Kashu-do (歌手道): Another one for the changelings among us!

I watch my beautiful 16-year old son taking a nap a few meters from me and realize how much he has changed since that first day when he seemed to fit in the space of my right palm. The preciousness of him felt so heavy although he weighed a mere 6 pounds 12 ounces then. Despite divorced parents, he has grown into a beautiful young man, full of potential, thanks in greater part to his devoted mother who spends most every day with him. My former wife and I are very different people and our combined influence and love has given our dear son a balance that neither of us possessed when we had him. He is not perfect in the objective sense, although to me he and his little sister could not be more perfect. I do believe that the balance he has achieved will serve him well in being able to make sense of his life and in facing the challenges that all human beings must face.

We are always changing, even from one day to the next. The question is whether we change in balance or in imbalance. Without over-philosophising the point, this is a vocal question as well. I received an email from one of my ex-baritone tenors yesterday and he was afraid about his first tenor role. I told him the role was just a high baritone role and he should not worry. The reason he should not worry is that he has accomplished so much in less than one year into his transition and he has grown in balance. He now sounds completely like a tenor, but maintains a certain fullness throughout his voice. He has developed top Cs but has not lost low notes. His voice now sound evenly like one voice from low to high. What lacks is the strength in the laryngeal muscles to maintain balance over time (i.e. stamina). When one muscle gets tired, it affects the balance between it and the rest of the musculature. The goal is not to sing a high C in any way, shape or form but one that maintains appropriate muscular balances through changes in air pressure, in resonance adjustment, in emotionally state, etc. He is most of the way there, but to develop in balance takes more time than to produce pitches and sounds that have no relationship to the other notes in the voice.

It seems that a good portion of the students I teach experience a change in vocal categorization of some kind. Whether a spinto who had sung as a dramatic too early, or a soprano who had sung as a lyric mezzo or a dramatic mezzo who sang dramatic soprano or a lyric mezzo who thought herself a coloratura or the baritone who sang Heldentenor or the Heldentenor who sang baritone or the coloratura who sang as a lyric…(wow! I think I covered everyone)!

But in truth, even the students who do not experience a category change are also changelings. They are changelings every time they change one note in their voices from one muscular adjustment to another. The truly successful singer goes through many periods of change relative to the voice. Being afraid of the changes is death to a singer!

Indeed, if I held my son in my right palm until this day, my arm would break and his growth would be stunted. I held his hand when he first learned to walk and ran close behind him when he first learned to run in the grass (there are pictures!). But now, in a town where he does not speak the language, I am there to help but watch him make his way. I must be more hands off now.

And so, my dear changelings, if you think that singing is difficult, well it is! But how many things can you do now that you could not before? In how many situations can you let go and let the voice do its own thing, when before you had to help somehow? Don`t worry if you have developed in balance, but rather keep the faith in what has gotten you here so far: your faith in your talent; your courage in traveling unsure paths; your patience in pursuing your dreams and of course the hard work that is a hallmark of your personalities.

There are no short cuts no matter how temptingly attractive they might appear to be. I am traveling the path with you and honor your perseverence!

© 07/18/2010

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