Mindfulness v. concentration

 I have been trying to meditate for years. But I’ve been plagued with lifelong monkey mind (some might call it adult ADD) and have been unable to sit still and contemplate my navel. And I figured that perhaps that’s just not my thing. After all, I have found that that kind of focus and rest immediately before a performance actually makes me wind up being more nervous once the performance begins (which was the subject of another blog entry a few years ago).

But as I get older (ugh), I find the need for stopping more to focus and to concentrate. On a whim, I purchased an app called The Daily Calm. I’ve been using it for months now for the sleep stories – stories in which someone reads to you, with the idea that you fall asleep. And I have to say – it works! It works better for me with male voices, for the most part. I don’t know why, but I can fall asleep to the sound of a man’s voice far easier than the sound of a woman’s.

And because I’m a cheapskate, I figured I had better maximize the value of this paid app, so I’ve started doing the morning meditations. They’re only ten minutes long, and each one has a different focus. Today’s was Concentration, a subject that I was worried about because, well, see monkey mind, above.

But this particular one identified the difference between concentration and focusing on a particular topic and the awareness of mindfulness. Mindfulness is not judging – it is noticing and being aware. 
So applying this to singing practice:
  • When you are vocalizing, you are mindful of what is happening. You notice that when you are doing an arpeggio, that the transition over the top may or may not be as successful as you like. You notice what is at play when it is successful and when it is not. 
  • In order to make that transition more successful, you concentrate on the technical aspect that worked and apply it in every case. 
Mindfulness alone will not advance your abilities. It must be there for you to draw awareness, but the element of concentration/focus is essential for you to make change. Concentration without awareness is equally pointless. If you set a timer to practice for 15 minutes but are not aware of what is happening during that 15 minutes, the only thing that you have accomplished at the end of that time is having sung for 15 minutes. You must practice with focus and mindfulness in order to accomplish a goal. 
Perhaps, like my app, we could experiment with vocal practice by setting a one-word goal for a particular session. Some ideas might be:
  • Legato
  • Agility
  • Resonance
How will you structure your time around that goal? What exercises will you use? What repertoire? How will you measure your accomplishment? Will this be a regular occurrence or just an experiment?

Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

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