I love celebrating women in music, most of whom have not gotten the credit they deserve! Lil Hardin Armstrong was a huge talent - an arranger, singer, composer and bandleader, all back in the 20' and 30's when it was definitely a man's music world.
I wrote an article about her on the PULSE Blog. READ IT HERE.
A recent report by the National Association of Sciences details why music education is so important for adolescents. I work with, and have seen the stunning results of singing on geriatric patients, and there are numerous studies that show the benefits of singing and music on the brain for all ages.
Thank you to the Jolee-Jaffe Music Foundation of Arizona for posting this report by the National Association of Sciences in their Newsletter. In part, the report states:
"The music training group also exhibited earlier emergence of the adult cortical response, suggesting that in-school music accelerates neurodevelopment. These changes seem to benefit literacy skills: both groups improved in phonological awareness relative to the general population, but the music training group improved more compared with the active controls."
READ THE ENTIRE REPORT HERE
#1 Best Breathing Tip - The Soft Belly
©2015 Beth Lawrence
We all breathe in and out, all day every day without giving it one thought. Over time, and into adulthood, our breathing generally becomes fast, shallow, and constricted due to stress, habitual postural patterns, and lack of attention to the act of breathing.
Usually, when adults come to me for voicework, they have already 'forgotten' how to breathe, and essentially have to learn to breathe correctly all over again. With a full breath comes more oxygenated blood, a clearer mind, and of course, a well supported voice.
If you want volume; if you want to stay on pitch; if you want to sustain notes and phrases with energy and control, you've got to start with the breath, and proper breathing habits. I call this 'Conscious Breathing'.
The tip below may seem elementary, but you'll be surprised to find that when you start to incorporate this habit into your daily routine, what a difference it will make in your voice and sense of well-being. You'll see how crucial it is to revisit this tip often to make sure that you are breathing freely and openly.
#1 - Relax the Belly!
Okay, this is SO important. Pretend you're a toddler, and let the belly just relax. You may even have a hard time doing this because it's our Western inclination to suck in our bellies and have 'tight' abs. But you can't do this if you want to breathe fully. Why? The diaphragm, which rests below your lungs, just can't expand and 'descend' when your stomach is tight. To get the most lung capacity, you've got to relax the belly, period. Besides, it's uncomfortable, and not natural to keep the belly constricted. Liberate the belly!!
So allow your belly to soften and expand as you take a breath. Actually, aside from the body image anxiety around a relaxed belly, (and there's plenty of it!) you'll find that it feels really good.
Here's the process:
Once you've mastered the relaxed belly, make it a habit to:
REMEMBER - there should be no tension in the belly or chest area. You're just engaging the breath with a gentle squeeze from the bottom. Think of it as the feeling of holding a balloon, and gently squeezing the air inside the balloon.
In fact, you can visualize this idea when you breathe -- think of breathing in, and as you do, visualize and feel the air that you are 'filling up with' as resting between the bottom of your belly up to the diaphragm as you gently squeeze up.
Consciously do this until it becomes natural and habitual as you begin speaking or singing. You're going to notice an incredible change in your ability to both control, and release your voice!
Breathing is a dynamic process, not just a static inhale in, exhale out! Use the breath as the energy that powers your voice.
Until next time -- celebrate the soft belly!!
Cheers, Beth Lawrence
If you want more information and exercises on breath as energy; breath support, and conscious breathing techniques, take a look at my two online singing courses, "Reboot Your Singing Voice - Level 1 & 2". One is a basic overview of the concepts of my Lawrence Vocal System, and Level 2 goes beyond the basics to apply the Lawrence Vocal System to singing a song. There's a discount link below.
GET 50% OFF BY CLICKING THESE LINKS
Reboot Your Singing Voice - Level 1 (Basic)
A Tribute To Chevette and ChaCha
June 24, 2015 was the day that beautiful Chevette and adorable ChaCha crossed the Rainbow Bridge together -- companions to the end. They taught me a lot of lessons in how to love, and how to let go; how to do the right thing for someone else, even when it breaks your heart.
If any word could describe my Chevette, it would be beloved. My constant companion for 15 years, she would follow me from room to room. Where I was, she wanted to be. She was a shy and sensitive dog, always gentle and loving. When I was sad she would come to me, putting her head in my lap, and I can't count the number of tears I shed in her luxurious coat. If I was sick, she would not leave my bedside, even to eat. She was the most loyal friend anyone could ask for. She kept me company in the garden; loved prancing on her tippy-toes on long walks; and was a willing adventurer on years of road-trips. Until her later years, she was always busy, tracing paths in the yard and garden where she loved to explore and chase birds. She took care of me; she felt me; she was a constant in my life that has left a void in my heart.
Three years ago, a gift arrived from Heaven. ChaCha was a round-bellied Senior rescue with no teeth and a tongue that usually hung out of her darling little mouth. She happened to walk by one day with her loving foster mom, Pat Vaughn. Pat had rescued ChaCha from the shelter; nursed her back to health; and lovingly had given her a second chance at life. I didn't see a place in our lives for another dog, but with Pat's coaxing and obviously some divine intervention, ChaCha joined our family. I fell immediately in love with this little ray of sunshine! When she'd wag her tail, her whole body would wiggle. She was pure and simply, a joyful gift.
ChaCha and Chevette became happy companions, with little ChaCha taking the Alpha role of guardian, protector and leader of the pack, to Chevette's delight. She was always in charge, but when we'd head home from walks, ChaCha would trot ahead, but every few steps, would stop, turn around and make sure that Chevette and I were coming along. ChaCha was a gift to both Chevette and I, as she allowed me the freedom to leave them both alone, knowing that Chevette was content and confident with ChaCha keeping her company until I returned. I am sure that ChaCha was an Angel sent to help me, and to be Chevette's comfort in her final years.
I have no doubt that Chevette and ChaCha made a pact together long before this life began. Their bond was strong until even their last moments together, and I know that they are running young and free beyond their worn out, mortal bodies that they have left behind.
Chevette began to get very sick from Valley Fever earlier this year. As her symptoms progressed, suddenly, healthy ChaCha got sick with something no one could diagnose conclusively. It was an odd coincidence, and very troubling to me. I believe now that ChaCha had agreed that they were to remain together in the final months.
As both of the doggies got sicker, I brought them home to Utah, where Chevette had spent most of her life. I wanted her final days to be here, and she was terribly sick. When Chevette got home, she rallied, and had two wonderful months with health, energy, and a very uncommon appetite! Her turn-around was miraculous and I bless every extra day I had with her feeling great, and acting like her old self.
After two months at home, and with Chevette rebounding, ChaCha suddenly had a downturn, and lost all interest in living. We had taken ChaCha to the vet on a Friday, with an acute, terminal prognosis. The very next day, Chevette's health deteriorated before our eyes. In 3 days all of her debilitating symptoms returned, as if it was her turn, and she didn't want ChaCha to leave without her.
I made the hardest decision I ever had to make, to let them go; to free them from their suffering; and to let them go together.
I'm astounded by what transpired 'the day' the vet was to come. The doggies spent the day with me relaxed and calm. I had plenty of time to lay with them, talk with them, tell them everything I wanted them to know.
10 minutes before dear, compassionate Dr. Isom arrived, ChaCha suddenly got up on her weak, wobbly legs and went over and laid right down beside Chevette. And this was how they chose to leave their bodies -- laying 6 inches apart being petted and held until their last breaths. They both were so calm, so peaceful, so seemingly ready to go -- no anxiety, no fear; they just laid there together and drifted off.
#1 - I am sure that their respective missions on Earth were complete, and they were ready to go. The grace they showed in their final moments made it easier for me to bear the experience, and perhaps that was part of their mission -- to help me learn how to let go.
#2 - I think that ChaCha came to us to make Chevette's final years happier. And she helped me, too, knowing that Chevette had a wonderful companion in spirit.
#3 - Their pact included going together, at the end, probably because they both knew that in some way, it was comforting to me to know that they would not be alone in their transition. They both sickened at the same time; and they kept the other company in both health and sickness, and in the final transition.
#4 - My love for Chevette is incredibly deep. But in the 3 short years that I had ChaCha, she brought so much joy, light and laughter into my life I will be eternally grateful to her for that. I loved her immediately, and having her, even for such a short time, truly changed and brightened my life. Another mission accomplished. Whether 15 years with Chevette, or 3 years with ChaCha, I loved them both in equal measure.
#5 - Without a doubt, ChaCha was the catalyst in putting me together with my dear friend Pat. I may never have met her if she and ChaCha hadn't walked by, and been invited in to visit by Brad. Another mission accomplished.
Life Without Dogs
I have had doggies for @20 years of my life. First Levi, then Levi and Chevette, then Chevette, then Chevette and ChaCha. The bond you have with your pets is so deep, it can't be adequately explained unless you've felt it.
The house is quiet now, empty of their loving presence, and I am left to wonder how to live my life without dogs. A trip to the store was always first and foremost a shopping trip for them. Would it be ground turkey, or chicken breast? What new supplements could I give them to make them feel better and keep them healthy? I would leave the store only to find that usually, I didn't have any food for myself!!
Who will I talk to? They were my constant company, and I kept up a steady stream of dialog day in and day out. Their emotional welfare was always topmost in my mind. I find now that they are gone, every fleeting thought was focused on them. Are they happy? Do they want to go for a walk? Time for a treat?
The morning pettings will also be missed. We'd all get up, and in the better days, the two girls would excitedly look forward to their morning 'pet', where I would get on the floor and just exchange waggy love with them. It was my joy, too, and I will miss that wonderful start to the day.
I cared for Chevette for so long, and then both of them in their final year, that I will have to adjust to a life with a different purpose than caring for them and making them comfortable. As hard as that was, I cherish every moment I spent with them, good or bad. How wonderful that they are free from the suffering, and I am free from watching them suffer. But even on the worst of days, I would care for them all over again just to have them back -- albeit, in a healthy state.
They taught me many lessons, about love, acceptance, companionship, and ultimately, letting go. They will be in my heart forever.
Chevette and ChaCha will be missed by all that were lucky enough to be in their presence. They also leave behind their 'second master' - Brad, who loved and cared for them; and Pat Vaughn, who saved ChaCha's life and loved her to the end. What a wonderful gift she gave us all.
The last night I spent with my beloved doggies, I woke in the middle of the night, and this poem came to me. I will share it here as a last tribute to the two doggies that shared my life and my heart:
"As Angels carry you lovingly over the Rainbow Bridge:
May you be Happy.
May you be young again.
May you run, bark, and play with all your old friends.
May you roll on your back and dig in the dirt,
Free from old age, and all earthly hurt.
And on that great day when my soul is set free
I'll rejoice when I see you both running, to greet me."
Love to my doggies, Chevette and ChaCha
Your loving friend, Beth
This is a great article from jeff haden to start the year off right!
You can be an analytical, data-driven, steely-eyed businessperson all you like, but business is ultimately about people. That means business is also about emotions: yours and those of the people you interact with.
Want to make a huge difference in your life and in the lives of the people you care about, both professionally and personally?
Promise yourself you'll do these things every day:
1. "I will appreciate the under-appreciated."
Some jobs require more effort than skill. Bagging groceries, delivering packages, checking out customers -- the tasks are relatively easy. The difference is in the effort.
All around you are people who work hard with little or no recognition. Vow to be the person who recognizes at least one of them every day.
Do more than say "thanks" to a person who does a thankless job. Smile. Make eye contact. Exchange a kind word.
Not only will you give respect, you'll also gain the best kind of respect -- the respect that comes from making a difference, however fleeting, in another person's life.
2. "I will answer the unasked question."
For a variety of reasons -- maybe they're hesitant, or insecure, or shy -- people often ask a different question than the one they really want answered. (If you're lacking in confidence, here are simple yet powerful ways to overcome your insecurity.)
One employee might ask whether you think he should take a few business classes; what he really wants to know is whether you feel he has the potential to move up in the organization. He hopes you'll say you do have potential... and he hopes you'll share the reasons why.
Or your husband might ask if you thought the woman at the party was flirting with him; what he really wants to know is if you still find him attractive. He hopes you'll say you do... and he'll love when you share the reasons why.
Behind many questions is an unasked question.
Pay attention so you can answer that question; that is the answer the other person doesn't just want to hear... but needs to hear.
3. "I will not wait."
You don't have to wait to be discovered. You don't have to wait for an okay. You don't have to wait for someone else to help you. You can just do whatever you want to do.
You may not succeed. But you don't have to wait.
4. "I will give latitude instead of direction."
You're in charge. You know what to do. So it's natural to tell your employees - or your kids -- not only what to do but how to do it.
In the process you stifle their creativity and discount their skills and intelligence.
Letting another person decide how is the best way to show you respect their abilities and trust their judgment.
In a command-and-control world, latitude is welcome freedom... and is a gift anyone can give.
5. "I will stop and smell my roses."
You have big plans. You have big goals. You're never satisfied, because satisfaction breeds complacency. So most of the time you're unhappy because you think more about what you have not achieved, have not done, and do not have.
Take a moment and think about what you do have, professionally and especially personally. At this moment you have more than at one time you ever thought possible.
Sure, always strive for more... but always take a moment to realize that all the things you have, especially your relationships, are more important than anything you want to have.
Unlike a want, what you have isn't a hope, a wish, or a dream. What you already have is real. And it's awesome. And it's yours.
6. "I will look below the surface."
Sometimes people make mistakes. Sometimes they piss you off.
When that happens it's natural to assume they didn't listen or didn't care. But often there's a deeper reason. They may feel stifled. They may feel they have no control. They may feel frustrated or marginalized or ignored or not cared for.
If you're in charge, whether at work or at home, you may need to deal with the mistake. But then look past the action for the underlying issues.
Anyone can dole out discipline; vow to provide understanding and to actively helpanother person deal with the larger issue that resulted in the mistake.
7. "I will ensure love is always a verb."
You love your work. When you're working, that feeling shows in everything you say and do.
You love your family. When you're with them, does that feeling show in everything you say and do?
Love is a feeling, and feelings are often selfish. Turn your feelings into an action. Actively love the people you love. Show them you love them by words and deeds.
When you make love a verb, the people you care about know exactly how you feel.
8. "I will be myself."
You worry about what other people think. Yet no matter how hard you try, you can't be all things to all people.
But you can be as many things as possible to the people you love. And you can be the best you.
So above all, always yourself. That's the one thing you can always do better than anyone else.
I'm a huge advocate of keeping the voice 'HEALTHY FOR LIFE'. What that really means is that you exercise your voice; you sing daily, and you continue to work and stimulate the vocal cords.
When you do that, you keep the voice youthful, flexible and powerful. You will be able to speak and sing with a clear, strong voice for your entire life.
As an 'older' singer myself, I love my voice now. I don't need to prove that I can hit stratospheric high notes -- why bother? I have nothing to prove. I can sing WITH emotion, and WITHOUT ego, and wow, does that feel good!
I take time with a lyric, I come from a place of experience, I connect with my listener as a storyteller, not a technician. Letting go of perfection allows me to relax into my story and tell it with a voice that can reveal every nuance of an emotionally charged lyric.
The Boston Globe just ran a story about aging, veteran singers that is a great read.
Here's a photo of me at a recent gig -- feeling comfortable with myself and my beautiful, mature voice!
Keep your voice in shape; honor it, and it will serve you well throughout your entire life.
I am always so thrilled when students taking my online course 'Reboot Your Singing Voice - Level 1' have great success. Thank you Norma Elmore for taking the course and giving it FIVE STARS!
"Congratulations, Beth, for creating a singing course that focuses on the very foundation of singing. Your concepts about breathing and open throat are major building blocks for singers as well as speakers. Through the years, I have developed bad habits such as not singing with energy, not opening my throat,and clenching my jaw. Your steps were a real break through for me. My voice is healthier and stronger than ever. I am looking forward to Level 2."
After several months of shooting video, writing content and Beta testing -- Reboot Your Singing Voice - Level 1, my ONLINE course is LIVE ON UDEMY!
CLICK HERE TO PREVIEW THE COURSE.
If you want to learn how to have a healthy voice for life, this foundational course will help you solve all of your vocal problems and get back to joyful singing.
This is a fun quirky video I shot this summer while in New York. Canal Boats and Vibrato? You decide…...
When you're not feeling so chipper, and we all have down days, check out what Johnny Cash had to say about feeling BETTER.
From Beth Lawrence
If you're serious about singing then you've got to take care of your voice. Here are some healthy ways to do that!
Beth Lawrence, Award-winning singer, songwriter and author of "From Shower To Stage...7 Easy Steps for Singing Like A Pro!"