We generally study singing to create a product: the song, the role, the show.
We become completely focused on the current product and as soon as that ends, we’re on to the next one.
Rarely do we think about the process that leads to the product. I never thought about it until I was 25 years old, when I met my last and most influential voice teacher, Cornelius Reid. Not one of my teachers in all the many years I had been taking lessons had ever mentioned it as a thing to think about, let alone enjoy. And then in a stunning 180, working with Cornelius, our lessons were ONLY about process and never about product. (Balance is necessary people! but that’s a whole other Oprah…)
On that long ago September of 1998, when I asked Cornelius what repertoire he wanted me to start working on, he counseled me to just focus on technique (read: process) for 6 months. 6 months?! Unheard of. But, I had just moved to NYC, had two jobs, worked 7 days a week… so I agreed because where would I have fit learning songs into that schedule? That 6 months turned into a year, and as hard as it was, and it was very hard, it eventually taught me a valuable and enduring lesson:
the process is the thing.
The process of singing: aka. the generally slow, usually painstaking, often beautiful, and sometimes exciting development of our voices so that they sound the way we want them to sound, do what we want them to do.
Giving yourself over to (trying to enjoy) the process allows you to learn about your unique voice– what it can do, how it functions under all conditions and circumstances, all of its beauty and complexity, regardless of the vehicle. These are all wonderful, important discoveries that every singer deserves to have.
The problem is…
- Process isn’t sexy.
- Process isn’t Instagrammable.
- Process can be boring.
- Process can be painful.
But take heart: consistent attention and devotion to the process of learning (almost) always leads to progress!
And THAT is what it is really all about.
After all that slogging through the process, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, suddenly one day, poof! You sing better! Your voice is freer, easier, higher, louder, softer! Your voice is that much closer to what you want it to sound like. You have a little more fun working on that new song. You are finally not quite as petrified to audition because <GASP> you understand your voice that much better and have a semblance of an idea of what is going to come out of your mouth when you open it to sing.
You take a moment, or five, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
And then it’s back at it, back to the rollercoaster, back to learning.
Back to the process.