Patterns, Sound, and Surprises: Client Interview #1

This is the first of a series of blog posts based on interviews with voice coaching clients.  I am consistently astonished at how working with opening a person’s full voice affects other aspects of their lives.  Their stories touch me deeply.

Michael Bailey (her real name) is a spitfire – a brilliant painter, voluble conversationalist, and fearless lifelong seeker.  Though she is physically petite, her effervescent presence fills the room.

Here are excerpts from my conversation with her several weeks ago.

Barbara:  Tell me about how you experience our work together?

Michael:  Every time I’m with you, there’s huge permission to express myself.  Giving a person that experience, no matter who they are, offers them a touchstone for being able to go out and express in the world – in writing, speaking, music, whatever.

I thought I was coming here to learn how to sing a little better.  You started by asking me why I came.  When I answered your question, I was surprised to hear myself say that I wanted my creativity to express itself in a bigger way than ever before.  I thought, “Wow, what a great idea!”

After a few sessions with you, I did start singing with more confidence and pleasure.  But the big bonanza was this:  I sat down and started writing a novel.  A novel!  I’ve never written fiction – just a few short self-help pieces here are there.  And writing in this new way was the easiest thing I’d ever done.  It was like watching a movie and writing it down.  The pages just kept coming.  I see this novel as a direct expression of my work with you.

Barbara;  Tell me about your life as a visual artist.

Michael:  Creativity defines my interest in life. Curiosity has brought me to my spirit.

After pondering and wondering and experimenting with art for years, I had a sudden breakthrough in my mid-twenties.  I started making art that didn’t resemble anything I’d done before.  I drew the patterns that made up nature – the energy that’s underneath nature.

Years later a guy at an art show told me I was drawing fractals.  Later I discovered what they are – the macro- and microscopic patterns that run through all forms of life.  I figured out that I started drawing them about the same time they were being discovered by scientists. How about that!

Barbara:  It strikes me that the work you’ve been doing with patterns in your art all these years has prepared you to embrace the work with your voice.  Both are about patterns.  You work with patterns in your painting using color and shape.  Our voice coaching work explores those same patterns through sound.

When you came to this work with me, you brought your facility with patterns along with you.  And the self-trust you developed through years as a practicing artist prepared you for this experience of opening a new voice in your creativity.  Even though the form – fiction – was completely new to you, you knew enough about the creative process to jump on the wave and ride it.

Michael:  That’s right. And your sincerity and love made me feel safe in expressing whatever showed up.  Your spirit read my spirit.  You joined hands with me and off we went!

Here are some of Michael’s paintings.


About Barbara McAfee

Barbara is a voice coach, singer/songwriter, keynote speaker, and author who merges lessons from 12 years in organization development with the transformational power of sound. Her book, Full Voice: The Art & Practice of Vocal Presence (Berrett-Koehler Publishers) was a #1 Amazon bestseller in Business Communication. The book is based on her 25 years as a voice coach, supporting people from many professions in learning how to access the full power and expression of the voice in service to their work and relationships. Barbara’s musical keynotes blend practical content, sophisticated humor, and thought-provoking questions on topics including voice, leadership, and engagement. She was “the band” for Margaret Wheatley’s Women’s Leadership Revival Tour, which visited 15 North American cities. She also appears with authors Parker Palmer and Peter Block. Barbara has produced seven CD's of mostly original music and is founder of the Morning Star Singers, a volunteer hospice choir in the Twin Cities. She lives across the street from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
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