In the last year or so, I have noticed that a lot of teachers of various disciplines use the phrase, “I invite you to,” rather than “do this.”
The first time I noticed this was when I took Peter Jacobson’s Total Vocal Freedom Alexander Technique course last year. The faculty would invite us to be aware of a variety of sensations and experiences, rather than tell us, “You should feel this way.” And most recently, I’ve noticed that Adriene Mishler of Yoga with Adriene (which I’m in my third month of doing regularly – while not everything I set out to do when I established my plans for FOCUS in 2022 have stuck, that one has). Adriene invites us to be aware of sensations, good and bad (her motto – and the name of her subscription group – is “Find What Feels Good”),
And I’ve even used it myself – it felt foreign at first, but I’ve been gradually introducing it in my instructions as well as in a few past blogposts. Perhaps you’ve noticed. But why invite? Why not just tell people what they’re supposed to do?
The definition of “invite,” according to Merriam-Webster, is as follows:
1a: to request the presence or participation of: invited us to dinner
b: to request formally
c: to urge politely : WELCOME: invite comments
2a: to increase the likelihood of: invite trouble
b: to offer an incentive or inducement to : ENTICE
I think that in the context that teachers are using the term, we are hoping to get people to be present and to participate; to increase the likelihood of something happening; and to entice them, all in the service of awareness and curiosity.
Or as Adriene put it in a recent newsletter:
I invite you to get curious…
Maybe I’ve been saying this all along, but in a different way. Maybe “I invite you to ….” is simply another way of saying:
Both phrases are intended to allow you to explore a new path or perhaps experience an old path in a new way. We all experience things differently. Recently, I asked someone what she felt when she sang a phrase, and she described it to me as feeling a “purplish-gray.” I’ve heard of chromesthesia before, but no one had ever mentioned it in the studio before. And now I’d like to know more about it and how I can help this student find a color experience that serves her and the song.
There was an anecdote in a pedagogy book I read years ago about a master clinician who didn’t know what to do with a young singer and asked her, “What color were you thinking of when you sang that?” The singer said, “Um… I don’t think I was thinking of any color,” and the clinician said, “Why don’t you sing it again and think of blue?” and the singer sang it again, face knotted in concentration while visualizing blue, and the teacher said, “There! That was better. Okay, who’s next?”
It could be that the teacher actually didn’t know what she was talking about. Or maybe thinking in color was something that worked for her. Whatever it was didn’t seem to be particularly helpful to the student singer or the observers. While the teacher was inviting the singer to see what would happen if they visualized a specific color, that probably should not have been the only tool in the teacher’s toolbox. And she should have clarified what improved as a result of “thinking blue.” Maybe it wasn’t that at all, but something else that happened while she was thinking blue. Or maybe just that the singer was less nervous the second time around. Or was distracted from her nerves by “thinking blue.”
But what she did offer was an invitation to explore, to find what feels good (and what doesn’t), to be curious about the process and trust the outcome will benefit from this curiosity and awareness.
I extend my students (and my readers) an ongoing invitation
to explore and to find out what would happen …. if?
If you are curious and what to explore all the possibilities of where your voice can take you (onstage or off), I invite you to
contact me and find out how we can work together.
Live and in living color (or online – but still in color)