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 life, a strong, hearty ego is a necessary thing in this world, to survive Our Struggle to be Human. And yet, I have found this particular technique of consciously surrendering my fear at the door, one of the most crucial pieces to learning new skills, ways and ideas. It allows other tools like intuition, flexibility, curiosity and collaboration to surface and take over and we are then able to soar into our personal and collective potential.
Lately, I have been using “I surrender” in my de-colonization process. When I feel myself getting defensive and fighting to keep power, I go into my Student of Life mode. I go the OPPOSITE way that my inner Colonial Selves are telling me to go. I get quiet, I watch, listen and learn. I become a sponge. I leave behind that dominating ego and get humble, get present, rolling up my sleeves and kneeling right down in the dirt, plunging into the messy business of learning, crawling inside what it is I have to learn in this moment and what lesson The Teacher before me will have me learn. In this process I will be The Novice. The Fool. I will be Incompetent, Clumsy and an Object of Ridicule in every way. I will make many mistakes. It’s risky, but I know through this doorway, I am solely responsible for my own way forward into deeper awareness of the many social justice issues we face, my understanding and empathy for those I am in solidarity with and onto a revolutionary path.
This way of learning is translated directly from my music into the journey of my own racial literacy and conscious liberation.
This is yet another of the myriad reasons why a healthy society depends on arts training to teach particular and necessary ways of being free in this world. – AG
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