You might say that I have entered the "gig economy" in my own way. I am a freelance voice teacher, singer, and travel advisor. I love all of the things that I do, and that is important to me. Without the security of a full time job, a bit of stress can enter in, especially when things that I thought were going to happen don't happen. It is easy to feel mistreated or misunderstood and to be motivated by stress, fear, or money.
I'm quite certain that those things are not going to lead to success, so I have to remind myself of what I realized at the end of July. As I was leaving a week of training for both singing and travel, I began to put some things together. I was wondering how the two careers I've taken on will work together, and it started to become clear as I made my way home.
As a singer I believe that I can make a difference in the world by affecting the audience members. They might not go solve climate change because of hearing me sing, but they might be kinder to the person who cuts them off in traffic on their way home. It's a small change, but who knows, it might save a life!
My high school voice students sometimes say that they don't want to major in music because they want to do something that makes a difference in the world. I understand that they mean, of course. They want to work biotech or in a non-profit and make a big, tangible difference. That is wonderful, and I respect that! If someone believes they can be happier and more fulfilled doing something other than music for a career, then they should do the other thing.
I do hope (and believe) that my teaching makes a difference, though, even if it is not realized until years later. Maybe I make someone aware of a postural issue that could have developed into a bigger issue later in life. Maybe the tedious work of vocal technique makes a difference when a former student is a heart surgeon. Maybe the study of voice remains with the student who goes on to become a lawyer, and singing is the only thing that brings them joy.
In the travel business, it would be very easy to get caught up in trying to sell the most high-end, luxury hotels, resorts, and cruises since more money is made from them. Honestly, I hope the find the clients who can afford those things, and I don't see any harm there. However, I must come back to what inspires me about travel. Mark Twain's quote sums it up best: "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime." I've said it before, but each time I travel, I learn something else about the world and the people of the world, which makes me a better human. I want everyone to be able to travel, in whatever capacity is best for them, so that they will have similar experiences.
The other side of travel is seeing amazing (natural or manmade) sights of the world, and John O'Donohue's words sum that up: "Beauty is that in the presence of which we feel more alive." This quote is in my email signature, because it applies to singing and travel. First, I think our minds have to be set on seeing and recognizing beauty, then the beauty of music, or of people, places, things, and experiences, will make us feel more alive, thus making us better people and making the world a better place.
For the "cherry on top," I must mention my other favorite quote, which really brings everything together. While it may sound religious in nature, I hope that even an atheist can see the value in the words of St. Irenaeus of Lyon: "The glory of God is the human being fully alive." Music and travel ultimately make us more alive and more human, so this is the world-changing intention that I have for my work. I'm putting it writing and making it public to hold myself accountable to it!
This is actually a follow-up to my last blog post about how yoga can benefit your singing. Since intention is sort of a big topic, I think it warrants its own post. The basis for this idea is simple: music affects the listener (and the performer). I suppose this is something I have always known, but it began to become more clear to me in high school with both choral and solo music. One distinct memory I have is listening to Verdi’s Requiem in high school and feeling like I had been physically changed. I also remember hearing Henry Purcell’s song “Music for a While” for the first time. The first line of the song says it all: “Music for a while, shall all your cares beguile.” Once I became aware of this phenomenon, I continued to seek it in musical experiences.
I took some acting classes at HB Studios in New York. At HB, they teach "the method" and speak of intentions (this is where Uta Hagen taught). I'm sure this is very common in acting, but I only know my experience. If you are studying a scene, you consider your intention in each line you give. The question might be, "What is my intention in delivering this line" or "what do I want from the other character?" This is useful in singing, for dramatic purposes, but it can go deeper.
I began practicing yoga while in graduate school, but I didn’t start going to classes regularly until around 2011, when I started going to A Garden for Wellness in Clarkesville, GA. There I learned the idea of setting an intention for a yoga practice. I’ve never actually discussed this idea with a yoga teacher or other people in (or out of) a yoga class, so I don’t know what people use as their intention. I am sure that intentions vary wildly from “to relax” or “to get exercise” to things like “heal my cancer” or “become one with the earth.” I can’t claim that anything miraculous has happened to me yet after setting an intention for yoga, but maybe it is like praying--there aren't always immediate results. I like the idea of setting an intention and found that it could be applied to singing.
Even before I knew about setting intentions, I would hope to change the audience in some way when giving a recital or other performance. This affects everything from my repertoire selections and order, to the lighting in the performance space. After learning about the idea of setting an intention, I began to keep the intention of “changing lives.” While this sounds like a lot of pressure, I believe you can change lives through singing, even in small ways. If you make someone’s day better by helping them to focus on something other than their problems for an hour, then you have changed their life. Adding an element of beauty to someone’s day changes their life. Bigger changes can happen too, of course!
This idea will be continued in my next post about inspiration!