The voice is an organism in need of cultivation.
We are living in a world that is focused on 'hard work'. However 'hard work' has no meaning unless we know why we are working! We hear almost every great singing artist speak about how they got to where they are because they 'worked hard'. When we hear this kind of reasoning, many questions spring to mind:
What drives this person? Is it a daily grind of work, work, work, or is it something more? What kind of 'work' is necessary to serve an art form as powerful and wide-reaching as opera? Where does the energy and the spirit come from to fuel this work?...
Yes, singing takes work, but not in the way we think. We are taught that more hours in the practice room will create a better singer. Yet there are stories of students who have sung themselves to vocal graves from over practice, trying to do all the right things toward success while never achieving a true knowledge of and peaceful relationship to their Voices.
What do we mean by working on the Voice?
This Fourth Principle is strongly based on Kammersängerin Hilde Zadek's advice to me to "get to know and allow your IT". When we think of the Voice as something in need of care and in need of our understanding, we are suddenly free of the pressure to become what we are not. This is why I capitalize the word Voice in most of my posts here on Opera Organically. The Voice is much more than a tool, much more than something which we are taught to shape and manipulate into a thing which will bring us fame and glory.
The Voice is an entity which has chosen US as ITs means of expression!
The Voice is already complete, an already accessible element of who we are, capable of growth under our gentle attention and understanding. When we trust this, we realize we are cultivating a part of us which is already present and already complete. Learning to sing from this perspective becomes an incredible journey of discovery, like peeling the petals slowly open from the flowers of our Hearts until we can gaze in and see the true beauty of what the Voice is.
Very rarely does Voice show Herself all at once! S/He asks for us to discover what S/He needs to grow. We must learn to speak His language, to hear what S/He's asking for...to learn to have a dialogue with IT. This is what it means to 'work' on the Voice! This 'work' means thousands of questions which seem to lead to nowhere...until we hear an answer on the wind or in a dream. It means being willing and able to see the Voice which we sense to be incredibly beautiful and powerful (and rightly so!) in ourselves at the beginning of our studies as a tiny seed. At the beginning IT is almost invisible, but with the correct kind of work, IT will grow into the majestic expression of who we are that we always knew IT could be.
A gardener who knows that her prize winning tomato plants begin from a tiny seed trusts that with love and attention, the right environment and the most nourishing soil, the plant will grow on its own. So it can be with Voice! When we know that our very selves are the soil, the sun, the earth and water with which we allow our Voices to grow, what magic is possible in our lives--and what an incredibly beautiful responsibility we have as singers! Male or female, we are pregnant with the Essence of our Voices from the day we are conceived! What a joyful discovery!!
This post is dedicated to my friend Evelyn,
beautiful pastor-in-training, with whom, in Vienna,
Opera Organically gave Voice to the idea of 'cultivation'.