Online Singing Circle Reclaims the Lost Art of Community Music-Making

By Vanessa Willis, Staff Writer—

Despite the challenges of the past year leaving many feeling lonely or isolated, members of the Chattanooga community have found ways to keep people connected. The Chattanooga Singing Circle strives to create a community around the art of singing that connects people passionate about singing to one another. 

The group meets once a month through Zoom and is taught by Naomi Self, a certified life coach, in a call and response style of instruction. This method of instruction allows anyone to learn the music through repetition, even if they have no formal understanding. Self said that this makes the group accessible to anyone who would like to join, regardless of their experience. 

According to Self, people often tell her they can’t sing because they are insecure about their voice, but Self believes that the art of singing is for everyone. 

“It is my belief that everyone can sing and that everyone has a voice and that singing is our birthright,” she said. “We have given so much of that away in our current world to the professionals and we have become consumers of this experience of singing rather than entering into spaces where we can sing in community together.” 

Most people who attend the singing circle are not professional singers, they are just people who enjoy singing and are seeking out a shared experience among like-minded individuals. Self believes that the singing circle can be a place of healing, where people can connect themselves to their voice. 

“Singing touches the most vulnerable parts of who we are and a lot of people have a lot of healing to do around using their voice,” Self said. “Singing circle is the perfect place to bring the hurt or the places where people have been quieted and allow that voice to begin to be free.” 

Self believes that one of the greatest things to come out of this group is the amount of people she has witnessed work through grief or loss through song. 

“Everyone walks in the door with things that may or may not be spoken, and there is something about music, specifically the kinds of songs that we sing, that give access to deeper spaces in our inner worlds.” Self said. 

The kinds of songs sung in this group are from a diverse background. Self is dedicated to providing her students with indiginous, folk, and foreign-language songs, as well as songs written by community writers. The goal is to teach new types of music that participants otherwise may have never heard before.

Throughout the year, Self has faced a few challenges due to Covid-19. The group used to be held in person, and despite the benefits of privacy and singing in your own home provided through Zoom, she is still eager to meet with her group face-to-face again. 

“It is not ideal for this experience because so much of what happens when we are singing together is because of the energy and resonance of voices in the same room.” Self said. 

For more information on the Chattanooga Singing Circle, visit https://www.yourselfservices.com/chattanooga-singing-circle.html

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