What is The Voice Connection?

What is The Voice Connection?

The short answer is that the voice connection is a meeting place of voice teaching and the study of body-mind-emotions.  Understanding how the body, mind and emotions use, support, and mediate the voice.   

The long answer is long.  

Anna is supported on piano by former Senator Tommy Banks

The voice connection is a study and technique that I developed to help singers to connect to their voices in a way of developing the whole being. 

Not just the technicalities of singing and not only speaking of just the voice, but the whole being.  The body, the heart, the thoughts, the emotions, the sexuality of singing if you like.  (Now there’s a title!)

The kundalini energy has been a fascination of mine for 20 years and it has helped me to understand how the flow of energy in the body is used by the voice, or, alternatively the other way around.  That’s a whole other question for another time.

It’s also the study of psychology and how the mind uses or usurps the voice.  The study of the brain and what the brain does with vibration and what it can light up in the brain and body.

It’s the study of the nervous system and how nerves, anxiety and trauma affect the voice, it’s flow, resonance and clarity, or even the simple fact of having a voice.

It’s also about spirituality and what it means to surrender and allow something greater to take over the wheel, your voice and animate you in full creative expression. 

It’s also about how we do one thing we do everything and that our voices are the carrier, the messenger and the medium for everything in life and is affected by everything.  I like to say the voice is a barometer for our inner weather, it tells us what is occurring on the inside by the sound of the voice. 

Why did you start teaching the Voice Connection?

I started teaching over 20 years ago and I taught private lessons first.  I was an active singer in the business and needed another job so I thought it would be a good idea.  Extra income.  Little did I know how far I would travel with it and how much it would teach me about myself.  I’m still a student of the voice and always will be. 

As I began to learn how disconnected I really was from my voice, even though I was singing professionally, I started to explore new ways and techniques to sing.  When you have to find ways to sing for a living you figure out things pretty quickly and a lot of trial and error.

As I learned about my own disconnection I began to attract students who told me about their own disconnection and they just kept coming to see me.  My students were my teachers pointing the way to where I needed to go to help myself and them. 

Singers who had a lot of training to people with no training came to see me.  The singers had grown apathetic towards regular voice lessons and the lack of compassion and understanding that they said their teachers had.

Not unlike the old boys club the old teachers club is the same, with a ‘stand-off ish’ attitude and huge disconnection in themselves voice teachers didn’t seem to have another way to offer those who needed something more. 

So they started coming to me to breathe, feel, be heard and accepted.  Their voices began to open as they communicated more and more of what they were really feeling.  Of course it’s not just that, it is all of what I said above; the technical, physical, spiritual and mental voices.  

And so as I opened and grew they grew, word by word, note by note the voice and voices began to thaw out and flow with more and more energy.

So when did you teach your first group class?

I began teaching classes about 5 years after teaching privately and called the classes ‘Singing Your Heart Home’.  This title turned into Express Yourself a year later and then 10 years later into The Voice Connection.  And before that it was called The Authentic Voice.  

Was there anyone that influenced you towards this direction of teaching?

A while after I began doing the group classes I came across a teacher by the name of Chloe Goodchild and went to Hollyhock to do a workshop with her.  This changed everything.  She not only taught me a great deal about the connection of the voice to the body but also validated where I was heading.  We began a great friendship and still are friends to this day.  Her work is called the Naked Voice and she is a world leader in the field of voice and spirituality. 

I have had some great voice teachers.  They really began with Sheri Somerville who started me off teaching and took me under her wing, I am such gratitude to her.  Later was Elsie Hepburn who was hugely impactful in a technical manner but also had a way with handling the emotions that was refreshing.  I studied in Germany with a couple of amazing teachers.  It seemed to always be the same though, the other studies of psychology, spirituality were separate and kept away from singing .  The Voice Connection is where all of these come together for the development of the whole being. 

How has your worked changed from 20 years ago to today?

It hasn’t really changed, it has grown and expanded as I have.  My language and understanding of my own embodiment has changed the most.  As I have dropped down into my body through many layers of pain, disconnection and trauma I have walked through many doors into other layers of myself.  It has been an extremely valuable journey and one that continues today.  As the layers continue to fall off my voice is fuller and more connected. 

I would also say that there are more singing teachers like myself who have had to change their approach to accommodate the growing need for connection in the world of voice and life.  No longer can we just operate singers like machines, they, we, are human beings and need to be met in this way first.  The voice is the medium that is expressed from the human heart and soul.  This has to be addressed in the right order.  Human first, voice second.  In order for the vessel, the instrument of the body to properly hold the voice we must contact the instrument holder.  The human being. 

I have more tools, more training and more understanding of myself and others.  The trainings of Integrative Body Psychotherapy, the study of the chakras as well an in-depth study of voice dialogue (the psychology of the Selves), have added an immense amount to my teaching and understanding of how the voice works. 

Being a voice teacher is no small thing if you are really going to help people uncover their voices and discover the immense beauty that is underneath all the defences and blocks.  That is the real work, the uncovering.  

Do you see yourself continuing to teach in the future?

I love teaching the voice.  I love to help people connect with their voice, their spirit, their energy and body, it’s the most beautiful thing to see and hear a voice waking up. 

I need and want to teach and I don’t see myself stopping for a long time.  I would like to move into teaching in different areas of the world.  I have taught in Mexico, Maui, Costa Rica and parts of Western Canada.  I would also like to do more lecturing to teachers or anyone who would like to learn about the coming together of the worlds of voice and yoga, or, voice and spirituality, or even the voice, the chakras and kundalini energy. 

It continues to fascinate me.  The nervous system, the vagus nerve, the brain and vibration and the working of the vocal folds.  This amazing system of magic that produces pure sound and vibration that open hearts and minds. 

I also see myself doing more recordings and moving into teaching larger groups of people to create soundscapes with the beautiful songs I write.  The experience of singing in a large group of people in a conscious way is a world of excitement.  I plan on heading in that direction.  

Enjoyment, Play & Danger

I write this to begin the discernment between Play, fear and anger and the fine line that it is to young developing minds.  To re-wire the brain for a discernment between the two for the reclaiming of play, enjoyment and singing with freedom. 

I also write this because I often hear students say that they just want to ‘let go’ and ‘just sing’ and they don’t know why they can’t and so a deep self criticism sinks into them.  There is also a great deal of ‘self-help’ courses and so on that advocates for this ‘just do it!’ kind of carelessness which further breads the inner self-loathing. 

For singing to be enjoyable it requires a healthy relationship with play, relaxation and trust.  To sing freely requires, you guessed it, freedom.  Which brings us to take a closer look at the experience of play in one’s past history and what the relationship was like at that time.  

The ability of the lack thereof to play and be in the moment is set in childhood and begins with Mother and infant.  The attention and smiles of Mother playing with the baby develops a trust within the baby which, if not injured will develop over time on the playground with other children. 

The playground – the ground of play and trust that is a development which sets us on a course for relaxed success in adult years.  We have an epidemic of anxiety, depression and trauma that just seems normal these days for people to be on medication and be diagnosed with some sort of mental illness.  

I digress. I am writing this for the love of singing and the uncovering of what is in the way for students and myself.  I have written much over the years about the forthcoming injuries that teachers, parents and other children have on the precious play experience in music.  

In Jill who was told she couldn’t join the choir because she was too loud in the choir and Brian who could join if he stood at the back of the group and mouthed the words.  All of this is a growing experience that is to be learned from if it is held in the right light.  There hasn’t been the ‘right light’ on this, like ever.  

What is quite intact in our society is Competition.  Competition is Play’s dark cousin and doesn’t leave a lot of room for play, relaxation and enjoyment.  I prepare a number of students for singing competitions much to my chagrin as I don’t believe they should be competing with their friends with the sound of their voices which is so personal and unique to each one of them.  It sets of a life of pitting against each other, but I suppose school in general prepares much more of this.  

Play is a natural instinct that occurs inside of the moment with no goal or purpose in mind, none, whereas it’s quite clear what competitions goal is, to win.  I am not saying this is a bad thing I’m just saying that there is a spectrum of balance here which is lacking in it’s fullness. 

The other aspect of the child’s psyche that gets developed within this play-danger-competition paradigm is the warrior.  The part of us that comes in to protect and fight for our rights in every way.   Over the years I have noticed two kinds of people who see me for voice lessons; the over developed warrior and the frozen warrior.  

The over-developed warrior voice – pushed and over worked (the belter)

The frozen warrior – struggles to get sound out

Neither is wrong but only needs the inquiry of the singer to look at where they are living on the spectrum of dark and light – play and competition and danger. 

When competition has no balance of collaboration and play then it can get locked into the warrior energy as the only identification with a person.  I see it all the time.  

The person comes in and immediately I can see they are locked and loaded to sing!  The opposite side of calm, relaxation and playfulness having left the building a long time ago.  

Then there’s the other side, to be fair, that enters the room with the frozen and crippled warrior fully functioning and identified as ‘this is who I am.’

One side is applauded and awarded and the other is shamed and blamed. 

When the warrior has locked out the collaboration of cooperation and play then relationship between two people is at odds.  Hence the state of the world today.  

Confidence and Control

Emily was raised in a family that liked things neat and tidy.  The focus only being on having a good job that paid well.  Makes a lot of sense and we know this as a common thread in our society.  

Emily loved to sing, play the piano and write songs but every time she tried to share her love of music with her family they dismissed her dreams as nonsense. She had a sensible job but desperately wanted a career in music.  She had no support from her family.  

John, on the other hand, was raised in a family that was incredibly supportive of his music and came to everything he performed in, went to or tried his hand at.  They applauded loudly from the front row and exuded pride from their seats.  He decided not to pursue music after all.  He felt suffocated by his parents and felt their love was conditional and based on his performing. 

These are two sides of the coin and it seems like parents cannot catch a break. 

Individuating from the family and the family contracts is a big deal and over the years the success or the lack thereof of any singer I have run into depends upon how they were raised and supported in music.  Music is emotion and each family has a relationship with emotion that is the deciding factor on how music is handled, managed, controlled or allowed.  With my students we look into their upbringing family to see how emotions and feelings were either supported, dismissed and all the shades in-between. 

Managing and controlling emotion is the theme and if you are a singer this is the name of the game.  Singing is learning to channel emotion into song using the voice as the medium. 

In my work as a voice teacher one of the biggest issue that students run into with their voices is the issue of power.  Everyone wants and longs to have it.  A powerful voice.   Do I need more confidence? What’s wrong with my voice? Am I good enough etc, all this and more creates fear, anxiety and distrust which shows up in the sound of the voice.  

This issue is at the core of a singer, unless they are connected and rooted firmly in who and what they are.  Good training is wonderful and works for some to harness and channel this power, but some people need to go to greater lengths to sort this all out. 

So to start we might ask the question; What is power? How can I have it? Where is it in my body? And an even better question to start is; how can I let go of control to have power?  Control is the key word.

This might seem like a contrary statement ‘to let go of control in order to have power’, but this is what is necessary in order to truly connect to and allow the power of the voice versus the pushing and controlling of the voice. 

How we do one thing we do many things’ is indeed a true statement in how our voices reflect the way we live. How are we are currently living in response to past events? And the modelling that we absorbed from parents, teachers and those who surround us. 

Power as controlling, managing or being responsible.

Examples…

Having to control, manage or be responsible for something that was too much for us and overwhelmed the nervous system at too early of an age is all too common a problem.  Like John who feels responsible for his parents happiness

This energy that we manage and control and are responsible for sits inside of the solar plexus, diaphragm region and is protected by the warrior energy and our nervous system. Protecting us against overwhelm and too much charge, anger or threat. 

This is the location of our power centre and includes the diaphragm which is the major muscle in breathing and singing and so it is a big deal to understand this area for singing and for life.  To let go here and to allow passion, play and confidence in life versus the fear and anxiety of control and overwhelm. 

To find the right combination lock or the Rubik’s cube to let go it’s no small deal and it takes great deal of understanding of who is guarding the charge of energy or the lack of it for us to even begin the conversation.

Understanding the spectrum of light with the warrior from the light warrior to the dark warrior and how we are dealing with setting boundaries and bad behaviour with others is a good start.

Are boundaries set through shadowy manipulative ways or are the boundaries set directly and clearly.

Either with a sense of clarity and straightforwardness or murky, disowned warrior energy. 

It is quite clear that however this is set up in our solar plexus and diaphragm it is directly how the singing voice will be used or reflected in communication and in singing. 

Either with clarity and straightforwardness or murky and manipulative ways

When the warrior is deactivated, frozen or deflated then how the managing of ones communication with others exhibits itself is by anticipating people‘s needs and wants even before they do.  The person seems to absorb and take on the energy of others.  This weakens the whole body from taking on too much of what doesn’t belong to us.  The new age world has a tendency to name this ‘being over-sensitive or empathic’.  I would say that it’s a lack of boundaries and authority within the individual. 

Another option is simply to freeze and stop moving and functioning which is just another way of controlling the energy in the system.  Being immobilized is a fight or flight reaction in our nervous system.  This is also what the warrior has to take care of in the long run.  A trauma based warrior.  Have you ever been with someone who is sucking the energy and the life out of the room just by their very presence?  

I have often called the diaphragm the shock absorber, it absorbs the shock in the system and ‘takes care of it’ instead of speaking to it and setting a boundary.  This approach is a survival mechanism which is set in the body and becomes the status quo.  Of course the system is now set to ‘absorb’ versus deflect or even respond.  Having the ability to respond in the situation is the empowering of the individual who was been struck with a trauma in the system. 

So many people I know manage and control the initial trauma they experienced and never actually heal or change the status quo of how we respond.  We have not had a understanding of this deep fragmentation in our society. 

Because of the size of the charge of energy that was initially sucked into the body’s nervous system it takes a great deal of very slow gentle undoing of the fabric of a person’s current ‘status quo’ and way of being to get close to a new way of being and responding in life. 

If a singer has this wired into their nervous system and does not have the light of day shed on this then it is extremely difficult to have a career in music and even to have a voice.   The Warriors – 

Frozen Warrior – responds with freeze and shock.  Behaviour is quiet and withdrawn. 

Dark Warrior – responds with manipulation, anger and ugly behaviour.  Can be confident and bitchy. 

Light Warrior – responds with very clear boundaries.  Looks like true confidence and a balance of the queen, the sage and impersonal energy.  

A balanced warrior comes across as more like an energy of passion and love – Calm-passion (Compassion) without the defensiveness of the fighting warrior.