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Thursday, May 3, 2012

So....you wanna be a teacher?


I cannot tell you how I have been looking forward to this European trip, and spending time with my friend and agent, Guy. It has been a whirlwind, and a great learning experience for me. The conference was amazing and fruitful. The musicians I met were wonderful, and I came home with many new friends.

But, one thing stands out  for me - the realization, yet again, that we are divinely guided in everything we do.

A case in point is this: Last Saturday evening we traveled to Hamburg, where I'd been invited to teach a Master Class to students at the Hoschule (University of Music and Theatre) there. It was a three hour class called Learning To Let Go and it passed in what seemed like minutes. Connecting with young singers and helping them to access inner passion while giving permission to let go and free-fall into their music was an amazing experience.  It  was my first foray into the world of teaching, and I would like to do more of it. It makes me even more appreciative of the gifts I have been given.

Warming up with my students  at the Hoschule in Hamburg
We started our class with a short introduction to the Alexander Technique the premise being that in order to let go emotionally and musically, one must first start with letting go physically. This technique has been transformational for me in the short seven months I have been studying it, so it was my great honor to expose my students to this wonderful tool. I also feel pretty comfortable talking about passion in music, as it is what makes me tick as a singer.

I gained a much deeper understanding of my own passion after witnessing these students literally transform before my eyes. After their performances, I felt alive beyond belief and when, at the end of our class, I sang "I Must Have That Man," I found myself deeply moved. I think teachers are so blessed for the gifts they receive from their students.

A few days later, I took an Alexander Technique lesson from a wonderful Brazilian singer, Georgia Dias, who is living in Amsterdam. I had been following Georgia online, and was especially interested in having a lesson from a singer with her experience. At the suggestion of Dr. Bedford, my instructor at home, I made an appointment several weeks in advance.

I wanted more information on the nitty gritty of vocal production in an Alexander context. How do I keep my neck free? How do I better navigate my registers? Will this current feeling of vocal "out of controll-ness" ever pass? How can I maintain my elite balance and still plug in to my performance? Georgia seemed a perfect choice for this technical exploration.

I arrived at her studio and met her little dog, Buster, who (just like Dr. Bedford's dog Alfie) wanted to be a part of the lesson. Something about the vibe that draws them in, I think. Then I noticed the English forward seat jumping saddle in the corner...."Do you ride," I asked? She answered, "Have you ever tried to sing while riding a horse?"  I had to admit - not since I was eleven.  Now I was intrigued.

She asked me to sing for her while she worked hands-on with my back, breath and free-ness. Then she talked about imagery and asked me to sing again. Georgia facilitated a connection deep into my soul, and it became almost impossible to produce a single note. Tears flooded down my cheeks, while she kept saying, "ah, good, THERE! There you are! This is your passion.  Just sing." A fantastic free-fall!

We sang in the saddle to free the hips, we watched a video by Elis Regina, a remarkable artist from Brazil, we talked shop and passion - and I felt like the walls had been blown off my psyche.

So much for my technical questions....I now understand that they are completely irrelevant to the process. My time with Georgia  reaffirmed my every core belief about music, life and love, and beautifully complemented the study I have undertaken with Dr. Bedford at Westchester University.

Talk about the teacher becoming the student!  I designed a curriculum to share with the Master Class students in Hamburg, and Georgia instinctively used that very same curriculum to coach me - to release and re-ignite my own passion.

If you are ever in need of affirmation from the universe that you are on the right course, just look around. Open your eyes and let it in.

This is the message I am getting: Don't worry about it, Erin, just sing. JUST SING!