By Seema Akhtar
What can reduce stress, improve mood, lower blood pressure, boost immunity, improve breathing, reduce pain, improve memory and, according to Roxanne Goodman, “uncover hidden talents and open doors in the soul”?
So, you should keep belting out those show tunes in the shower!
But as Goodman, a singer, vocal teacher and choir director, knows, singing in a group offers many more benefits. A 2008 study published in Australia showed that, on average, choral singers rated their satisfaction with life higher than the general public – even when the actual problems faced by those singers were more substantial than those faced by the public (source: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/singing-happy1.htm). A more recent study done at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden found that choristers’ heartbeats synchronize when they sing together, bringing about a calming effect that is as beneficial to our health as yoga (source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/10168914/All-together-now-singing-is-good-for-your-body-and-soul.html).
“But I can’t sing,” many of you are thinking now. “Maybe in the shower,” you’re saying to yourselves, “but in a choir? In front of people? No way.” Consider this: Goodman herself, now an accomplished singer who has performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival, no less, was for many years convinced that she could not sing. When Goodman was in grade school, a teacher asked her class to sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” The class sang the melody, Goodman sang the harmony, and she recalls, “the little boy sitting next to me told me that I was being stupid and to sing the song properly. I decided never to sing again.”
And sadly, for many years she didn’t. Until one day, at the end of a six-week improvisational theatre workshop, Goodman found herself auditioning for a play that turned out to be a musical! “The rest is history,” says Goodman. The first time she got on stage to sing during the show, Goodman’s knees were shaking so much that she remembers thinking there must be some kind of construction going on, causing the building to vibrate. She was that nervous.
Many of us have similar stories. We think we can’t sing either, and we can certainly relate to the nerves. But Goodman says, “Singing in that musical changed my life because I did something that I had told myself I could not do. I did something that scared me.” This is what Goodman has built her business around – Confidence Booster. She gives vocal lessons, but as she started working with people, she realized that what they really lacked was confidence. She realized that confidence was going to be the key factor in assisting people to develop what they needed to sing and to express themselves.
Goodman herself is no stranger to expressing herself fully. Watching her perform, the audience gets a glimpse into her heart and soul. She uses her voice, body language and facial expressions to convey how she feels about the words she is singing, and the audience can’t help but believe her. Between songs, she chats comfortably with her audience, as though she were talking to each person one-on-one. She inspires people to be the best and most true versions of themselves, and she isn’t afraid to share her own life experiences, her successes, and her challenges to help others along their own paths.
Goodman was trained at Concordia University under Jeri Brown and Madeleine Thériault, both accomplished jazz vocalists. Goodman earned a Bachelor of Arts in Integrative Music Studies, majoring in Performance. Before that, she studied classical piano under the tutelage of international concert pianist, the late Rose Goldblatt. Goodman has 18 years of experience teaching, and has been performing jazz, blues and gospel for more than 30 years, including in such venues as the Montreal International Gospel Festival.
Goodman has watched people blossom after taking singing lessons or singing in a group. They start out singing in what she calls “not their true voice;” they sing based on what they think others think about them, or based on feelings of fear, insecurity or inadequacy. As they practice, and develop and strengthen their voices, they start to let their emotions flow more freely and allow themselves to express the message of the songs. They are able to balance their voice, expressions and gestures, and just sing.
But the lessons improve not only people’s singing voices. Goodman says that vocal lessons help people to communicate more clearly and effectively in their day-to-day lives. They become more confident in their places of work. They become better at making presentations; they become better decision makers.
“I have seen people change careers and try things that they would never have tried before finding their voices. This is because, through singing, they have learned to let go of fear. They know that what they are afraid of does not really have any power over them anymore. And that is what I call the ‘opening doors in the soul’ benefit of singing!”
Goodman works with all kinds of people: a seniors’ choir called The Sunset Singers, a community choir, Big Soul Project and Carleton University voice students, to name a few. Goodman won a Community Engagement award for her contribution to creating healthy communities through song because of her work with a Glee Club for people living in low-income housing communities. Goodman’s job was to help people to develop confidence using vocal technique. Every week she would show up at a community centre with her piano to work with a handful of people. Goodman says, “we worked diligently, we faced our fears about singing, and allowed ourselves to be heard. We then put on a show called We are People Too in a packed church. It was a wonderful experience for the participants and for me. And now, some of those people are on community boards, they’re making speeches, and taking control of their lives in ways that they could not before. They attribute their success to dealing with their fears through singing.”
Goodman has more plans to improve the world through song. She’d like to start a choir for homeless people and call it The Street Choir, because she knows that empowering people to find their true voices through singing can bring about so many positive and healthy changes in their lives.
So, next time you don’t feel like heading out in the cold for a run, or going to that hot yoga class, don’t just sit on the couch – try singing. It doesn’t matter if you sing “Happy Birthday,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones or an aria from Tosca; it doesn’t even matter if you hit the right notes, you’ll still get that feeling of runner’s or should I say singer’s high!
Seema Akhtar sings whenever she can – in the shower, with Big Soul Project, walking down the street, in the car and along with the piped-in music in stores. And she thinks you should too!