by Lindsey Goodman ~
Five mornings prior to making my professional singing debut as soloist with orchestra this December (2012), I awoke with almost no voice. The first near-panicked text message went to my vocal teacher, the second to my husband, and the third to my Alexander Technique instructor. From my voice coach, I received advice to shut down my vocal chords, gargle with salt water, breathe steam, and chew raw ginger. From my husband, I received spousal notes of shock, concern, and empathy. From David Nesmith, my AT instructor, I received an invitation to explore Whispered Ah’s and the reassurance that during our upcoming sessions we would work through any issues.
Over the past two years working privately with David on The Alexander Technique, we have applied AT to many aspects of my primary professional life as a classical flutist, from remaining poised and relaxed during concerto engagements, to navigating the weight of the bass flute for chamber music performances, while also actively applying breathing awareness and body alignment principles to my more recently-added pursuit: training as a classical mezzo-soprano. As a relatively new vocalist, I enjoy setting positive physical and mental habits from the onset of study by applying the ease of AT towards a new artistic skill, an experience unavailable to me as a beginning flutist over twenty years ago.
With this mindfulness, and the luxury of having my AT instructor performing as an orchestra member for my solo vocal engagement, David and I arranged for daily sessions on each of my performance dates. On that scary morning the preceding week, the knowledge of those upcoming appointments and David’s Constructive Rest and Whispered Ah CDs from his Audio Guide Series allowed me to inhibit panic and encourage calm in both body and mind, promoting vital healing. By the time we met in person on the rehearsal day, I was vocally healthy and ready for the week ahead.
Over four days of performances in three cities, David and I met every morning, cultivating mental presence, efficient breathing, a grounded stance, and wide awareness, setting the tone for each day mentally and physically. Utilizing floor and chair work, walking, and my personal favorite: the saddle, David guided my body and thoughts towards their ultimate effectiveness. For the first half of each evening’s concert, I performed in the orchestra as principal flutist. At intermission, when I began mentally switching my focus from ensemble member/flutist to soloist/singer, David worked with me in my dressing room, focusing my attention back to appropriate breath and body usage for singing, and encouraging an open awareness to encompass the entire concert hall. By the time I took the stage for my solo vocal finale each evening, I was actively present to collaborate with the orchestra, conductor, audience, and my own body during performance. After the first evening’s run-out concert in a city two hours away, David guided me through whispered ah exercises on the car ride home to refresh my voice, and after each subsequent performance, he encouraged similar personal work based on that experience to restore and maintain ease within the vocal mechanism in preparation for the next day’s concert.
Singing is a singular artistic experience which blends studied physical usage of unseen body mechanisms with mental acuity and emotional availability, and the act of performing, especially on a grand scale for the first time, can be overwhelming to mind and body, precipitating time and inundating the senses with stimuli which can unwillingly override the best of practiced intentions. Thanks in large part to the luxurious daily presence of The Alexander Technique, and my faithful instructor David Nesmith, during my solo vocal debut with orchestra I performed healthfully, communicatively, and enjoyably to the best of my current ability throughout the entire week. Additionally, I benefited from a newly-achieved, actively-present performance state which allowed me to relish each moment on stage in a delightfully-open manner, dramatically enhancing my personal concert experience. I wish everyone could have the cathartic adventure of singing for thousands of people backed by full symphony orchestra, but since that is outside the realm of easeful possibility, I instead wish each person the experience of being as deliciously present in her own body and circumstances in her daily life adventures, aided by The Alexander Technique.
Lindsey Goodman is sought after as a flute soloist, chamber collaborator, teacher, and clinician across the country. Lindsey is principal flutist of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, solo flutist of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and adjunct lecturer of flute at Marietta College. As a classically-trained mezzo-soprano, Ms. Goodman made her professional vocal debut with Opera Theatre Pittsburgh in 2009, her New York City vocal recital debuts in 2011, and her solo vocal debut with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra in 2012. For more information, visit www.LindseyGoodman.com.
Photo credit: Emily Porter http://emilyporterphoto.com