Monday, April 30, 2018

Studio Stories: The Restart

I've shied away from telling specific stories regarding the singers that come to my private studio. I like to think that I offer a space filled with trust where singers are free to work on their most serious vocal issues, as well as the mental challenges that often accompany those issues. However, I'm breaking this rule because of a recent experience, one that I believe will help more than hurt. Tony wholeheartedly agreed with having his story told.

Tony finally arrived at my studio. He had rescheduled at least twice, I had my own scheduling conflicts and on the actual day of the appointment, traffic delayed him.

As soon as he walked through the door, I could sense Tony was down. He was walking slowly and his eyes weren't sparkling. Everything about him oozed low - low energy, low confidence, low.

My gut told me he was being challenged by his inner judge (we have had many discussions about the power of persistence and a positive attitude), but I decided to tell my own inner judge to take a walk to Starbucks so we could have the best session possible.

I start every session with a quick check-in, precipitated by a long-ago unsympathetic encounter with a teenager who had lost her beloved grandmother. Good thing I did with Tony, as I found out that in addition to his fulltime job, he was studying for a master's degree. Singing had fallen off of his list. There wasn't enough energy to keep it in his life like he wanted. Okay, I thought, my gut wasn't wrong. Still, I'm glad I sent the judge away.

We began with our usual vocalizations. I'm often pleasantly surprised by how much the human body can remember and today was no exception. Tony wasn't too far off the mark. One adjustment (don't gasp the breath into the body; let the breath find you) which Tony took to quickly, and Tony's handsome baritone settled in, revealing its typical unique presence and range. We continued revisiting old exercises, giving the voice and the body an opportunity to find a level of comfort, running on well-known paths.

Twenty minutes into the session, I introduced a new exercise. Tony found it temporarily overwhelming, but then a vocal and mental alignment took place. Even more voice with the ideal amount of work revealed itself. Tony understood and was able to guide his voice and body to replicate the new idea over and over. And that's when the moment happened.

Tony's eyes lit up.

In an instant, the sad, tired, closed human who had walked into the studio was transformed into a vibrant, open soul. He smiled, his eyes danced and his voice continued to spill out of him.

Tony sang a comfortable song (I always encourage students who are returning from a hiatus to sing something they know and love, to give themselves an opportunity to just sing).  We worked on subtle nuances, not big concepts. Tony was not only singing well and getting good work done, he was also having a good time. So was I.

I then remembered about an upcoming audition for one of Tony's favorite shows at a theatre near his home. Did he know about it? No, he said, he didn't, but now he had an even bigger and better reason to sing. There's nothing like an upcoming audition for motivation.

Tony and I have spoken frequently about setting reasonable goals. Which is why the next part of the lesson continued the wonder of this session. Out of Tony spills this: I will be pleased to just be able to sing well at that audition.

Exactly. The guy's stretched to his limits with work, yet he knows how singing feeds his soul. He also has done enough auditions to know that getting cast is out of his control. But showing up and singing? He owns that.

Both Tony and I learned so much that day, so much that makes living a creative life valuable. Like:

- show up even when you don't want to
- be as kind and generous as possible, especially to your self
- persistence is just about everything
- ask for help
- be willing to be surprised

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