Eurovox – The Hague, August 30th – September 1st 2018 / Self care for the professional voice user

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This post is a mix of a blog and a report. Feel free to skip what’s not interesting to you 😉

Eurovox is a congress organized by the European Voice Teachers Association (EVTA) every third year and focuses on various aspects of human singing. Therefore it gathers professional and amateur singers, their teachers, scientists, physicians and other enthusiasts of the voice all together. Together with the other board members of Evta-Be (Belgian Voice Teachers Association), I represented Belgium at Eurovox and the council meeting of EVTA, prior to the conference.

The theme was Vocal Fusion:
Working together in all aspects of teaching and singing: with other singers in a choir, in musical theater, with a stage director, with a pianist or band, with a conductor, with a voice therapist, with a teacher. The central question is: What does this mean for a singer’s education and how can voice teachers and other (voice) professionals incorporate this in their teaching?

Click here for the program, abstracts & presenters from Eurovox and read on for my personal report.

logo-nvz-02This time, The Dutch Voice Teachers Association, NVZ, has cooperated with EVTA for organizing Eurovox 2018 at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, and I’d like to start this report by congratulating them on their wonderful accomplishment! For example, the conference app, which enabled the participants to easily plan our personal schedule, receive updates, get in contact with the organizers & other participants, receive handouts,… was a handy addition to the experience. I’m also very grateful that they have arranged a host family for me, so I didn’t need to book a hotel.

acting-advice-audition-tips-casting-directors-backstage.jpg.644x645_q100Normally, I visit these conferences, wearing the hat of voice teacher, vocal coach and voice researcher. However, this time, I have mainly lived these 3 days as a singer. I have chosen to do so, as right before the start of Eurovox, I have received a once in a lifetime opportunity. I will elaborate more on this opportunity in a future blog, but the gist of it is that I was invited for a very important audition that was going to take place right after Eurovox. So I decided that for the coming days, I would be 100% singer in order to prepare for that. This meant that all my actions, including choosing the lectures I was going to attend, were taken in the light of this audition.

I’d like to share not only my report on the lectures, but also the other actions I have taken, as I have to admit that these days were very confronting for me. I have gained an important insight that you might recognize as a singer-teacher… If you’d like to skip that and just read the report of the lectures I have attended, feel free to scroll down 😉

As a voice teacher & vocal coach, I am in service of my clients. As a singer, I am in service of my audience. In order to be able to be in service of my clients and audience, an important part of my job is self care, as it means being able to give the best I can give. In my everyday life, where I’m currently mostly wearing the hat of self-employed teacher, taking care of myself is an everyday conscious decision. It’s a challenge. Now, while wearing the hat of 100% singer, very surprisingly, self care came automatically, didn’t cost me any effort and didn’t induce feelings of guilt.

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I will not ponder on the reason why – I still have to figure that one out, but these are the ways I have taken care of myself:

Asking for help

Help, support, advice, guidance signpostOften, I keep this kind of opportunities for myself, until I’m 100% sure that I’ve succeeded. I have to admit that the chance of “having to admit failure” has a lot to do with that… This time, I have chosen to share what was going on, ask for help, and not be afraid to “fail”.

An EVTA colleague helped me to arrange for a room to study at the conservatory.

One of the songs I had to prepare for the audition, was in the genre in which one of my colleagues is specialized in. I asked for her opinion on my version in order to improve it.

My personal osteopath (see below) presented at Eurovox. I have asked him for a treatment after his lecture – Well, hello there, stress-induced blocked larynx! – and a teacher at the conservatory provided me with a classroom with treatment table.

During the workshop of Sanne Graulund (see below), my jaw suddenly unlocked, I was overwhelmed by emotions and tears ran freely – with a room full of colleagues witnessing it… I didn’t hide, but I shared my emotions with a few colleagues, and went off to study. OMG, how my voice thanked me by singing freely!

(Isn’t it amazing, all these people that have helped me? I’m so grateful!)

Working Mindful

Yes, I had to study every day, as the songs were challenging. And I studied for hours every day. But whenever my mind or my voice told me to stop… I stopped, even though I had planned to study more. Taking time to rest and do something “useless” is an important part of studying too.

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I allowed myself to not go to lectures that might have been interesting, as I needed the time for other things like studying, resting, yoga, downtime,… I also said no to certain social obligations. Yes, they were very interesting networking opportunities, but I had different priorities.

I also asked my EVTA & Evta-Be colleagues to only give me tasks that were absolutely necessary, and could not be done by somebody else.

Sleep

I went to bed early and slept in every day. 10 hours of sleep was my minimum.

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Yoga

Every d*mn day. My goal was being in contact with my instrument, my body, and (trying) to be OK with in whatever condition it was. No performance drive, no judgement.

Nutrition

I ate healthily, according to my food intolerances, but allowed myself to enjoy a little “sin” once in a while. The occasional sin is also healthy 😉 I drank a lot of water. I’m never thirsty, so drinking enough is a big challenge for me.

So there you have it. Asking for help, working mindful, saying no, sleep, yoga and nutrition. I know that these 6 elements are crucial for self care, but they come so much more easily while wearing my singer-hat than my teacher-hat. Why? I haven’t figured that one out yet. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments 😉

 

Nico Lambrechts – The role of osteopathy in the singing voice

Nico is my personal osteopath, I refer a lot of my clients to him, and he’s a valued member of the advisory board of Evta-Be. Why? Because he looks at the voice from a holistic point of view, and knows how to help singers and other professional voice users with osteopathic treatments that stem from the latest insights and research. I have used his tips & tricks on many clients of mine and they have become an indispensable tool for me as a teacher. I consider Nico as an important part of the team I try to create around my clients, together with SLP’s, ENT’s, nutritionists, psychotherapists,…

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In the past, he has led a very well received workshop for Evta-Be about the power of the tongue, a not-to-be-underestimated force. Unfortunately, at Eurovox, there was no time for practical work, only a theoretical lecture. Even though the information was – again – very much on point, I’m afraid that some people have missed the practical application.

 

Sanne Graulund – Workshop connective tissue and singing

This is the workshop I was talking about before… The one that made me cry 😉
I have been wanting to invite Sanne to Belgium for a few years now, as I believe in the power of working with the fascia – Everything is related, and I have heard so much good things of her work. At Eurovox, she has led several workshops. I have attended the ones on the ribcage and the larynx. The explanations on the theory of the fascia and the exercises linked to it were very clear and effective. Before I go on, here’s a nice video on fascia:

I’m a firm believer in yoga, osteopathy, somatic bodywork and the likes. What I really like about Sannes approach, is the way she connects bodywork with breath and sound. It all seems to click together very nicely and speed up the process of release. I regularly perform the torsion exercise she made us do, but I have never done it while breathing in and out on a loud F. And it is that particular detail that made my jaw first shake like crazy and then release… Along with the tears that needed to flow desperately at that time! The result was that I could finally sing freely, after a few days of stress-induced blockages.

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15 seconds before the release 🙂

While the board of Evta-Be was there, we have invited Sanne to lead a workshop at our symposium next year and I’m happy to say that she said yes!

 

Lieve Jansen – Round Table discussion

While Lieve had prepared very interesting and urgent questions, I’m sad to say that the discussion was highjacked by a few big egos. Something we desperately need to get rid of! However, big thumbs up for the contributions of the Tido Visser and Marc van Vugt. And I’d like to share a quote from Peter Renshaw with you: “How does one create mastery of craft? Not that you’ll ever master it…” I believe this to be a fundamental truth we all need to stay aware of until our very last day.

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Jane Oakland – What you think is what you get: Psychology & the performing artist

Ahà! This particular subject is one of my pet peeves. I have written a blog on Fear of Failure and Stagefright, which I use a lot as a starting point when I coach my clients through this important part of their growth process. I was very happy to see that the basic ideas I work with, that stem from sports psychology, are still valid and supported by more recent scientific research. There’s a big difference between empirical & scientific evidence 😉

I loved Janes energy and she got some lovely results in the micro-masterclass at the end of her lecture. Given that I was preparing for an audition with very high stakes at that time, this lecture was very welcome!

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Brian Masuda – Workshop: Are you easily assimilated?

Obviously, the abstract on this lecture & workshop spoke to me:
With the extreme demands of the internet era, singers must possess wonderful voices, convincing dramatic skills, excellent vocal technique, linguistic mastery, and a physical appearance as good as one that is photoshopped. “Am I good enough?” “Will I be accepted?” Shouldn’t a singer be concerned about something else?

Unfortunately, I didn’t find a link between this and what Brian actually did on stage. When he worked with the singer, it was 95% him talking, and only 5% the singer singing. And instead of focusing on 1 thing at the time, he gave a gazillion tasks to the singer at once. It was very confusing, so I left early.

But I’d like to end this report on a positive note! I have really enjoyed most of the lectures I went to, reconnecting with friends & colleagues, and meeting new ones. And most of all, it has been very interesting to experience this kind of event while wearing my singer-hat. This was actually also very enriching for my knowledge & skills as a teacher & coach!

Thank you EVTA, NVZ, colleagues & friends. Till we meet again 🙂

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