Hey again, it’s me, Heather Hightower. Glad you’re here.
I’d like to share a few clips of my own singing to show how Sandra’s work, as taught in Freedom & Ease for Singers Online Course, has personally impacted me over the past half a year.
During this course
You will be guided slowly and sequentially through your body’s natural organization system
You will tap into your own built-in anti-gravity system
You will train the deep, slow-twitch muscles that support the breathing mechanism
You will gain easy and simple awareness practices
You will be supported by a skilled teacher whose career has focused heavily on working with musicians
You will learn a unique pedagogy that exists nowhere else
A simple system and guided practice to encourage and
allow freedom and ease in the body, breath and sound.
Sandra Bain Cushman is a movement and awareness teacher. She’s made a career teaching teaching renowned musicians, writers, theater groups, medical professionals, and business leaders how to gain greater poise, balance, and freedom in their work and in their lives. A certified Alexander Technique teacher since 1990 and a graduate of Jessica Wolf’s Art of Breathing training, she’s taught all around the world, in university settings, retreat settings, her own private practice, and more. In this course, she shares with us a pedagogy that she has created and spent the last decade refining.
Since 2017, I’ve partnered with her to bring her effective approach to singers at The Center for Vocal Study in Charlottesville, Virginia. We’re thrilled to be able to share her work with you here in this new, easy, group-oriented, self-paced way.
Through 10 hours of instruction, conversation, and guided practice, our online course sequentially delivers Sandra Bain Cushman’s simple framework to you.
She teaches us how to work with five relations in the body. As we do this, we retrain the deep, inner-core, slow-twitch muscles that govern the breathing mechanism. This leads to freer and easier breathing and singing.
As for how Sandra’s work has personally impacted me over the past half a year as we have created this resource, here are two examples of the same song, a few months apart.
This is a recording from August, 2020 as we were getting our journey going:
This is a recording from November 2020 after we had finished recording our first Freedom & Ease Online Course series and were a few weeks into recording our second (yet to be released) series:
When I listen to the more recent excerpt, I notice more openness and spaciousness, allowing the phrases to be a little freer and stronger. It’s subtle, but perceptible.
It’s also satisfying to see a physical shift.
Here is an excerpt of a song from Handel’s Messiah that I recorded in June, 2020:
I love this beautiful song and it was fun to step in and record it for my friend’s church.
In comparison, here is an excerpt of the Star Spangled Banner recorded January 2021:
While these are two totally different songs, one thing that stands out to me is how relaxed my face and neck are when I breathe in this more recent recording. I also feel like my eyes have softened a bit, are a little twinklier, and my stance is more gently grounded and centered.
The simple framework and practice that Sandra teaches us focus on five relations within the body. When we work with these five relations, we retrain the deep, inner-core, slow-twitch muscles that govern the breathing mechanism. We are training attention and awareness which leads to greater allowing in the musculoskeletal system.
Throughout our class’ recording process, I experienced subtle shifts in my core. I first noticed them in my ability to sit in my morning yoga practice. With time, they slowly became evident and natural in my own experience of myself singing.
I have experienced this as a physical, embodied practice that shifts the direction of momentum and lets my proverbial cork float! I feel more relaxed and stronger.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a relaxing practice that allowed you to perform with effortless ease?
Wouldn’t it be nice to feel elegant and graceful while you move and sing?
Wouldn’t it be nice to experience your body in an easy and flowing way?
Wouldn’t it be nice to feel natural openness, spaciousness and your own springiness?
What if you could also find a gentler and kinder way to be with yourself?
And what if subtle changes resulted in better posture?
And what if you in turn could feel freer and stronger?
Wouldn’t it be nice to feel friendly curiosity about your own instrument?
Wouldn’t it be nice to do all of this with tiny things you can do while you’re living your everyday, normal life?
Wouldn’t it be nice for these intentional, mindful explorations to create new pathways towards efficiency and flow in your singing? And being?
What if you could release what has previously gotten in the way and find something that actually works?
What if you didn’t have to take such big breaths and breathing felt more natural and you could sing longer lines?
Freedom & Ease for Singers
is a course that teaches you how to encourage and allow the right conditions within your body for easy and free breathing. In time, this leads to even more beautiful singing. You will understand how to work with your body wisely and precisely.
Hear from the singers who participated in the recording process:
Somatic Practitioner (Core Energetics)
“I'm at the beginners end of the scale when it comes to singing. What I liked about ‘Freedom and Ease for Singers’ is that it doesn't matter what your skill level is. I was able to apply everything I learned in this course because it's about freedom and ease in the body, and we all have one of those! When I think about breathing, I tend to focus on my lungs and forget that my entire body contributes to the alignment necessary for an optimal breath. Sandra taught me about that alignment and how to reduce effort and strain in my body. When my breathing is easy and effortless, it's easier to sing and it sounds better! I also use what I learned to sit better, to stand better, and to walk better. Sandra is an outstanding teacher, who brings her deep passion and gentle spirit, as she shares this fascinating and unique perspective on the human body. I looked forward to every class! And Heather provides the loving container necessary for such a rich learning experience. I highly recommend!”
One of the other recording participants in this program is a high school private voice student of mine.
High School Junior
“I’ve noticed that if I do the lie down before I sing, it really makes a difference. When you’re lying down, it doesn’t seem like it’s doing anything, but once you compare it to singing without doing that, you’re like...interesting...it actually DID do something! Usually I’d sing after some other activity so my mind was still on the other thing. But then after taking the time to center myself and my mind, it works! Also, I’ve been more aware of how I’ve been sitting for online school since I’ve been sitting a lot. I feel like I’ve always been aware of it but since I’ve started this course, my back hasn’t hurt. I’ve been trying to implement the things we are talking about here, and it works. So yay!”
Shared only with her permission, here are some great, clear examples of what this work can do for a high school singer!
Alex also really wanted to share with you her latest audition submission from January 2021, one month after we finished recording our second (*not yet released*) Freedom & Ease for Singers series. Note the poise and relaxed alignment she exhibits. Be still, my beaming heart.
Before warming up her voice to record this audition submission, Alex took the time to incorporate a constructive rest, something Sandra teaches us during this series. This simple lie-down practice organizes the lower body to free the breathing container. You can see it can be done anywhere!
After almost a year without any regular performance outlets, she exudes so much relaxed, natural confidence.
Thank you, Alex, for sharing your voice with us!
For other voice teachers out there, I think it’s important to note that I noticed that within just the 6 weeks of recording this first Freedom & Ease series, her upper passaggio opened up a noticeable amount on its own. This allowed us to begin new repertoire, reaching above the staff.
She is also a flute player and throughout this course creation, she identified important connection points and distinctions between what is required of her as a flute player in marching band and the cues Sandra offered us in her guided practices. Sandra’s cues enabled Alex to focus on small adjustments, such as in her feet.
Freedom & Ease for Singers Online Course gives students real, practical, tiny ways to work with their bodies as they go about their busy and thrilling young lives. (And adults, too!)
I have found myself saying to Alex on multiple occasions, “I wish I had had this when I was your age.” I was a football playing, swimming, softball playing, inclined and skilled young singer who kept busy, prioritized school, played the bass, and kept my extracurricular commitments.
It’s deeply moving to me to consider the number of high schoolers across the world who will be able to navigate their home study with more understanding with how to support their voice.
Not just demanding of their body, but identifying and locking into subtle cues and practices that support all their athletic pursuits - from voice to dance to field sports and everything in between. It has the potential to save young performers a lot of anguish over the course of their careers.
And for those of us who are beyond our school years, this course helps us spring! A more compassionate way of moving and being with the self is a natural result of the body finding easier, more efficient pathways.