Why this Book?
I never thought I would have written a book on singing. Singing speaks most
eloquently for itself in real time and doesn't fall into words on paper very
easily. It is either beautiful or it isn't. If it's beautiful, words aren't
adequate. If it isn't, words about it have to be either false or cruel.
Nor did I have to write a book to keep my job. University tenure came early
and easily because I sang frequently in public. The tenure committees
considered that sufficient "publishing." That convenient decision may have
kept me from perishing emotionally as a teacher - something I fear might have
happened had I forced myself to write before I had anything important to say.
Being required to write too early in a career tempts one to be satisfied with
thoughts sufficiently non-controversial to make one's mentors happy to print
them in their dusty journals.
Moreover, textbooks leave me bored. In their attempt to cover the subject,
they seem to bleed out all of the passion and thus instead cover up
the subject's most important moments. So this is not a textbook, though into
chapters 10, 12, and 13, I do try to squeeze everything I know that helps my
students discover their beautiful voices.
I never considered publishing at all until some "mind warping" things started
to happen in my teaching and in my personal and family life, and I just
couldn't leave those things sitting in my head. This book is a collection of
those mind warps. It is autobiographical, and passionate about singing.
It deals primarily with three questions for which I have spent forty years in
search of illuminating answers:
What is it that makes singing really beautiful?
What can we do to make it more beautiful?
How does beautiful singing interact with joyful living?
Most of the chapters were published soon after they were written down either in
the NATS Journal (now Journal of Singing), the official
journal for singing teachers, or the Ensign, the official magazine of
my church. I am grateful to the editors of both for permission to reprint.
For nearly thirty years Brigham Young University has employed me to teach
singing. Without its financial support and the encouragement of its
administrators, these mind warping experiences would not have found
nurturance. Would that everyone could enjoy such blessed employment
My wife, Vivien, bearer of truth with love, and my voice teaching resource,
has helped our children, Clayne B., Erin, Minte, Lindsay, Sloan and Warren,
all singers and lovers of both good singing and good living, create a safe
haven in our musical home. This has given me the peace of mind and the
motivation to discover what I have needed to know about singing and about
My singer/teacher/physicist colleagues throughout the world - but particularly
those at Brigham Young University - have with grace and good will provided
both foil and fire to the maturation of these ideas. Those who were
particularly helpful in preparing and ratifying some of the articles for
their original publication are noted within.
Other talented people have helped me put this book together. One evening
John Snyder shot the cover photo in the sculpture garden of the Brigham
Young University Museum of Art just as it started to rain. This required
Megan Pugmire to coax her computer into removing the rain spots from my
suit. David Billings kept the computers talking to each other. Michael
Lyon crafted the "Healthy, Delicate Balance" model to dress up my awkward
chalkboard drawings discussed in chapter 7 and drew the human torso image in
chapter 12. Refusing remuneration, Jason Holt and Brett Rasmussen have
worked very hard to keep me honest, edit away my grammar mistakes and remove
much of my verbosity. Timnah Card has insisted that I follow every rule
including the one that requires commas that follow italicized words to be in
italics as well. To satisfy these friends with this book, I had to work
much harder than I had expected. I take full responsibility for any commas
that dodged scrutiny.
Thanks also must go to thousands of young, talented fellow learners - the
university students, the vocal workshop participants across the globe, the
Boy Scouts, the preparing missionaries, and, most recently, the members of
the young single adult congregation I have served as Bishop. Without the
stimulating questions their lives posed, I would have had no cause to reach
for these solutions.
I can never express sufficient gratitude for the vision and sacrifice of
Finally, I know the talents and insights reflected here come from a more