As a therapist and voice coach, I belong to a number of professional organizations. On the music side, our focus ranges from the science of voice production to the art and heart of creativity and self-expression.
A recent discussion by a voice teacher in South Carolina began with the seemingly simple question: "Why do we sing?" Not why should we sing, or how should we sound...but why do we sing in the first place?
My initial reaction was that singing, for me, is like breathing. It's like oxygen. The thought came over the hymn, "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" playing in my head: "I sing because I'm happy...I sing because I'm free."
But often, for so many of us, this "why" gets covered over by fear and perfectionism; by self-judgment and concerns about the judgment of others. It gets lost in the desire to make simple things complicated in order to look smarter, better, and more important: by simply 'maturing' and becoming an 'adult', we often leave behind wonder and curiosity in pursuit of success and recognition, forgetting the joy and fun of the experience, as well as the wisdom inherent in both.
Children don't need to understand the composite of sand in order to play on the beach. They don't have to know the molecular structure of water to splash around in the waves and to lose themselves in tasting the raindrops that land on their tongues.
Why do I sing? I sing to open up. I sing to share. I sing to discover who I am. I sing to discover who I want to be. I sing to transcend my body. I sing to expand out the boundaries of my emotions, to feel more, to be more. To grow. To fly. I sing to tell the story of what I've learned, and to ask others to share their stories with me.
I sing to feel. I sing to love.
Understanding the voice and the psychology of singing is fascinating; it's my life's work. But in the stillness, when my voice and I share a moment, it's the joy, rather than the knowledge, that leads me on. It's the mystery of this wild, wonderful gift—the "why" of it all—that brings tears to my eyes, and makes me remember what the journey, of singing and of living, is all about.
Jennifer, an east coast-based voice coach and psychotherapist, is the author of The Art of Singing series. Visit her website, www.FindingYourVoice.com to learn more about how to find joy in your own singing and self-expression.