Well, I am in another state of “WOW”.

First of all, I now practice frame drumming every day. Well, the two days since coming back from the Glen Velez workshop. I sing the rhythms constantly while in the car. I practiced listening to an entire CD and just paying attention to the rhythm, trying to sing the percussion parts, finding rhythms in the pieces. Totally different way of listening! I find that feeling the vibrations of the frame drum in the heart area and in my face is a transporting or meditative experience. It clears the mind. Unlike sitting in front of the computer, which is what I am trying to limit these days. It’s a real discipline to sit here and pound on these keys, when I could be “TaKa TaKa Dum“-ing or writing longhand.

But tonight’s WOW was two one-hour group voice experiences led by alumni of the program I am currently enrolled in at CIIS. The first was about “listening to your neighbor” as an entry point for finding your voice. It taught me that my natural, comfortable voice volume is much lower than I usually use to speak or sing. Somehow I raise the volume as a habit, perhaps feeling like I need to be loud in order to be heard. Interesting.

The other part was led by Francine Lancaster, a Juilliard-trained operatic singer who has performed on the great stages of the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera, reaching all of the “goals” and winning all of the awards a trained singer is supposed to want. Then she reached a point where she said to herself, standing there on the stage with her full-length ball gown and long-stemmed roses in her hand, “I”m here! Now what? What have I been doing for myself in my life? What do I do now?” She was led -well, actually more like dragged reluctantly – to this class by a friend last year, heard Silvia (our course director) speak and knew that she had captured the universal essence and all the potential of music to unite us at a human level. Francine has since begun to find ways to make music for herself, and no one else. She has found, in this journey of working with people as a sound healer, that if you find your true voice, and really sing from it, there is not one person who won’t respond to it. It is a vibrational connection that we share just because we are humans. It doesn’t matter if you are “good” or if you are a “jazz singer” or an “opera singer”. This kind of singing and sharing has nothing to do with winning the auditions or getting the part. It is about coming to your very own truth and singing it out from your voice.

I love this quote from Francine tonight:

There’s nothing you can’t face with the TRUTH.

Oh yeah. Bring it on.

The first question many of us have to ask is, “What is MY truth?” What you believe becomes your truth. So examine your beliefs and find out what is true for you, then live your life by this truth.

She then had us sing the 16th century hymn, Dona Nobis Pacem, as a round in three voice parts. Last Christmas, Yo-Yo Ma recorded a CD of collaborative improvisations centered around this song. He then invited the world to submit their own recordings of improvisations on the indaba.com website, picking a winner to record with him. My students created their own versions of the song and we submitted a recording, which got voted in the top 100 out of over 400 entries! I’m proud of that. I’m also going to bring improvisation into my work with my students, as I bring it into my own life. I’ve been staying silent and small for too long, hiding behind other people’s expectations of me. Now it’s time to face the world with my truth.