People who know me now might be surprised to learn that I was pathologically shy as a child. I didn’t speak up in class, I quit my piano lessons because I was too embarrassed to talk to the teacher, and I made my mom do all of the speaking for me in public places. Discovering theater as a teenager changed my relationship to self-expression in a profound way.
When I entered grad school for theater in 2008, I thought I understood the concept of vocal training fairly well. I had been in choirs and musicals, I had practiced projecting and enunciating while delivering monologues, I had dabbled in dialects, I had a firm grasp of the nuts and bolts of using the voice as an artistic tool. I loved using my voice, especially in singing, especially when nobody was there to hear. Having been in performance for most of my life, I had collected a laundry list of stories and beliefs about my voice, mostly picked up from little snippets of feedback from others. I had a “good” voice. My voice sounded “too young”. I was a “great soprano” but probably shouldn’t try to be an “alto”. My voice faltered and trembled in front of others at times, but when I belted in the shower I could hear and feel my vocal power, and had the sense that anything was possible in there.
During my first week of graduate studies, I was introduced to the Roy Hart method of working with the voice, and my whole perspective was changed instantaneously. I learned about the voice as an energy, a source of power and clarity that could open up awareness in parts of the body and psyche that were otherwise difficult to reach. The approach was so simple and accessible that my graduate ensemble of 13 people all had a palpable catharsis in our first hour of working with it, and yet the method also had enough depth that I studied it with fascination for the next 2 years of daily practice. I came to understand my voice practice as both complimentary with, and at times equivalent to, my yoga practice. There were days when I left my voice class feeling as if I had just done 2 hours of yoga: my body light and clear, my energy humming with resilience and a sense of well-being, my mind totally present and engaged.
There were other days when my yoga practice helped me to explore how my voice lived in my body, and vice versa. I realized that what I was experiencing in this mind/body/voice work was equivalent to the mind/body/spirit work of yoga, but with a decidedly more expressive bent. It filled a need that I could not find being filled anywhere in mainstream society-the need to use the full range of our voice, and to understand how our voice is a vital part of our wholeness and well being. I became a “voice-positive” activist in a way, determined to contribute to a culture change until I no longer hear people say things like “I have a terrible voice”, or worse, “You have a terrible voice.” I resolved that if I ever had children, I would encourage and allow them to explore any sounds they wanted to. (You can ask my husband how that’s going now that we have two young boys.)
Over the last 5 years, I have been offering embodied voice workshops, based on my training in the Roy Hart voice method, in the non-actor community, specifically with yogis and yoga teacher trainees. The results have been inspiring and moving.
One of the participants in my last workshop wrote to me afterwards to thank me with this feedback:
“I have no idea how I sounded or looked. After the first note, I didn’t care. I was totally embodied and while I heard your notes and was faintly aware of eyes on me I was lost in something so life-giving and life-producing. The next day I ordered a coffee next door, and usually have to repeat myself because I am quiet and timid in things as simple as ordering coffee! And I found myself in a pronounced conversation with the barista. This work goes deeper than ordering coffee 😉 But it re-ordered my cells and my identity around what it means to just be heard and to think, “My voice is valuable no matter what.”
If you would like to open up your self-expressive superpowers, heal your relationship with your voice, learn more about the practices that can open up your throat Chakra, or just have a great time playing with the power of sound, please join me on Saturday, June 8th for my next Embodied Voice workshop!