By Jean McClelland
A baby cries, and we are riveted by the sound’s urgency. Children run, play and laugh, and we stand in awe at their spontaneity and the richness of their imaginations. We resonate with their joy and yearn for when we, too, experienced such openness. Even a young child’s gibberish is filled with inflection and color that communicate eloquently.
What has happened to make so many of us self-conscious about creative self-expression and embarrassed by the sound of our own voice? Why is it that a baby can bellow for hours and never get hoarse, but we feel strain and vocal fatigue after a few hours of teaching or even after a long chat? Why do our voices tend to disappear when we have to express ourselves in a meeting or in front of a group?
Is it possible to regain the freedom and spontaneity of our voices and being? The answer is yes.
Awakening our true voice is a highly creative process that uses our powers of breath, imagination and observation. Not surprisingly, this is also a path back to our real self and true emotional maturity. Many people are amazed when I tell them that uncovering their true voice is as creative a process as painting, writing or musical improvisation. In connecting with our real voice, we experience enormous concentration and a quality of being “in the moment,” where we feel un-self-conscious, free and filled with energy.
TThe great singer Luciano Pavarotti once told an interviewer that he never tries to “sing”; sound just flows out of him. Similarly, Mozart wrote that he really had no idea how he composed music; it just seemed to “flow.” Painters talk about losing all sense of time when working, and my students tell me that when they first experience their real voice, they feel “out of control,” as if somebody else’s voice is coming out of them. All these examples have one thing in common: the creative process.
The search for one’s true voice is a deeply intuitive process of rediscovery. Sometimes, though, it can be difficult to let go of preconceptions about how our true voice should sound and just allow it to emerge. Freeing our voice from life’s constraints may make us feel somewhat vulnerable, though at the same time it can be liberating. We must approach our work with a sense of curiosity and discovery and Zen-like patience. Then this wonderful, freeing process will cease to be a mystery and never be lost.
Jean McClelland is a renowned teacher of voice, breathing and the Alexander Technique and has performed on Broadway and in concert. She has taught workshops in holistic centers and universities throughout the country and will be teaching Awakening Your True Voice at the New York Open Center, Mondays from 6 to 7:30 p.m., November 5 through December 10. For more information, visit OpenCenter.org.