An Interview with Claude Stein
Nancy: What differentiates your approach from other singing classes?
Claude: What really strikes most people is how far the results of my approach go beyond singing. It’s a program that empowers people to be more creative and expressive – to be more fully and outrageously in the world. Whether it’s through speaking up, singing freely and on key, empowering prayer, rekindling passion, playing an instrument, writing or dancing, we all want to overcome inhibitions and triumph at the next level. So my intention is to offer a workshop that welcomes and benefits non-singers as well as singers.
Nancy: Isn’t that awkward for you since you normally use singing and song as your primary tools?
Claude: No. I coach many people who came to me for issues around speaking up. Teachers who need to project across a noisy classroom; lawyers who need more emotion in their voice when litigating in court, poets who are looking for their authentic reading voice, couples who are having trouble communicating with each other, a congressman who was losing his voice during floor speeches and needed vocal rehab. My work in corporations centers around building leadership competencies and communication skills and I’ve been putting together a collection of exercises that I think will bear fruit for everyone.
Nancy: Can you give me an idea of what will happen in this workshop?
Claude: It’s a tour-de-force of inspiring, authentic, passionate self-expression. What would it be like if you could convert a deep inner anthem into an inspiring song lyric or poem? Or create an original chant? Or whisper with enormous authenticity from the bottom of your soul? The possibilities are endless.
Nancy: How will people benefit by going through this experience? How will it affect their lives?
Claude: Well, many people have told me these workshops are like having their lives set free because when you give voice and express who they really are, it’s cathartic, elevating. You realize that you’re very powerful and very loved, and you don’t have to be run by fear of rejection, embarrassment, humiliation, or by limiting beliefs. Really, it’s ecstatic and exhilarating. By lunchtime, everyone’s face is open and the energy is quite high. Fear is gone. There’s a great sense of community as everybody is pulling for each other and cheering each other on as they witness breakthrough after breakthrough. When someone is about to break through something, you can hear it in the voice. People in the audience can hear it, too, and the room starts to light up with presence and emotion of the person who’s opening their voice. There is an undeniable energy. It can be a wild time, full of laughter, and heartwarming, authentic inspiration,
Nancy: What do you think causes these breakthroughs? Is there some kind of magical ingredient?
Claude: First, there is tremendous amount of supportive and joyful energy in the room. We all root for each other – LOUDLY. Second, we’re in alignment as a group because we’re all there to break free and take risks….to find our voices….no one is alone and we have that common group intention we’re committed to. Each person’s own creative process and needs are honored as I offer exercises which are aimed at a high leverage point. Lastly, I require that the space be 100% positive. There is no criticism, no embarrassment, no rejection.
I use many years worth of technique and experience in doing this work, and am fond of conjuring up exercises which directly and experientially reframe people’s negative belief systems, giving them a foothold for fuller self-expression.
Nancy: And I imagine there are things people don’t even know they want to say until they have this chance to express it.
Claude: Yes, absolutely. People come to the workshop thinking they want to hit the high notes or sing on pitch. To speak more confidently, to be less shy. But as they go through this experience, they realize and remember that what they really want is to recover lost dreams and aspects of themselves, and that what they need is the right to reclaim parts of themselves, and to practice this. Or you may think all you want is to be able to sing your kid to sleep at night, and before you know it, you realize, “Wait a minute – I want to sing with a community choir,” or “I want to be sexy on stage.”
What’s really remarkable and wonderful about the human voice is that it reacts or responds to who we are and how we are. Whatever thoughts we’re having directly affect the position of the larynx, the dynamics, the melodies in our tone, in our speech; the pacing, the rhythm, the body, the breath.
So when you’re in a good place, when you feel confident, when you’re not worried about being judged and you’re encouraged to be who you are, the most incredible sounds come out. If you’re singing, you match pitch better. You can phrase, you can move. You can change the melody in delightful ways and create your signature sound. If you are speaking, there are more organic dynamics, authenticity, passion and clarity. This is what gets those goose bumps to rise up on people’s arms and sparks emotion in people’s hearts.
We all walk around with these…I want to call them styles. Some people call them masks. But we’ve all got a style that shifts depending on who we’re speaking to, what we’re speaking about, and what emotion we are feeling (including what we might be afraid of). We adopt a certain tonality, a certain song, if you will, in our speech, in our vocal patterns.
We have these vocal styles, vocal masks, vocal identities. And what I’m here to do is help people crack these styles or masks wide open and rediscover the magic of being in the moment, speaking our truth, saying what we want to say, in the now, in touch with the wisdom that we’ve been cultivating forever. I help people reengage their voices with their unspoken truths, a refreshed genuineness, so their vocal cords respond in a way that’s engaging and delightful.
Nancy: That’s amazing! I’m so glad you shared that. So, let me ask you, when people leave your workshop after having this amazing experience and breaking through to whatever degree they can, how is it for them when they go back to their lives and their patterns? Do you offer them any advice on that?
Claude: To be honest, once one’s real self has re-emerged like that, there’s no going back. Yes, it is a peak experience. And while the pendulum might swing back a little bit, it never swings back nearly as far as it was when you walked in.
I encourage people to keep taking steps forward. Hey, you signed up for the workshop, great. That’s a step forward. Then you actually came to the workshop; that’s another step forward. You participated in an exercise, took a new direction, had a breakthrough – another hugh step. That’s the person inside who needs to be the decision maker. I also give people advice on what to do next, like take singing lessons, and more importantly, what kind of lessons, or get a piano player, go jam with others, sing karaoke or sign up for different workshop, start to write songs, find a collaborator, join toasmasters, etc.
Nancy: While you and I know everyone could greatly benefit from this work, are there certain people you’ve worked with who tend to get more out of it?
Claude: It’s for those who want to sing and/or speak with a voice that is rich and inspiring. People who are looking for that powerful sound, that bluesy riff, that angelic magical tone. People who want the experience of getting in their groove, in the vibe, in the zone, and hit notes they never knew they could hit. People who thrive off of communication that’s deep, meaningful and poignant.
People who never sing in front of anyone, but want to… or the person who used to be in a choir or their high school production but let all of that slip away as an adult – it’s for them. People who face challenges in interpersonal communication, or speaking in front of groups. For people who’ve had severe blocks due to trauma or lack of permission in their upbringing, or in their current environment, this is for them. This is their chance to come and find a safe place where they can have their say and express themselves fully. And it is for folks who already sing and present well, but know there is more inside.
It’s also for teachers and therapists who are looking for innovative techniques to get people out of their own way, out of their shells, in a faster, deeper, more immediately emotional way – it’s for them. For anybody who loves good movies…because this is exciting to watch. It’s like being in the middle of A Chorus Line.
Nancy: Great! Is there anything else you want to say about the work or this workshop in particular?
Claude: The intent is for you to come out more expressively alive in yourself and having your say in the world where you feel honored, loved and encouraged.
I’ve always found that our souls feel the best, and our voices sound the best when the true self comes forward.