Will You Stay Stagnant or Rise Up? with Lia Valencia Key

Episode 33

Lia Valencia Key was in elementary school when an injury kept her mom from being able to work and she ended up in a homeless shelter in Philadelphia. Her mom became concerned when she saw her daughter acting like the culture around her, so she sat Lia down and gave her a plain and hard hitting choice: would Lia keep heading down the path of least resistance and be like everyone around her or would she choose to rise above and be the person she aspires to be.

Years later, Lia is honoring her mom’s legacy and the choice she made to follow her dreams. After graduating college and then getting an MA in Education, becoming a world class cosmetologist and styling on air talent at QVC and around the world, she’s now pursuing her passion to inspire others in a new way. This is Lia’s amazing story of her new inspirational brand of jewelry, Valencia Key.


Hey, hey! This is Andrea Wenburg, and I am so glad that you’re here with me today on the Voice of Influence podcast. Today, I have Lia Key with me. And what’s really, really fun about Lia is that she and I met through a mutual friend who styled me. I went out to Philadelphia and I went shopping with Toi Sweeney and then Toi said, let’s do your hair and makeup and she brought in Lia.

I had a blast with Lia, so I’m so excited to get to introduce to you to her because her story and her passion, they really resonate with me and I think they’re going to resonate with you too. So I’m going to start by introducing her.

Lia Valencia Key has been a Dreamer, Believer and Achiever since her very humble beginnings growing up in the inner city of Philadelphia. Always following her inner voice to seek happiness and accomplishments, Lia rose above all inner city stereotypes and statistics by achieving her Masters degree in Education, becoming a Licensed Cosmetology Instructor, landing a styling position at QVC that opened the doors for her to become a personal lead stylist for Incredible Women Founders. CEO of major global beauty brands IT Cosmetics and TATCHA Skin Care. Lia has traveled the world following her heart and passion to marvelous countries such as Dubai, Egypt, China, Morocco, Thailand, Korea, Spain, Paris, Italy, Singapore, and Malaysia absorbing motivation, inspiration, love, light and happiness everywhere she lands. Lia’s next phase of her life journey is to share her empowering message to the world by creating an Inspirational Lifestyle Accessory Brand “VALENCIA KEY.”


Andrea: Lia, it is so good to have you on the Voice of Influence podcast!

Lia Key: So happy and excited to have this opportunity. Thank you so much!

Andrea: Yeah, it was really, really fun to meet you. While you were doing my hair and makeup, I basically interviewed you.

Lia Key: Yes. I loved it.

Andrea: Because I love hearing people’s stories and the more we dug in, the more fun it was. So I’m excited to have you here. Let’s start with where you are right now and then we’re going to go back. So tell me about Valencia Key, what is it all about?

Lia Key: So Valencia Key is an inspirational lifestyle brand. And what it means for lifestyle brand is I’ll be bringing these amazing pieces that I’ve dreamed and created or have inspired me throughout my travels around the world. It can come in forms of jewelry, handbags, anything that really excites in the fashion of a physical, addition to your appearance. But the heart of the brand is going to inspire people globally to achieve and believe and follow your journey because that’s what this whole brand is from, me believing and dreaming all of my life and just going after my heart’s desires. This will be a byproduct of another dream and another achievement. I’m just going to produce great physically, eye-attractive pieces for the world but they have special and empowering messages behind them.

Andrea: I love that. I love the deep meaning behind something so beautiful. I enjoyed wearing them. I got to wear necklace and a couple of bracelets and they’re so beautiful. I would love to hear the back story on this, Lia. I heard a little bit when we talked before, but tell me what it was like for you. You mentioned in your bio growing up in the inner city of Philadelphia. So when you were growing up, what was it about your experience that inspired you to reach for your dreams and be an achiever? Tell me about that?

Lia Key: I was blessed to have a support system. My mother, my grandmother, and my aunt who was very clear that just because you live in an environment does not mean you are of the environment. So I was talked to every moment of my life going through this _____ that we had that just because we’re here doesn’t mean that you have to be here and that you have to settle in this. So paired with my innate desire and then these beautiful women who may have dealt a challenge in hand, but they were still encouraging me that you know, “Go for your heart’s desire and follow your dreams.”

I’m so grateful to actually have the opportunity to live in a very low-income environment where, most people only see the environment around them, most people don’t think that they can do anything better than what they see and that I am blessed to have that drive and that mentality that I can. If you can say, I can then you will so I’m so grateful for that.

Andrea: Yeah. I’m wondering what it was like for you? Can you give us a snapshot of your childhood?

Lia Key: Just in my childhood, what I mean of low income I mean sometimes you don’t have food on the table. My mother broke her leg, which caused her severe break to where they had to put plates on her leg, which caused her not to be able to work. When she’s not able to work, she had to get public assistance. I have older sister and an older brother so a single woman with three children and not able to work, not because that she didn’t want to work and I think those are two different types of people, but she couldn’t work given her unfortunate accident that she had.

We were forced on public assistance and public assistance doesn’t give you enough to live totally a healthy life at least back when I was growing up. So we had to live in public housing. There was not enough food. You get the money once a month so it doesn’t stretch long enough, so there’s a week or two at the end of the month where you have literally no food so much that your stomach is churning on itself. You have to go find this lunch where they’re giving out food and get the little rations that they’re able to give you and you walk a mile to get that to the next point of her leg never got better. We weren’t able to pay the rent that we were living in and a decent environment to where we actually went to a homeless shelter.

So four people, there was my mother and the three of us in a square box room. But before you end up to the square box room, there were these open shelters where you go and all the women were on cots with their children. So there’s this mess room of women and cots and just buddied up on top of each other and that’s how you sleep and that’s where you eat. People are coughing and there were germs everywhere in this room and then finally you may elevate to this one box room where it’s no bigger than a closet and that’s where you sleep.

So coming from that journey, the beauty was my mother always encourages us to go to school, always encourages us to do our best in school, and always encourages us to get good grades. That’s really a hard thing to be a young child and experience these visual things, these physical things and then not eating and seeing all these things around you and still have to go to school and be affected. Still I have to go to school and get these grades that the school deems as achievable.

So my mother would always encourage us “You have to do your homework. You have to do this. You have to go.” So the beauty is that motivation was my inspiration. Finally, we were able to get into public housing and so that’s where you get your little home if you will. So you have people like my mother who has this ailment where she literally can’t walk but then you have people that don’t know any better and they don’t want any better, so they are just _____ profanity. They’re _____ with indecent behaviors and that’s all around you. That’s where you go to school with.

I remember going to school and my mother was packing me lunch and I go into the lunch closet and my lunch was stolen and that happened for weeks because I never told her like “I can’t tell my mother my lunch is stolen.” She barely had enough. You know what I mean; I can’t tell her that this is happening to me. And my mother had a talk with me because when you’re young, you’re either go to the path of what you see around you or you’re going to go the path of what you aspire to be.

So I was kind of leaning to where the path of what I see you know starting that talk in class and grades are slipping and I think this was around fifth grade. That elementary, fifth grade or fourth grade is the pinnacle part of development for children because either you have the basics or you don’t, either you know about being successful or achieving or you don’t or you won’t because after that phase is just uphill battle trying to _____ our mind because you’re starting to get into this preadolescence phase, which is we all know as even horrible.

So my mother had this very real talk with me and it was very stern and very hard. But I remember to this day and what I took from that is she said “Either you’re gonna be a follower or you’re gonna be a leader, and either you’re going to sit here and let people pass you by and stay stagnant and look around and be where you are, or you gonna choose to excel and rise above what you’re seeing and whatever you’re going.” And she was like “You basically choose because what you’re choosing now is to be a loser.”

As a fifth grader, you’re still young but that resonated with me so well and from that moment on; I was consistently on honor roll. I was the class president of the school. I went to all of these after school activity programs. I didn’t understand it but it was those very real talks to say “Basically, you decide. You decide your journey, you decide your future and it’s in your hands. Even as a fifth grader, it’s in your hands.” It definitely was in my hands and so I’m grateful for that.

As I carry throughout my life that’s the journey I lived. I believe in Christ who strengthens me but in conjunction with that, I decide. So my brand has a message that “I’m gonna give you these very beautiful pieces, because I think your external infects your internal.” I do believe that how you look and how you feel they’re very correlated and that’s why the message. That’s why it’s so awesome that I do want to bring these really cool pieces for people to wear. Because just put that little nice bag on your shoulder or a great pair of shoes or an awesome necklace on that just sparks a little more confidence in you, but the meaning behind it to me is so much powerful that “Where do you decide in your life?”

Andrea: Oh gosh, Lia, that’s so gorgeous. I love the story. I love your passion.

Lia Key: Oh thank you.

Andrea:   So there’s couple of things that came to my mind while you were talking that I wanted to ask. So first of all when your mom sat you down and told you that, you have this choice, do you think that you knew that ahead of time, you knew that you had a choice or what was it about her offering you that choice? If she would have just said, “Lia, you have to do this,” or you’re going to end up like that or whatever? I mean, if she would have told you, what do you think your inner response would have been?

Lia Key: I don’t think I would have got it. I think those real moments of her really painting the picture of “Here’s the path you’re going, loser. The environment around you, this is where you’re going and you choose which way you want to be.” As a fifth grader, I wasn’t clear that I was getting it that way but I was clear that I didn’t want to be a loser. In that statement, you know, and that harshness if you will versus someone saying “You better get good grades, you better get good grades.” “But why?” I think it would have been about why if it would have just been a straight statement of what you need to do. But the fact that she compared it to a very clear visual image, as a fifth grader, I can understand “I don’t want that.”

Andrea: When you say very clear visual image, was she showing you something or pointing people out?

Lia Key: She was talking about our life, like “Look what you’re in, look what you’re around. You’re around people who haven’t seen anything. You’re around people that are on drugs. You’re around people that have alcohol issues, or you’re around people that have no education that they dropped out of school. This is what you see when you walk out that door.” In our house, it was a safe haven. But as soon as you walk out the door, this is what you’re immersed in, “Do you want to do this? This is what I call a loser.”

She was in that predicament but she was still saying “Unfortunately, you’re moving to the path of what we have to live in at this moment. Do you want to choose that? Is that your choice because I can tell you at this moment that’s where you’re going by your behavior and by your grades, that’s where you’re going? So you decide if you want to be a leader or a follower if you want to excel or either you want to lose.”

That was just so visual to me because I can look around and I maybe young but I knew that this wasn’t good living. I knew that this wasn’t happiness. Maybe, I didn’t know anything different but I knew that this didn’t feel good what I was seeing. You know, children in an environment like that have no discipline. They are just wild and unruly, so you’re sitting in a class with children just yelling above and beyond. “So do you wanna stay back and still be in this environment or do you wanna to push forward and get into a high school that you can kind of choose your environment? What high school do you wanna to get into? You’re not gonna get into a good one if you stay on the path that you’re on.”

So those are very visual for me, and I’m a visual person and I love creating beautiful things. You know, from my education background there’s pedagogies and there’s different ways of teaching and so everyone learns differently. And I think she hit me right in the area where I’m able to learn.

Andrea: Yeah. I think so many of us do too then also just the choice instead of the shame. She wasn’t shaming you, she was saying this is what you’re headed towards if you don’t…yeah, I love that.

Lia Key: Me too. I’m grateful. I’m so grateful. I think my mother had a very challenging life and you know she wasn’t able to get out of it if you will but you’re able, if possible, to try to break cycles and you’re able to try to tell people that are coming up under you differently. My gratefulness is that I was able to hear it and receive it. But just because someone’s telling you something does not mean you’re able to receive it so I am so grateful that I was hearing it and slowly receiving it.

Andrea: Oh man, this is so good. I think that for the person that’s listening right now, the influencer that’s listening; I mean do you hear all this, because this is about real communication. It’s about a message that actually pierces somebody’s heart, and even though it’s harsh, it ends up bringing out life and calling out life. I love this. So Lia, when you think about putting on something, you’ve been talking about putting on this jewelry and sort of making you feel confident and that sort of thing, what kind of things do you remember putting on as a kid after you made that decision “No, I’m gonna be a leader.” How did that become even more visual for you? How did you continue to put on things?

Lia Key: I’ve been creative. If you saw young pictures of me there, it’s quite interesting. I always love to express myself just purely. I never have the drive to follow in the norm and I think it was very pinnacle after fifth grade when I was like “Oh yeah, I’m gonna be me and me wants to succeed. But me just doesn’t wanna succeed, but me wanna do me in all forms of life and me wants to be happy in all forms of life and what that feels like to me.” So externally, me was orange-white shirt or me was neon something.

So I was very nontraditional but that’s how I felt. I felt bright inside. I felt expressive inside and so I would dress and express it. Me was not all black, you know. Me is not conforming to trends of everyone wearing the same sneakers if you will. Me was, oh my God, this _____ thick platform or something that’s very old school. I like that because me was very expressive and so that’s how visually I internalize who I was and just wear it on the outside as well as inside. So when you see me, you pretty much can probably get my energy before I open my mouth.

Andrea: I can attest to that even now.

Lia Key: So for my brand, you know, everyone has an expressive style. Everyone has a light in them. Everyone has some joy in them and so I want to position my pieces. Even if you’re a classy person and you’re not necessarily as visually expressive as I am but you always have a little light and you do always want to have some sort of expression. No want wants to be just bland and black, no one does. Everyone doesn’t know how to accomplish that effectively so they stay safe, right? I appreciate staying safe until you learn how to become effectively expressive.

So I want my pieces to provide that classic person or that safe person away to have just one little piece or two little pieces that in their safe visual moment they can pop on and say “Yeah, there’s my light that I’m putting to the world. Yeah there’s my expression. Yeah, there’s my passion. There’s my energy that I’m putting to the world.” And it’s comfortable enough to just be on a wrist, just lightly be on the neck, or just be over your shoulder, just enough. So you have your form of expression without outshining who you are truly which is a safe, more structured, more routine person. I never want someone to be outside of their box, but I also want someone to be able to tap into all their forms of who they are and that little light and energy is inside of everyone.

Andrea: Yes, I love it. I think that that is really, really wise statement, a wise vision for you to want to give people who like to play at safe a chance to do something small and put on something small that would still tap into who they are and that beauty, that light, and that joy that they have to offer. What do you think it does to somebody when they put it on? What do you think goes on inside of a person?

Lia Key: You know, it does a lot like you can have your favorite necklace on. Let’s say you’re going to an interview, everyone makes interviews a big deal, right? Because that’s when you need to be your strongest because you’re about to go in front of someone who’s going to critique you if you will, so you need all the energy support that you can get. You have your interview _____, right? It’s safe, I’m sure, but you need something because you need confidence in an interview. You need courage in an interview. So you grab your favorite necklace and that favorite necklace is that courage and support, that confidence, and that little piece that says “OK, I’m good” and it will sparkles to myself and to the person that’s looking at me.

So it’s a two-way street with these little visual traits because not only are you energizing yourself with whatever the piece looks like because you know what you put on “Yeah, let’s take that suit right to the next level.” And then by the way, it has a message to it “Yes, I am prosperous. Yes, it’s my divine right to be prosperous. So when I walk into this interview, it’s my divine right to nail it.” So that’s great for you but on the other side of the table, you walk into the interview and yeah you got to say _____ but you have this pretty little piece, very simple. The interviewer whether it’d be a man or woman says “She’s well-put together, and oh that little trinkets something about it, something about her whole construction is very into the theme of what our culture is but she grinds a little more to the table.”

So it’s this amazing two-way street that it’s confidence and assurance to both parties and their unconscious thoughts. No one is going to say that necklace did all of that. No one is going to make that bold statement but the truth is it does. Take the necklace off and have a bare neck and walk into the room bland and so then you have to work harder or you have to push a little more. But if you come in with just a little bit of interest, you’ve already elevated yourself from your personal vision because you looked in the mirror and say “Yes,” to yourself and then to the person at the opposite side that “Uh-huh she knows how to put it together, now let’s say what she has to say.”

A lot of people call it superficial. Visual is not superficial. Visual says that I care. Visual shows the world how I’m feeling today. Visual shows the world where my emotions lie because generally you’re wearing it as much outside as you’re wearing it inside. I think the real smart and strong and powerful people know how to visually make it right to let the world understand who you are even if you’re not feeling that way that day until you get to where you want to feel and that’s the only powerful way you can do that.

Do you ever sense when someone says “Oh you don’t look good today.” Well, that’s probably because you didn’t _____. Just because you don’t feel good inside, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to look good because visually ready externally until you push that internal side to get to the status of where you visually brought it to.

Andrea: This is so deep. I mean, it is so deep because I think that I know that in my story, I really want to keep it real. I got to this point where I was like, and even when I was a kid, I did not want to put on anything visually because I wanted people to respect me for who I was on the inside, not how I look on the outside. But as I have grown and matured and live life more, I’ve realized that actually it does matter what I put on, that what I put on can call out of me something very real.

Lia Key: Yes, exactly. You ever heard the statement; you have to hang around people you want to be. So that statement means, maybe I want to be a CEO of a company, do I hang with secretaries? So if I want to be a CEO, I’ll try to put myself that I’m not a CEO by any means so internally I’m not that but if you put yourself in a place to where you want to be by theory of life, you will get there or darn sure close.

So the same thing with visual is, if I want to be something whatever I want to be, I don’t know. I want to be hippie, I want to be in a corporate, I want to be artsy, or whatever you want to be internally or whatever you want to feel confident, if I’m wearing slouchy, sluggish external appearance clothes or if that’s how I’m coming out to the word, then I only can stay sluggish inside. But if I come out in a poppy little necklace on, a poppy little bracelet on, or a poppy little bag on, I put on a nice but not too extravagant outfit together, now I have to rise to that occasion.

It’s like looking at a fruit, you know how the inside is because of the outside layer, it looks rotten you know. So how about, we polish up the outside and even inside is rotten if my outside is polished, I have to start healing with them.

Andrea: Interesting.

Lia Key: I mean that’s my thing in life. I’ve never claimed to be an expert of anything. I’ve never been one thousand of the best at anything but I decide to be it. I decide to be a master’s graduate and a teacher of algebra. I decided to be that then I decided that I was going to follow passion because I’ve always been artistic and to go into this beauty industry. And I decided that I was going to be in an environment where I can self-taught leaders and game changers. I didn’t start that way but I decided that and so I started from the external deciding it and internally, I started to have to make moves to get to where I want to be.

And all along with journey, visually, I had to bring something out when I decided to put myself in these places even though I had no knowledge when I said “OK, I’m gonna walk into this door of MAC Cosmetics.” Bare Essentials is my first place of makeup and cosmetics, so these are all visual places. I was not a great makeup artist. I was not; probably I would say I was horrible. But visually, I put myself together and probably took three hours to do my make up to make sure that visually when I walk in the door, I look like where my internal wasn’t ready for.

But because I put it together externally, I had to rise to that occasion when I was accepted into that group and make it match and guess what happened, it started to match. So we have to stop creating visual as superficial because it’s not. It’s way more powerful than what we give way to, and my journey is to just add little pieces to help you out on your internal and external journey throughout life.

Andrea: Do you think that your mom, giving you that choice back when you were in fifth grade, it seems to me like it gave you permission to aspire to be more and aspire to do more. I’m going to say that for me with my journey, I think I always look for permission where it might have been expected of me but I was really looking for permission to stand out because I didn’t want to alienate myself, whereas you’re a somebody who really did standout and you did from the beginning and you were okay with doing that visually.

So I think that one of the things that you’re offering people is permission.

Lia Key: Yes, yes! Great! That’s it. My brand is offering you permission to be your best to seek your own happiness and to find what that looks like to you. In my brand, it’s cosigning that it’s OK and if you are already in that place, because some people are already are, to celebrate it and to then inspire others to be. So it can be just continuous journey or permission to be awesome in a very humble, pleasant, gracious, and grateful way.

Andrea: Yes, I love that so much. Goosebumps all over my arms right now. Tell me more about prosperous. You mentioned, one of the things that your brand is communicating is being prosperous. I know that that is really a deep concept for you, so can you tell the influencer listening what that means?

Lia Key: So there’s a lot of inspirational brands out there; accessory brands, jewelry brands. There’s a lot in the market and normally, we choose words like hope. We choose words like faith. You know these safe words that are very obvious, right? They’re very clear and I love those words because you need faith, you need hope. These are very good words but my heart is pushing me to grab these nontraditional words that have so much power to them but have been truly misconstrued in the society.

So my first collection is entitled Prosperity, and that’s a real risky title to give the collection, Prosperity, because most people think of prosperity as money. When you ask people of prosperity, 910 they would say “How much money do you have, how many money did you make? Oh that person is really rich but in money.” I am pushing the statement that prosperity is one of the most powerful words that we can have in use but it’s nothing about money. It’s nothing about finances; it’s all about being rich in fulfillment. It’s all about being rich in achievement. It’s all about finding what your heart desires and moving toward accomplishing it and then accomplishing it and everything in between that takes you want that journey.

Prosperity is a life of joy, a life of happiness. That’s what prosperity is and there’s not one person on this planet that doesn’t desire prosperity. They may think of it as money because we’ve been told that it’s money. But they’re not desiring money, they’re desiring happiness. They’re desiring fulfillness, and they’re desiring joy. So my collection is stating that you have a divine right to be prosperous, everyone. Prosperity is individualized. My prosperity doesn’t look like your prosperity, your prosperity doesn’t look like what your daughter’s prosperity is going to look like, and they all are valid and we all should seek them.

We should all get on the question of mission to be prosperous because when I’m prosperous then I can share the joy of prosperity to you and then we live in this life of fulfillment and happiness in whatever face that looks like. Maybe it looks like love of family to you, maybe it looks like a healthy lifestyle to me, or maybe it looks like abundance and money to another person but we should be sharing this joy and this quest of achieving divine of prosperity so that we can share light and love to everyone that we connect with and help them on their journey.

Andrea: Where all do you want to share your message? I mean, have you thought about going into the schools and talking to kids and that sort of thing?

Lia Key: Oh yes. The beauty is I feel like this brand is just like a jumpstart to a travelling message honestly. So you actually stated exactly my vision. My goal is to encourage and touch as many people as possible be it you were the brand or you don’t. I want the message to travel so I’m interested in talking into schools and doing speaking engagements in groups of people who are already there and want to go further or groups of people who have no clue where to go. Yes, no clue that it’s possible to go anywhere and that my message can push them along.

So hopefully, I can get enough support with the brand and the pieces so that I can take this message to actually speak to as many people as possible that we can encourage a life of growing and greatness.

Andrea: Yeah, I’m excited for those kids, those people who are going to get to hear you speak because you bring an authenticity and energy, a creative visual positive spirit that like I said you’re giving permission. You’re giving people a choice and you’re saying what your mom said to you. You’re saying “Do you want keep hiding behind bland clothing or whatever it might be, and do you want to keep going that direction or do you want to put on the kind of clothing that’s gonna call out who you really are.”

And you know, clothing, jewelry whatever it might be, I’m just really excited for your message and for how you’re going to continue to really make a big difference in the world with your voice of influence. So thank you so much for being here today!

Lia Key: I totally appreciate it. Thank you so much for having me, it was an absolute joy!





Turn Setbacks into Comebacks with Gus Gustafson

Episode 23

Gus Gustafson says he was raised in ‘Gus’ utopia’! His life had been perfect! He had great parents, great siblings and a great future. He was the biggest, fastest and strongest in his athletic family at his age. He had dreams of being the next Nebraska Cornhusker running back and then on to the NFL! That was his dream. That was his passion as a boy.

Then came a tragedy that Gus had to overcome! He suffered a horrible farm accident at the age of 9. The question was “How would he respond?” Could he turn this setback into a comeback?

His love for life, his passion for people and his determination to make a difference is evident. When you hear Gus share his funny, heart warming, challenging story of his life, you will feel invigorated and encouraged. If you are facing challenges in your life, he will help you gain real perspective and help you move through them.

Gus is not just a speaker, he has started three companies, he bought a company and turned it around and he has spent the last 23 years traveling around North America sharing his passion for people and life! He has faced so many real life challenges and business challenges, and can really engage with any audience.

Fully Armed is the title of his first book and Gus is currently working on a movie based on his life story.

Mentioned in this episode:

Play here (the red triangle below), on iTunes, Stitcher or TuneIn Radio (Amazon Alexa) or wherever you listen to podcasts.


Watch Gus tell his story here!

You can find much more on his YouTube channel.

This Is What Keeps Emerging Thought Leaders Up At Night

Four years ago I had an inkling that I should start learning to use Facebook for something more than just sharing about my life. I wasn’t ready to start writing yet, but it made sense that I should start sharing my heart and message more intentionally through social media to practice using my voice online. But it was terrifying! I often wondered what people would think and if certain people would “like” my posts or totally write me off because I was speaking up.

If I share something that could help others, will they think I am just trying to get attention?

Now that I help emerging thought leaders find and refine their message, I see this as a big problem. There is a big green monster keeping these folks up at night and it’s time to turn on the light and scare that bad boy away.

Here’s the truth.


Just when I think a creative, empathetic person is close to making a difference in the world with their message they back up and say, “I can’t do it. I don’t want them to think I’m bragging.” They don’t want to admit out loud that they have something that could help others, so they end up shrinking back and holding it in. They want to fly under the radar or have someone else promote their work because if they own up to the value of what they offer, they might just have to share it and look like they are…



But every once in a while someone gets in touch with their calling and joins a few brave souls who come up to the edge of the cliff, day after day, and jump into the great unknown of offering their work to the world.

But the reality is that this leap faith is complicated because…

We are conflicted. We do not want to promote ourselves for the sake of glory, but we recognize that we enjoy having your attention and making an impact on the world.

We are conflicted. We want to be humble and put others before ourselves, but we’ve learned that when we hold back our gifts, we are putting ourselves in front of you because then you can’t benefit from the gifts we have to offer.

We are conflicted. We know that our voice matters and yours does, as well, but we also know that we can make our voices matter more when we develop our message and our communication style.

We are conflicted. We know that we have opinions and an important message to share with the world, but we recognize that we might just be wrong. We want to share our message with conviction and power in our own unique ways, but we recognize that at some point we might change our minds. We might be wrong.

We are conflicted. We wish we could say what we have to say to you face to face, but sometimes those personal interactions and conversations are not the place to share our message. Sometimes it takes art to communicate through pictures and emotion, something that cannot be expressed in a one on one conversation with you.

We are conflicted. We don’t want you to feel like you aren’t doing enough or that you are not enough, simply because you aren’t doing what we are doing. We don’t want you to look down on yourself because we are stepping into our calling and you have a different one.

We are conflicted. Because we don’t want you to look down on us for living large and taking big risks. But at the same time we want you to know that you can take your own risks, that may look totally different than ours.

We are conflicted. We know that if our message touches just one person, it’s worth it. But we also know that settling for reaching one person could be a cop-out for doing the hard work of finding out who our message is really for, developing it, refining it and turning it into a work of art, a masterpiece that resonates with many people.

We are conflicted. Because we also realize that our message isn’t for everyone and when you are ready, you’ll be ready to hear whatever you’re supposed to hear, from whomever is sharing it.

We are conflicted, and yet, we jump anyway because we are convicted – to share our stories, to offer up our voices into the world, to live into the fullness of who we are, to work hard at our craft so that our message will resonate deeply within the hearts of people.

We are convicted. Life is fleeting. Many of us have experienced hardships and grief that put us in a position to realize that we don’t know what this life holds for us. Tomorrow we may not be able to speak clearly, or even have words to say.

We are convicted. Because we know that we are are called to extend our offering. If you reject it, if you ignore it or whatever, we will be ok. Because we’re in place where know our work and our offering isn’t about us.

We are convicted. Our offering is part of who we are but it’s about you. It grieves us when we see you hurting in ways we know we could help. But we also know we will not push you to partake of our offering. We simply invite and wait for you to decide when you are ready and what you are ready for. And we want you to offer your gift in a similar way. We are convicted that you have something to  offer the world and that we are simply one way of offering something. It just happens to be very visible.

And that’s what we want you to understand about our self-promotion. In our most loving position, we are not trying to elevate ourselves. It’s not self-promotion, it’s an invitation to enjoy what we have put hard work and effort into in order to serve you. We don’t want to promote ourselves, we want to share our offering.

We hope that you will be inspired to share yours, as well. That’s why I’ve put together this special PDF of 15 tips and strategies from experts interviewed on the Voice of Influence podcast to encourage, inspire and equip you to make your voice matter more. Read up, listen in and sleep well.

Download it here.

How to Accept Your True Voice and then Find the Grace to Let it Go

Episode 13 with Dr. Anne Foradori

We have a great episode today, filled with information about accepting your true voice and navigating the changes in life while finding a new expressions for your Voice of Influence. Don’t miss the great lesson at the end where Dr. Foradori helps us learn techniques for making our speaking voice resonate and carry through a crowd.

Anne Foradori has appeared in recital, concert, and opera in the Midwest. She has performed works by several American composers, and has presented at national MTNA and NATS conventions. She made her New York debut at Symphony Space in 2007. Dr. Foradori has published in the Journal of Singing and contributed to the American National Biography. Dr. Foradori teaches voice and coordinates opera and musical theatre at the University of Nebraska at Kearney where she is Professor of Voice.


(approximate transcript)


Andrea: Well, I am here right now with my former voice professor, Dr. Anne Foradori. I’m so excited to be here. We’re actually sitting here in person. Thank you for meeting me.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Thanks for asking me. I looked forward to this since you brought it up a while ago so…

Andrea: Yeah this is so fun. So we were already kind of started to talk about voice a little bit but I think, we should start…we’ll go back when I was here. I came in as a junior.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Right.

Andrea: And what was really funny is that I started, and this is something that I will tell everybody and show off from the rooftops, but I started doing voice major at another school. That’s a very pretty famous music school in Nashville and I got here and just working with you blew all of that away, all of it. I learned so much like I walked in the door, and first of all, you were just nice and then I remember you asked me if I could belt.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes. Well, because of where you’d gone to school and what I could hear in your voice. So I wondered if that was anything you had a background in.

Andrea: Yeah and I was like “Oh sure I can.” I had no idea what it was. I just thought that singing loud. So you had me start to sing and I just started singing loud. You were like “Whow, wait a second, you’re gonna kill yourself.” I don’t know if you remember that but I do.

Dr. Anne Foradori: I do and later on that you another student were both accepted to the NATS winter workshop master class. And so we had to prepare for that. So we had a trip to New York that was very exciting.

Andrea: Oh my goodness. It was unbelievable. I mean, again, it was sort of like you came out of blue and you just sort of handed it to me, “We’re gonna go to New York.” You found a grant and you just took us to New York to be on Broadway and see Broadway. I started to sing and that was unbelievable. I think it was one of those things that helped you to see that even though you’re in a little small Nebraska school, because you’re in _____ right now. I don’t think I introduced that but University of Nebraska at Kearney, which is really close to where I grew up, and just the idea that we’re not limited by our geographical situation. Of course, you are to some degree but you really help me to see that you could really reach beyond that. It was so cool.

Dr. Anne Foraderi: And fun for me too, fun for me to be a voice teacher of students who may not have had opportunities yet to spread their wings and go to other places and to provide those experiences for them.

Andrea: Yeah. I think you do that all the time. It’s just what you do, right?

Dr. Anne Foraderi: Well yes.

Andrea: Definitely it is. Yeah, so how long have you been teaching voice?

Dr. Anne Foraderi: Okay well, the short story or the long story? I finished the master’s degree in 1979, and started to teach right away. I’ve gone to Cleveland Institute of Music, and I taught for their preparatory adult education students. So I had a great big voice studio, and I also taught for a community college in Cleveland and taught music appreciation class. And I taught for music for senior citizens classes then I taught voice class and class piano at a community college to teach a lot of preparations.

And was a music director for a couple of shows then I taught four years at an all girls’ high school. So I had a choir, large mixed choir and a show choir, those were sort of up and coming and I taught a drama class and was music director for whatever we did for musicals. So I did that for about 10 years and it was very satisfying and I love working with high school students.

But there was something in me that when the students were ready to graduate, high school students are ready to graduate and going to college, there was a part of me that “Oh I just wanna give them two more art songs. I just wanna have them lessons as college students. I just wanna get you to a competition.” So I made up my mind to go back to school and get a terminal degree. I had always thought at the back of my mind I might get a doctorate but I was teaching and I was enjoying it.

So it took some soul searching. I don’t make decisions quickly and at that point, I thought, well there are three areas that interested me. One would be to get a doctorate in voice, which I did and the other was to get a doctorate in  comparative arts for that then you end up going to teaching in combined college arts program. And the other one was to be an attorney.

Andrea: Really?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes, because I had the energy for it and I had interest in the law. And I thought “Well, if I work as an attorney and I want to do anything very much with it and that makes it difficult to balance that in the family,” and I could not get singing out of my system. There was more to be sung and more to be taught. So that it made that choice pretty easy in the long run. So then I went to school and got a doctorate and then taught for a year in Indiana State before I came here 23 years ago.

Andrea: Wow!

Dr. Anne Foradori: I know a long time.

Andrea: But that’s impressive that you stuck yourself a long here.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, a lot of people change career paths, but I always found something new and exciting, either developing a class or students I’m working with or my own singing and research that just keeps me motivated to work at this.

Andrea: I’m just wondering, why teaching and not performing, you know as far as a focus?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, you and I have spoken a little bit about personality types and I was telling you about different, not assessment, I’m not sure what to call them, tests. Everything from the Myers & Briggs to other personality tests and I always have…well, two things, first my mother who was both a teacher and then a theater administrator. The professional side that she works in, she was a managing director. She did all the business end of the theater for professional theater. But she taught before that, she taught high school and she taught college. So I had that role model.

And the second was, because I love them both, and they each that needed to be scratched as performer, I could do in a city large enough like Cleveland, I had a soloist position in a large prominent church in the city. I could do whatever gigs I want to during the year and balance that in my teaching. So it was sort of the best of both worlds to be able to do things and then it was also a way to get invested in both but not that to commit to one till I felt like I went back to get a doctorate.

By the time I went back to get a doctorate, I was already in my 30’s and that’s not late. But in terms of making opportunities as a performer that’s older than most of the summer assistant programs and things like that usually dry up by the time you reach your late 20’s. And by then I had firmly thought that really what I want to do was continue to develop my own voice and to work with others. I had made that firm decision and then got to work in graduate school as teaching associate, so it sort of cemented it and I’ve been in to look for that path.

Andrea: That makes sense.

Dr. Anne Foradori: It does and I think for people who want to teach in a college level, there are kind of two ways to get there. The first is to have been a famous singer off somewhere and made a career in that and then come to college teaching with the information you have from your experience. And then the other is to follow a path where you do some performing but do a lot of more studying of pedagogy in working with students and that’s the path I took.

Andrea: It fits you so well and one of the things that I always really appreciated was you’re so attentive to your students from you walk in the door and you sense that some things is off.

Dr. Anne Foradori: It’s an interesting balancing act, because we are not your counselors, we are not your parents; we’re your voice teachers. But that being said, we teach this discipline in a one-to-one manner. It’s not the same as going to a lecture class where other students in it where the teacher may notice you or may not notice you unless they call on you. There is no escape, it’s just the two of us for the half of hour or the hour whatever the time period is.

And so there’s that and that kind of symbiotic type of relationship we have. The other is that, I think I’m biased because I’m a singer, more than any other musician, we have a different personal investment in what we do and we just do. If you’re singing and you don’t like the sound of your voice and it’s not a technical aspect that can be fixed, we go through a lot of soul searching and learning to love our voice giving ourselves permission to love our instrument. That’s a hard thing to do. We joke about it, we say “hate my voice, hate me.” We cannot take it personally. Can I get spiritual here for a moment?

Andrea: Of course.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Just the gift God puts on each of us to be an individual as a singer, you might be able to tell a certain pianist by a style or certain wind player by their tone. But you can always identify a singer. So with that comes both this great celebration of the gift we have, the individual gift and also the horrifying responsibility of having to achieve at a certain level. And if you don’t, is it because I have not learned my techniques enough or is it because my voice is unworthy and not beautiful enough instrument?

And that’s the thing that young singers struggle with a lot and even older singers struggle with and getting through that discovering your voice literally and figuratively is a challenge. And that’s one of the things I hope I do with students by the time they enter the studio and then by the time they graduate that they’ve had enough Aha-moments and have come to the realization that they are worthy. And that their instruments are worthy of developing and that their voices are intrinsically tied to their being but it’s not the sum of all their being.

So I have a framed card, it was a greeting card with a code on it that’s on my desk and I love it because it was , but she said she really got it from her French writer. So good for her for giving up the credit there, but it says “The end is nothing, the road is all.” And that’s really profound and it’s true in terms of finding your individual voice, but it isn’t true entirely with musicians because what we do is very public.

So for students having to come to groups with knowing that the journey is always present and the journey isn’t less as important as what you discover. Because you discover things about yourself along the journey before you get to the end. But no one wants to hear a C- choir. We have this struggle all the time of wanting to invest in the journey and know that we’ve grow and our voice grows by following the path and the journey. But knowing that still we have to be a little product oriented and that can be tough.

There are a lot of students who studied in high school or were involved in their plays, musicals, and choirs in high school, when they get to college and maybe start as a music major but then, I don’t want to say it’s no longer fun, the party came easily to them and their voice grows and developed and they find that it’s not fun as they thought it would be. And so it’s time for them to leave that in a good place in their hearts and spirit and to be participating musical where they want but maybe not pursue it as a career.

Andrea: Oh, of course while you’re talking, I’m remembering both my experience as a student but then also my experience in the last few years of this figurative voice that you’re talking about. This Voice of Influence that I’m trying to grapple with and I love the comparison of the two because it’s just seems so incredibly powerful and true that everything you just said also applies finding your voice that’s going to make a difference. And I have this saying that your voice matters but you can make it matter more and it’s that idea of developing your voice that yes, there is a product.

And so when you do put out something whether it’d be singing in front of people or a black poster whatever, it needs to be edited. It needs to have gone through a process of refinement in a sense to really make the biggest different that it can make and really connect to the audience or whatever. So all that you’ve just said I feel like it totally applies to this other voice as well. Do you feel that way?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes, and that’s why I said, the voice is not the sum of your being. Sometimes when the students will do a recital, I will tell them specifically to do not listen to your tape for at least two weeks. Don’t listen your recording. You need to live in a moment of euphoria that comes with performing and with feeling like you put your whole heart into your activity and that you communicated with your audience.

And you don’t ever really hear that entirely on a sound recording because you don’t see their facial expressions and their acting and how visual they are with it that they don’t experience what they’re experiencing in life with the audiences reactions and things. And so just know that this is a little museum piece of what you did and this is a snap shot of a moment. You will sing these songs different ways on different occasion.

If I can count on one hand the times in lifetime when I think I had a perfect performance, then it’s just not entirely there. I remember saying to a colleague once when I was performing some new music and I wasn’t sure that everything I sung was a correct pitch. Some of it maybe a little “ish” and this colleague said, “Well, you know when someone is hitting a 3.33 batting average and they’re on a baseball team, that means that every three times they come up to bat, they get a hit.”

And we think that at 3.33 batting average is pretty damn good. So why do as musicians, because we’re in the midst of creating live art that’s very fluid and changing. If I sang only a third of the right note, I would think I was a failure. Yet in other aspects of life, someone would get a third or something accomplished and depending on how you view project as a whole, then you would think it was a great success otherwise.

And that was a really good way for me to look at approaching performing, and in this case, performing a new music where you part of bringing a piece to life is working with the composer. And sometimes, you’re a little wrong and you have a note that flipped up, you have to be kind yourself about that. Know that you’re creating fluid art. This is not a sound recording or commercial sound recording…

Andrea: Where you go back and make all these little changes, yeah.

Dr. Anne Foradori: So yeah, I think that discovering your voice whether it’s your voice in a classroom as a teacher or in a studio as a teacher or as you said writing a blog post or doing a podcast, finding your voice is a life-long process. I mean, it isn’t anything we ever entirely get to…we get to stages I think where we’re happy with our voice.

In 2007, I had West Nile encephalitis, probably bitten by a mosquito of gardening in the evening and I ended up in the hospital for several days and then home for three weeks. And it was difficult for me to think clearly because of the encephalitis and I eventually came through it well. But it started sort of an emotion of other things happening that my immune system and defense system were not strong.

And so I had that in 2007. I had aortic stenosis and a heart valve replaced in 2011, and then in 2015, I had two kinds of cancer. And with each one of these episodes, each one of these challenges, I begin to look at my own message, my own voice what was my next step, what was next role. And I have, one doesn’t say bounce back, but I have recovered from each of these, thank God and I feel like I have more to give to things.

But the last voice from the cancer combined with turning 60 and then having a very aggressive chemotherapy treatment really did the end of my singing voice. And you can hear my speaking voice is rough now. So again, that was me looking at what is my voice as a teacher and if my singing voice is not going to be my singing voice, what will be my voice? What is going to be my outlet for creativity and what will be the next step I take? And it’s unlike when I got to the sort of the end of the road teaching high school and teaching for 10 years between degrees. And I was thinking, what was my voice be next, will it be in the classroom, will it be in a courtroom which would mean going going to law school. Where is my voice most connected to the core of me?

And so for me when I was going to chemotherapy, I talked to a lot of great school friends on Facebook who have lots of advice for me. And someone said “Oh, write a blog, do a blog.” And then someone suggested, “Oh do a blog about getting through cancer.” I was like “Oh my gosh, how horrible would that be.” Because I don’t want any illnesses I’ve had to define me. I feel like that’s part of as my sister said, “Any scars you have in surgery is like the path or the map of your life, different travels you take.” And people do that now saying “Oh see these stretch marks on my elbows when I blah, blah, blah.” “See these stitches on my skin I got as a kid.” And mine are much bigger stitches but they’re just a part of the story of my life, not my whole life. So that’s how I got involved in the other blog I’m doing now.

Andrea: So tell me about the other blog. It’s a food blog, but I would love to hear more about why that?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, since I was going to not try to sing on a professional level anymore, I thought “Well, what was I thinking of when I went to college? What would I have majored in if I didn’t major in music?” You know, go back to the things that you like the most. And before we use the word foodie thing right, other people got subscriptions to National Geographic. We got subscription to housing garden magazine and gourmet magazine. So that was the reading magazine around my house when I was growing up. And my parents’ idea of a good time was to go to New York for weekend, go out to eat and buy some French cookware.

Andrea: Really?

Dr. Anne Foradori: So I guess I had no choice I was sort of indoctrinated at an early age. And I remember even as preteener or teen when the gourmet magazine came, there were two things that always struck me. One was a gourmet travel section where some would just go and snap pictures of wonderful food all over the world and I would think, “What kind of job is this, this is great?”

And the other one was something they put out every month that was called gourmet meal of the month and it was a whole menu that was some kind of a protein that would be a roast, turkey or goose or whatever and then several side dishes or maybe a salad of some kind and then dessert. They’d have it all in a sort of a big banquet table and then they even suggest wines for it.

And every month, my parents made at least a portion of the gourmet meal of the month. They never bought the fancy wines but they would do things like make the roast or whatever and several side dishes and maybe the dessert every month. I just thought, it was the most wonderful way to grow up. My parents, one of their combined voices they had as a couple was in the kitchen. My dad is like the chef. My mom is the baker and I have more pictures of us with my parents in the kitchen cooking or serving big family meals.

And this was just a part of our lives that, part of my getting my new voice because I was going to use the singing voice so much was my culinary voice and my storytelling voice. So I worry the first I thought for every recipe I put, and I have an eight paragraph story that goes with it. And I wondered if people would respond to that, and so far, they have been. I have a small following but I can only do it as much as time allows because I still teach fulltime.

Andrea: Right. How does your story connect with your food?

Dr. Anne Foradori: It might something as simple as…or there was one week, I went in the recipe files from my mom’s. We moved out here. My dad moved out here and lived with me. And they’re all handwritten cards or my grandmother’s cased typed cards. She typed them and she had always would have the date and who gave her the recipe on it. And then she’d have her own little stories to tell about “you can use this or this, but I like to use this first or something.”

And there are some recipes in there. I made a pineapple upside down cake, a recipe that belonged to my great aunt, who I’m quite sure was my mother sister-in-law, my grandfather sister. And she was Aunt Ally who was smart and a smart, snappy dresser and really beautiful and would show up for these family events with this pineapple upside down cake. I’d remember this as a child, and I think she finely relented and gave the recipe to my grandmother who felt it was triumphant to get all if she gives her this recipe.

So these family stories about food, and I have another recipe card that’s in my grandmother’s handwriting marked 1919 that was from her mother-in-law about sort of a homemade Fig Newton cookie, sugar cookie with a ground fig filling. And the back of it, my grandmother had thought and wrote something like “Oh mother I love these cookies, her eyes lit up every time she made them and she thought she was a making a delicious cookie and it was still frugal.”

And just this whole little narrative that went around this and you know, that is not anything new. There are new family stories told around the dinner table and family occasions. And so a part of what I’m doing is finding recipes. Some of which are re-imagined that have been family recipes and stories to go with them. This week is going to be about Mother’s Day and I have a picture in the blog that will be my grandmother holding me as an infant and my sister who is about 16 months looking at my mom sort of smiling next to her, introducing my sister to me.

So three generations there and just the joy in my mom’s face and her voice what she did as a mother and what she discovered in a creative hand she had in our upbringing and what she introduced us to. That’s all part of the side stories about my grandparents and my dad. And it has been good because whenever I do the blog, it’s sort of a family affair because I cook what I want and then my son who is artistic takes beautiful pictures. And I’ve had a couple of other former students who are now photographers take pictures.

And I told students “No, I wasn’t making money on this but you can take home dinner to your family.” And I said come on over, have a meal and when I was writing this up originally, the narrative word or something has become sort of a catch phrase I use in it. There was just sort of our life that I use in this now was there’s always room for one word at the table. And that’s sort of a philosophy of life that I live and a philosophy that my parents always lived.

So for me, room for one more at the table means you have someone wants a voice lesson and I’m not horribly overloaded, there’s room to squeeze another one in during the week. Or someone needs some extra advising and something like that, there’s always another hour to make that happen. Part of my voice is wanting to have a generosity of spirit. I felt that sort of drives to me. So anyway, that’s a little bit about with the blog is about.

Andrea: Have you always felt this connected to your family?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes

Andrea: Or it’s just a new thing?

Dr. Anne Foradori: I would hear my grandmother tells us a story of their youth and then I would say something to this aunt who’s 10 years younger. I said, grandma told this story of such and such. And she said, “I didn’t remember that.” Or she’d say “I didn’t remember those details.” Well, of course, they may have lived over the same thing but with 10 years of difference in their childhood. So I always thought that that was interesting in terms of hearing my grandmother relayed that she had a great sense of drama in telling our family story and how other siblings who were younger may have lived through it. But the experience was not the same because of the distance and that. So yes, my grandmother was a great story teller. I’ve always had this connectedness.

Andrea: I’m curious what it was like for you when like emotionally when you realized that you didn’t have as much of a singing voice anymore? Was that difficult?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yes and no. You are prepared for different stages of life, different ways. When I was 49, once I got 49 and a half, I just started to refer to myself as almost 50. So I said, “Well, I’m almost 50, I’m almost 50.” When I turned, I thought “Well, I’m only 50.” So I think in my mind I have prepared myself and knowing having said in that voice in pedagogy to understand that woman’s voice have changed and cartilage that was once flexible becomes more calcified and with that all the things that come with it and that some people are singing to their 60s and some do not. It’s like preparing yourself for anything when you get to middle age and then wake up one morning and say “Oh I couldn’t have any more babies, could I?”

So there was not sadness, there was just an adjustment to other things and my students have said “Well, come and sing, sing first.” And the truth is if I got one drop enough, I could do more singing and I can always demonstrate lessons. But again, that comes to how I judge myself and what I want to experience to be and if the experience is going to be such that it’s difficult for me or painful for me because I can’t sing as I do when I was 40, 20 years old, then instead of being sad about it, I turn the corner and say “But there’s other things I can do. There’s so more I ca n do and my interests are broad.”

So I’m working on a paper now to send up to publication and five musicals that changed the face of musical theater in America. So I’m interested in that and food blog and working on projects with students. So I don’t miss it because the minute that one thing was taken off the table, many things came in in it’s place. I think there’s a passing of that and I think because I always combine singing with teaching, it’s not like one day, I woke up from the Metropolitan Opera and couldn’t sing, you know.

I always knew it had to be part of a balance for being a teacher and a musician. So sad for about five minutes and then I thought and through chemo and I’m alive. And so the bigger picture for all of that was…I had my surgery done in Omaha and then I had chemo back here but I know when I was in the hospital in Omaha and due to complications I had to stay about 10 days. And I remember the physician, my colleague just come in and said she could not believe what a positive spirit I had. I was just so positive and I just said to her “You know, I’m just glad this was caught and I’m alive and I’m just glad to be here, just grateful to be alive and so what was there to complain about. I have so much more than so many other people.

I tried to keep that as my focus and my approach of things. I remember when my son was little, we had many talks about the difference between need and want. He would just “I need, I need, I need.” And I said, “No, you want, you want, you want,” and that’s different than needing. So do I need to sing? No, I don’t need to sing because there are other things. I need to live. I need to have a voice. I need to feel like that voice matters. But it can be done through many different ways. One of my friends once said that the people who are most successful in life have a good Plan B. So I’m okay with going with Plan B sometimes.

Andrea: You mentioned the desire to be generous before and the fact that you feel that gratitude and also you have this attitude of abundance that you can be generous then. And I think that that is a really powerful thing too to have those core beliefs that there is enough, there is always room for one more, there is always…and I’m grateful for what I have. That puts you in a position of power to be able to offer generously.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Here’s a saying in among the philosophers that a reflected life it is worth living. So I try to be thoughtful in how I make decisions especially if it all includes other people. I try to be thoughtful and I try to examine my life a little bit everyday and that’s different from beating yourself up for the things that you aren’t accomplishing immediately. You have to be patient with yourself. But in the long run of life, I see…some of like I mentioned my mom about being a good role model. And one of a very few people I think I know in life who I think died with maybe no or very little regret because she lived a very honest, very true life. And she when was at her most ill and I went home to visit and I knew I would not see her again and I was teary, and she used like great line from A League of Their Own,”There’s no crying in baseball.” We had that as running joke and we cry “There’s no crying in baseball.”

And I think that was her way of saying, I have lived a good life. Don’t be sorry for me. So that would be the greatest thing if anybody said at the end of the day, the end of whatever my end of the day is I lived a good life. I was a good person, I lived a good life. I think that’s a huge accomplishment. It sounds very basic and it sounds like a “Are you underselling yourself? You don’t want to cure cancer? You don’t want this, you don’t want that?”

But I think that some people are made for overt big changes. Some people are meant to discover things scientifically or go to the moon. And then some people work consistently and quietly for change and good things through their own way. And I think I’m in that category B. I always want to be in the classroom or in a studio with the students. I didn’t want to be an administrator running a program.

I think half of discovering your voice is recognizing what your gifts are. Not feeling dwarf by saying “Well, I’m not really good in this,” but understanding what your gifts are and how to use those gifts to speak to others. What are your gifts? What do you bring to the table? And from that, how do you develop those gifts to be a voice that you can use to bring your point of view for an advocate for others or whatever you want to do with that.

And I think that’s interesting, understanding and recognizing that your voice comes from your gifts. So the first part of that is understanding, recognizing, and appreciating yourself and your own gifts. And if you appreciate your gifts then you think you are worthy to bring them to the table and then you develop your voice and serve others too. But it comes with the recognition of “These are the things I do that are good and worthy and are good to share with others.”

Andrea: I think maybe everybody does this to some degree but where we view other people’s gifts and we admire them and then we kind of make this assumption that our gifts aren’t as powerful, strong, meaningful, or effect2ive or whatever it might be that we’re trying to aspire to be. How do you think that people can recognize their gifts as being good?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Sometimes, it’s good to what I say as a personal inventory. What are the things I like and what are the things I don’t like. So I might make a list of “Here are the things that I wish were different in my life.” I only can put down things over which I have control. I can’t say world peace, because that isn’t my personal responsibility. I’m only responsible for myself contributing towards that. So I might make an inventory or I might do that with singers, I might say “We’re gonna talk about your voice today.” Especially if they’re having a hard time with something technical and they’re frustrated, I’ll say “Here are the things, I can write down five things about your voice that I really like.”

And I then I don’t let them necessarily write down things they don’t like in their voices. And you write down five things about your voice that you like and then we’ll compare the notes. So they have to start by looking at themselves in a positive light instead of do’s and dont’s, what do I like and what do I don’t like. So I’m just going to say, this is what I like about your singing voice and this is what I like and I want you to write down five things about your voice.

Andrea: How does that affect them?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, I think they’re surprised because it’s usually hard for them to come up with five things because they want to be critical of themselves and I just make them do it.

Andrea: Why is that, why do we do that?

Dr. Anne Foradori: We blame it all on original sin. I think it’s in our human nature if you were raised in an atmosphere family whatever where you taught humility. It becomes a habit. But I mean, it becomes sort of something that informs how we view ourselves and we view the world. But there are also as false humility and that’s something we have to be careful of. If you have a gift like a gift of a voice and if you choose to develop it and develop it to the best of your ability then bravo for you. And if you don’t then that is your loss, but everybody has some gifts. Everybody has something to give and it’s precious because it was given to you.

We don’t self manufacture gifts. Those are given to us. We develop them. We bring them to the light. We can do that but we’re hard on ourselves. I think understanding where gifts come from really important. We don’t receive gifts unless there is some good intention behind it. After my junior recital that’s way back, I wasn’t entirely pleased with how I sing. I was very hard with myself. And sometimes after recital when visiting with friends and family and a couple of people came up to me and said nice things to me and then I tried to talk it the way like “Yes, but then there was then one note and dah dah dah.”

And my voice teacher, a wise woman, came stood up next to me and I felt a little pinch on my arm and she said “Just take a compliment.” I remember thinking “Yeah, why can I just say thank you and be done with it.” That’s hard to do, but I think it’s important to do and important to recognize that you have the gift. And I think you mentioned earlier people comparing themselves with one another, “Is my gift big enough? Is my gift good enough? Is it good enough to develop?”

I have heard more voices what I would consider a very good instrument, not the top natural instrument to come to school but a very fine instrument who work like dogs. And in the end, you know, it really is a little story, The Tortoise and the Hare of who gets ahead. The person who was taken what they have as a gift and work and work and work to develop it. So that’s a puzzling question on why we’re so hard on ourselves and why we don’t just accept gifts.

Andrea: Okay, so I have some like technical questions.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Okay.

Andrea: Now, I think that most of the people they’re listening, Influencers who are listening is not necessarily thinking about their singing voice. But I think if they just got a ton of other information which is fabulous, but I do think that we each have a speaking voice. I think that so much of what you taught me about singing applies to speaking whether it would be one-on-one or in front of a crowd.

And so I’ve noticed this in some speakers who might have a powerful voice in a sense. They have very strong opinions but in particular women tend to hold back on the way that they express those opinions. And I’m not even talking about theoretically now or figuratively. I’m actually talking about actual vocalizing of the way that they’re talking, where almost that connection of breath and phrasing those sorts of things, and breath support, they aren’t there. And I’m thinking I want to get them singing so I can show them what’s this means. So I think that you do a better job than I do right now explaining what connection of breath is and why that matters.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, if I spoke this whole time where I should be speaking, my voice would probably not have been tired. So if I were going to work with a professional voice user and developing there tone and timbre and strength with their speaking voice, there are few things I would address. The first is define what we call an optimal speaking pitch. We are not valley girls anymore but we’re in a society fry in the end of it. I hear from mostly young actresses and people who are interviewed, they talk and all of a sudden their voice fries at the end.

Andrea: Yes that vocal fry.

Dr. Anne Foradori: And that’s not very good for your voice, so to find the optimal speaking pitch, should I do this in piano?

Andrea: Sure that would be great.

Dr. Anne Foradori: So to find your optimal speaking pitch, so I’m going to say for a mezzo-soprano your two octave range, I’m just going to say is a e. So we’ll just pick that up [played piano]. So the top note of the bottom third…is about where your optimal speaking pitches. So what I would do first in working with someone is I would just say, I want you to talk and I’m not asking you to sing but I want you to keep this pitch in your ear, this is your optimal speaking pitch.

So my name is Anne Foradori and I’m doing this interview today with Andrea Wenburg and we are talking about developing voice or finding your voice. So if I had spoken like that through the whole time this interview, my voice would not be roughed, but it might sound affected. But when you’re speaking it in front of a crowd, you do not mind a little bit of a lift because we don’t want to fry at the end. So I would say the first thing would be defined about where your optimal speaking pitch is. So for here, I would say would be about for you is e. So you want to give it a go?

Andrea: I really do enjoy speaking and read about that tone.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Yeah, okay. It seems high.

Andrea: Yes.

Dr. Anne Foradori: So I usually say to people if it seems a little high, give yourself a break and go back down half a step and work on it like that. So finding an optimal speaking pitch is the first thing. The second is to do some exercises with that where you are whether I have that pitch still in my head, I would be saying “Unfrozen, stop holding back and release the real you.” Then I would start to try to connect voice to it. And for people who are Harry Potter fans, I say it’s the professor Trelawney School of Divination.  So I have students play that for fun on their optimal speaking pitch or trying to speak an elongated fashion.

The other thing to find if you see my voice cleared up breath, part of the other thing you find if you use an optimal speaking pitch is that you cannot sustain that higher pitch of speaking without graph. So speaking quietly, you don’t need breath support like that but if I want my voice to carry, I have to have breath connected to it or you run out of it.

So I would probably work on some exercises and made them do that too then I would also work on the two what I just call ‘quick’ or exercises that are great that are noninvasive singing exercises. But first is a lip throw like a motor boat and they put voice on that. A lip throw is one the fastest way you can warm up a voice if you can’t be somewhere where you can sing loudly and that you can take that high. Shall we do it together?

Andrea: Sure.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Let’s go ahead. Okay, so when you take that high, you don’t feel pressure on your throat but you can feel pressure up on your resonate area in your face. And you see how much breath pressure you need to get up that high to sing so that’s a good reminder of how much breath pressure you need when you’re going to speak. But I would say for anybody who wants to develop their speaking voice to find their optimal pitch and then they warm up their voice like they would as a singer.

There’s a phrase in Italian: sing as you speak, or I’d say, you speak as you sing. And so the same rules apply to singing as applied to speaking. And there have been an occasion to hear a professional singer speak whether on the stage or somewhere else, the voice is elevated like this, you know, you hear resonate sound. Those are the first things I’d start with that would help somebody or professional speaker to develop their speaking voice or their singing voice.

Andrea: Uh-hmm and that vocal fry thing, I remember you’re giving me an article actually and you’re explaining too that that’s just a vocal chord beating each other up really and that’s what I’m doing right now kind of. But I speak up higher then my vocal chords are not hurting each other so I can do it longer.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Right.

Andrea: I’ve got more longevity with this particular voice at this particular time and in general. I’m not going to end up with vocal nodules so not be able to really talk. The other thing I remember you’re saying too which I think is very interesting and powerful is that well placed vocal abuse is okay sometimes.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, so…alright, for instance say your singing a musical theater piece where you want to growl and a sound like that, so someone wants told me in terms of…I don’t know if I heard this on a funny episode or something like phrase or what, but someone was talking about how dry they wanted their martini and the response was, I want a fork full of liquid. Well, the joke of course is a fork full of any liquid is just a teeny bit of liquid as you can imagine. So you want a fork full of a liquid for anything that you do that would enhance the sound or for something in the sound like a vocal fry or a glottal stroke or any of those kinds of things…

Andrea: Explain the glottal stroke real quick?

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well, instead of starting with the air puffing the glottis apart, the vocal chords apart, and the truth if you’re singing in German and start with a vowel sometimes that vowel starts with a hard sound or glottal stroke. So a little bit of bad is okay, won’t kill you or people. Ethel Merman of whatever she was singing in a hard belt with a lot of some vocal abuse in there too.

But a phrase I use a whole lot with students who are using especially learning belt is I’d say “Don’t make your sound breath starved. Don’t cut it out, you know, you don’t want your voice to sound like you pulling the neck on a balloon. Let me hear out that the breath is what feeds us all the time.” So having the breath in the sound is important terms of the development of speaking voice too.

Andrea: I think that that’s really important. Breath is huge and we often don’t take a big enough one.

Dr. Anne Foradori: We often and we often sort of speak to the end and impress the sound. All of that is hard and the voice in terms of the fatigue factor.

Andrea: Well thank you so much for this time.

Dr. Anne Foradori: Well thank you. This has been sort of gone all over the place but that’s okay.

Andrea: That’s the great thing about having your own podcast. You can do whatever you want to.

Dr. Anne Foradori: I guess.

Andrea: Well, yes, thank you so much and I appreciate your voice in my life on so many different levels and the experiences you have given me. Thank you for what you’re doing to students as well. I appreciate it.

Dr. Anne Foradori: And I especially like before we started that you’re articulating through this in a voice that each voice is worthy to be heard. Everybody’s voice has something to add to conversation with your voice no matter; even it feels like it’s a small contribution. All contributions are welcome and that the table is big enough for people to be there and every voice deserves to be heard.

Sometimes even the voice that may seem like it’s a voice in the wilderness or they may seem like the message is a small, it’s important to that person and so it’s important that it’s heard. We all become more generous and are giving if we feel like what we offer is acknowledged and appreciated even on the most basic level, even if what we do seems like the most basic act of kindness. Sometimes even just someone saying, thank you is all we need to feel inspired to be more generous and to be a better giver.

Andrea: Uh so true. Thank you!

Dr. Anne Foradori: You’re welcome!



Is It Bad To Love Performing?

Our family loved offering our performance as a gift to others. However, the wise reminders to use my voice for God raised a concern in me that perhaps my intense desire to perform wasn’t good. I wanted to share the song in my heart, but I didn’t want anyone to believe I was doing it for the wrong reasons. If they thought I was looking for applause, they wouldn’t respect me. They wouldn’t listen to me and truly consider what I was saying.

Excerpt from UNFROZEN: Stop Holding Back & Release the Real You

Sweet Performers

It was dark out as we drove home from our first of three trips to The Dance Factory that week. As crazy as it sounds, I don’t mind the 15-minute drive. I enjoy the quiet moments to contemplate life while she’s in class and the few minutes of random conversation with her in the car. The ride home that night started like most others.

“How was dance tonight?” I asked my precious almostimg_7035
-9-year-old who sat staring out the window behind me.

“Good. We got to start learning our dance for recital.” A few blocks and bits of conversation later and Amelia casually inquired, “Why did you put me in dance?”

Her tone indicated a simple curiosity, so I answered simply. “Well, when we first moved here I wanted you to have the opportunity to be in a class. You were almost 4 years old and you love to dance, so we signed you up.” She giggled in affirmation. Our white caravan creaked down the dark road on the outskirts of town as I continued, “You complained about it constantly that first year. I assumed it was because you were required to work at paying attention the whole time. When summer came, I was ready to forget dance. But your dad wanted you to stick with it for a number of reasons and so we did. That next year you started to love it!”

“Because I got to perform!” Amelia revealed. We pulled up to a stoplight and I glanced in the rearview mirror at her softly lit grin.

Ah yes. My eyes went back to the road while my mind went back to the moment we realized we had a performer on our hands. She was 5 the first year she got to perform on stage at the spring recital. Her sequined costume wasn’t the only reason she lit up the stage that night. When Amelia stepped out under the lights, her entire being sparkled with joy. It still does. Every time.

I smiled as the breaks squeaked up to the next stoplight, because I get it. I’m a performer, too. Something in both Amelia and I turns on when we are in the spotlight. I can’t speak for her, but I know what goes on inside of me. I stand taller, dig deeper and release a more expressive version of myself. It’s as if I intuitively know that my self-expression is more than a single person can handle, so I save it for a crowd. The more people in the audience, the less of me one individual must hold. The more people in the audience, the more I can release. And I have a lot to release.

Performers get a bad rap.

Performers are often labeled as attention-seeking and fake. But great performers are some of the most self-sacrificing and genuine people I know. They are more true to themselves on stage than in conversation. Why? Because they were made for it. Something in them turns on when they step into the spotlight and they are free to release themselves with an intensity of expression that no single conversation can hold.

Performance is an opportunity for artists to transform their intense barrage of thoughts and feelings and turn them into a passionate expression. What feels like a self-centered battle on the inside becomes an others-centered song, dance, poem or painting on the outside. True performance, in my view, is not self-expression for the sake of self. It is disciplined self-expression for the sake of others.

So I admit it.

I take my young daughter to dance classes three nights a week because she is a performer. She needs it like she needs air to breathe. And I want my little performer to gain the humble confidence she needs to move with grace so she can express a true and transformed version of herself that blesses everyone around her.

Do any of these descriptions of performing resonate with you? Do you hold back so others won’t judge you as being dramatic or attention-seeking?

Portions of this post were originally published on Her View From Home