Monday, March 30, 2009

Love, Trust, Honesty, Faith, Truth and the Universe

Love sees through layers of lies
With light: penetrating, lilting beams.
It caresses carefully created existences
And replaces replicas with reality.

Trust tells tales of torment:
To trust is to tear away
From fickle fantasy to face
The actuality of all embracing Love.

Honesty hopes for heartfelt humility
And hears only that which it honors highly,
That which we in wonderment want:
The ever-bright-light of Eternity on Earth.

Faith fears not for finally it finds
In a fellow follower of fearlessness, friendship
And confidence in clarity and creative
Impulse.  (Indeed it induces immaculate imaginings.)

Truth takes all things and turns them 
To teardrops of light tightly tuned to
God's vibrating visions of verity for
Us in ultimate understanding and wisdom.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tosca's Revelations: What Women can learn from the opera and why Men should listen, too

When I first moved to Vienna several years ago I was heavily involved in the Church.  I went to Bible Studies and participated in activities with my Church family.  I was searching for something, for my Self or for God, or both of these at once.  Along this journey I met a missionary named Erwin who helped me refine my faith in singing and in life.

At one of our weekly coffee teaching sessions where we read the Bible and discussed God's will and desires for humanity, Edwin told me it was good that God gave me the gift of a voice but that I would only be serving Him if I used my voice to sing sacred music.  Any music that is not in direct praise of God is inherently harmful to the world, he said. What is opera all about?  Rape, murder, hatred, revenge.  Why proliferate these things into the world?               

His questions forced me to contemplate what I was doing with my life, the nature of good and bad, and the nature individual responsibility.  My response to Edwin's comment has taken a few years and is partly taking the form of my new CD Expressions of Love©2009.  The CD website has more information and commentary about my vision for the project.

Today I realized that I can go a step further in affirming the worth, goodness, and beauty of opera while I was studying the score of Tosca.  The character, the person of Floria Tosca has been on my mind since Maestro pronounced in public that I am 'the Tosca of his dreams'.  The spinto soprano in me was ecstatic.   Tosca is a beautiful, challenging, demanding and rewarding part.  It is a dream role.  But the woman in me held back from claiming Floria as my own. One of Erwin's fears for me those years ago was that if I embodied characters such as Tosca: jealous, a bit vain, tragic and sadly weak in the ways that matter to her survival in the story, that I might go beyond becoming them on stage.  I might BE them in real life.  

In a way, admitting as a woman that I AM Floria Tosca in all of her imperfections as I sing her asks for more faith and trust than Erwin was asking me to exercise in his version of my life by renouncing all but sacred music.  In a way seeing myself AS Floria  or any other strange, imperfect, or tragic woman in opera shows true compassion and curiosity, and requires true humility. 

Stories and fairy tales, I am told, evolved as a means of teaching.  Before people could read they told stories to pass on knowledge from generation to generation.  Indeed the Bible itself in all of its spiritual revelations survived as an oral tradition long before it was proliferated in written form.  

Could it be that opera, even with all its entertaining qualities, is a hidden means of teaching the ones who perform it and listen to it? When I consider closely Erwin's warning, I know that indeed every part I learn has something to teach me as a singer as I become them.  I have to widen my experience and open my heart to the possibilities inherent in their circumstances.  I have to reflect upon what it means to be them, on many levels.  I become them, but not without completely searching for and making room for them in my heart, mind, and soul.  Only with this knowledge of the character can I safely sing their experiences in the context of my own life.

With this Blog Entry I would like to put down two revelations about Giacomo Puccini's opera (and of course Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa's libretto).  I am certain that with time and experience I will learn much much more from Floria, but these two lessons seem to be the most glaringly important to learn from the opera to me right now.

(If you don't know the story of Tosca now would be a good time to learn of it.  I found a good summary at The Metropolitan Opera's website.)

Revelation 1: Jealousy doesn't do any good

It is easy to think that Floria Tosca's story as one of mere jealousy and its consequences. From the beginning of the opera Floria's suspicions color the story green.  For a while I was very annoyed at her because I thought that she was stupid to allow her emotions to rule and to lead her and her lover Cavaradossi into such dire danger.  I vowed to never be that way in real life. But then I saw her reaction as simply an expression of her understanding of love.  She, in all of her apparent intelligence, power and passion, wants to own and control love.  She wants to own the very thing that makes her a fiery and expressive opera singer herself.  Cavaradossi's painting of the Madonna is an expression of love and art, but Floria must, in her insecurity, see herself as the sole source of inspiration in the painter's life.  Because of this she forces him to change his expression of love in compliance with her will.  Tosca, very arrogantly, wants to define love only with her thoughts and imagination.  She cannot let love simply be what it is.

We women can learn from Tosca's mistake by treating each relationship (romantic or otherwise) we have in life as a coming together of life-artists in search of individual ways of expressing love.  We cannot own what another does any more than they can own and dictate what we do in the name of goodness and love.  We can only observe another's actions and sense and appreciate who they are as their very, good, selves.

Cavaradossi was trying to save a life as Tosca heard the rustling of clothes that started her jealous spiral downward.  She lacked the basic trust in life and love to know that the man she loved was a hero.

Revelation 2:  It's not all Tosca's fault

Here's where men can learn a thing or two by observing how Cavaradossi (wrongly, in my opinion) treated Tosca in an attempt to protect her.

If Cavaradossi had out and out told Floria how he was helping Angelotti hide he would have taken the risk that she would tell authorities.  But from what I know of the strengths of Tosca, she would have gladly agreed to help lodge him and bring him to safety.  It was this 'chivalrous' hiding of information from his other self, this arrogant attitude, that Tosca could not help or contribute to the situation, that brought on his demise and hers in the end.  Men must work together with women and vice versa.  No problem is simply a female or male problem.  We can only close the gender gaps in the world by admitting that what we are living is humanity in whole, and that no sex is left alone in the fight for love.

Oh...and by the way, if he couldn't trust Tosca with the desires of his heart and the important goings-on of his life's work, why was he with her in the first place?!

As we, the human race grow stronger, more aware of our responsibilities on this Earth, it is good to see where others went wrong so that we can do the right thing.  

Perhaps I have adopted a soapbox with this entry and if so I think it is okay.  We will only be free of Tosca-and-Cavaradossi-like faults when we see each of them in us.  In all joy and wonder I claim both of these characters as parts of me, and will sing their music with a full and respectful heart, confident that what I am doing is good and beautiful.

Oprah Winfrey said "I believe that every single event in life happens in an opportunity to choose love over fear."  Opera is full of these events and choices, and in the end the music tells us that it all ends up as love anyway.  The story-land world of opera shows me that day by day I must be convinced, like I am when I sing or listen to great music, that love is always the right choice, with trust and faith and honesty right behind.

Thank you Tosca, thank you Cavaradossi, for your beautiful lives, and the music and words that wrote your experience, and that teach us how to be the best we can be.


Thursday, March 26, 2009



Safe, War?m, Full
Soft, A Live

(Unspoken yet Heard
Important yet Not)

In One Little Spot
SensA(c)tions cl Aim
Every Mo Me(a)nt,
Every Thought.

Paul Klee:  Hat Kopf, Hand, Fuß
rEnd me 
to the Core

so that I exi(s)t 
this Li(f)e
no more

but rather








Make me

aP Art

of your Whole.


the f All ing a Way

of what Is (not).

MEet me there?


No shame

is the name

and the aim

of Love.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Love the Voice

Kindness is a fleeting whisper
To the ears of the weary heart
And joyful laughter in the soul
Of One who knows the Truth

Sometimes I struggle with a sense of a lack of purpose in the world.  Like most people I wonder 'What am I doing here?'.  More particularly I ask myself 'Why am I studying singing?'  'Why should I sing?'  'What is so special about me, about my voice, that it should be heard?'.

Yesterday I sang the best I ever sang in a competition for opera in a small town in southern Italy.  I sang Tosca's aria, 'Vissi d'arte, vissi d'amore' ('I lived for art, I lived for love').  With Maestro by my side I warmed up to sing with the knowledge that my voice is working in an organic, easy way that I have been searching for since I started singing lessons many years ago.  The voice was flowing, complete.  I did not have to imagine that I was singing well.  More than a fleeting feeling, my awareness of beauty--that I am an expression of beauty and love--ran so deep it seemed to be a wisdom that I knew before I was born.

And yet, even after singing with the awareness of ancient wisdom, I did not make it past the first round of the competition.  Strangely when I got the news it did not change my triumphant mood.  The fact that I 'lost' could not take away the knowledge that I sang incredibly well. Having Maestro's uncompromising ears by my side only confirmed the belief I have that I am, finally and with eternal gratefulness, approaching the place I have been searching for all my life: the place of awareness that I am who I am, and where who I am is more than enough.  In fact, it is the source of all goodness and love, all light and happiness, trust and belief--the place where everything that is not true is burned in the fire and gentle, insistent violence of Love, and where I stand and sing only as my Self.

Although my sense of achievement is not tarnished by my loss, the way the world reacts to my voice never fails to spark questions in my mind about what I am doing.  'Why not take the easy way?' I'm tempted to ask.  'Why not believe what so many others believe: that success is something that can be purchased rather than earned, and that singing and living truthfully is not the ultimate goal, but getting ahead at any cost IS?'

When these questions come up I like to turn to what I have learned on this Journey to finding my voice.  I like to turn to the things I've learned to be true, and I like to think of ways I might share these things with the world as a way of giving my struggles and my search for answers worth.  

I've chosen to write today about kindness.  

Fred Rogers is my great Vorbild, or role model, when I think of someone who really understands the value of true kindness and gentleness.  When I met him in person at my brother's graduation from Dartmouth College where he gave the keynote speech I felt an all-embracing love which radiated from him in a way that made me know that everything is okay, all is fine and well with me, with who I am.  He radiated the Truth that we are all loved unconditionally and unquestionably.  In his presence, all darkness and unclarity was more than burned away.  It was proven unimportant, practically non-existent in the light of his awareness.

This is the way that I have always hoped to approach singing, and the world: with such a faith in the Light that darkness disappears; with such a knowledge of Love that hatred has no power.

Where does kindness then come in?  Why be kind at all to our selves and to others, especially when the path to singing truthfully seems full of such roadblocks and bends in the road?  Why, on the search to our Selves, is the Other so important?

Mr. Rogers said

"There is something of yourself that you leave with every meeting with another person."

If we examine ourselves truthfully as singers we will find that we have many valuable opportunities to leave parts of the essence of who we are with other people.  The nature of who we are is visible and vocal, and audible at high decibels.  Are we always thinking about the nature of our sounds, the basic foundation and impetus of our performing?  If we were, not only would we experience more joy and security in performance but we would also be educating audiences to expect and crave not just perfection but real life on stage.  

My first teacher in Europe, the great Kammersängerin Christa Ludwig, once told me the story of how she cracked a high note on the stage of the Vienna State Opera during a performance of a new role.  It was a chance occurrence, and covered over by her excellence the rest of the evening.  In all her beauty and sincerity, the audience forgave and applauded her.  Madame Ludwig told me at the end of this story that she was sorry that audiences today would probably not be so forgiving of a young singer.

But why is that?  I can think of no singer that sang with more heart than the great Christa Ludwig.  What she gave on stage is the same thing that I experienced from her singing in her home in France: a love so refined in the form of sound that it makes you forget everything which is unimportant and surrender to its infinite power.  Is it only the listener's job to seek this power out?  How can an audience be choosy and demand this kind of living, organic beauty if it never presents itself?  How can we singers blame an unforgiving or ignorant audience when all they are hearing is 'perfection' in the form of lifeless, heartless performing?  It is our job to bring the heart, soul, and life back to the singing world.  It is our duty to seek out ways to love our voices and our selves so that others can also understand and take part in this unconditional love.

It is this unconditional love which inspires kindness.  The road to learning the truth of what a voice really is, how closely it is related to heart and soul and the very being of who we are, must be accompanied by kindness.  Where there is kindness to ourselves and others, we know that we are on the right path.

Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese writer who lived over the turn of the 20th century who my brother introduced me to around the same time he graduated from Dartmouth, said that

"Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness but manifestations of strength and resolution."

For reasons that I will hopefully be able to articulate soon on this blog, I am committed and resolved to express the very fundamental truth of what it means to be a singer.  I will continue to do this in the face of rejection and failure.  I will continue with it because I know that Love wins in a subversive, silent war that embraces all of who we are, beyond death, beyond darkness and lies, beyond even who we think that we are.  I am committed to the manifest nature of Love that is inherent in every piece of great music and expressed by every great singer.  

It is a great honor to be on this path, and as always I express my deepest gratitude to Maestro, to Madame Ludwig, and to the many other people who have shown me the kindness that it takes to reveal the Love and the Truth that exists in me and in every one of us.

Now, on with the Journey!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What Makes a Singer? Meditations on a Quote from Rumi

Love is our Mother and
The way of our Prophet.
Yet it is in our nature
To fight with Love.
We can't see you, mother,
Hidden behind dark veils
Woven by ourselves.

What are we doing when we attempt to learn an art form, to dissect and reproduce an ideal?  We are weaving a web in our minds, building a structure of thought and a system of instructions to hold what we experience as pure love, beauty, and truth.  We try to get as close as we can to this truth by understanding how other people experience it.  But in the end, all of the understanding of technique in the world cannot make us see the truth, cannot allow us to experience it.   

Sometimes I feel that owning a singing technique is a little bit like having faith that we can harness the power of a raging river.  We build up dams and and dig deep for space, and make sure that the pressure of water flow is just right so we can mine the gold that is sifted through the river bottom at just the right velocity to make it all pay out in the end.  But it is easy to forget that the source of our gold (our truest sound) is this raging river of love, energy, and light.  It is easy to get intimidated by the power of love, of music, of the rapids, and to think that we must need some additional strength from somewhere other than our true selves to harness it.  

We must continually reinforce whatever parts of our 'web' of technique to handle the changing character of the river of love.  Sometimes the river is weak and placid and we don't have to work hard to keep things together.  Other times the rapids of love are so strong and the path of the river so deviant that we might feel we have to start building all over again.

What I am learning is that the most important thing to remember is that the river, whether placid or rapid, is Love itself, and nothing to be intimidated by.  Only when we try to change the nature of this love do we run in to resistance.  Only when we wake up to the river and see that it's a 'difficult flow' do we create problems for ourselves in mining the gold of our voices.  All we can do as singers is take stock every day of the Love that flows through us and step up or down our operations in answer to Love.

To be a singer is to be moved by the flow of the truth of who we are in our entirety.  Mostly we are sensitive because the source of our voices is one and the same with the source of who we are: ever-changing and ever-flowing.  

'Hidden by dark webs Woven by ourselves'  we can attempt to weave a structure that will accommodate every shift in our lives.  We can become stiff and build our 'technique' up to the point that we forget there is a river at all under concrete certainty.  Or we can see the strength and unique beauty of allowed fragility, in the way that a spider builds intricate, transluscent designs that sparkle with the light and clarity of love itself but may be destroyed by the heavy dew of evening.  The spider wakes the next day, and like the vulnerable singer awake to the true nature of life and love, rebuilds her web in accordance with the conditions of the morning.

Let us see you Love, Let us see you, Mother.  Indeed, let us be you by building our lives in ways where the webs we weave, rather than hiding us from you, reflect your beauty, ever-true.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What Is Beautiful Singing?

Today in my voice lesson, I received an explicit instruction that should have been easy to fulfill: 'Rebecca, sing this piece beautifully'.

On any other day until today I would have nodded self-assuredly at Maestro, and confident in the qualities of my voice, I would have produced a sound that had been called beautiful by someone in the past. I would have reached back in my memory files and tried to remember what must have caused the complimentary listener to call my voice beautiful: a particular emotional involvement, a physical sensation, a facial expression or posture or vocal color.

What I learned today is that there is no simple equation, no A+B=C when it comes to beautiful singing. There is no formula to make me feel safe as a performer and as a person, and there is no way to step back and watch myself sing, detached and technical, separate from the inevitably powerful, insistent flow of music through me, the instrument. This is a most frightening and awe-inspiring realization: I have found that I am not just a person singing but rather I am the music that I sing, at its beck and call as its vehicle. This leaves no room at all for wondering how my voice might sound from the outside. It leaves no room for judgment and only room for wonder. Singing now seems to be like building a roller-coaster while I ride it. Learning technique is about digesting the laws of physics thoroughly enough so that I don't end up flying off the very track I'm building as quickly as I can!

This is not what I thought I was signing up for when I decided to study music! It wasn't what I had in mind while investing so much life into my voice! I did not reckon that the time would come when I would be flying through the air, building my safety net below me while on a projection course to the end of an opera! I thought one day I would come to the point where the entire roller-coaster of this journey called 'Being an Opera Singer' would be built, steady and safe, and all I would have to do is climb on, strap on my seat belt, and go for the ride. Little did I know that it would all be much, much more thrilling and exciting than I ever imagined.

The only way I think I can describe this sensation, this realization to you more clearly might be with a metaphor: letting go and trusting in the moment has happened to me in Love. It's the feeling I get when I am with a particular person and the connection between us is so strong that when we look in each others eyes the rest of the world disappears. Suddenly there are no appointments, no alarm clocks, no train schedules and no directions. There is only US: that which makes us up and that which brought us together. In these moments time stands still. In these moments I understand perfect rest, perfect peace in being who I am. In the arms of Love I am completely present and time stands still.

Only, Love must get up and move around once in a while! Love cannot sit hour after hour staring into its own eyes. It must read maps and organize hours. It must decide what to eat and when to go to sleep. It must take care that it doesn't fall down when crossing the street. Each of these little functional details, the makings of a life, are to me like the different notes and phrases in an aria. Love is the music itself in its entirety. Letting Love function it what I do as a singer. The music demands action and flexibility in the same ways that our busy lives demand these things: we must be ready for any variable and any change and we must be able to adapt at any moment. And most importantly we must know what we are living for so that we can organize our priorities as we adapt to the things that life brings us.

What I am learning more and more is how to remember the reason why I sing in every moment. As in a relationship where Love is the driving force to keep it alive, music is the power that gives me reason to keep singing. Trusting in the sacredness and divinity, in the perfection of every little note in the score and sticking to it is like trusting that every puzzle piece in life, each moment spent doing even the mundane, is a part of the greatness inherent in our experience. Honoring every musical detail and then letting in go so it can claim its moment in time without overstaying its welcome is a lot like doing the dishes. We do them, they take a bit of time, and when they are done there is another activity to do. The next musical phrase is cooking a meal and eating, the next after that is calling our Mom or taking the dogs on a walk. Each activity, when supported by Love, is equal and just as requiring of our letting it go to move on to the next.

So what does all of this have to do with beautiful singing?

I have recently learned about Helioseismology, or the study of the sounds that the sun makes. Some people say that, through quakes and vibrations the sun sings her own song.

Does the sun know she's singing?

When we are truly loving, do we know it? Or is Love more like a way of being that we can remain in forever if we are willing to dedicate everything in our lives to letting it shine?

Beautiful singing is as bright as the sun singing in all of her glory. The details, the vibrations of her songs provide the details and flourishes of her performance, and she expresses herself through countless variations of energy and light, just like we live our lives through variations of love. Each moment is different, and the sun, thank goodness, never stops to wonder at the changes. She just sings on an on, and keeps us warm while we learn from her the meaning of beauty, and the power of true song.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

How the Voice Heals

My first voice teacher, the renowned Kammersängerin Hilde Zadek, used to refer to 'das Es' or 'the It'  all the time in my lessons.  In the way that we can intuit what a person might be saying in a language we have not yet learned, I knew what she meant.  I knew what she meant in the same way I knew what the wind was saying to me in the forested valley beside the house where I grew up.  It was a language I knew but had somehow forgotten: a vocabulary you cannot buy a dictionary for.  The words come only from being around people who have remembered how to speak it.

As those who know me most intimately are already aware, I have been on a journey of rediscovery, of healing.  On this point on my path as a singer I find myself asking:

When something in us is deemed 'broken', who or what is It that 'fixes' us?  If our voices, our hearts, our legs, our arms...our souls are broken, are we the ones who fix them? Or are our Voices, our Hearts, our Dancing Legs, our Embracing Arms and our Complete Souls the ones that fix us?

'Das Es' was the topic of every lesson with Madame Zadek.  She saw through my tears, through my desire and good intentions to the truth of what I was really seeking...of what I was really wanting to sing.

Madame Zadek taught me many ways to think of the 'It': It's like a boat floating on a stormy sea; like a child inside of you that might want to laugh at any moment; like looking at a beautiful flower or the snow falling silently outside the window.  I could understand all of these things, for indeed I knew love.  But somehow, my voice, for which Madame Zadek in all her knowledge knew that we needed 'the It', had retreated from that which which we were seeking.

I have been on a spiritual path ever since walking the bright red carpet in the Church we went to as kids.  When I heard the Voice of God call me there one day when I was practicing, at about the time Madame Zadek first told me about 'das Es', I knew that my search for my voice and my search for salvation were one in the same.  They are both simply the search for Love.

What is It that we are all actually seeking?  What is It that we bury?  What is It that needs healing and completion but the realization of true Love?

This true Love has nothing to do with religion or location, with experience or ability.  It is something that is in us at any time, and of which we see and hear only reflections on the outside until we find Its source on the inside of us.  It is why I could always identify passionately with my favorite artists: Leontyne Price and Maria Callas, Ani diFrano and the Indigo Girls, Christa Ludwig, Karajan and Paul McCartney, and my Mother.  I could hear the voice of 'das Es' calling to me from inside of them, begging me to come out and play like the voice of a child, the snort of a horse first thing in the morning, or the playful paw of a puppy in my lap.  It was calling me years and years ago, and, with time, I chose to answer It with all that I am.  I surrendered.

And now, with the violence of whatever made us all, 'das Es' owns me.  But not in the way of a strict patriarch.  It owns me in the arms of a mother and the compassion of a father; in the infinite giving of wonderful parents and the uncompromising love of forgiving siblings.  It owns me, as I am owned in the arms of my lover.

My every hope is that I write things that people understand and with which they identify.  But if by chance, you, reader, are afraid of what I have written here, I would encourage you to welcome the fear. For if I have learned anything on this beautiful journey, it is that where my fear lives, just beyond there is 'das Es'--and the secret Love that heals us all.

And if you should scorn what I've written here or find it childish or inapplicable to the world as we know it today, please take just a moment to listen to the wind or to take a taste of the finest chocolate or the finest wine, or to fall headlong into the embrace of someone who loves you. There you might remember yourself as a child, and by chance even believe that there was a time when 'It' spoke to you in a language you understood.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Meeting My Master

'The Skin Horse Tells His Story'

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day...  "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse.  "It's a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse.  "You become.  It takes a long time.  That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

"I suppose you are real?" said the Rabbit.  ...  But the Skin Horse only smiled.

"The Boy's Uncle made me Real" he said.  "That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can't become unreal again.  It lasts for always."


I am Little Rabbit.  Ever since reading The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams I know this. I am sincere and curious.  I ask important questions, and I want to make sure I'm living life to the fullest.  I want to understand true love.  I want to be REAL.

As the vision for this Blog is developing, I think long and deep about when it is in my life that I began to become a Singer.  Is it at 12 years old with my first formal voice lesson?  Is it at 4 in the St. Thomas Church Children's Choir with Mom at the organ?  Is it when I first experienced God? or birth? or death?  Is it when I lost my first love, or when I found it?  

There are, in fact, countless moments in my life which make me a Singer.  And more importantly there are countless people in my life who make me Real.  They understand that true love looks far beyond the little wounds and scruffiness we accumulate along our Way. They observe the inanimate and see dancing.  They quietly listen to the unspoken and hear singing. 

I wish to dedicate this, my first blog entry on One Singer's Journey, to a person who entered my life recently but who seems to have been by my side since my first breath.  He is a great observer and listener.  With him I cannot help but dance and sing.

That I illustrate my love for my teacher through this little children's book I hope he does not find surprising.  For when are we the most loved and the most real as when we are like children?  When do we express our most sincere thoughts and emotions better than when there are no expectations, no rules, no boundaries, like in the imagination of a child?

Without guidance, the process of becoming our true selves and finding our true voices leaves us faded and worn and, like the Velveteen Rabbit, discarded and sad.  It is sometimes difficult to remember what we are searching for when wounds seem to run so deep and to be so permanent.  

I wonder how many singers, like me, know and understand deeply Little Rabbit's story.  You may be told you are a real singer by people who love you and wish you every good thing...but that's not enough.  It's not enough to get you through this world in tact.  

The Velveteen Rabbit is lucky.  He earns his scars through the love of The Boy.  After running through the fields, being left outside into the evening and bouncing in wheelbarrows all over the country, Little Rabbit reaches the end of the day worn, but at least worn through love.   All too often, we are left worn, but by people who do not love us.

The story ends well for Rabbit, as we all know:

It was light now, for the moon had risen.  All the forest was beautiful, and the fronds of the bracken shown like frosted silver.  In the open glade between the tree-trunks the wild rabbits danced with their shadows on the velvet grass, but when they saw the Fairy they all stopped dancing and stood round in a ring to stare at her.

'The Fairy Flower'

"I've brought you a new playfellow," the Fairy said. "You must be very kind to him and teach him all he needs to know in Rabbit-land, for he is going to live with you for ever and ever!"

And she  kissed the little Rabbit again and put him down on the grass.

"Run and play, little Rabbit!" she said.

But the little Rabbit sat quite still for a moment and never moved.  For when he saw all the wild rabbits dancing around him he suddenly remembered about his hind legs, and he didn't want them to see that he was made all in one piece.  He did not know that when the Fairy kissed him that last time she had changed him altogether.  And he might have sat there a long time, too shy to move, if just then something hadn't tickled his nose, and before he thought what he was doing he lifted his hind toe to scratch it.

And he found that he actually had hind legs!  Instead of dingy velveteen he had brown fur, soft and shiny, his ears twitched by themselves, and his whiskers were so long that they brushed the grass.  He gave one leap and the joy of using those hind legs was so great that he went springing about the turf on them, jumping sideways and whirling round as the others did, and he grew so excited that when at last he did stop to look for the Fairy she had gone.

He was a real rabbit at last, at home with other rabbits.


Master Jean-Ronald LaFond, through his teaching, reminds me of this story and Little Rabbit's Journey.  Jean-Ronald teaches with a mere breath that beautiful singing means being REAL. He teaches me that I hold the key to my own Becoming, and that what makes a Master is the ability to inspire this knowledge of Self in the disciple.  So that, like the Fairy who arrives in Rabbit's darkest hour, True Love in all its transforming power may arrive and give us EVERY reason to dance and to sing.