Okay, maybe not everyone, but it seems to me that droves of people wish they could sing. There are quite a few shows like America’s Got Talent that feature singers whose ratings are through the roof to support this claim. There are countless YouTube channels that feature fledgling vocal artists around the world. Using a camera phone like the megaphones of old, a singer will lift up her voice for no one, hoping to garner everyone’s attention and touch us through music and lyrics in the same way she have been touched. It’s a thing.
As a voice teacher, this is something I am always interacting with, wondering about, and musing over. This singer-craze has helped me put my four kids through college, which is an expensive feat for any parent irrespective of one’s salary. Fortunately, for me, people want to learn how to sing, and I want to help them. There’s never a need for a hard sell, or convincing. People just seem to want to sing!
Now that the Coronavirus is keeping us indoors, many of my voice students are still at the ready, behind the zoom lens, singing their hearts out from their bedrooms, hiding in the closet or holing up in the garage. But as we keep our chops up, we are learning more about WHY we sing, not just to HOW to sing.
If I were to put my hunches on paper (cyber paper), these are some reasons WHY:
- Singing is a primal urge. Vocalizing can engage our Creative right brain faculties. The left-brain hemisphere is responsible for all of our logical sequential day to day accomplishments, so singing once a week (or more) can help us touch down with our more Creative side, instantly. It is immediate!
- Singing feels good. The inspiration we receive when deep breathing lowers blood pressure and calms anxiety. The vocalizations are like mini-ultra-sound vibrations on our skin and resonate to the bone. Increased blood flow, oxygen and oxytocin are all present!
- Singing helps us feel and process our emotions. We could be fighting depression, feeling melancholy, or wanting to express joy. Instead of stuffing our feelings, singing helps us navigate those moods, giving them a safe place to express. There exist as many diverse songs as different emotions, too. If we are feeling nostalgic, we can sing a song from our adolescence and that will help us reconnect with the past. This can provide comfort as well as self-expression. When we are feeling bereft, music can provide us with the juice to press on. So sing along!
- Covid19 Quarantine is giving folks permission to try new things. If you’ve never had time to sing, never had the guts to sing, now’s your chance. Learning new skills online requires less courage than walking into a classroom, so whatever reticence may have been lingering, it can be wiped away with the click of a button.
- For my more serious, Broadway-bound students, when the chips are down, they learn what they’re made of. Forced vacation? Or more time to rehearse? This is a time to discover how attached we are to our art form. This can reveal not only our passionate connection to singing, but our lack of connection as well. As I tell my students, this revelation doesn’t have to be good or bad. It’s just information. And we all vacillate once in a while. Nothing needs to be set in stone. However, self-reflection is part of the Creative process and can aid us in our journey as we move forward and recognize certain patterns in our individual processes. Do we sing only when we are upset? Or do we sing only when we are feeling good? Or do we sing because we are practicing discipline? There are many conditions that could work either way for us. Self-inventory is a pretty helpful tool. Once we identify our process, we are less paralyzed by our resistance, or fear. We recognize our repeated reactions and we learn to embrace these rough spots in order to feel the joy from the outcome.
- That’s just on the solo front. What about choir and ensembles? I’ve noticed more collaborative video editing and recording engineers teaming up with individual singers to create togetherness; Easter music, choir songs and harmony-based trios are flooding the internet to give us the feel of being together while apart. How healthy is that? Singing alone in your bathroom can lead to virtual harmony with others all across the world. Technology is offering us a link otherwise impossible –which is indicative of no other era before ours. This is a first! This type of innovation is what changes culture! We find new ways of connection and devising unity.
In conclusion, unity is the mission of all our Creative acts. Even though the pandemic forces us apart, we are finding ways to connect with our deeper selves and with each other. This global crisis provides a chance to prove to us the ultimate importance of unity. Singing is only one way to be transformed by the force of Creativity, and not only is it a primal urge that provides many health benefits, it also benefits the collective when we contribute our voice to the ongoing symphony of life. Even if we are forced to shelter in place, we create hope when we unite in thought and action, transcending the boundaries before us.
That is a song worth singing.