If you were to witness a cook dragging his cooking utensils across the floor prior to preparing your meal, or a painter using her most expensive brushes to whitewash a picket fence, you would probably think them insane. Why is it then that we think nothing of the teller or word artist who abuses their gift of voice?
I have been on rosters with other performers, specifically storytellers, singers and poets who, before going out to ply their trade on stage, think nothing of gulping down a huge glass of soda or other ice cold drink. It amazes me that we abuse the tools of our craft in the way we do.
Yes, your voice, your vocal chords, your mouth and tongue are all tools of your craft, intimately intertwined to perform the sacred task of delivering the all powerful word.
We immediately recognize the absurdity of the cook or painter who acts in a destructive manner with the tools of their trade. Our distress appears to vanish when it comes to witnessing the abuse of the omnipresent, but much more sensitive, voice.
Many artists who rely on their voices for a living place themselves in a very precarious position, challenging their own longevity, when they engage in activities such as smoking, drinking alcohol and consuming materials that are the antithesis of vocal health.
It would be wonderful if the solution were to just tell performers to stop it. We all know that “just say no” never worked. One solution might be for us, as a community of artist, to openly challenge one another. I see the potential for disaster here in our “rugged individualist” oriented society. Maybe another solution is to ignore those who engage in such reckless behavior and view it as a sort of Darwinian “survival of the fittest” paradigm. This would be where only those who have prepared themselves for longevity actually endure. For me, that is a difficult one because I view myself as part of a community and I also see myself as accountable to a higher level of consciousness within myself.
As a rule I try to live by example. I try to make myself the model of what I eventually desire to be. Engaging in didactic delivery defeats my purpose and promotes defensiveness. I acknowledge the frailty of the tools of my trade: i.e. my voice, my eye sight, my musculature, my memory, etc.
Once I recognize the frailty of my tools I am called upon to preserve them best I can, after all, I am only in possession of them temporarily and I always strive to return things better than when I received them.
I don’t expect my words to make sense to most of you but for the few who comprehend; this is written for you.
I could give you a long list of things to do but there are already more than enough people out there more informed than I who can assist. There are dieticians, nutritionists, therapists, and trainers galore. Living in the information age affords each of you access to more information than you could ever consume in one lifetime.
Start with yourself, become the embodiment of that which you desire to be and you will be surprised how many people pickup on your nonverbal cues.
Protect your throat and voice. Your mouth may, one day, speak the words that change someone’s life. That is truly a gift. You do not want to miss the blessing of someone telling your how your words affected them because you happen to be suffering from laryngitis, or worse, a hangover, and couldn’t perform
“Dooni dooni kononi bè nyaga da.”