As we contemplate the New Year that is upon us, let us contemplate the onion. Singers are all a bit like onions. So many layers. With every new element we learn, we peel away and expose some aspect of our selves. Sometimes that process is laborious, even painful. There could be tears! Part of the work of this blog is to unpack some of these processes, to bring them to light. Because the way I experience it, both as singer myself and as a teacher of singers, is that the act of learning to sing better is a microcosm of life itself. So it has some kind of poetic sense that a living thing–an onion–might be used as a metaphor for this process.
You’d think it would just be simple if you’re “talented enough”. But it ain’t. As my friend and colleague Wendy Nielsen likes to say “singing is simple, but it’s not easy”. There are a few basic tenets that are common to all good singing–a deep, released breath inspired by emotion; elastic abdominal support; an open throat; efficient and clear phonation; a free resonant space; effective and precise articulation; a commitment to the truth in the text; an authentic connection to your feelings so that they communicate to the audience. But how those all operate and coordinate with one another is a complex and involved process, and it includes a lot of hard honesty with oneself in order to do it well. You peel away one layer and might be tempted to think that it’s all done–what a nice onion! But then you realize there is more, and more, and more…indeed, this work is never really done. We are constantly refining, retooling, revisiting. With each stage of life and every experience, singing feels different. More layers again. It’s a lifelong practice that’s akin to prayer or yoga. But the reward is in the doing, because in the mindfulness of this practice lies self-awareness and discovery and communication. It’s the essence of being human. Happy New Year. Peel those onions.