As I consider the end of the academic year and all that I’ve learned and experienced, I am reminded to practice what I preach. I’m preparing some conference presentations that are culminations of what I’ve gleaned, as well as collaborations with students–these are the ones that inspire me the most. Because it has been the creativity, innovation and resilience of my students that has taught me more than anything.
Case in point: one of my graduating students, Sarah Stapleton, authored two (two!) research studies under my supervision, which examined two different areas of vocal pedagogy. One involved Body Mapping (one of my main research interests; I’ve been a licensed Body Mapping Educator since 2015) and the other involved “best virtual teaching practices” in voice studio and choral settings. To be honest, I felt like I was in over my head. I never thought of myself as an academic, a researcher, but rather, a performer and educator with passions and quirky methodologies (largely student-centred and driven by their expressed/perceived needs) who learns by doing, modifying and developing strategies as I go, and often highly individualized depending on whom I am working with. That Sarah used modalities and methods that we had been working with in the voice studio and turned them into major research projects was something of a marvel to me. And then when they received accolades (multiple invitations to present at conferences, effusive feedback from respected colleagues), I had a profound realization: that I was sitting on reams of qualitative data collected over many years that could be used to mobilize knowledge.
So here is what I have been preaching: follow your heart. Listen to feelings, your body, your community. Connect to something larger with your singing. Investigate and excavate your inner self to cement identity and communicate something powerful to the rest of the world. Singing can provide intense personal growth and create connection and a sense of belonging. These things I strongly believe, even KNOW to be true. But until this year, I never really thought I had much to offer in the way of scholarship. And now I know that I do. Thank you, Sarah, for showing me how to practice what I preach.