“Cari, what would happen if instead of controlling the breath, you just released it? What would that feel like?”
My inner teenager rolls her eyes and begins again sliding notes off heavy tongue while rolling my head around like a rag doll. My vocal coach plays through ascending scales and murmurs encouragement in a slight German accent. My voice feels strange and loosey-goosey and free all at the same time.
He stops for water and while I sip, he explains.
“Music is the vehicle to release all the emotions God has created in us: happiness, sadness, anger….passion.” The last word curls slowly off his tongue in his foreign way as it’s emphasized, pounding his fist on his heart so hard I could feel it in the chambers of my own. “But we try to control everything about it– our breath, the muscles around our throat, the tone of the note, the pitch, and a million other elements when we sing. Trying to control creates tension. Tension creates pressure, and pressure kills everything it touches, especially the song within us.”
I nod with the truth of it…but I don’t know how to just release…..well, ANYTHING.
Not my breath or voice. Not my dreams or life. Jesus, can I really learn this? It seems so far away.
Maybe this is why God sent me here to this tiny German task master who yells contradiction while I sing the equivalent of a basketball line drill.
“Vun, Dwo, Tree, Four….just relax de tongue…Vun, Dwo, Tree, Four…free the voooiicccee!” I feel like I am in Olympic training and I am tired from all the releasing at the end of our hour together.
I listen to this slight, middle aged man sing a favorite- “I Surrender All.” I watch him as he closes his eyes and releases breath filled with notes and I envy the way his voice floats and soars in the space between us. I can sense the difference….feel the way the air changes and I feel hope rise that maybe this is a skill I can learn.
Maybe by learning to release breath I will learn to release other things too. I will learn that being in control is not a prized character trait, but a limiting behavior that keeps me bound to a life locked away from God. Maybe by setting my voice free I will unlock the cage of control that I bind myself in.
I close my eyes and listen….
“All to Jesus, I surrender. All to thee I freely give.”
and I sing while I pray the words in my heart….please let it be, Lord….let it be.