So there’s an elephant in the room. Relationships. That behemoth that, in our world as social creatures, dependent on one another for nurturing, sustenance and love, can make or break us. And so it is with the voice as well: what is happening in our personal relationships is always reflected in our singing (speaking too, if we’re paying attention).

I remember as a young singer that when I went to my voice lesson each week, the Kleenex box was omnipresent on the piano. And thank goodness too, because I sobbed my way through many a lesson! Funnily enough, I always thought at that time that the tissues were there so that other students (and presumably my teacher) could blow their noses during cold and flu season. I presumed that I was the ONLY one who was having regular emotional meltdowns. It was only when I began teaching voice myself that the regular bubbling up of deep emotions made me aware of the essentiality of the Kleenex box.

I was also astounded as a singing novice at my teacher’s uncanny (witchlike!) ability to detect when I was struggling with something personal. Barely two notes would come out of my mouth before she’d say “what’s up?”. I now know only too well how evidently emotional bruising is manifested in the singing voice. And of course—the cause is often personal relationships. Not just romantic relationships, mind you. Friendships, family ties. Mom. Dad. The whole nine yards.

It seems that the moment we open our bodies to allow the deep movement of breath into the lower abdomen and pelvis, and then feel the authentic vibration of our voices throughout our being…well…STUFF comes up. Feelings of unworthiness. Fear of not being loved. Fear of being “too much”. Fear of taking up too much space (“people won’t like me”). And the list goes on. There is literally no end to the kind of emotional detritus that people (including yours truly) are carrying inside them. And this baggage can seriously hinder the free channel that is needed for a voice to ring strong and true. Part of the work (a large part, as it turns out) of being a voice teacher is in guiding the student on the path toward clearing this garbage out of the way, so that the singing voice can happily burble away, supported on a buoyant foundation of breath and body.

But for that, you need to get friendly with the Kleenex box.

There’ll be more on this. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.