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Giving of Yourself When You Are Broken

The day I was to perform scenes from a play, I woke up with my soprano voice in baritone range. So for that performance my character just happened to have a really low, almost raspy voice. Nobody noticed there was anything wrong.

I taught a class with the remains of a cold. We boosted the sound system and I asked for patience while I struggled with my voice. The audience was kind and the class went well.

As an opera singer, when I'm having an "off" day the quality of the very sound I was hired for has changed. It's like I'm trying to play a piano with a cracked soundboard or even missing keys and I can't just use that to build a character. My message is compromised.

In a world of "what have you done lately", we singers worry about how we will be judged and how an off voice day will affect our success. We also want to make a difference. We want to give generously to our audience. We want to provide a transforming, an exhilarating, a moving experience. We worry we won't be able to make that difference.

There are as many reasons to worry about a vocally off day as there are instruments made of flesh and emotions and soul.

Of course, these worrying moments are an opportunity to refine our technique and our physical health. They are also opportunities to pay attention to our emotional health and specifically to our relationship with why we sing.

Many years ago, I was asked to sing as part of a benefit concert for a humanitarian relief fund. I showed up warmed up and ready to sing. About half way through the program I was told that the show was running long and I would be going on later than scheduled. How much later? Not much later - very soon. What was very soon? They couldn't say, but very soon. So I remained physically and emotionally warmed up.

The organizers had no idea that we operatic vocalists prepare like athletes. I had timed my food intake (I have to sing on an empty stomach). I had prepared the tiniest set of muscles in my body like I was a starter in a football game. Then they benched me and asked my vocal folds to be ready to start any second - for 2 hours. By the time it was my turn to go on, I was tired, and hungry and emotionally spent. The remaining 25 people in the audience were scattered in a house that seats a thousand. Perhaps I could have made different choices, and yet if I had, I would have missed this experience:

The die hard audience members had given generously to charity. They deserved the best I had left in me. I sang Wagner's Wesendonk Lieder. They are songs of hope and despair. I felt they fit the spirit of the event. (Here is one of them. "Schmerzen"-"Pains").

When I finished, I was exhausted and demoralized. My vocal folds were tired and swollen and the low middle of my voice was compromised. My thoughts went to some ugly places. I compared my performance to what might have been. I came up lacking in my own estimation.

As I was gathering up my things, a gentleman approached me and gifted me with these words: My wife died 2 months ago. You've given me the first moment of joy I have had since she died.

Something in my brokenness, in my struggle and in my finding beauty in the midst of brokenness spoke to him. I had unwittingly extended an invitation to take the next step on the hard path with me.

My grief-ridden admirer also gave me a gift. While holding his precious words close to my heart for many years, I held on to the details of my story long enough to create a new self narrative. I know better what I am made of. I completed a marathon, successfully made beautiful sounds (by compromising the shape of vowels to focus the resonance) and I did it after the organizers had thrown marbles on the race track.

The ongoing quest to change my relationship with my story has been a game changer.

I'd like to share my take-away from the experience of sharing myself in a compromised state.

"There's someone in your sphere who has been, is or will be broken. When you share yourself as you reach for transcendence you've shown that there is a pathway to repair." Monica Schober

And lest you be concerned that all my experiences have been like the one I just recounted, I have since had performances where all the conditions lined up and I did get to fly. That too was wonderful!

Advocating for #Kindness in all aspects of how we resonate with ourselves and others,

I remain yours,

Monica Schober

Cultivate your Resonance and shine your Light in a world that needs your gifts.

© Monica Schober, Resonance and Light™ 2018

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