Care of the Voice by Way of the Heart
Caroline Beal and Anthony Colosimo explore the mental and emotional components of singing and performance.
A majority of our coaching, practice, and analysis are focused on the physical elements of singing and performing. Often ignored are singing’s mental and emotional components.
Singing is an activity of high vulnerability—and we are often critiqued both after and during these vulnerable moments. In rehearsal, your director may stop and sigh. Your quartet mate cuts you off and offers direction. In most cases, the feedback is well-intentioned, thoughtful, and knowledgeable. However, it can still be hurtful.
Word Choice is Important
A director or coach’s feedback models how singers will move forward and what they believe about their voices. To create the kind of trusting rehearsal environment that produces growth, singers must be valued both as musicians and as human beings. This means acknowledging the singers’ emotional well-being using positive encouragement, concrete observations, and addressing the psychological barriers that keep singers from being successful.
When both the singer and director/coach/voice teacher acknowledge the value of the singer’s contribution, it creates a fulfilling experience for all involved. Directors, coaches, and voice teachers must believe that singers sharing their voices with them is an important and powerful gift.
Emotional and mental acuity elevates our performances! Conversely, ignoring it can lead to difficulty managing even simple elements of our physical bodies. Think about how your throat tightens up when you are about to cry or feel emotional. This is true whether you are a novice or gold medalist.
Focusing on how you feel during singing—instead of only how you sound—is foundational to building a trusting, fulfilling singing environment.
What to Say
How can a coach or director value the singer or chorus to boost morale and teach positive affirmations during rehearsal?
• Say “thank you” in earnest after a full performance.
• Affirm attempts at new techniques as valuable (instead of “almost there,” try “thank you for taking that risk”).
• Emphasize positivity over charisma, sarcasm, and humor.
• Gather input from the singers about their singing experiences (physical, emotional, and mental) and use it to inform the group’s next steps. Use the word “we” instead of “you” or “I.”
• Acknowledge that we’re all working to experience something fulfilling. This method gives everyone involved responsibility for the product instead of just the singer, chorus, or director. Growth is a team effort.
Acknowledging our humanity, our value, and the gift that singing is for people boosts confidence and fulfillment. It is a gift to be able to sing for and with other people. Using positive language to empower singers—including your inner dialog regarding your own singing is pivotal for singing success.
About the Authors
Caroline Beal is a singer, a music educator, and the creator of Love Your Voice Blog. Find her recordings and writing at carolinebealmusic.com.
Anthony Colosimo is a performer, professional vocal coach, and the associate director of the Alexandria Harmonizers.
As seen in The Harmonizer, March/April 2019 "Harmony University" issue, pg. 28