Can you be TOO aware?

I have written ad nauseum about awareness.

Whether it’s in the context of Alexander Technique, setting intentions, or being mindful, awareness has become a trope of mindset work.

And it’s not just me. Everyone is talking about it.

While we don’t want to do things on auto-pilot, sometimes being too aware can really mess you up.

Just ask Linus here.

Linus obsesses over his tongue

As I wrote in a blogpost about a year ago, you learn technique in order to master a set of skills. But if you obsess about specific technical things while you are performing, you aren’t focusing on what you have to say, which is, ultimately, why you are singing in the first place.

When I was a young singer, my teacher at the time told me that I opened my mouth crooked and that I needed to open it straight. “Straight! Staight!” she would cry out in her Romanian accent, while I did my best to drop my jaw down in a way that met with her approval.

When I look at pictures from that era, I look as though I had lockjaw. I sang in a masterclass and saw teachers in the room palpating their jaw at the tempo-mandibular joint, trying to figure out just what the heck I was doing. As a result, my articulation suffered, my resonance suffered, and I looked just plain weird.

When I moved to Maryland later that year, my new teacher, Marianna Busching, commented, “You seem to have a lot of jaw tension.” I explained about my crooked mouth opening, and she said, “Maybe your jaw is just crooked. Let’s just work on releasing it and see what happens.” And yep, my mouth tends to open a little bit to the right, but it really isn’t a big deal. It opens more to that side if I’m tired, but otherwise, it’s really not something for me to worry about.

So while your teacher may call attention to something you are doing with your tongue, or your jaw, or your alignment, or your breath, it is ultimately just one factor in the total package of technique. If it becomes your only focus, then you are not paying attention to the other elements of vocal technique, and your awareness has crossed the line into self-consciousness. And you aren’t paying attention to your message, because it has become secondary to your self-consciousness about how your jaw is opening, or what your tongue is doing.

And if that’s the case, what’s the point of singing?

To everyone who has ever worked with me, I hope you’ve never felt that I’ve drawn undue attention to one thing to the detriment of your express.

And I certainly hope you’ve never felt this way.

Lucy threatening Linus
Peanuts, by Charles Schulz

If you want to work on your vocal technique in service of the story you have to tell, why not set up a Vocal Discovery Call to see if we can make that happen?

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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