Your Amazing Natural Voice

 In some native cultures, when someone is sick or depressed she visits the medicine man. And the first thing he asks is "When did you stop singing?"

In America, singing is largely viewed as a performance activity. School children may sing once a week in music class but if singing happens inside their classroom it often begins and ends with a CD player. Subway commuters live inside ipods. Rounds, rhythms, playground chants and spontaneous circle songs are all but lost to both children and adults in Western Culture. Many people are literally terrified to sing freely and others don't even believe they can. This is a serious silencing. 

But one need look no farther than the treetops to find teachers ready to lead us back to our singing roots--our own first language. 

It may sound simplistic, but improvising with ravens, harmonizing with the wood thrush, recording, slowing, and listening deeply to the melodic bars of the winter wren, is a natural, unforced, and pure way to learn or re-learn to sing.

This workshop is for adults and young adults--educators, community organizers and artists. It is designed to intentionally reconnect the voice with the sense of place and to offer individuals and groups permission to sing freely again. A variety of proven techniques for sustaining song-making as an educational, professional, and personal tool will be shared and practiced through a circle song format. Come create your own "song-lines" that mirror the landscape and find your amazing natural singing voice again. The birds really are the best teachers.   


For more information about When Did We Stop Singing workshops contact Deb directly: 207-382-6317




POWERPOINT PRESENTATION: When did we stop singing? Singing together = irresistible unity & immediate community.

This workshop for Early Childhood Teachers and Administrators offers natural and spontaneous ways to help staff and co-workers enthusiastically and consistently embrace the music within, create songs in the moment, and take the pledge:

Turn off the CD Player & Turn on the Voice! 

An in-the-moment-instant-choir is a vibrant community building tool for teachers and administrators of all educational settings. Specific links between ensemble singing and community building will be explored.

Let's start a movement-- more spontaneous singing and vibrant song circles in educational communities!

Contact Deb for booking


Re-voice your Life!

Say it with a Sound

Create a deck of cards with interesting action prompts. Read the first phrase on your card. Act out the phrase using ONLY sound. (for instance: Tell someone that “…this desert is really delicious.” Use only sound to describe this to someone. Possible responses:  mmmm MMM! Do the same with the next few phrases on your card.

Sing it-Change it

Consider—why do birds repeat phrases? How do know they know the exact moment to change their song phrase? Is it because of light, shifting ambient sound, hunger, desire? How do you know when to change yoursong? What is it in your body that tells you?

Choose a line from a poem. Voice it with no language--only with sound. Keep doing it and begin to make it more musical. As you sing, choose a repetitive phrase you want to revisit. Go back and repeat it. Notice what changes have happened in your body when you shift the song tone/pattern/rhythm. 

Tell Me Why

Using only sound…

--Tell someone why you love the color of the sunset

--Tell someone why you want to come home

--Tell someone why you love him/her

--Tell someone why you want him or her to go away immediately

--Tell someone why you own the land as far as your eye can see and why

--Tell someone why you want to write a new story of your life


Listen to the following bird song and assign as many descriptive words to it as you can think of and write them down. In triads, take turns saying each word aloud. Afterwards, add a tone to each word with an actual pitch. Next, create a repetitive, rhythmic phrase using 3 or 4 of your words, first with your speaking voice, then adding tone and pitch.  Try this with other bird songs 


Describe the following with a simple musical pattern (or patterns)---as if you were sending a musical telegram to someone you love very far away:

--the color of the air at dusk in a deciduous forest 

--the shape of the landforms in monument valley or another desert place

--the face of someone you love who is no longer here

--the first color that appears at dawn

--how danger and fear of being devoured feels in your body

Sing a Blade of Grass

Express these poetic phrases musically:

“I spent more than one life echoing the earth’s sphere.” -Neruda

“When the pain of the world finds words they sound like joy…” -Merwin

“What if I came down now/out of these solid dark clouds/that build up against the mountains/day after day with no rain in them

And lived/as one blade of grass.” --Merwin


In dyads, use the following poetic phrases to create a dialogue with sound only, then tone only, then create a repeated musical phrasing that expresses them one at a time. Do the same in triads…quartets.

“Certain stars leaving their doorways/ hoped to become crickets

Those soon to fall even threw/dice for the months/remembering some promise”

-W.S. Merwin 

Variations: create your own lines of poetry or prose, or access your own books of poetry and prose and do the same exercise.

Loose Associates

In pairs, using the Spanish translation of Pablo Neruda (on your card) ( choose one person in your pair to read the text slowly aloud. (It doesn’t’ matter if you know the language. If you don’t know it make it up!)

As you read, let your partner be your translator and translate the words to mean whatever he/she wants them to mean.  Keep your body and your tongue loose. Shake out the “cerebral” as you do this and have fun. Switch roles and repeat. Now try this same exercise using pitch, tone, melody; music as the translation. 

Vocal Flocking

Read a phrase from a poem or book first one person, then two people together, then three following this sequence:

a. words only alone

b. sound only

c. tone only

d. add rhythm and tone

e. create a song together

Variation: Create your own words for others to mirror


Pray it Aloud

Alone, in pairs, or small groups:

  • Using only 2 musical pitches, thank someone or something in your life for what he/she/it has done for you. Express your gratitude to this person, place or power through the shape and color of your tone. Repeat and vary by adding pitches. Keep it simple.
  • Create a short, repeatable musical phrase to ask for something you have always wanted. Change the pitch until you are singing this on several different levels
  •  Create a tone that feels comfortable or compelling. Now locate it in your body. Use this tone to reassureyourself of something you are anxious or fearful about.  Add rhythm and when you feel ready, create a simple melody using this tone as the root. Envision someone you know who may be feeling fearful about something and sing the melody aloud to him/her.
  • Pick a nursery rhyme or traditional song with which you are very familiar. Sing it through once. Now sing it again to affirm a conviction about something you know to be true for yourself.
  • This time sing it without the words using only the melody but keeping the same conviction in mind. Now sing it again as if you were reassuring a baby or singing a lullaby to a child.


Laugh a Song

Laughter is a great rapid exhalation of air that communicates joy and delight. Could it be possible the birds are laughing sometimes even as they are singing?

  • In triads look at one another’s faces and try expelling air on one or two notes very fast. See what happens….


Making Mnemonics

Listen to a slowed down phrase of this birdsong and create a mnemonic to help you identify it. Use the mnemonic as the basis of a song you create for yourself. It can be short or long, simple or complex but use the mnemonic.


Sing a simple ascending scale pattern. Do the same going down. Now weed out at least 5 notes and create a spare, ascending or descending melodic pattern. Repeat the pattern until it feels solid. Add words if you like. Teach the pattern to the rest of the group or to a partner. Everyone else should try to mirror the pattern exactly. Then one at a time, each person adjusts the pattern to interlock with the original pattern. New patterns can also include harmony. Repeat this until everyone has created an interlocking part. The last person is invited to improvise a melody over the top of it all.


With a group of 5 to 7 singers go outside to a previously agree upon natural or urban area. Spend at least 3 full minutes listening intently to the sounds around you, and within you.  Notice colors, landforms, shapes, light, and air. Practice exercising your “sense” of place. Then when ready, slowly create a circle song together. You can use ideas from the song forms in this primer.

After you are finished with the song you have created together, hike again until the group feels ready to pause and “sing a song of place” again. The circle song might begin as a solo, progress to a duet or trio and end there. Or it might include the whole group. Try to move and listen together as a “flock.” Continue for as long as you have time.

Follow-up: Retrace your steps exactly on the return home and stop again in the same places to “re-sing” them. Notice what you remember about that particular place based on your singing of it.  Re-create the “place” together with your voices.


For more vocal games and exercises book a workshop with Deb!