Campfire on the Mattawa River, August 2022

They say that one of the most important moments in education is ignition–the moment a spark lights a fire in the learner. These critical junctures can mean the difference between a student truly engaging and becoming excited about the learning process, or, well…not. I take these moments seriously and consider carefully how I can get them to happen. Sometimes no matter how well you plan, the spark takes forever to light, or smoulders seemingly forever before suddenly catching flame and burning bright. But for someone who loves to teach, that instant when ignition happens is magical.

This past week I’ve witnessed some spectacular learning curves in a couple of folks, and I thought I’d just share a couple of these stories. Last weekend I taught my annual workshop for Pranalife Yoga. I’ve been doing this voice workshop as part of their teacher training (my segment is usually one of the last in their course) for the past several years, and it never fails to be a highlight of my teaching year. I work with anywhere between 10 and 30 students, most of whom have had no prior voice training. The whole idea is to get them more comfortable with their vocal instrument as part of their teaching journey–the voice being the conduit between their knowledge as teachers and the students they’ll work with. (Of course the stealth objective is that working with the voice is also a pathway to spiritual and personal growth, but we don’t ever say that out loud. Shhhh).

I worked with one student last week who had a powerful experience while singing (they all have to sing a short song of their choosing: they are all completely terrified); this was someone who acknowledged the moment they stood up that they “hated their voice”. While doing some very basic voice work to open up their sound, this woman suddenly had an intense personal breakthrough. She began to cry and then said “I love to sing! I feel like my soul has been set free like a caged bird!” Every one of us in that room was moved to tears. She experienced what I like to call “meeting yourself” through a connection with her true, empowered voice. The spark was lit.

The next moment of rekindling came from one of my fourth year students. She’s always had star quality, but this week she really rose to the occasion. Students have been dropping like flies to various flus and colds (and some have had COVID too) and this week, two students succumbed on the final dress rehearsal day before opening. One of them was single cast in her role–I had no replacement. The option was to drop the scene, or to jump in myself (I hadn’t sung the role in about 25 years, but figured I could study up and do it if need be), but then I thought: why not ask this student if she’d be able to learn it and sub in for her colleague? She agreed to try it, and on less than 24 hours notice she not only learned it, but learned all the staging, and by the second run through she was singing it from memory. She nailed it. I saw this emergence of a powerful young artist, who burst out of the cocoon as a fully formed butterfly, soaring about the room. The need to support her fellow performer lit the fire inside her that caused her to burst into artistic flame. It was spectacular.

I’m reminded of the power of the singing voice to connect us with our deepest selves. I feel grateful to be able to be part of that journey for people. It’s a sacred act.