How Marie Kondo helped me find back my Voice

Today, I want to share a very personal story with you. 

I’m writing to you now from a cozy café in Lisbon, Portugal, where I have been soaking up sunshine and inspiration, and preparing my new talk show & podcast VOICINGS to be ready to go out in the world. In VOICINGS we will dig deep into topics related to finding and developing your own voice, designing and living a sustainable life as an artist. We’ll talk about vocal techniques, yes, but also about goal setting, project planning, practice, confidence, mindset, business, money, finding inspiration…all the real stuff, the necessary stuff, the good stuff!! 

While I’ve been here in Lisbon, I’ve been in contact with my Personal Vocal Trainer clients that come from all corners of the world, from Australia, Europe to North and South America. As I return to The Netherlands, I’m getting ready to perform with the Rotterdam ImproVoices at the IF Festival in Nijmegen, where we will give a fully improvised concert in the tradition of Bobby McFerrin and WeBe3 together with special guest Roger Treece. Roger is the arranger, composer and producer for artists including Bobby McFerrin, Josh Groban, The Manhattan Transfer, Mark Murphy and Barry Manilow, and creator of CircleSongs: The Method. (I’m so excited!!) 

You’ll also find me back at the studio, playing the piano, composing songs and preparing for a new solo show. I feel excited, enthusiastic, and alive. 

A little over four years ago, I was in a completely different place. 

To the outside, everything was looking great. My career seemed to be peaking in all areas at the same time: touring in Dutch theaters with my own theater show, giving workshops around Europe, and having a part-time position teaching vocal technique and song interpretation at a performing arts academy. Despite of the many great things showing up in my life, I felt strangely out of alignment. In the words of Marie Kondo, the world-famous cleaning-up guru, things weren’t “sparking joy in me” anymore. Things were also slowly getting completely out of balance.

Being in constant output-mode resulted in my creative well drying up, and I lost my love for making music. I didn’t feel like singing or playing the piano anymore, which was super scary and confusing!  

As my career was unfolding in rapid speed, my personal life was going through big changes. A long relationship ended in a way that would have deserved my own version of “Eat, Pray, Love”. Becoming a single, self-employed artist-teacher, I bought into my own fears and let my starving-artist mentality lead me in my decision-making. In other words, I did not do the “Eat, Pray, Love” thing, but instead, did “Work, Work, Work, (Work, Work)”. Like many of the self-employed artist-teachers around me, I was trapped in a highly unsustainable model of working, that left little or no room for resetting and recharging. 

I was overwhelmed, drained, burned out, and on top of that, started experiencing vocal problems. Recurring laryngitises and acid reflux made me lose my voice, and having to use my voice every day in my profession meant it didn’t have any time to rest. I found myself in a vicious circle, and after my voice started crashing, my body soon started to follow. 

I knew I couldn’t continue like that, and decided I: 

  1. needed a break, 
  2. wanted to crack the code of designing a sustainable life and career as an artist, voice professional, self-employed teacher and entrepreneur. 

I also went on a holy quest for finding back the love of singing and making music, finding back to my own creativity that seemed totally lost. In a way you could say, I had lost my own voice. 

A holistic approach has always resonated in me, and through this life experience, I’ve come to learn even more deeply that everything is connected. Your voice really is a microcosm of the rest of your life. So as I was designing my “Finding Back To My Voice” plan, I included in it work in all areas: body work, energy work, mindset work, vocal coaching, artist coaching, mindfulness training, business coaching. I put together my personal team and worked with the best coaches I could find worldwide (hooray for modern technology!). 

Slowly but surely, through solid strategy and small daily practices in all areas, things started shifting. Not only did I start seeing results, but I was actually falling in love with singing practice, perhaps for the first time in my whole life! 

Currently my main areas of interest are in studying overtones, learning more about spectrograms and incorporating it into voice pedagogy in accessible ways. The “geekiness” is balanced with vocal improvisation, and whole new areas of my musicianship and artistry starting to express themselves. Last year, I had my first performance playing a solo piano piece, and directed my first stage production, among other things! 

Vocal Stories – a stage production I coached and directed at Theatertalentlab in 2018

Finding Back To My Voice

During my “Finding Back To My Voice” process, life brought me among others to the Canary Islands, where I did an artist residency and volunteered as a private chef in a house with a yoga school. (Besides singing, I happen to love cooking very much!) As I was preparing for my stay on the Canaries, I was drastically downsizing in all areas. I “Marie Kondoed” everything from my wardrobe to my email inbox. Pretty soon, that practice ended up spreading into my professional life too.

Every time I considered a new project, business venture or training, an investment for artistic, professional or personal development, whether it was money, time, energy or other resources, I found myself (at first, half jokingly) saying out loud:

“Does this spark joy?”

This practice turned out to help me tune into my inner compass and distinguish what really lit me up to what I think I should be doing. I noticed where I was making choices based in a starving-artist mindset, in “Fear Of Missing Out” or “The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side” -syndrome, or following paths that used to spark joy but stopped doing so for whatever reason. 

I wanted to share this story with you, because I’ve had so many conversations with singers and artists who feel overwhelmed, uninspired or lost when it comes to their singing practice, managing their artistic projects, or balancing their professional and personal lives. Singers who have followed expensive trainings in groundbreaking vocal methodologies in the best vocal institutes, and still don’t know what their own voice is as a singer or teacher. Artists who have burned out, or singers who have lost their joy of singing.

…which brings me to this sunny day here in Lisbon. As I found myself in the middle of my “black hole” a couple of years back, I had a really hard time seeing it would be possible to make a shift that big. But it is! I’m not gonna lie and say “all it takes is some positive thinking”. Because the truth is, it takes a lot of work, and daily commitment. Like cleaning up a cluttered space, or renovating the foundation of a house does. But the good news is: all that work literally brings you back home. To your own voice, creativity and art. And the other good news is, you’re not alone. 

Let’s find your voice. Create. Connect. Grow. 

You’re most welcome to join the VOICINGS Show community here

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