Monday, November 23, 2020

Finding Voice in the Winter

Messages From the Heart, Singing

Finding Voice in the Winter

I’ve had the distinct honor of helping many singers who’ve been on this planet longer than other singers find their expression of voice.

It is immensely moving to guide a singer toward the ability to express life in song. It’s sometimes bittersweet, but no less beautiful a process when we experience a blossoming of voice in the late fall or winter of our lives.

Voice, a teacher once told me, does not leave us alone until it is expressed through us. This is true of every person who is born to sing.  

There are infinite things we can learn from finding voice at any stage of life. Learning to sing teaches us singers how to be us. Our realizations along this path can be profound.

There are a few epiphanies that occur to these more mature singers I’d like to share with you…not to inspire regret or sadness…but to spread knowledge and empowerment to inspire ALL people who want to sing.

When we are harshly criticized we are likely finding our voice.

    Voice does not appear at first in a pretty package. It’s messy.  It’s often a powerful expression of ‘ugly’ truth. Sometimes it’s desperate in its need for approval, or blind/deaf in its need to express itself. Very few people know how to recognize its emergence, like a rare flower that takes time to show its beauty.

2.   The people who first shut down our voice will most likely not be the ones to guide us to it.

    Singers who find voice later in life often wonder why they looked for approval from the same people, over and over, not imagining a different possibility.  There is another way, and it’s often away from the people who cannot hear us.

3.   There are tools and guidelines for finding voice. It’s a path we can walk, with steps. It’s filled with positive possibilities.

    Voice, in its true expression, is positive possibility. To sing our balanced, powerful voice is to live a life full of beauty and truth.

What can we do with this information, no longer how long we’ve been on this Earth? We can walk with compassion as we observe this “messy” life. We humans are divine instruments, built to vibrate with the beauty of love. We can live, and let live. We can be sung…and it’s not up to us, sometimes, how, when, and why we find voice…but we can live a life trying, which, in itself, is singing.

With Love and Music, From the Heart


Friday, July 17, 2020

Teacher-Student/Leader-Servant: Finding Voice, "From the Heart"

Author Bio: Rebecca Fromherz is a Singing Teacher-Student/Leader-Servant based in Oregon. Her current work stems from a professional singing career which morphed into a passionate desire to share Pathways to Voice with everyone. The place for this is "From the Heart Singing."  Rebecca teaches singers and teachers of all ages virtually and in person.

When I began my Journey to Voice, my goal was to please my teachers. After all, every time I won an award or an audition, my teachers were pleased! The more success I experienced as a young singing student, the more I focused on what my teachers thought. Even after winning a spot at the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory and graduating there with honors, I did not feel I could sing. I was asking everyone but myself for affirmation of my voice. I felt empty, anxious. Auditioning was at times traumatic, and voice lessons were often just cathartic crying sessions. I did not know what was "wrong" with me. In fact, when I listen back to recordings, my voice was everything I had been told it was: beautiful, powerful, deeply expressive and full of potential. So, what was the issue?

Around this time, a wise person told me the key to understanding myself as a singer and a person was in following the singing I love.  I took a big chance and contacted a famous singer I admired, mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig, who took me under her wing. As I sang and confided in her, Madame Ludwig became equally perplexed with my "problem." You have gold in your throat! she would say. Why do you not sing? Christa sent me to a friend and colleague of hers, a true Stalwart Heart of Singing, the late Hilde Zadek, in Vienna, for help. If anyone can teach you, it's Hilde! Christa said, I think, with a silent prayer for me.

Signs of light to bring me out of my grief and anxiety came at my first lesson with Madame Zadek. I still cried at nearly every lesson for six months, but the framework she gave me that first day brought a life-giving context which shapes the way I interpret my past and future as a life-long learner. Singing is simple Madame Zadek said. All you have to do is learn to feel with your head and think with your heart. There you go! It's simple.

But it wasn't easy. Madame Zadek's words bore into my self-doubt sometimes with the pain of an emotional electric drill. They forced me to construct a new personal reality where I could be fully present to my own self and voice at all times, especially when I didn't want to be. I had to know myself deeply, which meant it was not nearly enough to listen to who others told me I was. Paradoxically, I went through this deeply challenging journey of self-discovery at the same time I was singing professionally around Europe. I had voice--and yet I didn't believe it.  The missing pieces to the puzzle of my existence began to appear as I realized what many professional singers dread: Dear God I thought, Maybe I'm a TEACHER!

In the one thing I always strove to avoid--teaching, I found the missing pieces of myself. I began to see a drive in me was developing that had been present alongside my performing from the beginning.  This drive was to observe and share the sometimes excruciating human experience of being and becoming a person who can, with full awareness, embody voice.

I found my "teaching tribe" when I literally fell into a Masters of Education at Willamette University. My enrollment there grew out of a single, chance encounter and conversation with the Dean of the School of Education where it seemed the missing part of me was finally heard. The part of me that loves to share how to find voice almost more than that I've found voice was born and grew up in that program.

At Willamette, I learned that it is as important for a teacher to be a student, as it is for a student to be a teacher. I realized the anxiety I felt as a young learner stemmed from a disempowerment that could only be remedied by seeing myself as a teacher of myself and--horrors--even of my teachers, in my own learning. My fragility as a student could only be healed by seeking and finding a deeper source of authority of voice than even the opinions of the people I revered. I had to see voice in myself so I could recognize voice in the very people who were trying to help me. This was the greatest enlightenment I'd experienced as a human being.  It changed my life as a singer, as a student, and as a teacher.

From that point on I began a fascination with asking questions of my students like: How do you sing in your dreams? Does your current singing feel like it's leading to the experience of which you dream? And, after a series of strengthening exercises, for instance: Do you feel this voice expresses ALL of YOU? Or Who does your voice say that you are...?

I began to take my students' wildest aspirations as authority. I started to see their heart, their desire as my teachers. I used those scarily amorphous, hard-for-a-teacher-to-define-with-her-mind signposts to help my students design Pathways to Their Own Voice. I took notes based on my student's observations, asked them to keep journals, and listened carefully. I had learned to conduct Teacher Research. I saw its power in the transformations my students experienced. I heard it as they sang, and according to my students, my actual teachers, they felt, heard, and saw it, too.

Now at George Fox University, in the Doctorate of Educational Leadership Program, I have been invited to dance between an equally powerful set of opposites that compliments the "Teacher/Student" dichotomy, which I know now is more of a gradual convergence of two different realities than anything black-and-white. Leader-Servant. Servant-Leader... Leader-Servant... ... ... .

I realized with a shock during our first week of residency that my journey as a Teacher-Student/Student-Teacher was, in the most important ways, the same as the journey I've begun at George Fox as a Leader-Servant/Servant-Leader. In order to transform my own, painful world of "voicelessness" and those of my students, I need to serve their deepest vision for their lives as singers with a profound seriousness and positivity. I must honor their current realities while leading them on to new possibilities. I need to lead my students so that I can serve them, as well as recognize fully how my students serve and lead me!

At "From the Heart Singing" the heart and the mind Madame Zadek told me about teach and learn from each other. Heart and mind also, at times, lead and serve each other as the singer grows into what voice needs her to be. Learning to sing becomes a wonderful dance in the truth of Who We Are.

I am excited to continue this new chapter of expanded vision and experience at George Fox. I am inspired by a faculty and colleagues who embody the tools I want to foster in myself. My own dreams as a teacher include seeing how far a heart/mind balance can expand to create not only a stronger and larger body of students at "From the Heart Singing" but also perhaps a community of like-minded teachers who are interested in being and becoming Teacher-Student/Leader-Servants in the voice pedagogy world, together.

Madame Zadek was right. When we listen to the voice of the heart and the mind, when we hear the voice of powerful love inside and out...when we are teachers and students, leaders and servants, it is "simple..."  and it's fun! 

With Music,

~Rebecca Fromherz="From the Heart!"


Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Journey to "Balance and Truth"

For a Wo/Man, The Journey to Voice can be the most heartbreaking, humbling, surprising and, frankly shi**y Path imaginable.

We think singing is something we "get." We think it's a "gift" some of have and some have not. We think we understand and inhabit a technique that is "correct" but doesn't come CLOSE to setting out creative heart free. We think "Someone Else" can give us voice. It is a tangled path, indeed.

We hear our favorite artists sing. They are pouring their feelings out with an abandon that seems impossible to achieve.  We get "good grades" and accolades and yet our heart yells: FRAUD.

What to do?  WHOM TO BE???

I'll tell you. Right NOW. I will tell you the culmination of EVERY SECRET I'VE EVER LEARNED in my lifetime of learning about singing: Singing, good, fulfilling, life-enriching, amazing, satisfying, in-tune-on-every-level singing, is about BALANCE and TRUTH.

The problem is, this BALANCE and TRUTH are YOURS to find. NO ONE can do it for you.

You can learn it by accident, or you can learn it on purpose<<<
Either way we learn it, this Balance and Truth are paramount.

How will you know it? How do we recognize it?

1. Suddenly Voice seems to GIVE BACK. It seems you've been giving everything to your studies, everything to a career, and pure effort leaves you depleted and exhausted. When you're finding balance, Voice is part of Life/Death Cycle. You "kill yourself" for your Art. You kill Ego. You kill Time.  You kill Relationships You Wish You Could Have.  You kill desires that differ with your search for Truth. You exhaust yourself mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. But VOICE. GIVES. BACK. And invariably, the more you commit yourself to Voice, the more ALIVE you feel. Voice births You.

2. You care more what Voice thinks than what anyone else thinks. This here's a tough one, until you give in to it. It's doubly hard for a "good student." Let me tell you here: your True Voice will ask you for things no "good student" would ever do. It might ask you to hate your teacher. It might ask you to understand love in a way you never knew. It might ask you to know you learned MORE when you FAILED than you ever did when you WON. Voice'll talk to you in the night. It'll ask you questions you never could guess the answers to, and then She'll hand the answers over in the shower, or when you're doing the dishes.  Voice might ask you to NOT SING when everyone else says it's a crime that you not sing.  She'll embrace you in the silence, and laugh at you in the noise you create. She'll cut you down, so you can grow in to the person you've always been.

3. You will know that Voice is GOOD, and the Voice. Is. You.   This is the real kicker. All the striving, all the doing, all the studies, the practice, the readings, the blood...they all lead back to YOU. There is no hiding. Voice has you, completely.  This is both a terrifying and comforting fact, depending on what thoughts you are believing, at any given time. OH YEAH BABY, it's a trip, for sure. It's LIFE, and it's AMAZING.

But what of "Technique?!?"

Oh, Technique.  It is the thing we strive for that will set us apart from all the rest.  And, when we achieve a balanced and truthful technique, we find that IT MAKES US LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.


I thought singing was about being "chosen." I thought it was about "sharing a gift" or "honoring the listener" but oh, no. Singing is simply about becoming so achingly human that we can wail out our experience, our newborn's shriek, our most authentic tears,  in a way that DOES NOT KILL US.

It's as simple as that.

And so, on the waning end of another academic year, I find myself reflecting on the people I've been teaching to see PAST the VEIL of the assumptions we make about Voice.

I've been reflecting on what it means to not believe the simplistic definitions of Voice--you know, the paradoxical assumptions I've been writing about all along that say "You can do this! You got this! YOU CAN SING!" BEFORE you even know what you're doing. HA!

This paradox is the most painful reality I know because:

YES. YES. You can do it. You ARE a fabulous singer. BUT until you invite Voice into your life in such a way that you can contain ALL of you in a you-sized container--until YOU can see your BEAUTY in bodily form, in a "Vocal-folds-that-are-half-an-inch-long" package, you will never know the how and why of it--you will never be "in control" of your Voice, and of your singing.

I'm thinking back on all those singers who are SO RIGHT in thinking they can sing like "The Greats" if they just do it!

It's true! have to learn how to be the CREATOR of all your experience. You have to learn to hold the HAND of Voice. You have to learn to be Its friend and lover, Its confidant and partner. You have to LEARN to SUBMIT to Its discipline.

What does that look like?

It means not stopping the search until EVERYTHING you sing leads to TRUTH.

It means not stopping until you can dig to the deepest guts of you and deliver that experience WITH. A. SMILE.

It means finding Guides Who Know What It Means to Die, and Live, for Voice.

It means connecting to your Earthly Body deeply enough that you can experience your Heavenly Body, in real time--and do it with a satisfied sigh.

But how do I disentangle all of us from the mixed messages, from the incomplete techniques and half truths?

I say:

1. If you are singing with a healthy, life-enriching technique, you will be able to express YourSelf at any and all levels of intensity and frequency.

2. If you are singing with a healthy, life-enriching technique, you will be aware of infinite options, of freedom of expression that will align IMMEDIATELY and IN REAL TIME of the Music.

3. If you are singing with a healthy, life-enriching technique, there will be no "absolutes."  Head Voice will melt into Chest Voice until YOU. ARE. SUNG. and no one can define how--except the sounds you are making are "YOU." They are in balance.  They are True.

So, that's It.  That's All.

Don't stop until you can hold you with all the awe and frustration with which Voice does--for She LOVES YOU--oh, yes, She does.

And Heaven Knows, She wants YOU to Be YOU.




Do. Be. Do. Be. Do.

©2019 From the Heart School

Monday, May 13, 2019

Begin Again, and Again

To be a great Singer
is to be a Beginner

to the beauty and love
of Your Music (That Which Plays YOU)

And know what it means
to know.

Singing at Its best
is conscious
AND unconscious

A Being and a Doing

That comes from Us

And also IS Us.

This is why Beginners are always honored at From the Heart School.

HEAR It. FEEL It. BE It. From the Heart.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Notre Dame Cathedral and Y/our Larynx

One of the most universal fears of students of singing is that we will “lose our voice.” This fear is often particularly strong for singers and students who have been told their voices are “gifts from God” or that they have a “special talent.” After all, if what we have is a “gift” or a “talent” that’s given to us, couldn’t it just as easily be taken away?

It’s not just troubled superstars who have the fear of losing voice. Beginning students, when they first feel the beauty and wonder of free singing, can be star-struck by its pure joy. We think “if only I could repeat this, over and over... my life would be perfect.”

The reality of study is much different than a wish and a prayer. It is long hours dedicated to a process that depends on our mental, emotional, physical and spiritual states and development.  It depends on finding teachers who can answer our questions and put our needs first. Often the results of our study, regardless of our work and dedication, are out of our control. Once in a while, some-fire-or-another comes to burn up all the work we’ve done and make us feel we’re back at step one.

Sometimes in my studies I try to think of the worst, just to test my strength, will and purpose as a singer and a teacher.  A core question drives my teaching and singing:

If I lost my physical voice, could I LIVE as if I was singing?

This question turns everything on its head for the singer pursuing voice. Suddenly the search goes deeper than sound, broader than any opinion, and higher than the stars. To SING, even without voice…? Is it possible?

Notre Dame Cathedral burned today in Paris.  The loss is inconceivable, unimaginable—like a singer losing her voice.

What can bring us solace and purpose even in the face of so great a loss? What can keep the fire of our hearts going in the midst of grieving centuries-old artifacts and artworks?

The answer I keep coming back to is LOVE.  Every artifact in that gorgeous cathedral is/was an expression of love. Every sound we utter, regardless of its “quality” is an expression of love. When our sounds are gone, when the stained-glass windows are broken, or the spire toppled, LOVE, or LIFE—what created these things—is not gone.

CONNECTION, CLARITY, FLOW, SPACE. The Four Principles of Singing, which guide our studies and shine light on our path, can be applied to our sadness.  Can we stay connected to love and life? Can we be clear about what is truly eternal? Can we flow through the sadness and allow space for the experience of it?

Love and Life, Dear Singers, is what it’s all about. Love and Life keep us going with or without voice with a small “v.” Voice with a capital “V” IS Us, creates Us, and we get to be the joyful spectators. Maybe It chuckles at our human fears...or maybe It just continues to teach us to sing, through it all.

I couldn’t help but notice in my musings today, the structure of our larynx echoes the beautiful buttresses and towers of Notre Dame. I leave photos of each for you to draw your own conclusions. The wonders of both are enough to make me hope for the future.

With Voice,

Your Rebecca

Monday, September 19, 2016

No. 388: Grace Is...

Grace Is
Allowing Us

The Rights
The Paths
The Chances
To Grow

Free from the Shame

Of What We Thought We Were

Before We Knew


THIS Is Life.  THIS Is Love. THIS is From the Heart Singing. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

No. 387: Peace Is...

Peace Is
Where Life and Song
In an Endless Stream 
Of Unconditional Love.

This is Life. This is Love. This is From the Heart Singing.