My good friend and writer Chris Kay Fraser (Firefly Creative Writing) gave me a card once that read:
If you hold on to the
handle, she said,
it’s easier to maintain
the illusion of control.
but it’s more fun
if you just let the wind carry you.
This card has sat on my piano for three years now because its message is the heart of my singing and teaching philosophy: let go the illusion of control and try to enjoy the ride.
Then recently, I was checking out family photographer Tara Whitney. (She did a session with my wonderful friend and her family that I wanted to check out. A friend who, incidentally, is an incredible photographer in her own right, and is responsible for the main photo on my web site: Short and Sweet Photography). I was struck by Tara’s “Perfectly Imperfect” philosophy. She’s not out to create the “flawless traditional portrait,” she says, because “life isn’t flawless. I am looking to capture your authentic connections…Be real. Be alive.”
That’s how I feel about singing.
Some of us are lucky enough to just open our mouths and sing, joyously and un-selfconsciously. Children are usually the best at this. Some adults, particularly in some cultures, sing this way. But most of us, beginners to professionals, think singing is about perfection, about control, about making only beautiful, perfect sounds.
What if at the heart of it all, singing is about being perfectly imperfect?
To embrace the perfect imperfection of the voice is to let go the illusion of control, letting your voice wander in the wilderness of your sensual and emotional self and see where it leads you. It’s about following the flaws, the cracks, and the frays of the voice into the unknown. Strangely, following the imperfections more often than not leads to exquisite beauty in singing: tender yet unapologetic, vulnerable yet strong.
And how do we engage in this difficult and wonderful work? By being curious. By being brave.
This is what I’m learning from my own voice work with Fides. This is what I’m learning from my students. It’s immensely terrifying. It’s immensely fulfilling.