Today I interview Lynn Skinner, an accomplished vocalist and voice coach. Skinner has performed in Colorado at venues such as the Telluride Jazz Fest, the Denver Art Museum and Boettcher Concert Hall, as well as numerous nightclubs and private functions. She has also performed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Boise, Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, New Orleans, Daytona Beach, New York, Boston, Paris, and the British Isles.
Tell us about your creative pursuits, paid and unpaid.
I have been a professional singer for over 30 years, and have been paid various amounts of money for my performances. I am an artistic, rather than commercial, performer, so my work is more challenging to “sell.” My income has wildly fluctuated.
I also have a record label and publishing company for those recording and writing projects that I try to self-publish.
As an educator and mentor, I have also been an artist-in-residence and voice coach—working with singers, actors, young adults, elders, corporate clients, women’s groups, Native Americans, and most recently, transgender women.
Do you have any formal training in your creative discipline(s)?
Here’s a confession: I have a gifted, natural singing voice. I had the opportunity to attend a music conservatory for more advanced, “formal” training. That environment scared me to death, because I did not want to confuse or contaminate my creative environment with intense competition. So, I went to a liberal arts college for a more diverse, broad-based education. I have a BA in Music, and many years of private voice study.
As a professional, I continue to attend voice trainings, music conferences, and seminars. I have also been a voice research subject for the National Center for Voice and Speech, which I add to my “formal training” curve, even though it has been on an experimental basis. I have taken many courses in creative writing, poetry, and songwriting, too.
Do you feel training is important in creative development?
Creative development is a discipline. A process. So is training. I believe that witnessing, experiencing, experimenting, learning, and integrating information and knowledge that feed the creative fire are all elements of training, whether they or not they are deemed “formal.” This ongoing educational process makes a huge impact on one’s abilities to think and work creatively.
What habits do you cultivate to facilitate your creative “flow”?
Here’s the short list: I try very hard not to hide behind too many social obligations. I do choose to spend time with other inspired friends and artists. I have a quiet studio that is separate from my living space, where my role is simply to BE in my WORK. I document my ideas and record my rehearsals. I do NOT rush.
I try to keep my fears and expectations to a minimum. Coaching has really contributed to my creative flow. I exercise daily, which helps me feel rhythmic and energetic.
What advice would you give to a “blocked” artist in your discipline to free up their creative energies?
Create a sanctuary. Breathe deeply in order to shed the toxic waste of negative thoughts. Do things that arouse inspiration and responsiveness (rather than reaction).
In the performing and songwriting world, listen to good music. Improvise on your instrument. Put new text to a familiar song. Tap into something playful.
As a writer, collect “found objects” in the world and create little vignettes about them. Read. Write a letter to yourself and send it to yourself, a la snail mail. Stop taking yourself and your marketing viability SO seriously!
Which artistic project that you are working on excites you the most right now?
As a singer, I still love to perform my “Tribute to Joni Mitchell” concert. I am also promoting more house concert opportunities. I love to share music in an intimate setting where the art, artists, and people become one. Everyone benefits. I am a sort of musical ambassador, with a passion for creating a meaningful and joyful cultural event in the comfort of a home. “Music from the Hearth” is the title of this project.
As a coach, I am thrilled to be newly working with transgender women. I combine my vocal and musical background with my love of facilitating creativity and authenticity in others. This is a perfect fit with the TG woman, whose transition is filled with risk and loneliness.
How do you select your creative projects? What elements of a potential project tend to intrigue you the most?
My creative projects tend to select me. Sometimes they are an outcrop of a recently completed project, and fester and pester me on a subconscious level (you know… like a song that will not leave your head). Sometimes I have an “aha” moment, connecting my underlying passion with a new idea. Conversations with other artists often lead to new projects.
Collaboration is always alive when a new project is crowning. I enjoy the fresh interplay with musicians and the audience. I enjoy the challenging interplay with coaching clients. Give-and-take is a beautiful exchange that fuses naturally with beginner’s mind. Most of all, I love to learn new ways of loving my work with each new project.