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October 2004

The Urge of Doing

- by Impi

How a voice problem led Tina to new depths of understanding

TinaTina has come a long way from the little choir girl of 10 who, standing frozen in the midst of 2000 other children, mimed her way through her first public performance, terrified and innocently convinced that the entire audience was staring exclusively at her. Now she sits in front of me, relaxed, casual and contagiously jolly, loved by her students in Auroville and abroad.

“I began singing in my school choir in Nurenberg , Germany . After I was 10 my parents and I moved to a different town, and I went to a school which didn't have music. I then took to playing various instruments from guitar to harmonica and flute, until at 15 I joined a church choir and began singing once again. At this stage I started to realise that there was a problem with my voice.”

Tina married very young; in her own words, “there was no artistic sense in that relationship”. The following eight years meant a complete break from music. It wasn't until she split with her husband that Tina began again to relate to music and became deeply fascinated by the saxophone. A few months later she met Holger, and music was finally back in her life. “I thought that now that my two children were in school, I could finally work on a career and at that time my desire was to be a saxophonist”. She practiced the saxophone daily and went for classical voice training with the best teacher Munich had to offer. “My difficulties with my voice became more and more obvious, but there was this inner urge, despite everything, to sing.”

And where did Auroville fit in? “When I came to Auroville with Holger and my three children in 1991 suddenly everything broke off. There were no music teachers. There was no music!” Tina laughingly remembers Carel in the Entry Group telling Holger “Are you sure you want to stay here as a musician? You know that this is a cultural desert.” Holger simply answered, “Then one has to bring water”.

Just after arriving in Auroville a fourth child was born and Tina became immersed in setting up a home for her family. It took her a while to take up singing again and finally starting to perform. In December 1993 she staged a full singing performance at Last School , which “was very well received, although,” she jokingly adds, “the frogs were louder than me!”

Tina's vocal problem was getting more and more apparent as she worked on developing her voice. “I was very close to giving up singing completely because something just didn't work.” In search of a solution she went to Germany to find a coach who could help her in her struggle. Luckily she found the person she needed, a woman who gave her particular exercises and a method of observing and exploring the voice. Tina then studied medical books on voice diseases and later learned more about voice therapy from speech therapists passing through Auroville. Her own desperation and urge to sing pushed her into further study and practising.

So how did she expand from self-exploration to teaching? “Well, that's a funny story. I had just returned from Germany feeling very inspired, and was working regularly on my voice. Then an amateur opera singer overheard me by chance and asked me if I would teach him what I was doing. At first I was happy to have something to give, but it always bugged me that I taught only because I couldn't make it as a singer. So I promised myself that I would not become a fully-fledged teacher until I lost this sense of failure. This was part of the reason why I made an album of my singing.”

The album was produced by Sunshine Music, the recording studio which she and Holger built for this purpose in their house. For nearly one year all her energy and time went into the production of this album.”It was a unique experience of weeks and months of high energy and total focus. I called the album ‘Thousand Miles'and when it was finished I fell into a vast empty space. There was nothing to do, I had nothing to identify with that made any sense to me. It was only two years after completing the album that this paralysis faded and I started to trust again in my capacity as a coach. I knew then I could return to teaching.”

In Germany last autumn Tina became involved in leading group seminars and courses focused on opening up the voice, and she will return again this October for six weeks of workshops and individual work. “As part of my development I am enjoying this opportunity to test and expand my ability”.

As for the future? “My current plan is to create a small gospel choir in Auroville. I also want to create another album of my songs. I've seen Auroville's music culture making big leaps over the past years and hope to be extending this still further. However, my life changes so quickly that whenever I make plans I have no time to fulfill them. Life is overtaking them all the time. I'm now in a phase of exchange with the outer world, focused on reaching people who are searching for inner growth and opening. My way of teaching uses singing as a medium to improve self-observation and self-acceptance, thus building a bridge between the old life of suffering and despair and a new depth and understanding.

“I personally missed someone who could have taught me to sing a scale with the joy of singing a melody, a song. When I learnt, a scale was something boring I had to practice again and again as a duty. If I can give people the love of filling each note with life and energy by revealing some inner truth, then that makes my work worthwhile”.

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