To bud or to blossom? Painting by Jana Philipp (quote Anais Nin)

As the days get shorter toward the solstice (my birthday!), it’s cause for reflection. This week, as at the end of every term, I met with my students to celebrate our recent time of work together. I never know how it’s going to go down–it’s different every time depending on the students in each cohort. But it’s always a time for sharing, eating good food, laughing, playing games and sometimes, getting philosophical. On this particular occasion, there was much to be inspired by–as always, my students impressed me with their infinite wisdom and their synthesis of their learning process.

There are any number of threads I could pursue from this particular evening of convivial conversation. But today during my practice the painting on the wall (pictured above) caught my eye, and I knew which of those threads was going to lead into this space…

One of my students spoke of an epiphany this week in performance. She had been reflecting on the disconnect between her idea of perceived vocal “control” and what she imagined to be freedom in her singing and performing. She noted that after every performance in which she felt she had done “all the right things” (thinking this must result in a feeling of vocal freedom and abandon), when she watched the video she was crestfallen by how tight and rigid it all seemed. So contained. So restrained. So frustrating. So in recent lessons, we had experimented with her pretending to be a “fake opera singer”, literally taking on the personality and traits of someone she admired and aspired to be, but felt was very far from who she could be herself. The results in the studio were astonishing!

So this week when we had our end of term class recital, she was challenged by one of her fellow studio mates to “really go in there and f&*%#?! up”. She had permission to take a risk, to even fail. Result? She triumphed. She risked to blossom, rather than to remain tight in the bud, as she had been doing for so long. Ultimately, being tight had just become too painful. So instead, she burst forth, into a new day of being more fully herself. Something for us all to ponder in these final days of the year, as we grow closer and closer to the time where every tight bud will begin to consider what it might be to blossom.