Out of the Head, Into The Heart

I’m sitting here on a Monday night enjoying my FAVORITE night of television: The Voice and Smash on NBC. OMG… what great entertainment for a lover of music and musicals.

If you’ve never watched The Voice, it’s time to start. This talent show format is the most interesting and inventive of any other talent show on TV right now, and it has set the bar really really high.

This week marked the beginning of the “Battle Rounds”. Two singers from the same team compete head to head in a duet format, and their coach then has to decide who gave the better performance. The winner stays, the loser goes home (and gets a record deal or whatever).

There were two battles that really touched me tonight. First of all, the epic battle between Anthony Evans and Jesse Campbell at the end was by far the BEST duet ever. Absolutely amazing, I still have chills. But the one that got me thinking, as a teacher and singer, was the battle between classical singer Chris Mann and soulstress Monique Benabou. This battle was not just a battle between two absolutely beautiful voices, it actually became a battle between the head and the heart; great technique vs. pure emotion.

Chris Mann is a powerhouse vocalist who was classically trained. He often has trouble getting past his technical training and tapping into the emotions in the music when he’s singing pop music. Monique Benabou, on the other hand, has never had any training at all and was very intimidated by the fact that she’d have to go head to head with someone who had studied for so long. To her strength, she sings every note from her heart. She feels everything she sings and it makes for an amazing performance.

In the end, Chris Mann won the battle. Does that mean technique and training ultimately win out over emotion and heart? Not necessarily. I guess their coach, Christina Aguilera, decided that her team would benefit more from having Chris move forward than Monique, but I don’t know if I would necessarily agree with that decision.

As a teacher, I spend a lot of time working with my students on getting out of their heads and into their hearts. Because when you close your eyes and truly listen, with the deepest parts of yourself, music is ultimately about heart. At the same time, if you are unable to successfully convey those emotions to the audience, you cannot have a successful performance. That’s where the technique comes in. Music is about heart and creativity first, then technique comes in to help you translate what you would like to convey. This is my teaching philosophy, and every class and private lesson I teach comes from a place of creativity – opening yourself up to whatever your heart needs to say.

I’ve actually designed a workshop for singers in the same boat as Chris Mann. It’s called Pop Vocals for the Classical Vocalist. I’ll be teaching it this summer in Lancaster, PA… more info TBA in the next few months. Feel free to comment or email me with questions 🙂