Exercise your voice

Published 9:11 pm Friday, March 9, 2018

By QuaWanna Bannarbie

Hear ye. Hear ye. This is how a town crier would start his royal proclamations in medieval times. If you applied for this position, what would make you qualified to make proclamations on behalf of the king? Would you be required to be loud? Would you have to shout for the interview and be heard in the streets? Surely the town crier must have some degree of vocal strength. Fortunately, today we do not use criers to bring the news. With the advent of social media and hashtags, we hardly need voices at all.

Earlier this week, my son asked me, “Mom, are there people in the streets protesting today as they did in Dr. King’s time?” His question got me to thinking about the voices around him and the validity of those he hears. It also got me to thinking about his own voice. I began to assess how well I have prepared him to use it in this world.

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When I was a young choral student in high school, our choir director insisted that we begin each rehearsal with vocal warm-ups. We sang the line, “nine hundred ninety-nine nuns interned in an Indiana nunnery” climbing the musical scales until she told us to stop. Director Rowell recognized at what point our voices were straining. She also recognized at what point our voices were improving. Each week, the choir got better and better with each warm-up. We actually looked forward to the vocal exercises. Professional singers conduct vocal exercises routinely to improve range and maintain vocal health.

Everyone is not a singer. However, we all have a voice.

Developing one’s voice is not exclusively the work of a professional singer. Writers, journalists, commentators, radio hosts, talk show hosts, politicians, preachers and teachers all have a responsibility to develop their voice. Many well-known professionals have a recognizable voice.

Voices are one of the first things detectable to human beings. Before a child opens his eyes to the world, he responds to the voice of his mother. An unborn infant is sitting in a womb, enclosed in darkness, but the mother’s voice is her first insight into the world around her. That says a great deal about the importance of a voice. The voice brings a light in areas void of light.

What if we were only described by our voices? What would someone say about your voice? John the Baptist was described as “The voice of one crying in the wilderness ‘Prepare the Way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.’” That mention of “making paths” causes me to reflect on vocal range. In the vocal exercise, it is the difference between the highest and lowest notes on the musical scale that your voice can produce. Yet in terms of making paths, there is a distance your voice is carried. John’s voice was doing a work as it cried out. The crier’s voice proclaimed on behalf of the king. Whom or what will others say you are the voice of?

A voice is bigger than mere sound. It has a health and a weight. Many voices have been compared to drum beats because of their unmistakable depth. We have many recognizable voices among us. We need our voices. We need our children to learn not only to speak but also to increase their range and sound off until the whole world hears.

Why should a hashtag, a sign that precedes the message, gain more attention than the treble of an authentic human being? If we teach the intention of voices to point to injustices and needs that require us to meet them, perhaps there will be fewer bully voices, laughing voices and contempt in the ears of our developing young citizens. We need their voices not to be silenced but to cry out with truth, brilliance and insight.

Somewhere today, a mother or father is teaching Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home to recognize their voices to heed directions. Instead, let’s teach what it means to have a recognizable voice that is directional, making paths where there were none.

QuaWanna Bannarbie is an adjunct professor of Nonprofit Leadership and Management with Indiana Wesleyan University, National and Global. Her children attend Suffolk Public Schools. Connect with her via Twitter @QNikki_Notes.