Photo: Michael Gold
... a few words about music.

Important note: this work makes no medical claims, and it is up to you, dear reader, to use any information you find here responsibly and intelligently, toward yourself and others.

All material ©Sing into Joy

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"With Bated Breath"
March 3, 2023

Nope, not  “baited.” That might be a fish tale (not a tail). My Inner Editor winces (not winches—those are on lobster boats!) whenever I see that typo.


            Okayyyy, it’s Friday morning, and I’m having a little Fun with Phonics. But here’s the point: Have you ever noticed yourself involuntarily holding your breath while you’re focusing on something?

            Yesterday morning I was cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast, and caught myself doing it as I wiped the countertops. I asked myself: Why? Was I tense? No. Was I upset? No, just engaged in some pleasant housekeeping. Was I thinking about something else while in motion, and got caught between the two activities? Maybe. I wonder what it was...

            Then last night, I was listening intently in an online discussion group, and there it was again. Bated breath. It comes out of “abated”: lessened or diminished. It happens all the time, and I’d be willing to bet it happens to you too.

            An email containing the latest big fat winter fuel bill just popped up a push notice. Oops! am I breathing, or “bated”? There’s almost a little gasp in the sound of the word.

            My voice students, when they’re learning a new element of skill, or repertoire, or vocal awareness, often hold their breath while doing the new thing. Or even an old thing. Sometimes they notice; sometimes I notice and remind them.

            So far, it seems we can find ourselves holding our breath when we’re caught up in an outward activity, a thought process, an emotional reaction. Maybe other things, too. Do I hold my breath when someone else is speaking?

            My dog doesn’t hold his breath at all; he just breathes. (And sometimes snores softly when he’s napping.)

            So what is it about we humans, that we make this unconscious stop inside? When do you catch yourself in it?

            My thought for today is that we don’t need to over-analyze. We simply need to stop for a moment—inwardly if we can’t stop what we’re doing outwardly—and notice. And without judgment, refocus our attention on the breath itself, in the core of the body. Thoughts, feelings, waving our appendages around like lobsters, tend to automatically take us up and out of our physical core. If I bring my attention back inside, the breath can release itself.

            Or I can help it by doing a nice long slow exhalation, get rid of the stuck breath, and notice how my body takes the next in-breath for me. Rinse and repeat. Three times will usually change a person’s state a bit. Notice how each time you exhale and turn the inhalation over to the body, it tends to come in a little deeper, broader. And on a subtle level it builds trust in the body, which actually does breathe for us 24/7, whether we’re awake or asleep—in or out of bed. We just get in the way sometimes, without intending to.

            My breath is the connection, the interface, between the mini-world inside me and the limitless world outside.

            Want to take the bait and observe? Let me know what you find! Send a note through the Contact page. And keep that breath moving!



March 3, 2023


Our Season of Fest and Rest
November 30, 2022

Hello again, friends,

            The holiday season is off to a running start: bells ringing, incentives for giving, stores and online shops offering enticements to buy prezzies. (While you're at it, by all means check out my own Etsy shop, , which includes CDs, poetry, art, and a series of prerecorded SongBytes mini voice lessons. Or ask me about giving a loved one some live online lessons. End of festive small-biz commerce pitch. On to the deep thoughts.)

More people are coming together in person this year to share song and celebration than we’ve seen in the past 3 years. And…

This season in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s gettin’ COLD.  Depending on exactly where you live, it’s more or less snowy-icy too.  Animals know the creature-sensible way to respond to this. Here in Maine, for one thing the bears have stopped pillaging the bird feeders—they’ve gone off to their warm place to hibernate. Their breath, temperature, slip into low gear; they stop eating.

The urge among us humans to come together for warmth and celebration—and lots of food—in the coldest days and nights is a different kind of natural response. It goes back millennia, including Pagan and Roman traditions like Yule and Saturnalia, not just Christmas.  We celebrate what we have,  share lavishly, and finish up the leftovers in the larder. 

But there’s a countermovement that’s worth paying attention to, similar to the bears’, and to the plants taking their long winter’s nap beneath the surface. The stillness in Nature can encourage our human nature to read the signals and go inward, contemplate, refresh after all the Doing we’ve been doing for months, and just Be.  And prepare.  Suggestion: Pause for a moment right now and just follow your breath for 3 or 4 inhalations/exhalations. Don't jump to trying to fix anything you notice; just experience it, feel it.

A French expression I’ve always liked—“Reculer pour mieux sauter”—suggests drawing back temporarily in the face of an obstacle, or a decision we need to make, in order to jump forward with strength and a clear aim and direction. Allowing us to begin anew. 'Tis the season for that too.

            I hope you’re able to join with others during this special, powerful time! I hope you’ll have chances to sing with them as well as eat and share gifts and warmth. (Did you know that when we speak or sing, we’re physically transferring multiple kinds of energy to those we’re with? More on the science of that in a later blog.)

            I also hope—for myself too, as I ponder once again some of the Big Questions—that we can each in our own way use this season to take advantage of Nature’s prompting to go inward, heed the call of essence, and reculer, so we can mieux sauter in the New Year!

            Joyeux Noël,




The Presence—and Presents—of Our Voices, Part 2: “Do You Hear What I Hear?”
December 5, 2021

Hello, Sing into Joy World!

This is the second in a series of holiday-season blogposts on the theme “The Presence—and Presents—of Our Voices.” The first one, before Thanksgiving, was about the presence of our physical voices (to ourselves and others), and the impact our voice can have. You can find that post in this Blogthread.

Today's focus is on listening, a gift that’s often lacking in our hyped-up world.  And sometimes a little harder to achieve in Zoomworld than it was in our norms before, right? Of course, in online meetings when one person interrupts or talks over another, the i-net connection tends to freeze or the sound to blur out. So we know when we’ve done it. #gift #redo

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” is a charming children's Christmas song about the night wind asking this question to the little lamb, the lamb to the shepherd boy, and in  #whisperdownthelane fashion, finally the king says it to the people everywhere, about a dazzling star and a certain miraculous birth in Bethlehem. My own spirituality embraces many traditions, and this whole season is one in which “the people everywhere” tend to celebrate the return of the light, first of all the light of our common celestial Sun. We have the Hindu Diwali celebration in early November, then Hanukkah, which came a little earlier than usual this year, then the Winter Solstice, followed by Christmas, and finally Kwanzaa, which begins on December 26 and carries us into the Gregorian calendar New Year on January 1.

During this season when the light is visibly returning, what do we hear? And do we give the gift of listening? When I’m talking with someone, or in a group, can I be present not just to what I want to say next in response to what’s being said right now, or ten minutes ago, or last year? Can I be present by sensing my breath in my body as I listen, by taking in the sound of the others’ voices, by sensing those sounds’ impact on my own energy—indeed, on my body itself, before I start imagining things about what they really meant? Can I keep a little of that awareness with me when I begin to speak? How does my voice sound when it comes out? Is my tone joyful, sad, kind, not-kind? My pace slow, rapid, even or not-even? Am I excited? What does my speaking convey as a result of my listening before, during, after?

In a broader context that includes music: This winter once again, so many of us are especially missing the special seasonal sounds of music we traditionally shared live and in person: in the streets, houses of worship, concert halls, clubs. Even in our own homes, gatherings are likely still limited; and will we sing together? This is a painful hole in our celebrations' hearts. We can make some choices about how we find those beloved, inspiring sounds where and how they're available, to feast our ears. One online site I've discovered that's amazing is Radio Garden, where you can hear radio stations from all over the world in real time just by clicking on dots on the globe map. They also have an app. (I have no relationship with Radio Garden, just love that we can hear what people are saying--or playing--all over Planet Earth.) 

Pauline Oliveros, the late composer, player, improviser, and founder of the Deep Listening Institute, used to say, “Listening is love.”

Let’s give THAT present!  Our voices—and our ears—can be not only Present, if we are, but also a Present to others, in this holiday season.

More to come in the next installment, which will be a coda (Italian for "tail") to this one, about listening to our inner voice and body around that perennial holiday joy and challenge, FOOD! And how it can be part of self-love and care.  Including, singers, care of our voices.  If you’d like to share your thoughts with me, including anything you'd like to see me include in that topic, please drop me a line here.



My Etsy shop, SunriseSongStudio, is now open! Look for holiday gifts there, including the gift of song that keeps on giving through the New Year: "SongBytes"!


The Presence--and Presents--of Our Voices, Part 1
November 16, 2021

Hello again, Sing into Joy world! It’s many months since I’ve written a blog, but our singing/healing journey together has remained a touchstone, and I hope you haven’t forgotten it either.

Several other projects have required a lot of my focus in order to complete them, so this Elf has been busy with writing and designing my first book of poems and photos, and seeing it published (woot!); creating a line of photo-haiga art cards (haiga = image+haiku+calligraphy); completing the promised SongBytes subscription set of mini voice lessons (all of the foregoing items now available in my brand-new Etsy shop, SunriseSongStudio); working with a cast of mostly-teens to make a virtual show with music together (mixing-editing now in progress) in partnership with Healthy Acadia; and editing books by my friend T.A. McLaughlin, the magical sci-fi/sci-fantasy writer.


And now the holidays are upon us! A perfect time to think about Singing into Joy.

This will be a series of blogposts on the same theme, “The Presence—and Presents—of Our Voices.” So I’ll drop in more details about these other aspects of expressing our creativity too as we go along. Once upon a time, I taught an Artist-in-Residence course at SUNY Ulster in NY, called “The Artist’s Voice,” about authenticity in all the arts.

Today, I’d like to focus on the Presence of our physical voices, especially as we head into that holiday season. Gathering together in person is still just beginning to make a cautious return during this year’s holidays. But even if we’re not meeting in person, we’re Zooming and FaceTiming with friends and relations, or calling them on the phone. We’re out in the stores at least a little bit more than we were last year. Some live concerts are taking place, with audience members seated more widely apart than we used to be.

As the tempo picks up, and sociability resumes, what’s the quality of my speaking voice amid all this heightened activity? How aware am I of the sound and sensation of my own voice, along with the content of my speech? That popular word Mindfulness comes to, er, mind (sorry-not-sorry). But focusing on the mind in our languaging leaves out a great deal, especially when we’re making sounds. We make them with our bodies, after all—our breath and lungs, our vocal folds (a.k.a. vocal cords), our muscles, our very bones that vibrate with the sound and help to amplify it.  

And of course, we also make them with our emotions—or rather, in the best case, with our feeling, something deeper and truer than the random, reactive e-motions we all respond with out of habit a dozen or more times a day.

All this guided by, accompanied by, the mind, of course! Mindfulness.


When we speak or sing, we send out a vibration that is the synthesis of all these elements. It goes out into the atmosphere: the ears of those it’s intended for, yes, but also into subtler realms. I think of the old use of “ether” before the Ethernet—the realms of air and space—but of course, also the now-familiar Ethernet we tune in to, where we may be sharing those sounds and our intention for them with a wider human audience, or a “forever” one preserved in a video. Our sound also travels through all the cells of our bodies, as well as back to us through our hearing and also what's known as bone conduction.

Have you ever felt caressed by the sound of a voice? Or socked in the solar plexus? Voices carry a powerful energy, the energy of our whole being in that moment. So the more we can be aware and sensitive, both to our own state and to the situation, the better for everyone.

I was in a situation recently where I utterly lost control of what I was saying to someone and how I was saying it. The person’s carelessness had caused me physical hurt as well as a huge waste of time and energy, and all she wanted to do was tell me how she wasn’t at fault. My fury was amplified by the screaming pain my body was in at that moment. (There’s that “I’m right!” thing about anger, right?) She probably felt clobbered, and an amends was needed afterward.

Where did I go during those moments? What was the sound of my voice like? The energy? The presence? It was powerful, for sure—what’s it like to be yelled at by an opera singer?—but I wasn’t at home. Not Present with a capital P.  Nor kind.  Have you ever been there, or someplace like it?


Here’s a simple beginning: what if I try, before I give voice to a thought—or a song!—to just take one “conscious,” aware breath first? Intentionally. Feel it come into my body, let it deepen and widen the space inside. If I’ve got time before I have to make a sound, add another two or three of these attentive breaths. And when the sound comes out, can I hear it?

Even this simple inner movement takes practice--and in non-stressful situations, so we have a chance of remembering in the more stressful ones (did I mention that the holidays are upon us?). #PeaceOnEarth.


Our voices can be not only Present, if we are, but also a Present to others, in this holiday season.


More to come in the next installment! If you’d like to share your thoughts with me, please drop me a line here.




P.S. Early in the New Year, I'll be offering an event about using our voices with attention, in the online monthly Mindfulness series of Healthy Acadia: January 6, 2022, at 5 PM EST.

"Songs for the Season of Light" - Preview of a popup multi-holiday sing-along
December 9, 2020

Time for some musical holiday cheer!  I’m planning a FaceBook sing-along, with songs of the season honoring several traditions, in a few languages, plus some plain old holiday fun. 


In chronological order, this year the dates to observe fall on:

§  Hanukkah (Dec. 10-16)

§  “Star of Bethlehem” rare Saturn-Jupiter conjunction (visible Dec. 16-21)

§  Winter Solstice (Dec. 21)

§  Christmas (Dec. 25)

§  Kwanzaa (Dec. 26-Jan. 1)

Of course, there has been Shopping since before Thanksgiving…


This December is special, not only because it ends our globally arduous year of 2020 with the hope that 2021 will be easier, but because there’s a special conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter that will blaze bright in the night sky, visible to the naked eye from December 16-21, and brightest on the 21st at sunset. Astronomers say not only has this phenomenon not been seen since the year 1226; it may also have been the fabled Star of Bethlehem followed by the shepherds and Magi (who, per some historians, were astrologers) to the stable in Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus.  Back in the 2nd century B.C. (close enough), the conjunction included Venus as well.


I haven’t chosen the day and time yet for the song event, partly because of the range of holi-dates that gives it some flexibility, and partly because I’d like it to not conflict with online celebrations already planned by other musician friends.  So I’ll be announcing it soon.


Get ready!  Warm up those pipes!  If you’d like to have the lyric sheet in advance, contact me here and I’ll email it to you.


In light,





Frog in Your Throat? Dealing with Vocal Fatigue and Hoarseness
December 4, 2020

Is your speaking voice tired and husky from too many hours of speaking in online meetings, or teaching school from home?  I’ll bet most of us are having to talk a great deal more, and for more sustained periods, than we were used to.  And not using the voice well bodes trouble, eventually.


This morning, I got a message from a new colleague, cancelling a Zoom get-acquainted call she and I had been looking forward to.  She said her voice had been getting progressively hoarser for some time, and this week she was told by an otolaryngologist (ear-nose-throat specialist) that a polyp had developed on one of her vocal folds.  He advised her to go on as much vocal rest as possible so it doesn't get worse and require surgery. 


If you follow pop music—or opera—you may remember reading that singer-songwriter Adele, and also the exquisite coloratura soprano Natalie Dessay, have each had to undergo more than one surgery to remove polyps from their vocal folds (more commonly referred to as the vocal cords).  Whitney Houston had polyp surgery.  So did Elton John, whose voice deepened afterward.  Julie Andrews lost her ability to sing after a surgery gone wrong.  It's a delicate procedure, requiring a long healing and voice-recovery period.  Nobody wants to have to undergo it.


My colleague said she’s going to get herself an external microphone, and just schedule less talking time.


But we can’t always do that.  Not when practitioners are pivoting a hands-on, one-to-one, in-person business to an online avatar of itself; or when businesspeople have to lead or report in meetings; or when teachers—or parents—have to spend many extra hours giving special coaching to students or their children on top of the audio classwork itself.  Cutting back means income loss, quality loss, or even possible job loss.


AND, just getting a mic or talking less doesn’t solve the core issue: that the voice isn’t being used in a healthy, efficient way. 


§  Maybe it’s the lack of breath support.  Few people who haven’t been trained to speak or sing are used to taking the kind of breath that supports the voice. 


§  Maybe it’s tight throat muscles—because of nervousness, or habit, or trying too hard.


§  Maybe it’s talking too low in pitch, or even letting the pitch sink down into that nether region we call “vocal fry.”  (You’ve heard even national news reporters/commentators lapse into this.)


§  Maybe it’s talking breathily, creating friction between the folds.  Extra air leaking through them acts like sandpaper.  Or getting our breath in audible gasps between sentences.  (So many newspeople do this, especially many women, sadly—from the BBC to NPR to your local stations. Once you hear it you can’t unhear it.  Trust me.  Phew.  I’d like to get them all into one Zoom room for one good session about that.)


§  Maybe it’s feeling (even unconsciously) that we have to speak louder, or more assertively, and thus chronically pushing the voice past its comfort zone.  Learning to use our built-in resonators can help tremendously with this.


§  Is all this anxiety driving us to drink?  Alcohol is tough on a tender vocal apparatus.



As one of my old voice teachers, the late Tom LoMonaco, used to say, “the voice should be a vibrating instrument, not a valve.”  If it’s not supported by good breathing habits, with throat tension released, and the folds working efficiently to take just the air they need, your instrument becomes like a valve, where the poor folds—which are making a wavelike motion literally hundreds of times a second when you sing or speak—are working ‘way overtime and producing a tense, unpleasant sound to boot. 


Instead, think reed or even double reed instrument, that vibrates freely in place and makes a beautiful sound.


Want to learn more about how to reduce your vocal fatigue?  Ask me.  I can work with you individually, and am also putting together a small-group workshop on this topic.


To your vocal health!  And your happy caroling. :)



P.S. Advice on more efficient healthy use of the voice is NOT a substitute for a medical opinion.  If you are having problems like hoarseness or discomfort with your voice, see a doctor for an opinion; take care of yourself. 


Holiday reminder:  Voice lessons are a gift that keeps on giving!  Consider bestowing a set of 4 lessons on a loved one.  Gift certificates happily provided.





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