Updated: Dec 16, 2019
As a Yogateacher understanding your own body and knowing proper alignment is part of the fundamental basics of being a good teacher. If you‘re teaching Vinyasa Style Classes, you also need to be aware of how to work with your voice, which is as important as knowing the Sutras. I have come across many Yogateachers with a sore voice, due to not having any background in singing techniques.
Teaching many classes in the last couple of years, I have experienced that compensating a lack of energy, when you‘re in a state of exhaustion, affects your voice in such a way that everybody can hear it - which might even distract the students. In the long run, any kind of pushing or an overly loud Ujjayi breath might create tension in your throat. Looking for an answer on how to work with my voice has led me to taking a class with the author of the controversial book Sun, Moon, Voice in the past. This time I invited the lovely Alessandra Rossi-Filippi, who is an Opera Singer and Vocal coach to show me exercises and techniques on how I can warm up and speak loudly in class and still be able to play music at the same time - without straining my voice.
Hi Alessandra, where are you from?
I am originally from Washington DC, and have been performing since I was a child. I moved to Berlin about 3 years ago to build my career and create a life for myself here in Europe.
How did you know you wanted to become a singer?
I come from a family of 6 children and my parents believed education was extremely important. We read together every day at the dinner table, and my father would share his knowledge and pleasures with us, one of which was the theatre. My older sister and I went to a private elementary school. In the first grade, I played the part of Puss in "Puss in Boots" and it was the first time I felt free and at home with myself, when I was on stage.
When I began my singing lessons around the age of 11, I knew I was a singer. I just loved it, and it was all I wanted to do. I had never felt like I fit in among the 'normal' kids, even though I did well in all my subjects, but I felt a bit like an outsider. Singing was my savior, in a way, and it continues to be a high calling for myself. Searching for more opportunities to sing, my Mom found an adult choir for me to audition for that sang classical choral music and performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Neither my Mom nor I thought I would actually get in because it was an adult choir and I was only 12 at the time, but I auditioned and got in! I then soloed with the choir that year, and more and more opportunities flowed to me.
How long have you been working as a vocal coach?
I am a professional classical singer and I perform as a soloist in operas and concerts. In classical terms, I am a coloratura soprano. So, if one knows opera, Queen of the Night, is a role I love to sing, with all the dramatic flair and vocal versatility, and high notes. I have a Bachelors and Masters degree in vocal performance, and have been teaching/coaching students since college. It is a wonderful complement to the work I do as a performer. I have taught in many capacities: as a high school choral director, a children's choral/musical director, private voice teacher at a college and community music schools. I teach all levels of singing and ages as well, no younger than 11 years old. I have worked with students who wished to gain more courage in their speaking skills for professional presentations, young singers who want to pursue singing in college, adults who never had the opportunity to sing in their early days, but always dreamed of doing so, from classical to gospel, pop to jazz, even yoga teachers who have wanted to find more expansion in their own voice as they teach.
I think that‘s really interesting how you‘re linking Yoga and singing...
Singing is for everyone. We all need to give ourselves permission to let out sound, and perhaps not sound great at first. Our souls wish to express ourselves and for me, I found this divine expression through singing. During my masters degree, I was studying singing, and I began to practice yoga. I needed to learn how to 'let go' and surrender my monkey mind and be still in my body and self. I discovered that the principles of yoga are identical to that of singing: the paradox of being grounded but allowing release and opening, without pushing: finding balance.
Tell us about your journey as a singer: where have you been in the past?
I have been really fortunate in my career to have had opportunities to sing in wonderful locations. Some highlights include soloing at the JF Kennedy Center Performing Arts Center, the White House, Knoxville Opera, Shea Stadium: singing the National Anthem for the NY Mets, I was a performer along with Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, and Kevin Kline for Meryl Streep's 2011 Kennedy Center Honors Award.
Have you performed in Berlin yet?
In July, I made my Berlin debut where I was a soprano soloist for Classic Open Air's Eine Italienische Sommernacht at Gendarmenmarkt, where I performed Violetta's aria from "La Traviata" as well as sang arias and duets from the Neapolitan repertoire and Rossini.
Can we hear you live again soon?
In March 2016 I am performing again at Gendarmenmarkt, but this time at the Konzerthaus with the Karl Forster Chor and the Konzerthausorchester, where I am the soprano soloist for Poulenc's Gloria and Bizet's Te Deum.
Any advice for someone struggling to begin singing?
I think if one has the desire to sing, and become better with their voice, one must! Everything is possible regardless of age and experience. Find a place where you can explore your sound without being disturbed by outside influence. Imagine how you wish to sound and feel as you sing. For me, I feel so connected to my joy and what I believe to be my highest potential. I love inspiring that within others, too. It is exhilarating and healing on so many levels. Give yourself the gifts of compassion, patience, time and openness, and have fun!
How do you work with new students?
When I teach, regardless of the student's goals or intention, if they want to work on their voice for speaking only, or if they want to sing better, I go through certain vocal exercises and apply them to each student, according to their ability and awareness. It is important to me that I create a safe and fun environment for the student to feel relaxed and to go beyond their vocal boundaries.
Read the original Blog post on BeSomuchmore
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