(6-minute read time)
Woohoo….Glengrove Studio is 20 years old!!!
Well, to be fair, there is no singular date that I fix this anniversary to. It could be when I was inspired to study vocal pedagogy when I attended a workshop with Dr Daniel K. Robinson in Brisbane. It could be when I filed various application forms for tax purposes. It could be when I dared to charge someone for a singing lesson for the first time.
All I know is that in 2003 I was discovering that my passion for making music with people, and helping people in general, was merging with a new-found obsession with human anatomy and the craft of manipulating sound to tell stories which makes life…well…better!
I am relieved to report that I have learned a LOT in two decades. And, as if I haven’t already told you, I’m STILL learning a lot.
So, I thought I’d tell you about a few things I’ve discovered, in no particular order, after 20 Years in business…I stopped at 8 because that’s my favourite number. I look forward to updating this list in 2033.
- Nothing is as black and white as we’d like to make it.Humans love patterns and brains want predictability. And while we can attain a lot of this in singing, we really can’t catalogue and command it all the way we’d like. The day-to-day ebb and flow of health, environment and personality keep the instrument in flux – and when we’re honest, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
- We have more intuition about our voices and our bodies than we realise BUT vocal health is not intuitive within our cultural framework.There is a gentle art of listening to what our bodies need when they are dealing with pathogens, allergens, stress, or injury. And the voice can be phenomenally integral in that art if we take the time to learn its language. Competing with the body and voice’s messaging, though, is a culture thatis primed to rush us, help us mask pain, sell us remedies, and basically just fast-track us through adversity. I’ve learned that adversity is a gold-class teacher if we will slow down and learn from it.
- Terminology is a very fuzzy caterpillar.Thankfully medical terms like thyroarytenoid, larynx, epithelium and diaphragm are not disputed. But terms like belt, vocal tone, breathiness, and phrasing mean different things across genres, teachers, industry professionals, and individual singers. It’s both glorious and frustrating to tease it all out.
- Voices are simultaneously more robust AND more vulnerable than I first expected.I am always blown away when I see someone who is dysphonic because of short-term damage (like screaming at a concert or sporting event) regain their voice in only 24-48 hours. This tiny instrument that relies on a chain event of conditions to make unique sounds can suffer a battering and then recover its wits and get on with life! However, I have seen too many instances of this bounce-back-ability being abused or misunderstood for my liking. We can be so used to our voicerebounding that we just assume it always will. But when things go wrong, jobs and lifestyles are impacted and it’s usually not a short-term recovery. That’s why I coach people to love their voice like an irreplaceable work of art.
- Singing is not linear.When we study vocal pedagogy, we learn about sequences of events that seem to follow each other in the body. My brain decides to make a certain sound, it organises my breath to flow at a particular rate through my larynx where my vocal folds vibrate in response at the rate required for that sound, sending sound waves into my resonating cavities to bounce around gaining colour, which I shape into vowels and consonants and send out of my mouth (mainly) into the world for anearby hearing receptacle to capture. See..linear sequence, right? Wrong! Because each system in the sequence affects the systems before and after it, the process is far less absolute than I first thought. And, unsurprisingly, because new technology enables new research into the voice, eventhis understanding is constantly evolving.
- I make everything complicated – especially when a degree in music doesn’t prepare you to run your own business.In the past two years, I have learned to appreciate that I do not perceive or process the world in a “neurotypical” manner. Like many other creatives, I have a special sparkly brain that approaches ideas and tasks in certain ways. And one of the defaults I war with daily is over-complicating things. This makes writing and planning especially challenging. And let’s not get started on all the skills and systems required to run a business. They really should teach that at the Conservatorium!
- Right and wrong don’t exist. Singing is personal and subjective.This ought to be obvious in the 21st century, but we couldn’t be further from internalising it. As soon as we enter organised educational systems, we start ranking our skills in comparison with others. So my favourite thing to help people discover is to love and value their own voice and all it is capable of – JUST AS IT IS. Sure, we can learn from others, be inspired by them and grow from their influence. But we’re neither into cloning nor rubberstamping. I hate the music spaces where people hear that they “aren’t good enough to sing in this institution/organisation/industry….”
- The industry is bossy, fickle and transient.And yet, in the last two decades, I have been engaged to help people prepare to audition for industries that do have standards and aesthetics they are looking for. Honouring each individual and their dream is priority one as they knock on that door. And, as I heard one footballer say, cultivating a “Plan A and a Plan A” is always on the agenda. Because all the hard work and skill inthe world won’t guarantee that the industry will open its door to you. How marvellous that the music room is always open to everybody.
Thank you for hanging in on the journey with me. It was really good to reflect on where I’ve come from to write this list…I hope it helps me with all that is to come.
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