Monday, October 18, 2010


A friend of mine teaches theater and English to High School kids. She was describing one fall how she began the year explaining to her students through various exercises and literature that each person has a unique voice, and encouraging her students to find their own voice. I hope her students are quicker than me, because I've been pondering that one for a full 4 years now.

I didn't realize I had any particular voice when I preach until I noticed it started to change. I was looking at an old sermon from a few years back and remembered how erudite I used to sound. Over the past few years, however, my focus has changed from trying to sound learned and polished to just helping the good folks stay awake on a Sunday morning. I went from trying to sound like a minister to sounding more like a conversation over coffee in the social hall. Come to think of it, my coffee hour voice has changed too since those first awkward days of my internship: it's a lot more relaxed and, frankly, sometimes downright goofy. So as near as I can tell, finding your voice is some combination of using the hardwear and software that nature and nurture provided, and letting some of your Self leak through the editing mind which protects us all from the worst of bad jokes and rambles.

But, in the words of the immortal Bill Cosby, I told you that story so I could tell you this one. About 2 years ago now I bought myself a mandolin. It had been almost 20 years since I dropped out of music school, and I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to make music again. A singer is so much more independent and useful if she can accompany herself; but sadly the barrier was not simply the mechanical learning curve of training muscles to play a new instrument, but one of voice. It seems the same technique that makes "Quando m'en vo" sound lovely is just plain awkward when put to the task of singing "High Shelf Booze " So here I am, starting from scratch, finding my voice all over again.


Amy said...

Two thoughts:

I have been thinking about this a lot lately re: preaching and art. I sorted it out a long time ago about school writing, but writing-for-preaching is a whole other thing, and it's only recently that I've really accepted my own voice as a sermon-writer. Likewise, I'm trying to own my "voice" (style, I guess) as an artist.

That last bit of your post is why I never took voice lessons--I knew instinctively that I didn't want to "classicize" my voice. Now, years later, I know that you can take voice lessons that aren't aimed at making your voice fit to sing arias. Maybe I could learn to be a blues singer . . .

Oh, and comment #3: love the new prolificness! It's such a treat to read these.

Unknown said...

So glad to be able to read your blog again (no pressure intended for future contribution). I was taking a little time for ME this morning, and it was the perfect treat. Remember your first voice teacher? around the time when 'Annie" ws big.

Arcadia said...

I found myself in the first paragraph. Thank you, friend. Your voice to me was always one that came from so many places. Diva, philosopher, hostess, generator of reality, opener of worlds. More and more I see voice as action- literally we walk our talk, we talk our walk- we vote with our feet. We are what we repeatedly do, and our expression comes out of that.