Keep your feet on the ground and aim for the stars!
Learning and teaching professional singing in all its richness and complexity is an adventure! It takes place in a space of apparent contradictions.
In order to make poetry and music sound out by using our voice, we need naturalness and virtuosity, imagination and control, warmth and cool confidence, flexibility and structure.
But these contrasts hide a deeper unity.
Of course a healthy technique must be learned, in order to shape the high demands placed on us by music, language and performance. At the same time, there is a need for inner imagination, freedom and intuition, in order to comprehend the deeper layers of musical works and to lend them sound and expression in order that others may experience them.
Like a tree, we need strong roots but also branches that reach sensitively outwards and upwards. Firm foundations and flexibility, grounding and flights of fancy.
The immediate technical preconditions for the so-called ‘free’ or ‘liberated’ sound are a positive ‘default tension’ (neither cramped nor too relaxed), an elastic diaphragm and respiratory activity, a feeling for one’s own resonance, an open, broad throat, an active but at the same time loose tongue, and jaws without a trace of stiffness.
To acquire this this highly complex finely tuned motor system and to get it into a healthy state of flowing balance takes a lot of time and patience, a good ear, and a constantly improving bodily awareness.
Our instrument, the voice, and its sound are however not just dependent on the anatomy of our individual bodies, but are, in addition, directly linked to our personalities, our very essence.
Our vocal sound, supported by breathing and the diaphragm (our ‘emotional muscle’) expresses our feelings and our moods. Our soul vibrates along with it, and can touch other people.
Every voice, every person, thus has a special individuality and value, which should be protected and promoted in equal measure.
We also have the privilege of shaping language and filling it out in a theatrical way. Discovering the essence of poetry and literature, and re-telling it theatrically in combination with music is what makes our art so fascinating and unique.
As a teacher, I see my task in understanding the strengths and weaknesses, the temperament, the predilections and the possibilities of my pupils, and discovering how these can best be balanced out.
Of course, this demands a high degree of expert knowledge, a good talent for observation, diagnostic skills and experience, and not least critical self-reflexion on one’s own work and a confident ability to constantly subject one’s own teaching practice to constructive questioning.
Beside convey a sound technique and musical knowledge, the focus of my teaching lies in promoting the autonomy, self-perception and self-guidance of the students, as well as strengthening their own sometimes unimagined possibilities and resources.
Most of us know how hard it is to be self-critical without disparaging oneself as a person. As the latest studies in neuroscience have shown, the process of learning succeeds all the more easily if we do not look at ourselves from a negative perspective.
How are we supposed to learn to fly, if we clip our own wings?
In this sense, I enjoy this wonderful job and the challenges it brings: it is a privilege to impart a good flying technique to others.