Singing Competitions: Junk food for Connection Cravers
Recently I was asked by a highly talented, international yoga teacher to create a cultural workshop for singing. She is a global citizen, where she was born, grew up, and finally now lives are three very different places. She is raising her child multilingual (including sign language) because she and her husband speak different languages. Her heart has roots in several places on this globe. When asked what her dream course would look like, she said that she missed the type of connection that singing with other people had brought her in her country of birth and wanted to have the opportunity to sing because it brought her joy.
‘Excellent’ I thought- that sounds like fun! She wasn’t the first person to ask me to do vocal coaching with her, but she was the first person to ask me to build a singing course! Until then, people wanted to learn to sing, so they could become famous or act like the idols and superstars on television. That wasn’t something I could emulate as a teacher. As much as I love many of the individual performances that happen on these shows, I do consider it a kind of musical junk food. It may sparkle with flavor, but doesn’t leave the watcher with much nutritional value.
In this consumer age, our cultural goods have been capitalized to have commercial value. This often leaves people feeling like they will never be good enough to sing in public or connect with art on a personal level. People compete and there can only be one winner. Judges justify who is worthy and who needs to go home. Industries make their profits and individuals hold art, music and other cultural good as something separate from themselves. This keeps us disconnected from the true value of our culture and cultural goods. Experts agree that the purpose of culture is not to exclude anyone, but rather to include.
But this yoga teacher was clear; she wanted to have a place where she could access culture through singing. She wanted to feel connected. So, with this need as the inspiration, I developed a Holistic Singing Workshop. The aim of this workshop was to offer a space where connection could be possible. Connection to what exactly? Well, that depended on each participant and what they brought with them. But in the end, the power of singing, not fame and competition became the focus. The sound vibrations which take place when your body is the vessel, the sound itself and how it travels in its environment, the acceptance by other group members and a combination of many voices together are all things which are overlooked on TV shows about singing. So, rather than connecting with fame and fortune and identifying art as something outside ourselves, this workshop started to help people to connect with themselves and with others around them.
Beginning with the basics in vocal instrument care, melody and bass, and rhythmic connection, our weekly meetings quickly became a ritual of JOY. Even when the hardships of real life were present, it was amazing how quickly we found relief, empowerment and connection in our work together. We sang about our dreams, joys, and woes and even provided bass lines to make everything sound beautiful. The overwhelming feedback was that as a result of this experience, the students felt an increased sense of community, not just in the classroom but also in their daily lives.
I started out providing a vocal service to a small group of friends, in the process, I stumbled upon a ritual of JOY where everyone involved felt connected and strong. I am excited to continue offering these Holistic Singing Workshops because it is an experience I think most of us could use; a dose of empowering connection.
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