Tag Archives: Terri Crosby

David Roth — Where Song, Spirit and Speaking Meet

David Roth

There’s just something about David Roth.  He saunters onto the stage and begins telling stories in song and in no time at all, we feel like we’ve known him forever.

He’s honest.  Open.  Candid. He’s also fall down funny.  He calls one on himself at every opportunity, all from a place of confidence in the human spirit, quietly implanting the idea in our hearts and souls that surely (and why not start now) — there’s more of us that can come out to play.

I walked away from David’s concert a better person.  Corny?  For sure.  Still, it’s true.  I became a better person — more myself, more able, more true to who I am — all by listening to David Roth sing and tell stories.

All evening, he simply shared himself, song after song.  How simple is that?

His confidence with the guitar and piano came over us like a soft, happy wave washing out our long day, the cares and worries we may have brought with us, the struggles or tiredness we may have carried into the room.

His instruments are clearly long-time friends and partners.  He often “warms up” on the guitar as he is introducing a song.  I’m not sure why I love that part so much, but I pretty much melted any time he was strumming, tuning and finding chords as he was speaking.  He has a deliciously gentle way of inviting us into his stories.

And then there is David’s “presence factor.”  He’s just there, playing and singing and talking, weaving intricate stories about life, rambling on about an event from his past, and finally catching us with a surprise curve ball as the musical story is falling effortlessly from his fingers.  When he throws a strike (and he’s a very good pitcher), you can hear the funny bones in the room crack open, hearts melting, minds saying “hmmmm….”.

David Roth

The audience last night was palpably awake.   Personally speaking, miracle of miracles, my mind never wandered.  That’s quite a service to humanity in itself — to give us a mental vacation from all we’ve been doing and thinking and feeling — and visit the creative world of David Roth for a little while.  It wasn’t the kind of music where you say to yourself, “Gee, that’s pretty, that’s beautiful, what a nice performance” — while yawning a bit inside, and thinking about tomorrow.

Last night when David sang, we paid attention.  We hung on every word.  We wondered what the next line would be — couldn’t wait to hear it.  And where could he could possibly be going with this story of his?

The best part of all?  When we “got there,” the journey was more than worth it.  Thanks, David.  Like you said, “practice makes progress.”


Letting Go of That…And That…

OK, good for you.

You’ve had a busy day, an active day, a productive day.  And on top of that,  you got up early to get it all going.  It’s now about 9 or 10 pm and you think to yourself, “Wow, it’s about time to slow down and head for the bedroom, get relaxed, read a little maybe, and get a good night’s sleep.”

What a good and wise thought.

You begin to work your way in that direction, but you forgot about the cat litter that needs emptying and, yes, the dishwasher finished a couple hours ago.  It would be better to empty it now, wouldn’t it?

So you do.

And then there’s that email you forgot about until this very minute and you promised to send the information today.  Back to the computer for just a few minutes, right?  No big deal.  I’ll only take a moment.  But while you’re there, you take care of a couple other emails.  One takes longer than you thought.

Back to the kitchen to get the sliced peaches and big fat blueberries out of the freezer for tomorrow.  You congratulate yourself for remembering.

Are we done yet?

Not quite.  Brush teeth, take out the contact lenses, wash your face, jammies on.

Into blessed bed.

The clock says 11:15 pm.  My how time flies.  So onto the pillow goes your head and you think, “Ahhhh.  Sleep.  This is gonna be a piece of cake.  This is gonna be so easy.  I’m so tired.”

And then the unthinkable begins….

Nodding off effortlessly into dreamland — it’s not happening!  Where did it go?  It was here just a minute ago.   Your good friend “Sleepy Head” slipped away into some other dimension and sent its (very) distant cousin  “Busy Mind” to visit.

What an unwelcome exchange….

You’ve heard that what you resists only gets worse, what you think about manifests, and where your attention flows your energy goes.

(Yeah, yeah.  Just let me sleep, please…)

So good and well-meaning human that you are, you resolve to welcome the unwelcome visitor, and not resist.  You get what you resist, right?  Yes.  You resolve to relax.  Let go of it all.  Chill out.  Tune out the word-thought-idea party going on in your head.

You breathe deeply.  Ahhhh.  The dance of words slows a bit.

I must be doing something right,”  you think to yourself.

But the inside-your-head-talking-party doesn’t actually stop.   There are a couple of noisy and determined characters who keep bringing up new topics for discussion.  Not important topics, just random, free range comment threads that don’t matter at all at this hour, or probably ever.

But there they are, these word children, yacking away.

What can you do with them?

“Hush,” you say to the noisiest ones.  You pretend they are restless children who have been playing outside all day and just can’t settle down.  You give them an pillow and blanket and tell them to lay their sweet heads down, down, down.  And you tell them oh-so-patiently, “It’s late, darlings.  Morning will be coming soon. Go to sleep.”

You even read them a story.

And the “word children” settle down for a minute.  The bedtime story is good, but sooner or later, one of them asks for a drink of water.

You get the drink and sink back into the land of hopeful sleep.


The last child, the noisiest one is still awake.

So now what?

“Well, what if I sing him a lullabye?”

You hum silently.  It’s all in your imagination.  “Hey, this feels good,” you think to yourself.   You keep humming.  You notice you’re breathing more deeply.


More About Practicing Vocal Improv

A great way to practice improvisational singing is to invite at least one other person to sing with you or “work out” with you. This is one of the most efficient ways to expand your abilities, think outside your own sound box, and experiment with vocal patterns and musical ideas in addition to your own.

Adding another voice to your improv session changes the game completely.  It’s an automatic challenge.  For starters, you have to include another person vocally speaking, and you must sing with them.  For it to work, responses to whatever you sing to each other are a resounding “yes.”

You go with it….

Whatever the other person sings, you find your way into it, around it, under it, or through it and you sing notes that match or accentuate or support the “incoming” sound in some way.  You accompany, you follow.  And pretty soon you’re “leading”, but who is to know, really….and who cares.  The two of you are creating an unfolding vocal experience, an ebb and flow, an ever-moving river of sound.

As you sing, you will likely find yourself trusting the improvisational process more and more, and still you may falter.  You may hesitate.  But if you listen and breathe, you will probably find a new sound, sound pattern or expression you didn’t know you had.  What a gift from your partner in song.

When your partner moves into a vocal tangent you don’t understand, just wait a moment until you can feel what is being sung, what is being communicated, or where she is headed.  Then add to the mix in some way.

Be patient.  Simple is good.  In fact, simple is often the most beautiful.

You will probably begin to understand the other person (not to mention yourself) in a deep and unspoken way.  You might feel the voice-being next to you as if you were dancing together, moving as one, all while going forward into the sound of the two of you.

And then there’s another matter.  Since there are two of you and you are looking out for each other in this vocal improv game, you sing not as a soloist, but as a duo.  This means making space in your singing for another person.  If you’re in the lead, you have to give the other singer room to join you.

Easier said than done.  Perhaps a new awareness…

It’s a bit like driving.  You know where you are going, you know your destination, but in order to arrive,  it is a good and useful thing to be in cooperation with the other drivers.  As you drive, you’re in a movin’, groovin’, lane-changing, speeding up and slowing down, there’s my exit, and maybe even “wow, I guess I missed my off-ramp” kind of  dance with other vehicles, intentions, driving styles, levels of awareness, emotional states, and destinations.

You’ve got to pay attention.  Adjust.  Step on the brake occasionally.  Re-evaluate. Speed up.  Slow down.

For another comparison, in a partnership or intimate relationship, freedom of expression is a good thing, a necessary thing, vital and life-enhancing even — but if one person in a couple only has “individual awareness” and doesn’t realize or know how to be a member of a team of two, things don’t work as smoothly.

So, as you vocalize, be free and self-expressive AND look to see if you are including the other person.

When I have an event coming up, I practice in every way I can — by myself and with others.  Aloud and to myself.  Just before sleep and when I wake up.  Here and there during the day.  I just sing for a little while. I tune in, try things in my head or out loud, and play a bit.  Then back to work as usual.

Kaleo Wheeler

And yesterday, I asked a new friend of mine, Kaleo Wheeler, to come sing with me.  I had never sung with her before, but it seemed like we could probably make a good go of it.

By the way, Kaleo has an album out, called Ulana, The Way of the Heart, a beautiful CD of her Hawaiian music.

Kaleo and I sang together for more than an hour, and I’m here to report that this process re-arranged our brain cells in such a good way.  Making room for another singer inside my own vocal abilities, patterns, habits and sounds is uplifting, a good exercise and just plain fun.  At the end of the session, we spontaneously expressed to each other the delight we both felt.

After singing, as we drove away a big-winged black and yellow butterfly lead us much of the way down the steep road.   In order to avoid crushing him, I had to keep stopping the car.  At one point, I got out of the car to shoo him off the road.  He didn’t fly away, but instead continued to fly down the road about twenty feet at a time.  We wondered if he was injured, but part way down the long and winding road, he flew off into the forest just as nimble and healthy as can be. Apparently, he had successfully delivered his message of transformation and support, which we interpreted as a “thumbs up” from the singing Gods.

A butterfly “leading” a big ol’ piece of moving metal is a striking visual, and inspired continued reflection about our experience together.  We so enjoyed the exploration, leading each other into unknown territory, following, mixing it up, cracking up, exploring dissonance, stopping to smell the roses, and enjoying the profound silence between sounds.

We found the “new” in ourselves and we didn’t even quite know what to call it, we just felt happy.

…which reminds me of a quote I love about improv by Miles Davis.  He said ” I’ll play it first and tell you what it’s called later.”

Vocal Toning: How Do You Know If It’s “Working?”


If you’re toning regularly, for whatever reason, and however you do it, that’s a good thing.

For the scientist in all of us, it’s supportive to know there are well-documented health and emotional benefits to making sound, including relaxation, enhanced cellular healing and clearing of emotions, expanded self expression, self-empowerment, and heightened  creativity.

But all you really have to do is check how you feel after you tone.  You probably notice the positive evidence radiating all through your mind and body.

So keep right on toning.  It’s good for you.


If you tone with a group, there are different — additional — dynamics at play, and that’s what I want to talk about today. In a group, there is usually a clearly stated intention for toning, often related to healing.



How does that work?

In other words, what makes the toning session a healing session?  How do we “get there?”  How do we know we’re actually accomplishing what we set out to do?  Is the healing for you?  The group?  The world?

Wow.  A lot of questions within the question.

But if you’ve ever toned with a group, these musings (or similar) have probably crossed your mind….


Logically, to offer a healing space to another, it probably helps to be in a pretty free and relaxed place one’s self.

So I check in and ask:  What is my state of being during this toning session?

I’ve been in toning groups that are expressive, sometimes quiet, sometimes all over the map.  Sometimes the sound is beautiful.  Sometimes not.  But in either case, at the end, I wonder if we accomplished something meaningful.  It’s not that I think we didn’t accomplish our purpose for being there — I just don’t know.

Maybe there’s no way to really know.

In some vocal toning groups, I find that rather than being in a state of calm and that wonderful flowing way that I love to feel when I sing — instead — I’m in my head.  (Not fun.)  I’m thinking, not being and certainly not flowing.

Which made me wonder about the difference — why am I in a wondrous state at one time, and “in my head” in another?

And I wondered — how do I personally contribute to the intention of the group, which is healing myself and the world?  What kind of a singing state is ideal for contributing to the group’s intention?

What to do?

Here are my top 5 steps.

1. If you’re not in a great state upon arrival to the toning session, that’s fine.  No big deal.  We’ve all been there — life smacks us over the head sometimes and we go reeling.  We’re all human and we’re all in this together.

So what to do?

Just start where you are and move toward ease and relaxation.   Miracles happen when there’s ease.  Healing happens naturally when there’s ease.

2. Sing in a way that moves you into a easier, more relaxed, happier state one note at a time.  Expecting yourself to go from annoyed or frustrated or grieving — straight to bliss — is a tall order.  Too tall, in fact.  Don’t expect yourself to do that.  It’s a big jump.  It’s not even necessary to try that hard.

Start easy.   Start in a small way.  Start where you are and then reach ever so slightly to some sound that eases your emotion or state of mind.

3. Then do it again.

4. Pause for a micro-second and notice differences.  Don’t think, just notice.

5. Then do it again.

It’s really easy — if you start easy.  Let sound help you get where you’re going.  That’s the idea of toning.

Go for the small stuff and you’ll be moving in the direction of ease.  Then you’ll be running, then leaping with the gracefulness of a deer,  then soaring and communing with the divine.  You’ll be creating and feeling healing vibrations in no time.

The personal state of being we’re in when we tone makes a difference.  This state determines what we manifest.  The state you’re in will produce a result which matches your predominant vibration.

You’ll know because you’ll be thought-less.

You’ll be riding the group sound wave in a state of bliss.

Toning With A Group

Let The Flow of The Group Carry You


When you tone by yourself, it’s like being single.  You can do what you want, without any concern or attention on anyone else.  When you’re single, you can watch TV when you want, read with the light on — even in the middle of the night — and you’ll bother no one.  Your frig contains only foods  you consume.  You eat whenever and whatever you want, and you come and go from your residence as you please.  You simply suit yourself in your home situation, because no one else is there.  It’s appropriate.

When you’re in a relationship, however, the dynamics change.  There is another person in your space  who is probably very different from you  —  different habits, sounds, preferences, thoughts, patterns of sleep and movement and so on.

To be in harmony as a couple,  a natural shift in my patterns occurs to include the other person, and be more in harmony with the one who shares my energetic and physical space.  My radar now looks out for my partner as well as me.

In the same basic way, when you tone as a single individual vs. with a group, the dynamics are different from each other – not better or worse, just different.  When you tone with a group, it’s like being in relationship — and therefore relationship dynamics apply.

It’s like this.  If you act like a single person when you’re a couple, it doesn’t work all that well.   And one might ask, why be in a relationship and act single??

There are advantages to being single, and advantages to being a couple, but they are clearly different situations and require different skills.

The same applies to toning.

Toning in a group requires awareness and willingness to shift at a moment’s notice, because it is an inclusive process.  It’s not just about you.

There is someone next to you or across the room who is not you at all and who is probably expressing something entirely different that what you’re expressing today.

Tune into other individuals.  What are they saying?  What’s your response?  You might find yourself toning for one person with your sound and your heart.  And she might notice in the smallest way that she feels heard somehow, because you’re listening and responding, which changes what she does.  The sound between the two of you evolves from there….

So, for an extraordinary experience, let your awareness  naturally expand to include the group.   Who is there?  What is being expressed?  Your sound goes into the group and finds another’s.   You talk by toning,  you listen,  you ease one another, you offer your heart space.

Or you tune into the group sound, and you sing with the ever-changing, always flowing sound of the whole.

This inclusivity, this joining together in sound, can speed up your own process exponentially, and/or change it up completely and send you down a road less traveled — for you.  You might find yourself toning for a group in need.  You might feel complete unabashed joy to the world and sing that joy and happiness into the whole.

There is another significant thing that happens, which many toners have mentioned to me.  Let’s say you’ve had a bit of a funky morning and you arrive at the group session frustrated about something, with your underwear all in a bundle.  You feel the distinct need to express yourself and “get it all out.”  However, as you sit down with the group, you notice that the funky mood just kind of lifts, and you no longer have the frustration, anxiety, anger or the irritation of the pet peeve.  It’s gone.  You don’t notice it, because it is no longer there.  The group absorbed it and transformed it.

No, it’s not that you’re ignoring it, or being unaware.   The energy of the group lifted you above your little problem.  You have been officially elevated without any work on your part whatsoever.   Your little problem has a vibration that doesn’t match the group vibration, so your lower vibration thought or emotion just drops out.

This is OK.  Actually, it’s more than OK.  It’s a good thing.  What a gift.

So in this group setting, relieved of the issue you arrived with, you are on new and higher ground almost instantly.  You begin to tone from a more balanced place, and the experience takes you to an even more beautiful place than you ever imagined.   In fact, just by being aware, and letting go of the small  issues, you allowed yourself to rise to a new level of bliss through toning.

This is one very big advantage of toning with a group.  When you take attention off yourself, the world of positive energy, connection and upliftment opens right there before your very eyes.

And isn’t that one big reason we tone in the first place?

Yes, Absolutely!

Alone in the Rain with No Transportation

This is actually a favorite kind of day for me….

… And NO, I’m not stranded outdoors with a broken down car.

I’m home alone, no meals to fix, and nobody to tend to except already contented animals. Nothing I’m up to requires a car and I’m all cozy and warm, slippers on, with plenty of time to write, create and brainstorm. The golden beeswax candles are lit right next to me, soft lights brighten up the cloudy day and surround-sound music bathes me in my favorite rainy day albums.beeswaxcandles

The longer I’m here on this beautiful earth, the more I appreciate this kind of time. Being busy is highly over-rated. Being home writing, with a hot cup of French Roast and great music on the Bose Music System to keep me company is, well, pretty much my idea of heaven.

Sure, there is a rather hefty stack of paper staring at me that needs sorting and filing. But am I doing that?


Today is for me and my whims. When I am alone, my creative muses talk to me the most about music and making joyful sounds.

Want to know what they said today?

One of the best ways to get started with improvisational singing is to “practice it” when no one is around. You can experiment in ANY way. Go ahead. Have a wild and woolly practice session.

And here’s the thing. It doesn’t mean you necessarily practice improvisational singing. Case in point — today I chose an Opera piece that is (let’s be honest) a musical train wreck for me.
Il mio bel foco (My Joyful Ardor) by Benedetto Marcello.

It’s not an easy piece and on top of that the version of the accompaniment that came with my music book moves like lightning. Nobody who sings it well has this speed-demon accompaniment. Oh, and for strike three, it’s in Italian of course.

To listen to it, go to Youtube. Here’s a link. Spare yourself and don’t listen to the folks who sing it in their garage or for their recital. Trust me, it’s not that helpful. Listen to a singer who can actually give it a go.

If you want to get better at improvisational singing, practice something difficult for you — anything. I chose Opera today, but you could opt for a mountain bike, a skateboard, roller blades or a trampoline!! Pad yourself properly and then play like a kid. You could go play basketball, play catch with your grand daughter or find a game of beach volleyball. Why not have a dance lesson, or get up the courage to build a do-it-yourself website (argh), or make soup broth from scratch. Get in the car and drive somewhere without planning where you’re going.

Do something you’ve never done before or something that is predictably difficult for you — AND, this is important — you actually have an attraction to doing it. You want to do it.

If you practice something you’re not adept at doing, and go at it with a big dose of joy and reckless abandon, you learn about who you are — very important in improvisational singing!

You need to know YOU if you’re going to sing without a map. (More on that in a future post.)

During this “reckless abandon” project, pay attention to improvements only. Forget the “mistakes.” They mean nothing. Look for what you’re doing well and concentrate on that. Notice everything you do well and let yourself smile about it.

This is fabulous training for improvisational singing. And for life, too, for that matter.

To do anything well, it helps to be comfortable with everything about it, including mistakes and screw-ups. Make mistakes. Relax about them. Welcome them with open arms.

Long ago, I knew a Utah ski instructor who taught beginners. We’re talking newbies who somehow got railroaded into that ski vacation with friends or family. And here they were with their skis and poles and their brand new ski outfit all dressed up and scared to death.

And do you know what he taught them first and foremost on that bunny slope where we all begin?

He taught them how to fall.

I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up!

I've Fallen And I Can't Get Up!

After the falling lesson, where everybody ended up covered with snow and laughing, his students had great fun learning to ski because the worst part — the part that everyone was trying NOT to do — was over! Now they could get on with the standing up part of skiing.

Simple, yet brilliant.

This is what we’re talking about: Doing something “really wrong” or sloppily and getting it over with is liberating.

So strap on your whatevers and go attempt something ridiculously new and a tiny bit dangerous for you — and then write me and tell me all about it. I’ll be waiting with great anticipation for your report.

Inspiration — How do YOU find it?

What rings your chimes, wakes up your inner happy bells, sends you right into bliss — guaranteed?

It’s good to know that.

Pay attention — often — (like, well…. always) to what you love.  Appreciate your days.  Love your nights. Find ways to enjoy the mundane. Rise up, lift up and “float a little above this difficult world” to quote my favorite poet, Mary Oliver.

You will surely sing better, be smarter, be more aware, love more….heck, you’ll probably do everything with a little more ease and grace.

For me, one way straight to bliss is a Mary Oliver poem.  Below is a delicious sample of Mary Oliver.

“The Ponds” is from Volume One of  “New and Selected Poems” by Mary Oliver.  Go to http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=mary+oliver&x=0&y=0. All of her books will come up. At the top of that page is the author page with more information about Mary Oliver.

The Ponds
by Mary Oliver

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them —

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided —
and that one wears an orange blight —
and this one is a glossy cheek

half-nibbled away —
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing —
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.