I'm currently planning a five-week class to teach at my church that will encourage people to get to know their true voices, and to be unashamed of them in worship. Frankly, it's a tall order. Criticizing the singing voices of others who are obviously untalented (insert rage-y eyeroll here) is still a culturally acceptable form of body shaming in our society, and it has crept into the church in some egregious ways. While I'll be focusing this class on singing in worship, the main thesis I will be arguing over those five weeks can be applied to just about any singing situation:
Your voice is unique, beautiful, and deserves to be heard.
So often when I meet with new clients, especially if they are younger singers, they will eventually get around to telling me they would like to sound like someone they admire. If they are listening to pop music, often I'll hear stylizations, habits, or a tone production that is an imitation of some singer they heard on the radio.
Imitation can be really helpful in learning how to do certain things with the voice, like embellishments or characteristics of a genre that are not written on the page. But it can be detrimental when a singer starts to wish away their own voice and try to take on someone else's.
Helping clients discover their own unique voice, regardless of whatever talent they may perceive they have or lack, is one of my main goals as a voice teacher. And because the voice is such an intimate part of a person's identity, that journey to discovering and loving their own authentic voice can be one that is challenging and emotional. And I think it can be great when we have to do the hard work of learning who we are through our singing voices! Our own sound is something that cannot be truly imitated by anyone else. They have their own voices, and you have yours. Embracing that sound is a worthwhile endeavor!
Recently, a student asked me how she could love her own voice. I told her truthfully that there is no amount of singing technique that is going to lead her to love her voice unless she truly loves herself. I believe that with all my pedagogical heart. I can teach all the technique in the world, but it won't instill self-worth into any singer. That has to come from within. That's why I'm passionate about helping the "untalented" singers, particularly in a worship setting, accept and celebrate their own unique sound. No one deserves to be silenced because they aren't good enough to be heard. No one, ever, ever, ever.
I hope that if you have ever been told that your voice isn't good enough, that you will hear me cleary: It is. It always has been. No one else's approval makes it acceptable. It is acceptable because it is yours and you are enough.
I hope that in the coming weeks when music is such a huge part of our holiday celebrations, that you might join in the singing, feeling a little less self-conscious and without imitating any one else. Our world sounds better when your true, authentic voice is in it!