Stephany Svorinić is a composer, performer, and educator based in Somerville. Before moving here from NYC in 2016, she ran a private music studio teaching children ages 5-10 singing, beginner piano, music theory, and songwriting. In Boston, she worked as a preschool and elementary school music teacher prior to enrolling at the Longy School of Music, where she’s completing a Graduate Diploma in composition. She has studied with Dr. Marti Epstein, Dr. Osnat Netzer, and will soon work with Dr. Amy Beth Kirsten for her last semester at Longy, this fall. She recently won the Radius Ensemble’s Eighth Annual Pappalardo Composition Competition for her chamber work, Woodscrossing, which premiered in March.
Equally passionate about performing and composing, Stephany is committed to helping all her students—be they children or adults—become knowledgeable musicians so that their individual artistry can blossom. For adult and young adult students, she believes a grounding in and understanding of vocal technique is vital in order to consciously grow as a singer.
Stephany is a certified and experienced yoga teacher and reiki practitioner. These holistic disciplines have influenced her teaching style. She offers a yoga and meditation inspired approach to music lessons for students who are interested in incorporating body-mind practices into their learning.
Stephany completed her undergraduate degree in Individualized Study at NYU and her Master of Music in vocal performance at New Jersey City University.
Mind Body Instructor Statement
How do all 8 limbs of yoga relate to singing and/or music-making? How have they influenced my singing and/or teaching?
Music-making and singing, like yoga, are both life-enhancing practices as well as ways of life. Also like yoga, the practice of music-making and singing require awareness, study, discipline, and an intimate connection with the breath and the (S)elf. Music-making and singing enable the creative expression of the self. For many, as I have experienced, the practice ushers in years of methodical, patient, and arduous study.
My journey with yoga began in college, before I began a formal study of music. A regular practice led to yoga teacher training, which I completed shortly before starting my master’s in voice. Many of the skills acquired by practicing yoga are a natural complement to singing: i.e., conscious control of the body, mind, and breath. Learning to sing develops the awareness of a yogic philosophical truth: that body, mind, and breath are connected as one.
Knowing how to practice control over one’s singing technique requires an engagement of the mind and its executive powers. Before phonation (or singing) can occur, the singer would do well to enlist the full focusing powers of the mind. The purpose is to develop intentional, conscious singing that enables a singer to use the brain as a tool of proper technique. Therefore, in singing, the brain becomes as necessary an organ as the lungs, diaphragm, larynx, vocal tract, etc.
Delving deeper into the correlations between singing and yoga, one may consider the Eight Limbs of Yoga: moral restraint, discipline, posture, breath control, sense withdrawal, concentration, meditation, and ecstasy/transcendence. The first limb, moral restraint, is comprised of the yamas: nonharming, truthfulness, nonstealing, chastity, greedlessness. How do these tenets relate to singing and/or the expression of the self through music-making?
As a singer and teacher, I believe that proper singing technique must first and foremost be healthy for the voice. It therefore, cannot cause harm to the instrument, which as discussed before, encompasses not only the body and singing organs, but the mind. Our approach to singing and music should be edifying and socially constructive—singing and creating music out of joy and love for the art, rather than a grasping or greed for a material or psychosocial end game. When done from a place of nonharming, the possibilities are truly endless and the metric of failure or success in the material sense becomes insufficient. As arts practitioners we strive for truthfulness of expression, which leads to creativity and originality, or “nonstealing.” The path of music-making in this spirit inevitably leads to self discovery, which is also a purpose of yoga practice. I interpret “chastity” as correlated to singing in a metaphorical sense. That is, in order to derive happiness from musical practice, one should undertake the externalized act of music-making and singing with an overall devotion to self-realization and artistic integrity, rather than with an overall externalized goal in mind, such as getting famous or exploiting others.
The second limb—discipline (or the niyamas)—consists of:purity of mind, body, and speech, contentment, asceticism, study, and devotion Again, one’s purpose for undertaking music as a practice will lead to personal growth if one remains devoted to an inner sense of growth and integrity, rather than external gains. Of course, material gifts may come, but in order to derive deep internal pleasure from singing and music, one should instead focus on inner and/or artistic development rather than on external praise. Music-making and singing require study, and sometimes periods of intense study, which may correlate with yogic acts of asceticism such as fasting, or observing silence. These “ascetic” periods occur when the practitioner heightens her work by enacting specific, rigorous methods, such as carving out daily time to practice or hours preparing for performance. Purity of mind, body, and speech in music practice consists of taking care of one’s body and mind, which are one. That means growing intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally over time. Every individual will find different means to accomplish such a task, but one reliable method may be found in supplementing music practice with mindfulness or meditation as well as physical exercise and overall healthy habits. To be on top of one’s game as a singer, one must especially take care of the body-mind, because it is literally one’s instrument. One must develop healthy eating, recreational, and resting habits. Contentment translates to music-making in that one must remain focused on oneself rather than on comparison to others. Instead of wishing for someone else’s voice, for instance, cultivate the beauty inherent in your own. Each instrument and person is different and offers unique gifts.
Yogas’s third limb, posture, relates to singing in a very fundamental way. In order to sing with vitality, control, and free expression, the singer must indeed cultivate proper posture and body awareness, as the entire body-mind is the instrument. The fourth limb, breath control, is also central to singing because the core of singing relies on breath itself. One might even go so far as to say that the act of singing is breath itself. In yoga, the breath is an externalized aspect of the life force, prana. When we sing with intention and awareness, we are imbuing our music with our unique personal expression: unleashing our life force.
The fifth limb, sense withdrawal, relates to cultivating an inner awareness unaffected by the external environment. Yogic methods may require that one literally close one’s eyes and ears in order to minimize or eliminate external stimuli. Sense withdrawal is done in preparation for the sixth limb, concentration, which then enables the seventh limb, meditation. In meditation there is a continuity in the flow of the ideas arising in the mind. The practice of meditation can eventually lead to yoga’s ultimate goal, the realization of samadhi or ecstasy, which is an awareness that all things, including our individual consciousness, are connected as one. Separation is an illusion.
The study and practice of music and singing requires a certain kind of sense withdrawal from external stimuli that enables one to focus entirely on the creative act of making music or singing. Yogic concentration on the breath is one common way to meditate. Singing likewise is an engagement and awareness of the breath. Like the continuity of flow in ideas arising in the mind during meditation, in singing, there should be a continuity of flow of the breath itself. Like singing, meditation has myriad methods or techniques, ranging from mantra to chanting to visualization.
In yoga, as in singing and music, one must remain humble while knowing clearly one’s own limitations and strengths, which the practices themselves help elucidate. One must also keep a goal of mastery in mind. In yoga, the goal would be “freedom,” or transcendence of the ego mind and union with the universal Self. In music, likewise there may also be a goal, such as mastery of technique, which leads to freedom of creative expression and union with community.
The philosophy and practice of yoga aims to overcome illusions of separateness through the realization of the singular Self, which some might think of as the divine, or source of all being. The practice of music-making and singing also overcomes an illusion of separateness by bringing people together—both those who enact music and those with whom the music is shared. In the process, there is much overlap of these roles, which in turn helps create community among people. Ultimately, the reason we sing and make music is to share our expression and truth with others in order to experience connectedness.