I was reading this book recently about creating your dream life and one of the exercises in it was to write down your heroes. And I just stared at the page. For probably about an hour. Racking my brain. And then I cried. A lot.
I don’t have any heroes. At least not in the traditional sense I understand.
I wasn’t brought up being asked ‘who are your heroes’ or ‘who do you want to be when you grow up’. I was brought up being told to ‘do what makes you happy’. In fact, I don’t ever remember wanting to be anyone other than who I was. Which is weird, because I’ve had a lot of issues with feeling like I’m enough. They seem like polar opposites of each other. Still, I know I have this weird ‘get up and go’ within me that doesn’t really let anyone other than myself tell myself what I can and cannot do with my life.
All this to ask – because this is a space to write about the singing voice – do we need heroes in the arts? Can we be our own heroes? Can we rescue ourselves? Can we become the hero we didn’t find or even think to find because we didn’t even know it was a thing? And how can we do that for ourselves as artists, teachers, and entrepreneurs? Can our voices help us to find the hero inside of us?
I think the answer is an emphatic yes.
As a woman moving through the music industry for the past 25 years, this not needing to find someone that looked like what I wanted to do was, in hindsight, both hindering and helpful. Because there weren’t women in the spaces I now occupy, there wasn’t really anyone to look up to – and for someone who needs that in their life to make it happen – that’s a huge barrier. But because there weren’t women in the spaces I now occupy, it also lead me to think (most likely subconsiouscly), ‘why aren’t they there? Could I do that thing? What would I do differently than the person who is doing that thing? Why do the spaces I’m occupying not feel safe? How could I change that? What would I do if it didn’t matter if I was a woman? What could I DO?
As artists and teachers working with voices and artists (both ourselves and our students) we have an opportunity to be the person that helps shape the next generation of music industry artists, teachers, leaders and entrepreneurs. We can put out music that speaks to the injustices in the world, we can share our experiences so people start to understand it is NOT the same for everyone, and we can help women find their voices.
But here’s the thing.
You don’t have to find your voice. It is INSIDE you. It always has been. You just have to find a way to trust it. To listen to it. To hear it. To love it – no matter how it decides to show up.
You can make it louder. Or stronger. Or more flexible. Or softer. Or breathier. You can use it to speak out. You can use it to help people. You can use it to TAKE UP SPACE. In that sense, you are finding how your voice works in the world in which you live. And that’s IS a thing.
For those of us that work with voices, we can help our students learn how to do these things. We can share our stories and our work and our journeys and encourage other people to follow whatever they want to do – if they think they can, they probably can – with their lives. And not call them crazy. Or tell them it’s not possible. Please don’t EVER tell anyone that what they want to do isn’t possible. You never know what will happen. It isn’t your job to tell them that. The world will let them know – or it won’t. They need to learn that by trying and doing and choosing whatever path they want to take. But that isn’t up to us.
Below is a list of things I’ve heard throughout my career – about myself, about singers and about women in general:
You’ll never really make much of your voice. It’s pretty bad.
Your intonation is off – just sit this one out.
Why would you bother doing _______? You’re not good enough to get that kind of work.
There’s no way that you can do that.
Why would you want to do that?
Don’t you just want to get married and have babies?
Well, you’re just the singer, you don’t need to know much.
Singers aren’t very smart. That’s why we don’t have that degree anymore.
You need to figure out what you want to do with your life.
Why don’t you know what you want to do with your life?
You need to stop learning and just start doing.
Why can’t you just figure out who you are?
Does any of this sound familiar?
If I’d believed any of the things above, I would never be where I am today – and that just makes me sad and angry. Because how many people hear stuff like this and just QUIT?
I’m not quitting. I’m continuing to keep going. To be my own hero.
How about you?
Can you find the hero inside you? Can you help others to find their inner hero? To use their voices for something good. To take up space? To change the spaces they are in? To help them make those negative voices quieter and to follow the hero that is screaming from the inside? We need to do this now. In any space we can. Mental distress, illness and anxiety are on the rise everywhere and in every demographic. Singing and taking up space with the voice is an antidote to some of this and can provide an amazingly cathartic outlet for processing emotions.
Where can you start?