Friday, July 2, 2010

Athleticism and Music

Way back when I first began to learn about how the world works, I never connected music with athleticism.  Not only did I not connect them, they each seemed to belong in totally separate compartments, and in fact, one even at times seemed to preclude the other.

In  high school, I belonged to the social status group that had been dubbed the "band squirrels."  Band squirrels hung out down the "band hall."  The band hall door was locked when we first arrived at school in the morning, but we sat down on the floor together outside the band hall door and fooled around until the music teacher arrived and opened up the door.  By the time he arrived, there was only a few minutes left before the bell rang and we had to all get to our homerooms, but nevertheless, we spent those few remaining minutes -- every single morning -- "down the bandhall."

Most of my elective high school classes and extracurricular activities centered on music.  I was in concert band, marching band, jazz band, chorus, and any other musical activity that came about.  Most of my friends were into music as well, and -- as I recall -- most of them did not seem very athletic to me.

For one thing, being involved with sports conflicted with musical activities.  We had marching band practice outdoors in the Fall and would not have been able to play soccer or field hockey.  Then in the spring was school musical rehearsals, and there was no way I was going to jeopardize having a part in the school musical -- no siree -- by belonging to some extracurricular sports team.

There were a few students who juggled sports and music, but they were not really considered "band squirrels."  They were kind of well-rounded kids who were doing a little bit of everything, but one could see they had a conflict of loyalties and they would miss practices and not really feel like one of the regulars.  They also usually didn't play their instruments on as high a level as the "band squirrels" did.

Overall, the "jocks" were a completely separate world of people from the band squirrels, and it appeared as if one precluded the other.

I remember, however, when I first branched off to explore some athleticism. It was toward the end of my junior year of high school that I started thinking that perhaps it  might be a good idea I should explore a sport.  I decided to join the track team.

It's not that I had not been athletic at all.  No, that was not the case because athleticism was highly valued by my parents and we had been encouraged in every way to develop various sides to our athletic natures.  I was an avid and accomplished golfer, the junior champ down at our country club.  Our family took regular family bike rides together.  We had all been given extensive swimming lessons and I was a strong swimmer, and had even enjoyed perfecting some beginning diving.  We had all studied gymnastics in grade school and I had basic gymnastic skills -- cartwheels, limbers, splits, walkovers, back walkovers.

But I think because music was a stronger interest, I just did not go out for teams. I was also really afraid of ball sports, and didn't think very fast on my feet, so I did not fare well in group sports.

I'm not sure why I chose the track team, but I think it was because my dad had been a big track star in high school, and my younger sisters were following in his footsteps and making a name for themselves on the track team.

Well, there are a lot of directions I could go with this.  I could get sidetracked and start talking about all my adventures in learning about track, but I will save that for my new blog Barefoot Fresca, and stick to the point I am getting at here regarding athleticism and being a musician.

Track introduced me to running and running introduced me to the cross country team where I developed more into a runner.  This seemed to be a separate part of me from my musician side.  In fact, being on the cross country team did make it more stressful to be in marching band that year.  I had to run from one practice to the other and my plate was definitely full my senior year.

But they still seemed like separate lives.  My athletic/running life -- and -- my musical life.

In recent years, however, I made a big connection between athleticism and singing.  It was on the day that the realization hit me, "Oh my gosh!  singing is athletic.  It's athletic!  That means I can develop it!" that I really began to find my way as a singer.

But still, for a while after that realization, singing seemed like it's own separate form of athleticism, still a bit disconnected from other athleticism in my mind.  It was athletic because it involved muscles, exercising, strengthening, flexing, coordinating muscles that took practice and developed along the same kinds of principles as other athletic activities.  But I still didn't understand that my entire instrument was athletic and that other kinds of athleticism would feed into and be essential for developing my full potential as a singer.

The first connection to other athleticism was the thought that doing ab exercises might help me master breath management needed for singing.

I did a little research, asked some singers, and most seemed to think that separate ab development, overall, helped a singer.  There were some people who protested that the ab activity of singing was particular and specific to singing, and that the only way to develop that ab capability was to sing -- which is true.  Then there were a few voices who seemed to think separate ab development would be detrimental to singing if it created too tight muscles.  But overall, it seemed logical to me that the stronger, healthier, more developed the ab muscles were, the better off I'd be, and I began to do some extra ab work as part of my training as a singer

Well, that was the beginning and this has led to my philosophy, which I have written about here a lot, that some kind of athletic training must be part of my development as a singer.

Now it seems that my interests from way back have come full circle and I participate on Facebook group called The Athletic Performer founded by my friend  and fellow blogger, Robin, who also writes a blog by the same name.  The group is full of singers and musicians who include athletic cross training as part of their singing life.  The leader, Robin, seems to epitomize the ideal of the theory, because she is a highly evolved athlete -- marathoner and triathlete -- and a master of a gorgeous singing voice as well, who is progressing very well in her professional singing career right now.

Another member of the Athletic Performer Facebook group has written recently on her blog, The Liberated Voice, about how important it is for singers to pursue athletic disciplines in her article: The Vocal Athlete

I have started a new blog, Barefoot Fresca, to write about my parallel athletic pursuit of running, but there are times, because of how my singing is now linked with my running, where the topics will weave in and out from one another, and principles and philosophies gleaned from one discipline will apply to the other.

Don't be surprised if you see some weird barefoot running videos show up amongst the practice files in Frescamari's Practice Room as my two endeavors, athletics and music, start to come together and no longer be contained in separate compartments.

No comments:

Post a Comment