and left……satisfied? dissatisfied? confused? angry? One wonders. It would be interesting to ask the group that was in it for the long haul….why? What kept you coming back when you could easily have stopped or gone away to something or someone else?

I am grateful, deeply and continuously grateful, for those who go to the trouble and make the effort to share with me this most precious gift called “their voice” and “their songs”. It keeps me going when I am exhausted, too tired to think, and want nothing more than to stay under the covers. I remember that someone has come to ask me for guidance, for support, for help, for an opinion, for healing, and I remember that I, too, made a commitment a long time ago to be of service with a happy heart. So it is, in each moment in my studio with each of these incredible beings, a gift to be a singing teacher, and it is in every way a beautiful thing.

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