About two years ago, I started taking voice lessons.
This was a big risk for me.
I was a music major in college, but my specialty wasn’t voice, it was piano. I had accompanied hundreds of vocalists performing every kind of music – from classical to Broadway to religious music – and I was good at it. So for me to sing – removed from the safe comfort of my piano keyboard – was terrifying because even though I could generally sing on pitch, I knew that my vocal talent nowhere near approached my keyboard potential. My teacher kindly, pithily, and accurately described my voice when she said – “I’m sure there’s vibrato in there somewhere, we'll just have to find it.”
But after only two lessons, I got too busy, (mostly too scared), and quit.
Once you have learned to trust your own voice… you have the basic tool to fulfill your dreams. – Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones
A year later, I started again. This time I’ve stayed with it. Partly because I've found in my teacher the “mentor’s spirit”, but mostly because, during my year-long hiatus, the need to find my voice had become greater than my fear.
Find my literal (singing) or figurative voice you may ask?
Especially my figurative voice – my who I am – my what I have to say – to do – to share.
In her book Writing to Change the World, Mary Pipher says it beautifully:
“Voice is everything we are, all that we have observed, the emotional chords that are uniquely ours—all our flaws and all of our strengths, expressed in words that best reflect us. Voice is like a snowflake–complicated, beautiful, and individual. It is essence of self, distilled and offered in service to the world….”
Our voice only grows stronger as we face our challenges. In the book, The Maiden King by Robert Bly and Marion Woodman, they make an interesting observation, that “for thousands of years, a powerful voice was a mark of personhood. The longer the person stayed in the Underworld (meaning, the more difficult the challenge faced, and overcome, on the hero’s journey), the more powerful the voice.”
Composer Richard Strauss said, “The human voice is the most beautiful instrument of all, but it is the most difficult to play.”
Ah…but when we learn to play our very own voice, finding and truly appreciating the “everything we are”, we can finally become the “who we were meant to be“.
If you have additional thoughts or ideas on finding your voice or on how facing a particularly difficult challenge helped make your voice more powerful, would you share them in the comments?