Finding Our Voices

Breathe. Breathe. Relax.

The flute teacher I began studying with in high school kept saying those words, and eventually, it sunk in. The teacher showed me how to breathe from the depths of my soul – or rather my diaphragm. Leave the shoulders out of it. Breathe from your belly. Voice teachers gave me the same kind of coaching when I studied singing in my 30s. I learned to let the music flow. Music I played became less technical and more soulful. Internally, perhaps I became more soulful, too.

At the sisterhood retreat, co-president Sandy Bornstein, a voice teacher and cantorial soloist, spread the same kind of wisdom in her breathing lessons. We practiced belly breaths and sang prayers as Sandy kept saying, “Breathe. Breathe.”  Lynne Fisher, a potter by profession, stood next to me and her face soon begin to shine in glee. Did she really just sing the same high note that I did, she asked? I nodded. She beamed and said she could not wait to go to her next temple service.

Lynne loves to sing but thought she was destined to forever sing deeply and off-key. “All of my life, I’ve been told to mouth it,” she said to me in a later conversation. After Sandy’s breathing lessons, Lynne found her voice. Maybe, she said, she too can have the gift of singing.

She already feels connected to Judaism, but gaining the ability to sing with more confidence means something special. She will feel more a part of the services.

Breathe. Breathe. Relax. I still hear my flute teacher’s voice before I sing or play the flute. Her advice – like Sandy’s did for several women —  helped me find my voice. When I finally began mixing my passion for music with my faith, I found something else. Maybe that something is called spirituality.

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