Professional opera singer and musical expert Helen Astrid discusses how the latest research in music can transform human performance and wellbeing. Magnet Monster (MM): Helen, thank you for sharing your expertise with us. To give our readers a quick primer, can you share your background and what you currently offer as a service?
Helen: I trained as a professional opera singer at the Royal Academy of Music. It was a grueling schedule ~ we all used to joke that it was like training to be a doctor as it was an intense six-year apprentice. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. We learned a solid vocal technique together with many different skills from stagecraft, dance, movement, languages, musicianship, harmony, orchestral analysis and music theory and all at a mind-boggling level. I won a scholarship, so I knew this was my vocation. I had no idea where it would take me though.
My career has morphed from being a stage animal singing with English National Opera, Garsington Opera Festival and appearing in Phantom of the Opera to appearing on chat shows with Paul O’Grady to now training others whether individually, in choirs or large groups of business people. Essentially, it’s about getting in touch with oneself on a deeper more meaningful level.
I set up Corporate Singing Workshops after British Airways hired me in the early 90s to run some team-building events using singing to bring people together. It helped staff deal with change and uncertainty (something we all have to address at some point), and it also allowed the participants to create something fresh, new and exciting.
Since then, my business has snowballed. I’ve got some outstanding colleagues from the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne Festival Opera, and together we run singing sessions throughout the UK and Europe. I’m lucky to have such a superb network!MM: You have specifically studied singing in relation to human performance. Can you share some insights on what you've found and how this may be applied in the workplace to increase productivity and results?
Helen: Interesting question. The techniques we use in music and opera are similar to the skills required in business. Whether you’re a musician or running an organisation, each must each find ways to create and innovate and to deal with change. Both seek to create value and must compete to succeed. These similarities enable learning by watching the ways of the other; how we listen, communicate and cooperate with others and how we use our imagination and create or solve problems.
If your staff are healthier and happier, the chances are they will be more productive. Earlier this year, studies were undertaken at Leicester University to address workplace stress and singing was one activity that reduced stress and anxiety by a staggering 96 per cent. So, by improving morale, you are transforming your staff and therefore your business!MM: Away from business for a second, you've also explored singing and its benefits for relaxation, even drawing comparisons with its benefits in a similar way to yoga. Can you tell us more about this?
Helen: Music has immense healing powers and depending on what we’re singing or listening to, it affects our mood, behaviour and performance. When we sing, we breath more deeply and oxygenate our lungs more; with regular deep breathing exercises, you will reap the benefits. Incidentally, singing is the only activity which uses the whole of the brain unlike playing the piano or studying for an exam or speaking six languages. That in itself is fascinating.
Let’s go back to the Greek philosophers ~ even Plato advised of certain types of music to induce relaxation. We can learn so much for these great thinkers and philosophers. He said, ‘Music gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind and flight to the imagination’.
In my opinion, singing is utterly transformational.MM: Lastly, how can somebody contact you for work and to learn more about your services?
Call my mobile 07710 245 904 or email info[at]corporatesingingworkshops.com and you’ll have a response within 24 hours.
Do check out the website www.corporatesingingworkshops.com