Classical Singer Magazine Articles by Theresa Rodriguez
Tao (taυ) —n: 1. that in virtue of which all things happen or exist; 2. the rational basis of human conduct; 3. the course of life and its relation to eternal truth.
In the same way that life itself is defined by the beating of the heart, our life begins with breath and ends with breath. It is so elemental and universal in its identity and nature to us as living beings that it would not be unusual to find celebration and reverence for this most elemental of functions in all cultures and histories of our world. Nearly everything breathes, from a human lung to a leaf on a tree to fish and microbes and cells.
In my study of the singing voice, I have found an interesting connection between the practice of breathing employed by classical singers and the acknowledgment of the importance of breath and breathing within certain Oriental cultures. This reaches into the religious elements of both Occidental and Oriental civilizations, and we all have become aware—and reverential—to the art and act of breathing, for its ability to help us create beautiful singing and for its ability to strengthen the body, mind, and spirit. - See more at: http://www.classicalsinger.com/magazine/article.php?id=2814
It was the Renaissance composer William Byrd who said, “Since singing is so good a thing, I wish all men would learn to sing.” In thinking about the “good” in singing, I have contemplated what is “so good” about it and why all men should “learn” to do it. As a singer, I know it is good—and if I could not sing, I would surely perish. But what are some of the benefits of singing that make it truly “so good a thing”?
It is often difficult to separate out the physical, emotional/psychological, and spiritual when discussing singing or its “goodness” or benefits. Is not our body really the vehicle for what is on our hearts and minds when we sing? Can we sing without using our very body? Will the actions of the body not be connected with the mind and heart and spirit? A writer may be able to produce his art purely from his mind, but a singer must use his body, every time. So when we discuss the benefits of singing from a psychological perspective, it is neither possible nor reasonable to completely separate out the physical from the spiritual from the emotional or psychological.
What are some of the psychological benefits of singing? Consider these ideas. - See more at: http://www.classicalsinger.com/magazine/article.php?id=2738
Within Christian and other spiritual traditions, it is understood that a human being is comprised of three parts: spirit, soul, and body. The soul is the personality or the nature of the person, and we all know what the body is. But it is the spirit that is often confused with or aligned with the soul, to the detriment of our general understanding.
What Is the Spirit?
The spirit is that part of us that is eternal, that comes from eternity and goes back to it. It is our essence that is beyond flesh and feelings and emotions and even our rationality. It is our distillation, our inner core, the self which connects to that which cannot be seen but is as real as anything we touch or feel. It is the part of us that communes with the Divine and through which the Divine communicates to us and through us.
As singers, we sing with all three parts of ourselves. Our bodies are our very instrument: we “play ourselves” when we sing. We spend years perfecting the talent we were given when we were created: how to make our larynx and our lungs and our trachea and our mouth and lips produce what is music and beautiful singing. We access and utilize our souls to express feeling and emotion, to convey what the song or aria we are singing is about.
But with the spirit, we are going beyond and delving within, to the place of transcendence, to the world which cannot be seen but from which all other dimensions and powers emanate. And it is from this place that we yearn to sing spiritual music and derive great satisfaction from listening to it and performing it. - See more at: http://www.classicalsinger.com/magazine/article.php?id=2758
Medical and artistic professionals generally accept that a relationship exists between some creative persons and mental illness. Bipolar disorder, specifically, is seen at a high rate among writers, artists, and musicians. Some well-known classical musicians have been the subject of much rumination as to the nature and effects of their illness on their performance and their art. Robert Schumann, for instance, had periods of great creativity and periods of utter despair. His suicide attempts and long-term institutionalization in a sanitarium for the mentally ill attest to the severity of his illness.
Bipolar disorder is debilitating both in its high points of manic energy and its lows of depression. In this short series of articles, we will look at what bipolar disorder is and the ways it affects classical singers in their present and future careers. - See more at: http://www.classicalsinger.com/magazine/article.php?id=2637
A study in the 1990s from the University of California at Irvine demonstrated that “spatial intelligence” (the comprehension of visual information) in college students was “greatly enhanced” by listening to Mozart for 10 minutes before testing. This study became the basis for the book The Mozart Effect by Dan Campbell (Harper Paperbacks, 2001). Subsequent studies show the “effect” to be even greater in younger students.
The work of Paul Madaule, a student of the famous French researcher Alfred Tomatis, supports this type of result. Madaule extols the “universal qualities” of Mozart’s music, writing about how his music works its wonders among such diverse groups as primitive societies, autistic children, and medical patients. “[Mozart’s] music is the only one we know that creates a perfect balance between the charging effect and a sense of calmness and well-being,” writes Madaule in his fascinating work When Listening Comes Alive: A Guide to Effective Learning and Communication (Moulin Publishing, 1994). Madaule uses frequency-filtered Mozart music to work with people in need of health and healing, including the disabled, children with autism, people with attention deficit disorder, and even opera singers who have lost their hearing due to the excessive noise of their own voice—with startling results.
You may find similar benefits and joys from the variety of listening and learning materials geared for both parents and children created by The Children’s Group and based on the The Mozart Effect. - See more at: http://www.classicalsinger.com/magazine/article.php?id=1454
In the first part of this series we looked at what bipolar is and is not, treatment modalities, how it affects a classical singer, and signs and symptoms warnings. In this part we will examine prognosis, coping and survival tips, career advice and alternatives, and life as a bipolar classical singer.
It is possible to have a very good prognosis or a very poor prognosis with bipolar disorder. This depends a great deal on the severity of the illness as it affects you personally, life’s stressors, success of medication and therapies, and even perhaps things such as age.
The best-case scenario would involve being able to work in virtually any musical capacity, while under proper psychiatric care, working with known limitations and learning to respect them. A reasonable scenario would be one with managed symptoms and learned coping mechanisms—a moderate career with some singing engagements and teaching. The worst case scenario is, of course, total disintegration and a lifetime of hospitalization or disability checks, or suicide.
I should hope that many will fall close to the mostly functioning end. The bipolar singer must, however, be realistic and accept that is this is a chronic, sometimes progressive disorder that is “managed” but never cured. In this, one needs to look at alternative and perhaps unconventional ways to have a career as a classical singer.
- See more at: http://www.classicalsinger.com/magazine/article.php?id=2655
Making beautiful music with our voices is not the only blessing we female singers enjoy—we also have the ability to be mothers. Many of us have succeeded at doing both. (I am the mother of six.) All of us, however, share the trials and tribulations of being a woman. The various changes that occur throughout the female life-cycle affect our voices. What sort of vocal management is most beneficial during these times of change?
Menstruation: It belongs to us all
The two hormones that affect the voice most strongly—estrogen and progesterone—are at their lowest levels just before the onset of menstruation. Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone; it causes the changes in the epithelium, or top layer of tissue, inside the vagina. Progesterone works in tandem with estrogen and their levels are sensitive to each other.
What does this have to do with our voices? Amazingly, everything! The tissues of the vagina are identical under the microscope to the tissues of the vocal folds. And, equally amazing, vocal folds contain hormone receptors and react to hormone change.
In other words, just before you menstruate expect the changes going on in your vocal folds to be similar to what you are experiencing in your uterus. Swelling of the vocal folds is not a good thing—if the “cover,” or top layer, of the vocal fold tissue cannot “slip” off the body of the fold to vibrate, you can’t phonate properly. This swelling can come from edema (water retention), or from the dilation of your blood vessels. Either way, swelling is tough on the voice! Top notes become higher to manage and you may feel pain or general discomfort.
What to do? Keep a diary of your menstrual cycle and your vocal symptoms. You may be able to “plot” good and bad days this way and avoid planning a recital on one of the bad days, such as one of the days before your period. Don’t push high notes during PMS times (and let your teacher know what is going on). Avoid singing if you have pain or discomfort. (Prolonged swelling or other vocal issues need to be addressed by a qualified health professional.) - See more at: http://www.classicalsinger.com/magazine/article.php?id=1456
The audience is out there, a huge potential audience, gathered behind the walls of institutions, an audience of listeners that would be well served by good singers with good hearts.
Singing for these types of audiences is far different than performing at an opera house or a recital hall. The repertoire may or may not be the same as your standard classical repertoire, depending on the circumstances, but you are dealing with people who usually have disabilities or illnesses and thus are out of the mainstream of society. When you sing for an institutional audience, you really have to want to be there. It is a choice that comes from the satisfaction of knowing that your gift of song can touch or even heal someone who is hurting.
Before you consider performing or working in an institution, you will need to ask yourself some questions. Can I handle the not-so-pleasant smells and sights I might find in a hospital room or the floor of a nursing home? Will I be able to handle interruptions in my performance by a mentally ill or senile person, who may call something out or perhaps start crying?
I ask these questions as caveats, because once you decide you would like to sing in institutions, you will find yourself in a very different scenario. If you don’t have the heart or stomach for imperfection, this might not be the line of work for you.
If, however, your heart is as big and beautiful as your voice, I think you will find institutional audiences some of the most endearing and appreciative that you can find on this earth! - See more at: http://www.classicalsinger.com/magazine/article.php?id=806