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Voice exploration
The alchemy of learning to sing uncovers the gold of spirit that was always there.
Vicky Mountain

by Vicky Mountain

The voice is the "organ" of communication. It soothes, admonishes, cajoles, informs, entertains, cries, laughs, unites and incites. Whether through speech or song, the voice has the capability to change emotional trajectory and influence attitude merely with its inflection. From the womb to the final letting go, sound riding on breath colors our every experience.

In teaching singers for 36 years I have heard a lot of voices-no two are alike: timbre, pitch, dialect, dynamics, rhythm of phrasing, interpretation-and underneath it all-breath. The alchemy of learning to sing uncovers the gold of spirit that was always there. The process of refining gives confidence, the physical control keeps us in the present moment, knowledge comes from researching the techniques and theory, and the songs spark imagination. Practice brings discipline and, eventually, the trust that we can present ourselves through music. Performance brings poise as the skills layer upon themselves.

What is leadership but all those qualities?

Women are said to use more words than men in making our way through our days and lives. We nurture, encourage, scold and cheer to show our children, friends, co-workers and families love and involvement. So many voices are silenced by others-we are told not to talk so loud, that it's not feminine to speak up, that we should mouth the words so as not to stand out in the choir, that "you don't have anything to say" or "I don't want to hear about it."

A woman's leadership is often more suggestion than command. We lead by example and with compassion and wait to see the results. With that subtlety comes a responsibility to use our voice for "Good-not Evil." As leaders, we must keep the lines of communication open. As you speak, so you are.

I asked myself where did I find MY voice?

From my mother-her gentle spirit guiding, not pushing. Singing and humming through her days gave her comfort. On a typically cool and breezy North Dakota day, my little sister said to her while she was hanging out the clothes: "Mom, don't sing so loud- the neighbors might hear you." My mother's response? "If I didn't sing I'd probably cry."
From my mentors-my voice teachers and wonderful workshop presenters sharing their expertise and giving so much of themselves to leave a legacy of their musical arts.
From the great singers-Ella Fitzgerald's happy sound and endless creativity, Aretha Franklin's soul, Joni Mitchell's lyrics of life through the looking glass, the wail of the Bulgarian Women's Choir and Denyce Graves as Carmen.

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From my students-who keep me learning as I journey with them to discover their own unique genius.
From my inner voice-allowing silence, space and time for answers to come from a deeper wellspring.
From the infinite variations of nature-the wind, birdsong, water moving, the earth under my feet.

Where did you find YOUR voice?

Vicky Mountain is a voice instructor and chair of the voice department at the MacPhail Center For Music. She sings jazz and presents workshops on improvisation.

Editor's note: Where did you find your voice? Tell us about it. Send a paragraph to editor@womenspress.com

If You Go:
What: First Saturday Swing Dance
Where: Social Dance Studio, 3742 23rd Ave. S., Minneapolis
When: Sat., April 6, 2013, swing lessons at 7:30 p.m.; live music by Vicky Mountain and Her Swingers from 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Who: All ages
Cost: $10 includes dance lessons
FFI: 612-353-4445 or www.facebook.com/SocialDanceStudio

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