I have had some wonderful, energizing weeks of teaching recently. Besides really liking and connecting with these lovely humans, one of the reasons I have especially enjoyed these past six weeks or so is that I have been teaching a number of the same students consistently and they are experiencing noticeably positive, fundamental changes in their singing lesson after lesson. There is always an initial improvement, but just like any other form of exercise, developing the voice takes time, consistency, hard work, and COURAGE to achieve results that last. I know this, I teach this, I witness it all the time with my students, have experienced it first hand in my own singing, so why is it I temporarily forgot about this process as I embarked upon a different but related course of training?
The big reveal: I have started working out with a personal trainer. (I know, crazy, huh?) At first it was terribly difficult and actually rather demoralizing and unquestionably humbling as I discovered how truly out of shape I am, how weak, how jelly-like! And then, of course, there was (is) the incredible soreness afterwards, sometimes to the point of immobility. However, in the past few weeks I have noticed both my body and my mind have changed suddenly and significantly. Yes, I am noticing more tonicity in my muscles, more endurance, etc…but it’s the mental aspect that is more profound. The first and perhaps most surprising change is that I actually look forward to the sessions now. I approach them as an adventure and wonder what I will push my mind and body to do that day, with the essential element of Ed’s positive, persistent motivation and instruction, of course. Which brings me to the second huge realization and change in my thinking: the workouts are hard, sometimes seemingly impossible, but I have learned that I can do them, maybe slowly, but certainly surely. And I want to do them, which is perhaps even more amazing. I would never have been able to accomplish these physical feats on my own before embarking on this course of training, not only because I did not have the technical knowledge, but more importantly, I did not have the mental fortitude to do them. I needed the guidance of an expert teacher with the passion, patience and technical expertise to guide me through the dark forest of my fear, the stumbling block to all change. Having someone help me get over my fears, making me literally and figuratively jump in with both feet, pushing my mind and body past their comfort zones is the only way to see true change and always brings me amazing, positive results. Which brings me back to the vocal corollary… (You didn’t think this post was going to be all about CrossFit, did ya?)
Since I started working out in this way, I have been reminded over and over again of my decade of lessons with Cornelius, especially the first few grueling years when he was completely restructuring my voice. (Oh how I miss my voice lessons and the exhortations of Mr. Reid!) In Cornelius, I found what I needed so desperately: a teacher of unrivaled technical brilliance with unparalleled insight into both the vocal mechanism as well as into the psyche** of the singer as it relates to the act of singing. And, thankfully, he was all about the work, the discovery, the next level of achievement; no hidden agendas, no fatherly instincts, just professional and yet personal. Furthermore, since I completely trusted Cornelius, as I do Ed, I could totally give myself over to the experience, no matter how demanding, knowing that he had my best interests at heart and I would be that much stronger and healthier for it, mentally, physically, and vocally. For me there is something very exhilarating and motivating about submitting myself to this kind of focused, intensive work for a designated and finite period of time under the tutelage of a master technician/teacher. The lesson/session forces me to face my fears, confront obstacles and make positive, profound changes- no procrastinating allowed! Cornelius challenged me to uncover my vocal flaws, expose them to the harsh light of day and actually fix them instead of artfully covering them back up. Just as I thought I could never in a million years make it through the “Filthy Fifty” (look it up, it’s horrific!), nor did I ever think anyone could ever solve my tremolo (a very fast vibrato, FYI). But I did in fact make it through the entire “Filthy Fifty” without expiring on the spot and Cornelius successfully eradicated my tremolo! So, it took me 53 minutes to do the workout and it took a few years of 3 or 4 lessons a week to get rid of all the constriction causing the tremolo. But when all is said and done, I have come to believe (grudgingly, I’ll admit) that it doesn’t matter how long it takes when the results are so amazing and important. Obviously I need to learn this lesson more than once: hard work, patience and persistence with the right guidance equals success! Here’s to the “Filthy Fifty” in 45 minutes and always more beautiful, healthy singing for everyone!
**I highly recommend reading Mr. Reid’s Voice: Psyche and Soma.