Theses Doctoral

Exploring the Whole Singing Self with Technique, Contemplative Education, and Mindfulness

Blackhurst, Lindsey Elizabeth

This dissertation is a study wrapped in a metaphor of voices, figurative and literal. It is a story of four singers over the course of 12 weeks and weaves through individuals in a group singing class. As a study, it used integral inquiry and emphasized action and narrative research. It explored one overarching research question, which naturally led to several sub-questions: In what ways might Mindfulness Awareness Practices (MAPS) and contemplative teaching and learning practices affect singers’ experiences of their own vocal and personal growth? (Sub-questions: What practices are reported as being successful?; How do participants experience growth?; How might singers and teachers shift to a mindset of process and progress throughout practicing and performing?; How do we create a space of mutuality and trust to foster self-reflection?; How do we balance instruction, offering feedback when needed and wanted while fostering self-trust and independence? While singing is a wholistic endeavor requiring an intricate balance of physical and mental processes, we rarely discuss how teaching singing could consciously incorporate the mental and emotional into a voice studio. Learning to sing in a way that incorporates intentional mindful and contemplative practices into a more traditional vocal pedagogy might foster growth for singers both personally and artistically.

Over the course of 12 weeks, four singers and I met weekly for a two-hour class over Zoom that integrated contemplative learning and teaching practices into a singing class. We followed a format based in contemplative education and social and emotional literature for each class: (a) Centering and Check-In, (b) Third Thing, (c) Singing using contemplative and mindful language and concepts, (d) Optimistic Closure. Additionally, there were a total of three unstructured interviews (two individual, before and after the classes, and one final group interview at the conclusion of the classes), and participants engaged in practice journals and mindfulness practice outside of class time. Data was examined using a framework of non-hierarchical rhizomatic learning, based on the work of Deleuze and Guattari.

Participants’ stories were ripe with explorations of themselves, life circumstances that contributed to their relationships with their voices and vocal technique and musing on society and professional pressures. Primary discoveries include participants’ self-attributed growth in self-awareness, including self-efficacy and an increased growth mentality. Incorporating deliberate vocal technique using non-judgmental noticing, kinder self-talk, open-ended feedback, and the use of third thing discussions similarly enhanced participants’ self-defined growth and emphasized the importance of self-reflection within a group setting. The discussion concludes with an exploration of additional factors affecting participants’ growth, such as gender and race, and potential considerations for implementing continued work with singers, contemplative education, and mindfulness.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Allsup, Randall Everett
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 1, 2021