“Music lives!” These were the closing words of the speech given by Barbara Reed-Honn on the occasion of her retirement from The University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music. What perfect and beautiful words to cap off an illustrious career teaching at that great institution that created so many amazing musicians and people. Of course we, her students, were touched in the moment, many of us with tears in our eyes when she said it and, of course, later we had to tease her about it. Barbara is an amazing teacher in so many ways and even in those famous words she was leaving us all (her many students in attendance) with a lesson that would ring in our hearts years later.
Music does live. I believe that and I do experience the independent life that music possesses. I experience that magical moment when the music takes over, for me it is a feeling of letting go while being totally present and responsible for my part. Sometimes it happens in the practice room, more often in a rehearsal, and almost always in performance. To dive into the music is, for me, like diving underwater. The rules are all different, and I cease to exist as an individual and merge into the vast ocean of sound. This is extremely tangible for me when singing with orchestra but I also feel it when I merge with my accompanist and the piano or instrumental sounds that enter me and to which I offer my own sounds and spirit. Yes, it is a spiritual thing, an intimate thing.
In my experience, working at the university I can go days without hearing the living breath and line of the art song or aria being attempted by my students. In my efforts as a teacher of vocal technique, its possible that I, inadvertently, inhibit the allowing necessary in making music; the space for grace. The grace of the music is tangible and only helps the singing. Still, one has to get over a technical hump before that magic can happen. I feel it is true for me and for my students, especially with difficult music. It’s hard to feel the magic, the living, breathing music until one has attained a level of ease with the music both technically (in the body) and on the page. So when does that music actually come alive? How can we, as teachers, encourage it to come alive sooner and more often?
I am dedicated to making music come alive every time I sing. The living music has special powers in the world. Living music can inspire and heal. It can uplift and connect people. It is the highest discourse we can offer, our best of our best. No small amount of discipline is required to become a magical singer who breathes life into music. May I find that discipline deep within myself every day and the courage to make music as a way of elevating the level of discourse in the world. May I inspire my students to be all that they can be and attain mastery over themselves and their techniques so that they, too, can make the music come alive.
Music lives in me in large part because of my teachers who encouraged the discipline and courage required to get to the magic. I am filled with gratitude for all these musical angels in my life, not the least of which is my dear friend, teacher, and mentor: Barbara Reed-Honn. Thanks, Barbara!