Voice as Access to Power

Kyra Gaunt, Ph.D.
Submitted: Friday, July 4, 2014 - 8:55am
Listen at 4:39 to Janelle Monae speak about her uniform (power!)
Singing is not simply a master over the mechanics of your voice. Your voice is part of your body and your identity as a human being. Coaching and lessons require a whole person/body approach.

Over the course of coaching various clients from beginners who have little sense of pitch to advanced singers who lost their sense of direction, creativity and confidence, one thing we singers must confront it that the voice is always about more than just singing. I had to myself.

I was shy as an adolescent and teenager. I had stage freight that developed from a naive ego in my first year of college as a music major. It took 20 years to overcome and now I have learned from experience what was really missing: access to power. And it's not a simple thing to get. Our voice IS our access to power in all things. (Instrumentalists need this training too).

Despite leading a kind of solitary pursuit (the voice is yours and yours alone) we are social beings in all our interactions. This requires an access to power in social settings. Let me say it another way.

Instrumentalists put their instrument away. The singer embodies both the production of their instrument and the psychology and ecological aspects of singing and it doesn't stop there. The ecology outside our bodies just like instruments affects us but we may be far more likely to not have developed enough sensitivity to our selves to notice just how much we must be responsible for the environment around us (physical, mental, linguistic and social) as the internal biology we carry that houses our voice.

The voice is both real and imagined and therefore the work of training the voice is the work of training our self to notice who we are in social environments, around our linguistic techniques, in understanding how words and ideas--the discourse we exchange about who we are as a person and as a musical being--are reflected in our sound. Once that is integrated, we begin to have power not only in musical settings but in all our life.

My vocal coaching is not just about singing, so I do not accept every client who comes my way. Not everyone is ready or ambitious enough to study, practice, think and learn in this way. It has nothing to do with skill. The beginners I have contracted to work with are ambitious. Some more ambitious than more advanced singers.

Instruments: