As I mentioned oh so long ago in my very first post, I used to be a singer. I guess technically I can still sing, but I haven’t sung in public in years so using the past tense really seems most appropriate. One of the things I loved the most about being in the music world was the unique relationship between teacher and student and getting to experience first hand the expertise of truly talented teachers.
A really good voice teacher can literally bring tones and techniques out of you that you didn’t know were there. With their words and examples, they can change your vibrato, sweeten your tone, or elongate your phrasing. In the world of singing, a voice teacher literally helps shape your voice as you discover how to use this instrument that is 100% you.
See, that is the difference between the voice and other instruments. You can buy new reeds, you can have your violin restrung, you can play a different piano, and all those changes are going to influence the sound, texture, and feel of your performance. But the voice… well, you are born with only one voice and it is up to you to discover the full capabilities of that voice. It is up to you to discover the varying tones and dynamics and how to communicate sadness, joy, and fear all with that one voice you have been given. It is up to you to discover all of this about your voice, but you do so under the faithful guidance and direction of numerous voice teachers who help you uncover the various aspects of this amazing instrument.
Recently, I was reflecting on this unique relationship between voice teacher and student, and I realized that I have not just had voice teachers in my life as a singer but rather my life has been filled with voice teachers. These voice teachers didn’t necessarily teach me to sing… they taught me to live… and think… and love. These individuals helped me discover and rediscover parts of my voice that had been buried and lost. The voice teachers of my personal journey poured into and invested and shaped this voice I now use. And I am so grateful. So here’s to my voice teachers… thank you.
Mama– You were the first. You were the first teacher and your lessons were held everyday and in every way but most especially each afternoon and evening when we read together. You helped develop my love of reading and learning, my insatiable curiosity, and my unquenchable thirst for information. Our nightly devotionals created the foundation of my faith, which now serve as the sources of comfort, encouragement, and truth everyday in my life. You planted the seeds from which everything else has grown.
Mrs. Dykes, Mrs. Edwards, Mr. Baker, Dr. Harris– You taught me to think. You challenged me. You believed I could do things I did not think I could do. Your lessons and classrooms were safe havens for me. You provided a space for me to learn and question, and you taught me one of the most important lessons I could learn as a woman- playing dumb is neither productive nor helpful. Intelligence, trying, dedicating yourself to an endeavor… these are the things that matter.
Joanna and Kim– You gave my voice color. You taught me it was okay to be loud. You taught me to laugh and, most importantly, to laugh at myself. You gave my voice an edge that I didn’t always know how to correctly use but realize now has allowed me to be bold and brave professionally and personally.
Patty– You gave my voice depth and balance. I couldn’t have found my true voice in a brown paper bag before I met you. You added self-awareness and knowledge, peace and introspection to my voice.
Annie– You lightened my voice. You are the instructor of fun in my life and whenever I am trying to decide to go with the colorful or the basic, I still ask myself, “What would Annie do?”
John, Charles, Louisa, Tony, and Dave– You taught me to teach. You showed me that my voice was not for singing, but for teaching. I came to you at 22 years old very lost and you helped me discover my purpose and passion. You faithfully taught me for the next four and a half years. You taught me to prepare, to lead, to facilitate…. You literally changed my life.
Courtney, Andi, Jess, Matt, Dr. Hardy– You shaped my voice into that of a counselor. The list of things you taught me and the ways you showed me how to use my voice are endless. I sat at your feet and soaked in every ounce of wisdom I could, and there is not a session nor a talk that goes by that does not have some element of your teaching in it. Your voices are heard through mine everyday.
Jay– You have taught this often frantic and out of control voice to rest and be calm. You have slowed my pacing and brought peace where there are often racing thoughts. But most of all, you have daily modeled what true humble servant living looks and sounds like. My voice is more gracious and thoughtful because of your loving teachings.
Jack– You have given me back my giggle. You are by far my youngest teacher but in the end will probably have the most profound impact on my life. You have softened the hardness that started to develop around my voice in my adult life. I am more compassionate and empathic because of you. I have more play and joy in my life because of you. My voice is sweeter because of you.
Each of these voice teachers shaped and helped me discover my true voice. Sometimes we spend our days trying to sound like someone else. We adopt a false voice by trying on different traits, careers, or relationships hoping that will create the voice we think we should have. But the reality is we were each given one voice and it is up to us to discover the full power and richness of that voice. We have to discover our true voice so we can live out our true passion and calling. As we said above, thankfully we do not do that alone, but we do it under the guidance and direction of the many voice teachers that come in and out of our lives.
Who are your voice teachers? Who are the individuals that have helped you discover elements of your voice that you did not know were there? Who are the teachers that have helped you rediscover parts of your voice you thought were lost forever?
Take an opportunity to thank your voice teachers today. I would love to hear the stories of how the teachers in your life shaped your voice and how you are using that voice today.