The Voice World is like a Balloon Factory

I listened to Seth Godin say something this morning that stopped me dead in my tracks while I walked my dog.

In his book Tribes, he uses a fabulous analogy of a balloon factory, to talk about the institutions that we train and work under where the systems we have in place keep things humming along at status quo level. It’s safe in the balloon factory, it’s comfortable, and you learn how to do what you need to, to produce the product you want.

But, the problem with a balloon factory is there are these other things, sharp things, that are the enemy of the balloon. Things like pins, knives and, yes, Unicorns. If you work in the balloon factory you learn to fear those sharp objects.

If a Unicorn walks into a balloon factory, he suggests, it can send everyone into a panic. The disruption a Unicorn causes can make workers become protective of their work, fearful of the change it might cause and make people turn their backs.

As I listened, I realized I AM A UNICORN IN THE BALLOON FACTORY OF THE VOICE WORLD!

We are trained in school about the systems of the voice – respiration, registration and phonation. We read all the pedagogy books which teach us about the voice and how those systems work from the standpoint of ideals on a page.

I’m over here saying WAIT, what about skeletal, nervous and muscular systems of THE WHOLE BODY?  What about the fact that no one has a nervous system that developed perfectly, so we don’t actually function like a 2-D skeleton on a page? We have joints that are limited in range, muscles that are underused, imbalances and lack of function globally in the body. Those are the issues that impact the voice that NO amount of vocal technique can solve.

I’m disrupting the vocal balloon production line by suggesting that we can’t just say the pedagogical platitude the whole body is the instrument, we actually need to know what that means AND what that looks like in the body; our own and those of our students. We need to be the boss of our body so our careers are sustainable and productive.

I get it, Unicorns and their horns are terrifying if you need to make 30 beautiful balloons by the end of the year and have only 1 hour every week to work on them. Isn’t there enough work to do already? Everything you need to know you already learned from those 22 books you read on balloon production in graduate school, right?

The voice world, like so many other industries that rely heavily on the ‘this is how it’s done’ mentality, fears the Unicorns. But, we so desperately need Unicorns to help us grow and change and improve what we are doing and how we are doing it so we can do our jobs better than ever before.

Join me in popping those pedagogical voice balloons to find new ways of really understanding the body and voice and how they work together.

Here for you.

Your Vocal Unicorn,

Sarah