Some lifeboats that might actually save you in daily real singing life…
from “Fifty Boats” by Nan Shepherd, photo by Kimberly Barber

My teacher, Neil Semer, often tells me that I’m a “lifeboat person”. What he means by that is that I am the kind of person you want to have in your lifeboat. A survivor. Someone tenacious. Someone you can count on in a crisis. A person who will hold on to life with an iron grip. Who never gives up. And this is true. The only downside, as he puts it, is that these attributes are not generally that helpful when it comes to singing. Because as Neil also likes to say, singing is all about surrender, release, letting go. And lifeboat people don’t let go, they hang on for dear life at all costs.

It is my constant challenge in my singing life that I need to continually choose to let go, to relinquish “control”, to abandon myself to the breath. And this has been made so clear to me in recent weeks, as I have clung tenaciously to things like “accomplishment”, “activity”, “getting things done”, “validation”. It has caused my voice to shut down, because it simply will not be compelled to work under sweatshop conditions. And who can blame it, really? The singing self is a creative being that thrives on freedom. So this week, I am creating some new patterns. Not forcing. Not compelling myself. Not trying to achieve anything grandiose (or even simple). Just be, and have that be enough. So that hopefully, in the next phase, I can rediscover the joy of floating and stop the endless thrashing toward accomplishment that only ends in drowning.

I pulled out these little boats from an artwork given to me years ago by a friend for my 50th birthday. And they seem like positive lifeboats for the future. Or maybe even right now. Let’s float.