Author Archives: Ali Garrison

About Ali Garrison

Alexandra (Ali) Garrison mezzo soprano/performer, international voice teacher, clinician BMA in Vocal Performance, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Founding member, the Waverlies, the Nathaniel Dett Chorale ACTRA member and Gemini Nominee Operatic, theatre roles, concert soloist, Specializing in music for a more harmonious world


Heads up for students and artists eager to get back to in-person lessons and coachings with me in September 2021. I’m asking that everyone have had both their covid-19 vaccines for at least 2 weeks before returning to my home studio this fall. I will continue to offer online lessons and coachings for the foreseeable future. Online lessons will remain an option, especially for those who cannot vaccinate for health or philosophical reasons, which I respect, however cannot take the risk to everyone’s health. I will continue to monitor the status of covid cases and the variants and will revert to teaching everyone online again if the numbers show any signs of climbing up. I plan to wear a 95% effective mask during the lessons, to minimize the vapours in the room. I will also have a professional level air purifier in the studio. Students and artists will need to mask before and after their lessons but will not have to mask while singing in the studio. Looking forward to seeing and hearing you in the flesh!

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Music has taught me so many things that I transfer to other parts of my life. Dr. Angela Hawaleshka has been my master voice teacher and mentor, for 24 years. In our first couple of years working together, I would find myself challenging her and butting heads with her, to prove what I thought I knew. This would mean I would leave my singing lessons depressed, frustrated and stuck. This was not a good feeling. Angela had so much to teach me and I had so much work to do to evolve as a singer and artist. If I were going to advance, I realized, I would have to truly commit to the process, put my trust in my teacher and hang my ego up with my coat when I came into her studio. Hungry to grow and improve, I decided to open my own mind and put judgements and the need to be right on hold for the valuable hours I continue to spend with her. There is still scrutinizing, critique and analysis happening, but we’re not wasting time battling my “if onlys” and “shoulds” and “buts” and false pride. Instead, the explorations are coming through the compassionately disinterested lens of a loving guide. I began cultivating an inner teacher, a detective, ferreting out my own enlightening. From that moment on, our sessions have been transformative. To this day, I still leave her studio more whole, more capable and more inspired, every single time. Unless we lead a cloistered … Continue reading

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Someone’s smile left a beautiful, shimmering residue Forming a rescue party of Joplin (Scott), Bach, Jarrett, Schroer, Sokol and The Listener Arriving here in a time when our ole whorl needs it the most So much at stake Sonic Healing Balms Make my eyes heat up Make them well up Which happens rarely and un-bidden So it’s precious So pay attention It’s like suddenly donning special spectacles for Perceiving Sheer Energy of The Invisible Spiraling through Time, Space and that sweet apotheosis, Music Opes the Heart ~Ali Garrison, November 26th, 2016, Toronto (Thoughts during “Covering Oli” Casey Sokol’s concert/book launch of duets for solo piano using melodies by Oliver Schroer at Edward Epstein’s Gallery 345) Photo: For Love by Ben Brown. Cymatic photo of sound vibrating on the surface of water

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In August 2014 when I was again staying with dear friend and fellow improviser, eighty year-old pianist Nancy Bennet. We decided to do another free improv session in her wharf studio in Cutler, Maine. We used this poem to improvise on. I was encouraging her to continue to play even as she has been dealing with a debilitating and tragic genetic condition that is affecting her fingers. This is the beauty of free improvisation, you come to it as you are. This poem is by an anonymous Chinese poet from the 1st century B.C. We loved it so much we did three free improvisations on it. The last recording was the best. Were able to finally capture its beautiful and sad poignancy. It comes from a small book that I picked off Nancy’s bookshelf randomly, called The Moment of Wonder: A Collection of Chinese and Japanese Poetry – edited by Richard Lewis (The Dial Press) The Eastern Gate: I went out at the Eastern Gate: I never thought to return. But I came back to the gate with my heart full of sorrow. There was not a peck of rice in the bin: There was not a coat hanging on the pegs. So I took my sword and went towards the gate. My wife and child clutched at my coat and wept: “Some people want to be rich and grand: I only want to share my porridge with you. Above, we have the blue waves of the sky: Below, the … Continue reading

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“You will never do anything more vital, more profound, more perfect, than what you are doing right now.” – Gwendolyn MacEwen, from After-Thoughts Good morning, Friends. Sitting here, the morning after the night before… thinking and absorbing what transpired at my concert last night. It was a moving and joyous thing to be able to see everyone’s faces and feel your spirits right there with me on the journey, which is one of the reasons I love the Gallery 345 space. The audience and the performers can be very close and the pleasure we may all take in the intimate experience that occurs is palpable. These songs that my composer friends, Isabel Ciudad-Real, Nancy Bennet, William Beauvais, Kevin McMahon, Stephen Newby and Ryan Billington, have made are so rich and deep. Words cannot describe how much I love singing them. They are a treasure trove for the imagination and deserve to be re-discovered and explored and heard again and again. I’m already searching for the next time I can sing them mo’ bettah. This was an interesting night, and for me, a new way of being and sharing in each moment. After more than thirty years of performing professionally, I am entering yet another phase: a difficult (for me) and necessary transition into a mature woman and artist. I feel a bit like a chrysalis starting to metamorphose into a butterfly.  Call me crazy, but for some reason I feel moved to be transparent and reveal my process because it is so often hidden and such … Continue reading

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Human beings need to express themselves daily in a way that invites physical and emotional release. Musical self-expression is a joyful and healthy means of communication available to absolutely everyone. There are as many different ways to make music as there are people. The human voice is the most natural and powerful vehicle for musical self-expression. The differences in our voices add richness and depth to music. Sincerely expressed emotion is at the root of meaningful musical expression. Your music is more authentically expressed when your body is involved in your musical expression. The European tradition of music is only one sound. All other cultures and traditions deserve equal attention. Any combination of people and instruments can make music together. There are no “unmusical” people, only those with no musical experience. Music improvisation is a unique and positive way to build skills for life-expression. In improvisation as in life, we must be responsible for the vibrations we send one another. Developed by David Darling/Music for People

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  I cannot stress enough the dire need for you all to drink more water. It will make such a difference to your singing and your overall health. Here are some tips: Drink half your weight (lbs) in fluid oz/day. Add one litre more if you are sick or overheated or singing a lot. Dr. Van Lawrence, world renowned Laryngologist, often said, “Drink until you pee pale.” When one’s body is dehydrated laryngeal lubrication diminishes and wear takes place at a much greater rate than normal. Avoid anything diuretic…soda pop, sugared drinks, caffeinated drinks, alcohol. If you do drink small amounts of these things, drink extra water. Better yet, make a habit to drink H2O instead! Carry a clean, regularily washed, stainless steel or glass flask so that you are not ingesting all the toxins that come from plastics. It is best to drink the bulk of your water quota in the first part of the day, so that you don’t have to keep getting up all night! There is a study that suggests that it is better to chug-a-lug larger quantities of water, rather than sipping small amounts throughout the day. The constantly sipping washes away the healthy enzymes and good bacteria and lubrication in the throat. It also keeps making your kidneys over-work and they can’t get a moment’s rest! When you first begin to drink more water, you may feel slightly nauseous and need to urinate more often. But if you persist, soon, your body will adjust and … Continue reading

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Silence leaves space for reflection and deepening awareness. Getting comfortable with silence is part of our learning as musicians, as human beans. Many creative people experience silence as the backdrop, the background, the “negative space”, the canvas, on which they set their ideas. I grew up in a family that practiced a gentle and liberal Quaker philosophy. In that tradition people work on developing spiritual discernment and practice “holding” silence so that we can be more open to hearing/knowing the voice of Spirit when it comes and then we are moved in the moment to say/do/channel the right thing from a clearer mind/heart. Cultivating this “skill” gets us away from dogma, doctrine and formulaic thinking, instead, feeding the cosmic dance, constantly refreshing, being spontaneous and organically evolving. We can apply this idea to creative inspiration, composition and improvising very easily. I did a beautiful improvisation with some students in a clinic I was giving on “Our Voices and Our Well Being”, at a local arts high school yesterday. It is a structured improvisation composed by Pauline Oliveros, the American composer, who has focused much of her musical explorations on deep listening and sonic awareness. It’s called, Tuning Meditation: The musicians/singers/improvisers sit in silence, listening and focusing on taking deep breaths. Then randomly, each one begins with one long tone that comes from deep within themselves. Then they sit in silence, listening again, breathing. Their second tone is an imitating tone, so they hear something from someone else in the group and try to copy it as best they can. Again, when they finish the tone, they sit and listen … Continue reading

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“You know how it is. Sometimes we plan a trip to one place, but something takes us to another.”                         ~ from the Master, Rumi I had one particular 48 hours in my last week Downeast when I finally understood why that mysterious voice called me to jump through hoops of fire to make this rather long, arduous trip. For the life of me, I couldn’t quite figure out where such a overpoweringly strong compulsion to go to Maine this year came from. It seemed so much more urgent than my usual desire to go commune with Mama Nature and my dear friends in that area. But being a musician, teacher AND an improviser, I’ve grown accustomed to obeying and submitting to intuition and the nudges of the muse. After a while, we learn not to waste time questioning those indicators, methinks. Just follow it and see what strange events unfold…and hope to hell that we have enough accumulated acumen to deal with the ensuing experiences. Nancy Bennett, an extraordinary improvising pianist in her late 70s (think an intuitive, feminine version of Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans), who I’ve known for many years musically and otherwise, and I, had an exquisite duet improv session (caught on a Zoom recorder for posterity) on the Steinway at her wharf in Cutler. It was really more like a series of musical intuitions/conversations. Nancy’s musings are always harmonious and completely approachable, while containing enough … Continue reading

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Ali Garrison

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