Monday, April 20, 2009

Singing for Leadership

A few weeks ago, I attended a fantastic workshop from the Global Women's Leadership Network taught by Kay Kleinerman called "Singing for Leadership: Releasing your Inner Leader Through Voice".  I've been singing for years, but have never thought of the connection to sense of self and ability to lead before.

Kay talked extensively about the transformative learning experience, basically how you expand your sense of self based on your personal life experiences.  Actual experiences can change your self view of what you are capable of, much more than you would imagine.

The workshop had about 20 women in a room, and we all partnered up to share our "Leadership Journey Line", a chart of 3-4 pivotal events that helped to form us as the leaders we are today. Then she asked us to chart on the same graph our realization of voice. I was surprised at what events came to my mind - both upsetting and uplifting.

For example, I was bullied in high school by a group of "hoods" (aka hoodlums), and one girl in particular. I remember being worried about the girls showing up to my house and beating me up, as they repeatedly threatened to do on the phone and in person. I was actually worried about what my parents would think I must've done to deserve this, which was honestly nothing.  One night, at Taco Bell, a girl friend and I were walking back to our car, when there were those girls - calling me horrible names and threatening to "teach me a lesson" then and there for not giving respect to their ring leader.  My friend, much stronger and more confident than I, turned to me and said: "I'm sick of this. I'll help you, let's go!"  The girls immediately backed down, and in fact apologized for their months of harassment. I suddenly had confidence, suddenly felt I had a voice and that it mattered. I was free to be myself.

It amazes me how much one person's negative opinion can so much impact one's sense of self. During this class, I recalled a recent experience in a show where I was told, on the phone, by someone associated with the show that I was ruining various numbers, including my solos, with my voice. That I was so flat on pitch and had such  horrible rhythm that the show might be better off if I left. Even through my obvious tears, the person continued. I was so confused, I had recordings of myself, and I didn't hear pitch problems. I consulted with musician friends of mine who insisted I was on pitch. I could only imagine that I was doing something "live" when I wasn't right next to the piano that was dreadful and horrible and embarrassing.  My friends that saw me perform said I sounded great. Other people involved in the show said the same thing. But, yet, I could not let go of this one person's comments. I suddenly lost my voice - my will to sing.

So many women in the class had similar experiences and just talking about them took the power away from those people, which is, honestly, what has compelled me to write.

Kay taught us all a simple song, and had us work on just a few techniques. With each new lesson, our communal voice swelled - the song took on various interpretations and came to life.  By the end of the afternoon, everyone was able to sing a solo line or two and everyone sounded just wonderful. All of the voices were different, some more obviously trained, but all were on pitch and were enjoyable to listen to.

Kay taught us that every voice has value. Someone in the class mentioned Tom Waits, who certainly is not known for having a "lovely" voice - but his voice is so powerful and enchanting all the same. Kay believes that having connection and confidence in your own voice can make you a better, more authentic, leader. It seemed obvious, by the end of the workshop, that we were all on board.

This class recalled to me the lyrics from Concrete Blonde's "True": "And if I had the choice I'd take the voice I got / Cause it was hard to find. ... I give all I can and it's all I can do, / But I'm true."

Do any of you have similar experiences with voice and trust in yourself?

1 comment:

  1. Hey Valerie,
    Kay just shared your post via email with the other members of the workshop, and I thought I'd respond.
    It really is amazing how certain events in our lives that we have no control over hinder our ability to connect with our true voice. I had a similar experience in my childhood that I was often bullied by a variety of people, which overall made it difficult for me to trust myself or my voice. And I too have been in shows before where I've been told my voice is too loud or not on the right notes (which I've believed without fairly giving myself a chance to question whether their statement was justified).
    I really like working w/ Kay because she really believes in the fundamental idea that every voice has value. I know you've trained with her as well, and this is probably one of the reasons why she is so successful as a voice teacher. Bringing the transformative learning ideas into vocalization is helpful. I'm taking the Saturday extension classes now with her and a smaller group of the women who were at the original workshop, and find it is most beneficial to explore the idea of voice within a group of other women who I feel I can trust.
    Hope you're doing well!