At least once a year I review my original mission statement for this blog: “The Conductor as Yogi blog will explore mindfulness, wellness, inspirational writings, and classic yoga philosophy and practice to encourage readers towards greater wholeness in their professional and personal lives. The Conductor as Yogi is an authentic, conversational approach to finding one’s personal voice amid a sea of chatter and to letting that voice speak in the practice of life.”
Finding our personal voice should be an easy task—I mean, our “voice” is that which is unique to us, so embedded in our being that it appears without beckoning. What we do and say and how we express ourselves should emerge from that place within that only we know, the best version of ourselves that operates fluidly, selflessly, and with an insight that others may not have.
But recognizing and living our personal voice can get complicated by the sea of chatter all around us, the expectations and actions of the wider world, and the tendency to categorize ourselves like boxes in a well-organized shoe closet. Conductor. Teacher. Leader. Spouse. Partner. Child. Parent. Friend. Colleague. Yogi. And on it goes.
Look closely. There is a thread running through all these roles that is our voice. Our nature, sensibility, style, energy, and way of connecting. The recurring themes and practices that show up in our work or play, at home or in the rehearsal room. The moments of effortless effort. The way we craft our words. The magnetic pull toward unusual opportunities that speak to us, even when reason tells us they don’t neatly fit into one of those boxes in our shoe closet.
Voice is our way of expressing our unique calling or mission or inner light or dharma. Imperfect at times, our voice is still powerful because it is authentic. While we are always learning from others, living our voice is what we are designed to do. “It is better to live your life imperfectly than to live someone else’s life perfectly,” is the key message of the Bhagavad Gita (translated as Song of God). “Let your light shine before others” is a recurring theme found in countless verses in the Bible. Our voice is given to us to be shared for good. And only by recognizing and “singing our unique voice” can we help others sing theirs.
As conductors we spend significant time melding the voices of many into one, creating a composite voice that sings uniquely to the world, imperfections and all. We know this to be a powerful experience, sharing the light of choral sound and powerful texts with a world that needs soul restoration. And when conductors are self- and others-aware, we can simultaneously teach the interdependency of our voices while honoring each individual singer, recognizing their significance and much needed place in this world. Can there be a richer way of living our life and helping others live theirs?
Finding one’s voice happens in moments of non-judgmental awareness. Pausing, breathing, buffer time, and moving meditations are designed to provide these moments, without which we will never see through the clouded layers of life that obscure our voice. The physical practice of sun salutations or the exploration of core human principles opens our heart, releasing the holding and making space to hear our voice. And our immersion in the powerful words of others, whether sages or poets, in scriptures or musical texts, inspire us and remind us of the light within from which we lead, love, and live and help others to do the same. In our families and communities, musical or otherwise.
Soon we are heading into the summer which can be a time to re-engage with ourselves and hear our voice more clearly. Let it guide us to transforming life as we know it, in small or large ways, opening a wider pathway for our voice to sing to the world. No permission needed, except our own.
Dr. Ramona Wis is the Mimi Rolland Endowed Professor in the Fine Arts, Professor of Music, and Director of Choral Activities at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois and the author of The Conductor as Leader: Principles of Leadership Applied to Life on the Podium. Dr. Wis is a 500-hour CYT (Certified Yoga Teacher) with training in yoga history, philosophy, meditation, energetics, pranayama (breath work), anatomy, Sanskrit, and the teaching, sequencing, and adaptations of asana (posture-based) practice. Reach her at: