Kashu-do (歌手道): The Inspirational Joy of Teaching and Learning

It is 1:30 am in Berlin and my flight to New York leaves in less than eight and a half hours.  I will probably sleep very little, as tends to be the case before a transatlantic flight.  Not because I have trouble sleeping but because there are a hundred little ends I must tie before leaving one home and embracing the other.

After spending time with a couple of students I had to make contact with before leaving, my last visit was to a dear friend and colleague from my school days at the University of Michigan, who is now among the great coach-pianists in the world (Not a “Turd-polisher” by any measure) and a current resident of Berlin.  It was fitting that I spent my last few hours of fellowship in Berlin this time with Adelle Eslinger.  We had made music together at a very enjoyable and serious level during our time together in school.  I was reminded tonight why it was so easy after a long time to reconnect.  Despite her long list of great accomplishments, she remains the same curious musician, who wishes to know more, discover more, be surprised by the previously unseen in  a music she might have addressed 100 times before.  Her company crowned a very special, inspirational period in Europe with my Berlin Studio.

I had a strong feeling that 2012 would be a defining year for Kashu-do (歌手道).  The Way of the Singer has become much more than I had initially imagined, and gradually I find myself surrounded by a great deal of positive energy that seems to lend support to the efforts implicit in the philosophy of Kashu-do (歌手道).  I have met accomplished singers who are sometimes plagued by a sense of complacency, afraid to lose what has always worked for them, even though they know there is something more to achieve.  On the other hand I have had the pleasure of working with some equally accomplished singers who are willing to risk a little to go beyond what has brought them some measure of success.  I do not criticize either, but the latter is my type of singer.  We are not talking about senseless risks, but it is a risk nevertheless to question the substance of something that has produced a level of success.  In Berlin, in particular, but also in Sweden and in Zwickau, Germany,  I saw my European studio transform into a league of bold, implacable artists who would be only satisfied with the absolute best in themselves.  We worked old school, often on a daily basis, chipping away at old tensions and embracing new strengths.

Suddenly I saw singers who believed in their capacity to achieve what they set their minds to.  It is the most incredible experience to see people access their inner strength right before your eyes.  The inspiration I got from this is not easy to put into words.  The interesting part is that one of my New York students was here for a good part of the time and did crazily inspiring things in a way uniting the efforts of the entire Kashu-do (歌手道) family.

In Berlin this time I experienced from beginning to end the entire process I teach.  These students gave me the special gift of seeing an entire process realized.  It is like seeing a child grow to become a fully developed adult.  On a very personal note, it gave me the strength to take the crucial next step in my own singing, assisted by the magic of yet another amazing coach-pianist, Tomoko Okada, a long-time staff member at the operas in Munich, Frankfurt, Brussels and Geneva among others.

As I return to the United States with several singing projects ahead, I have a great sense of fearlessness and excitement about how my own singing is evolving into what I always hoped. Although I do not like to make predictions as to when vocal issues will be resolved, I have a sense that I will be at performance level during 2012.  Thanks to these exceptional people that I am blessed to teach, the axiom becomes even more poignant: “The only obstacles are those we place before ourselves!”

My heartfelt thanks to the Europe Studio and all our new friends for enriching my life as a teacher and for showing me the path to my own singing.  Through teaching, I have become a better student!

© 01/17/2012

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