Your school is called The School of Uncovering the Voice. What does it mean to “uncover the voice” and how do you do that?
This approach to singing was initiated by Mrs. Valborg Werbeck Svardstrom, a Swedish singer who developed this in cooperation with Rudolf Steiner. It is based on the belief that every human being has their own unique singing voice. Through uncovering or unveiling our voices, we can learn to connect more fully to that which wants to speak through our voices: to our deeper, inner ideals and impulses which we are looking for in our lives.
In the past twenty years there has been an unprecedented increase in the amount of media and electronic music. Is this a threat to the human voice? If so, in what way?
In the moment when we hear music, our instrument, also physically our larynx, responds and moves according to that what it hears. If it is reproduced music and also the variety of noises in our time (which little children often imitate) it increases the lack of flexibility of our organism and causes damages and problems in different ways. The voices get lower, lose their higher range and become physically hardened. That is something which is not only present in the last twenty years but already from the 60’s and 70’s from the last century.
How are children’s voices and their ability and enthusiasm to sing affected by the increase in media?
The media affects the fantasy forces of the children and also gives them too early, too much influx of many kinds of songs and musical impressions than what one would wish for. For small children, it would be good to stay a long time just with very few, fine lullabies and working songs and to hear the singing voices of the mother, father, brothers and sisters. Children adapt their own voices towards that which they hear and are imitating the songs of our modern times, media and external noises which cause their voices to become too dominant in many ways.
How can someone begin to “uncover” her voice?
Our schooling is not just for people who already have a good, experienced singing voice. This is for anyone, for talented singers as well as for someone who has never had the courage to sing; who probably heard as many did in their school time that they didn’t have a voice- that they couldn’t sing. This is basically untrue. Often in our singing courses, we may have a trained singer, sitting or standing next to someone who has never had any voice experience; both doing the same exercises and enjoying to do this together. What we find is that some of the exercises can be done better by the person who is so new to all singing work that they can do it more directly and in a correct way. The untrained singer has not developed any previous singing habits that need to be overcome.
If someone has never really sung in public and doesn’t really feel confident singing, can she learn to sing?
Yes, but it is an individual matter as to how long this may take. The time that anyone needs for development of their voice cannot be measured in a certain amount of lessons or a certain amount of months or years. It is not a question of physical development; it is a question of how one inwardly grows with their voice.
What’s the most important thing that a person can do to protect, strengthen and improve her singing voice?
The most important thing could be to take up one’s own practice of about five to ten minutes a day of singing exercises; always in the morning, and not to look for special results but to the maintenance of the voice and growing a relationship with it. To care for that part is of a growing importance for the future.
Do you have any particular advice for male teachers when singing with younger children?
The very first thing is that one should be thankful for anyone singing with children because it is not so familiar nowadays. For male persons it is not so different as for females, but to take care to have enough lightness in the voice and to not use the voice in too strong of a way.
How often should children sing? Is it important to sing every day?
Yes! I would say that singing all day is the healthiest way of uttering oneself and also a way of digesting impressions which come from the outer world. In the moment when a child is in one’s own world through their singing, they show their health and their ability to cope with the surroundings. If you look at grownups, when they are not singing, it is often a sign of stress and inner tension which hinders them from being harmonious. On the other side, if the children would sing more, every day, it would affect their feelings of balance and harmony and give them strength for their later years.
What is the future of singing?
This is an enormously large subject and I could easily spend a whole evening’s lecture discussing the different aspects. It is hard to pick out just one detail, but one could say: In singing, you address those forces inside you which you want to become. To develop those forces is to free your voice and that is one of the most important things for the future.
What’s your summer course like? Do you need to have attended other singing courses?
It is possible to join the Open Singing Course without any previous singing experience. This course is for everyone, including those who come from stressful environments and want to renew their forces, to let themselves be inspired by music and to approach their voice in a new way. For people who are hesitant to sing, this gentle approach, singing within the group, helps them to overcome their fears and enjoy singing. It is especially recommended for people who use their voice alot, both in speaking as well as singing (such as teachers). The singing work is also enriched and supported with movement through Spatial Dynamics and Eurythmy.
Let’s deepen the experiences with our precious instrument, the singing voice, and find out that it is not only there for fun or for joy but also for gaining depth, protection and health of our whole being.