Burn For It, But Don’t Burn Out While Doing It!

Many of the singers and singing teachers that I coach want me to design practice programs for them. Mostly the focus is on aspects like singing technique, sound, healthy habits for the voice, musicianship, learning new tools and skills for teaching. Those are all important things for a singer or singing teacher. But today, I’d like you to consider the following:

How are you taking care of the singer / singing teacher you in terms of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being? What can you do to practice new habits in this area? All actions count, even the small ones – like reminding yourself to drink enough water!

Let me illustrate what I mean by sharing a repost of a blog I originally wrote for katjamariamusic in August 2012:

Back from a short but nice summer break in Bourgogne (Burgundy), France. In between enjoying the beautiful Burgundian countryside, strolling through lovely villages and towns, and indulging in delicious French food, I could not help but to think about how to maintain that feeling of being relaxed and calm even in the middle of ‘daily life’ which can get very busy and seem chaotic at times.

In a career in music, singing or teaching it is important to keep working on your craft, tend to networking, business or marketing skills, but if we only focus on these things we easily get off balance. Self-care and spiritual balance are equally important things for our career. Singing requires not only technique and musicianship skills, but also physical and mental fitness, well-being and inspiration. And so does teaching and coaching. It is our own responsibility to take care of ourselves. Nobody else will do it for us.



I have a lot of nice things coming up on the work front this fall, and I know things will get busy. So what I’ve done is, I have created a little self-care program for myself. Like one of my singer/singing teacher colleagues once told me: “I burn for this, but I don’t wanna burn out while doing it!”

This is what my self-care program looks like:

Health / physical

Go back to weekly yoga classes. I miss the yoga mat and I notice how difficult it seems to create a discipline of home practice. As an additional booster I signed up for Yoga Journal’s 21 day fitness challenge, starting September 9. If you’re curious about the challenge, check it out here.

Keep a jug of water on my desk to remind me of drinking enough water (yes, even vocal coaches who tell other singers about the importance of hydration can sometimes need a reminder!).

Inspiration and filling the well

Once each week, do one thing on my “inspiration list”. This list includes things like going to see a live concert, theater performance or movie, visit an art exhibition or museum, take a walk on the beach, buy a bunch of beautiful flowers for the house, cooking, eat in a restaurant that serves food made with passion and love…and many more things that make me feel inspired and happy.

Music time

This might sound redundant, because as a singer/pianist/vocal coach/singing teacher my weeks are already filled with a lot of music. But, here’s the thing: I have discovered that rehearsals and performances are not enough. I need time to “explore” music as well. Out of that time ideas for compositions, songs, arrangements and interpretations are born. Music-time might be anything from a 15 minute piano/vocals improvisation moment, to playing around with one of my iPad music gadgets including the EveryDay Looper and the Yamaha Tenori-On for iPad.

Growth and self-development

Keep up with my self-development and growth focus that I set for myself this spring. This summer I attended a couple of webinars with Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher from Vocal Process, and I have been reading a lot of interesting books on vocal pedagogy and creativity. At the end of September, I am going to the Authorised CVT Teacher update seminar at Complete Vocal Institute in Copenhagen, for the latest updates on research and pedagogy (and to catch up with lovely colleagues!). In October I am attending the symposium of NVZ, the Nationale Vereniging voor Zangpedagogen (Dutch National Association for Singing Teachers), with lots of interesting topics on the psychology of singing. And in November, the Dutch CVT Teacher’s Association is having a study-day with a guest lecturer as well. The self-development focus is there also for myself as an artist. I’m now halfway through the Artists in Action program by Betsy Capes from Capes Coaching, an investment I did in my artistic career earlier this spring.


This is the part that seems to be very easy to forget. For me, gratitude includes moments of stillness, writing in my journal, lighting a candle, being thankful for the people and job opportunities that cross my path, calling a friend or a family member, smiling at someone or giving someone a hug. Remembering to say ‘Thank You’ to the people in our life and to life itself. Gratitude puts things into perspective and reminds us that no matter how important or ambitious our project or career might be (or seem), there are always more important things in life.

Hmm…sounds like a lot of good plans…but what about the time-management part?

I created a new calendar on my iCal in which I schedule all the things I am doing to take care of ME, MYSELF and I each week. Those things include music time, yoga classes, growth, moments for inspiration and gratitude. The calendar has a different color (magenta) than my work calendar (which is green). If I’m seeing too much green during my week I know I have to watch out, and take better care of myself!

…and now back to you!

How are you taking care of the singer / singing teacher you in terms of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being? What can you do to practice new habits in this area?

I think it would be great if we would inspire each other and share our ideas here, so feel free to leave a comment here!


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