The old one-dimensional female archetypes -- the soccer mom, the starving artist, the successful-but-lonely boss lady -- are dead. Women are creating new, multidimensional archetypes and defying stereotypes. The most fulfilled women are constantly creating in multiple areas of their lives, whereas burnout often happens when we feel like the routine of our day job is all we have time for. The Archetypal Woman Series is a tribute to inspiring women who rearrange time and space to explore and excel in a range of activities. May their stories encourage you to expand into your own uniqueness for the benefit of you and everyone in your orbit.
Editor's note: Musician Jenee Halstead has been making her own art for years (you can listen to her on Spotify). More recently, she founded Inner Song, where she offers vocal coaching to aspiring singers as well as business leaders who want to improve their public speaking skills. With a scientific approach, and a deep appreciation for the human need to sing, Jenee helps people find their voice. ~ Mary Margaret
When did you decide to become a musician?
Around age five. I just came in knowing what I wanted to do. From the time I can remember, I wanted to be a singer and an entertainer. I remember my dad would play all these great musicians: The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, James Brown, Cindy Lauper (the list goes on forever) and I just thought “this is it. This is what I want to do for my life.”
My dad bought me a Fisher Price record player and the original Annie soundtrack and he said he knew I was good when he couldn’t tell the difference between the record and my voice. I think that is a funny way of saying “you are really good at this.”
How did you get the idea for Inner Song, your vocal coaching business?
Inner Song had been rattling around my noggin for a decade throughout my thirties. I kept trying to figure out where I could marry singing with opening the fifth chakra up. I also wanted it to cross over with some sort of scientific voice or speech language study and academic rigor. I am always one for trying to prove the spiritual and energetic with science. So I can say “Ha! Told you so!”
I wanted to teach people the connection between the power that singing has to heal not only ourselves, but others. I saw a much larger benefit that singing has to empower individuals to express heart-centered emotion, to change brain patterning and neural connectivity (lots of great research coming out now on the complexities of the benefits of music not only for performers but also for listeners), to help people understand the mind/body connection and to help individuals become more powerful and confident.
I was also thoroughly convinced that anyone could sing, but I wasn’t sure how. I didn’t have the scientific data or understanding of how or why. I just had a deep intuitive hunch in my gut that I wanted to explore.
Why do you think so many of us are afraid to sing, or feel like we don’t have a good voice?
Well for one, we put people who are innately gifted with singing on a pedestal. Actually, we see this in all fields across the board. If you aren’t a pro dancer you shouldn’t pursue dance, if you aren’t a pro ball player in the NBA you should just stop playing. If you don’t already know how to use this complex instrument with absolute perfection then you shouldn’t do it! It is such a crazy and actually really harmful narrative!
The power of societal suggestion or straight up shaming at an early age is profoundly damaging. I can’t tell you how many times I hear from an adult that tells me they loved to sing when they were young until somebody made fun of them. From that day forward they never sang again.
It breaks my heart because the voice doesn’t really fully develop for most people until after puberty and if they get made fun of during puberty (a time that is already emotionally difficult for many young people), it can really just shut the voice down for the rest of someone’s life.
I just want to scream it from the rooftops: “the voice is going through massive change during this time!” Even the female voice, which does not change as rapidly or as obviously as the male voice, is going through significant adjustments in the larynx that result in the voice possibly not sounding its best or strongest. It’s a phase and as soon as the hormones settle out, the physical changes also settle.
If you top that off with some good ol’ fashioned teenage rejection, or worse (and I have heard this countless times) a choir teacher that tells you you should not sing out, you have a recipe for internalized shame surrounding a student’s voice that they may never recover from. When I hear about educators shutting down students in this way it literally makes me want to kick down a door. It pisses me off so much. It robs a person of a lifetime of potential joy and connectivity to the self and others with singing.
There are now countless scientific benefits to group singing and to singing in general, from synced group heart rate (group resonance) to increased feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine. Educators need to take much more responsibility for how they address students at this delicate phase of life...but I digress.
The other factor that plays into the fear of singing is the development of inner ear and any injury that may have occurred to hearing. The ears can shut down psychologically and energetically from the trauma of being made fun of as a child or from physical blockages or damage to the middle ear from early childhood infections, or taking a blow to the ear during sports. Any kind of scarring to the ear canal or damage to the delicate filaments of the inner ear can create enough of a block to hearing for someone to not know whether or not they are singing in tune or well. But this can be worked with and opened up through special scales and proprioceptive awareness.
And last, but not least, exploring the vocal tract (the area from the vocal folds up through to the lips and tip of the tongue) can be very frightening to open up if it is something you aren’t familiar with. The musculature of the vocal tract gets developed early on once a child starts speaking in its primary language.
I believe that all language creates a set of psychological, physiological, biological and emotional traits in a person that affect how they communicate and sing. Opening up the jaw, the lips or the voice to an outward and potentially loud vocal projection can feel overwhelming and in some ways inappropriate or really vulnerable.
Is singing an innate talent, or can those of us who don’t necessarily have a naturally strong voice become talented singers with practice?
I truly believe anyone can sing. There is a very small percentage of the global population that cannot recognize tone. They are considered medically tone deaf.
The rest of the population may be dealing with gradations of tone issues that I believe are about training the inner ear to hear pitch accurately and also working with the larynx and vocal tract (and the entire body actually) to learn how to expand the range of the voice, improve the pitch and timbre and to gain proprioceptive awareness of how one’s own body resonates this tone back to them and what that feels like.
This of course takes time, but can come on line very quickly if you are working with a vocal coach. I have worked with students who started with a four-note range that are now singing an octave and a half to two octave. Most of this really comes down to just not knowing how the apparatus works and therefore assuming it’s broken.
Could you imagine not understanding how a cell phone works and someone hands you this advanced technology with no formal background or education as to what it is and how one can use it? I know this seems like a silly analogy, but the voice box, which I call your “miraculous walnut” is a very advanced piece of technology that most people do not fully understand or wield responsibly...but that is a diatribe for another time.
Do you think the explosion of thyroid problems in women today has anything to do with our closed throat chakras--in other words, our unwillingness or inability to sing?
I think the explosion of thyroid issues has to do with several factors: the massive amounts of heavy metal poisoning that is happening on a grand scale all over the world through industry, mining and pesticide sprays as well as viruses such as Epstein Barr that have been linked to thyroid issues.
On top of all of this, and maybe actually at the root, is the disempowerment in the fifth chakra and the lack of support and belief in women being able to speak their truth.
I think first and foremost it comes down to a disempowerment with the word and communication. That all centers around the fifth chakra where the thyroid sits. I think an unwillingness to sing just goes hand in hand with this feeling of disempowerment around authentic communication and I believe the anecdote to this IS singing.
I have seen time and again how powerful it is to open the voice up to the true sound of the self. To the unfiltered, unmitigated sound current that comes out of one's soul and body. This takes a lot of courage to explore and to sit in. I truly believe the world will change and health around thyroid-related diseases will change when women start to heal their relationship with their authentic expression of self.
The word is a manifesting tool. Sound is a manifestor. To make the word known, to speak your truth into existence creates a massive impact. Even if the results we are hoping for aren’t immediately what we desire or the world isn’t ready to hear what we have to say, that doesn’t mean it does not have global impact. It does. None of it goes unnoticed in the unified field and in the akasha.
How can voice lessons with you help public speakers become more effective communicators?
In voice lessons, we learn how to use the entire body as the communication and expression instrument. It’s not just about learning to use the voice. Part of the reason public speaking is so frightening is because it deals with two of the biggest fears: fear of being ridiculed and fear of feeling out of control with our bodies (when we go into what is called fight or flight).
Through lessons, we begin to understand what it takes to manage the rush of energy that comes with being in front of a crowd. We often cannot totally control the hormones that trip the fight or flight response, but we can work with them in advance and prepare ourselves for how to respond while on stage.
When we prepare beforehand mentally, physically and emotionally to understand our alignment with our true, powerfully engaged sound and current message, we can start to lead with that.
Many people I work with find they are disembodied when they first start public speaking. This is because they have gone straight into the fight or flight mechanism and don’t know how to get themselves into a place where they can convey their message or speech while feeling embodied. Then they start to judge how they are feeling in the back of their minds while also trying to give a speech!
Many speakers can make it through a speech, but they don’t remember how and they didn’t enjoy themselves (and they want to). Through opening up the voice, warming up the breath and some small, but valuable, exercises to ground ourselves, we can prepare the body for a cascade of cortisol that could trip the adrenals on stage. By getting into the feeling of this and allowing the body to do what it needs (and potentially coming back into recovery) we can use nerves to ride a very big wave of energy and turn it into a life-changing speech for the listener.
What creative projects have you been working on lately?
Right now I am slowly releasing my fifth album called Disposable Love, which will come out this fall. The second single, “I’ll Be Your Man,” will be out on Monday, March 23rd.
I am starting to release mantra tracks, which will likely be under my spiritual name Bhakti Kirtan Kaur. Those will begin to come out in the spring and later into the year.
I am looking to rebrand and repivot my business to serve women and femme-identified entrepreneurs and leaders to help prepare them through empowering their voice for stepping into bigger roles and leadership positions. Right now, we need female problem solving, products and leadership more than ever. I find there is a direct relationship to opening up the voice and the body and making oneself seen and heard in the world.
This is the Archetypal Woman Series, where I’m interested in speaking with women who are bringing forth new archetypes. How would you describe the archetype you’re bringing onto the planet?
I think I am bringing forth a new archetype of the empowered artist. One that is healthy, fully aligned with who they are, in their most honest and unique expression and empowered by what they are offering the world.
I also believe that my teachings around the voice and the entire body as a profound and powerful instrument for the expression of the soul is a new archetype for viewing the voice. The marriage of yogic vocal practices, vocal science and the more esoteric or spiritual