Julie Blue and the Singspiration Singers invite you to join the musical celebration.
Singspiration - Healing with Sound; Singing For LifeWebster's Dictionary uses a musical term as synonymous with healing; becoming SOUND, well or healthy again. What is this magical medium of music that can move, heal, enchant and energize us?
For the last 30 years I have been performing, composing, recording, and teaching or facilitating music. In 1986 I had a gig performing in Japan at a small jazz club. On a visit to Kyoto with a Japanese friend we went into a Buddhist temple where thousands of people were chanting fervently. I could feel that something beyond the constructs of what I'd been taught in jazz college was happening. My friend explained to me that the people were chanting to send love and comfort to the survivors of a terrible mudslide in Columbia. This was the point where the light bulb went on and I understood that we could join our voices and intentions together in amazing and powerfully healing ways. Though I love playing jazz, R&B, soul, and world music, this experience in Japan was the start of the realization that something was missing for me. My desire to connect through music to others at a soul level, where the most profound connections to self and others occur, led me to leave the club scene behind and start something so new that I had to make up my own word for it.
Celebration, inspiration, respiration, and singing within a safe and supportive community- Singspiration. Over the years I have offered courses in healing with sound and voice, song writing and performance, and many offshoots of using voice and music to promote confidence, creativity, community, and wellbeing. Over 20 years ago I started a community choir called 'The Singspiration Singers". Since one of my most profound passions is to compose and sing my own songs this has provided me with an outlet of creative expression as well as touched many people to open up to their voices and music. One of my goals has been to create a body of songs that are universal, uplifting, fun to sing, and full of positive messages with lots of room for toe tapping, hand clapping, and rich harmonies.
I support people to find their voices and their songs using a method I call 'Authentic Voice Technique'. This consists of the deep belly breathing, releasing the jaw, and a third element that I call 'Bless the Sound'. This means that sometime we do need to cry and cry loudly, that there are all manner of sounds trapped within our body that at some point we stopped expressing. 'Bless the Sound' speaks of a permission to be present with the sound that the body wants to make and to hold a loving and accepting attitude when our singing voice doesn't measure up in the way we may want it to. Only by relaxing and accepting the sound for what it is do I see people move beyond their limitations and start to become true singers who move themselves and others with their expression. Paul Newham in his book Using Voice and Song in Therapy says, "When we give voice to parts of the self which have remained mute then we reclaim, refind and rediscover something that has been lost." I see that when people have a sense of permission to express their sorrow and their pain they can also express all of their joy.
The link between deep breathing and good health is more than just theoretical. A thirteen-year-long study in Australia showed that respiratory capacity was a more significant factor than tobacco use, cholesterol levels, and insulin metabolism for determining people's longevity. Nobel prize winner Otto Warburg published landmark studies in the 1960s that proved that cancer cells thrive in an environment starved of oxygen. When we sing we use deep abdominal breathing with the diaphragm moving forcefully downward which allows room for the lungs to fill up with oxygen. The physical signs of stress - cardiovascular, hormonal, immune, and muscular - are quieted and begin to normalize. "He lives most life whoever breathes most air", wrote Elizabeth Barrett Browning. When teaching, I often refer back to how we breathed as babies with our bellies moving and our jaws releasing as we cried and made our sounds. Yoga has long emphasized the importance of breath and prana, the life force. Spirit and breath have been interchangeable in many languages. Singing is a wonderful way to become conscious of our breathing, to be filled with life and inspiration. "When we study the science of breath," wrote Inayat Khan, founder of 'The Sufi Order In the West, "the first thing we notice is that breath is audible". In singing we use breath and sound to restore and maintain harmony in our bodies.
Mitchell L. Gaynor M.D. in his book Sounds of Healing says, "Music, whether produced by voice, instrument or the two in concert, restores our connection with our essence - the realm beyond our conscious awareness - and thus, with the cosmos". I witnessed tremendous change and shift of perspective during the one day, weekend, or 6 to 8 week courses that I had been offering. At the point that I began working with some of the same people for over the course of the 10 month choir season, with some participants continuing on for several years, many people had life altering experiences. Many reported that Tuesday night, choir night, became the highlight of their week and that their respective spouses or families pushed them out the door to go to choir because they returned home in such an uplifted state. As I encouraged practicing the songs and vocal exercises during the week, people talked about depression lifting, physical pain lessening, and finding courage to let go of abusive relationships and other addictions. One woman told us that her inoperable cancer had gone into remission since beginning to sing. I began to look deeper into why singing and music is so powerfully healing for so many people.
In his book, The Silent Pulse, George Leonard writes, "Each of us has an individual identity expressed as a distinctive inner pulse, which comes into rhythm with each other and the rest of the universe. Tapping into our own personal silent pulse just requires being in the present moment". Moving into rhythm with each other and ourselves is one of the big keys to making music as a community. There is a magic that happens when everyone is breathing, singing, and moving in time with each other. I recently went to perform a couple of concerts and offer workshops in Haida Gwaii with long time musical partner, percussionist Joseph 'Pepe' Danza. We had members of the Haida nation with their frame drums, people with African drums, and children with a variety of home made shakers and other instruments as well as everybody's voices. By the end of the day the separation between Native and non-Native community was gone as everyone literally 'found the one' in the music. I've noticed that as soon as people stop trying and judging themselves and each other and relax into the present moment of making music, a group of individuals quickly become 'in time' and 'in tune' with each other. Plato wrote in 400 B.C. "Rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul".
"In a series of studies that examined how music affects blood pressure, pulse rate, breathing, and other aspects of the autonomic nervous system, participants' heart rates were found to respond to both volume and rhythm of music", writes Mitchell L. Gaynor, M.D A 1993 report by scientists at Michigan State University showed that people who listened to or participated in music that they liked showed a drop of 25% in their levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can depress the immune system when produced in excess. Another study shows the same significant drop in cortisol levels in babies of 6 months when their mothers sing to them. Music can activate the flow of stored memory across the corpus colossus helping the left and right hemispheres of the brain work in harmony. This stimulates the immune system. Music can also excite peptides in the brain and stimulate the production of endorphins, which are natural opiates secreted by the hypothalamus which produces a feeling of natural euphoria.
I believe that a great part of the healing that so many people have experienced in my choir and workshops come from a sense of community and of being accepted just as you are. I've worked with people who are at a professional level with their singing and with many others who to begin with, didn't even believe they could sing. By expressing their own voices and by hearing and absorbing other people's sounds in a supportive environment people find their own way to heal. One woman cried through every choir session for 6 months. She told me when she was growing up she was forbidden to make loud sounds and that the music moved her so much all she could do was cry. After 6 months she came to me and said, "I'm done with crying and I'm ready for a solo part!". She went on to become one of the soloists of the choir.
The messages in the songs that we sing are important as music can alter mood and emotional states. Studies show that anger, hostility, stress and other negative emotions suppress immunity whereas positive emotional states such as gratitude enhance parasympathetic activity and boost immunity. "Many different regions of the brain respond to the perceptual and emotional aspects of music and the brains alters itself to react more strongly to music that becomes important to an individual". Scientific Journal. I find that whether people are singing something they have created that allows them to express emotions they are holding or they are learning and singing the choir repertoire which ranges from non-denominational gospel, soul and pop, world music and my own songs of uplifting universal themes, they are deeply impacted by the lyrics, the meaning and the songs themselves. One of my songs that the choir loves to sing has a very singable chorus that expresses my desire to inspire and touch people with music.