Davin Youngs Interview for Somatic Voicework Newsletter
Hi Davin, thanks so much for taking the time to meet with us today.
You recently took a sabbatical from your private teaching studio. What can you tell us about that experience and where it has led you?
I love teaching singing, but if I’m being honest, doing it for 15 years independently and then for the last six, building it as a business had taken its toll. At the beginning of 2018 I found myself tired in a different way than I had experienced before. The best way I know to describe it is to say that my soul felt tired.
After some deep contemplation and counsel from friends and professionals, I decided that I needed some time away from the private teaching space. It was a very scary decision as an independent practitioner because I feared losing the business I had worked so hard to grow. I also knew it was what I had to do. So, in June of 2018 I stopped teaching privately with the intention of returning back to my work in September.
What followed were some of the most uncertain and exciting months of my adult life. At first I felt quite lost with the time I had suddenly acquired, but after a while I was able to establish new creative habits around singing and music making. In addition, I traveled, studied, caught up with friends and just generally rested.
It is now January of 2019 and sparing all the details, I find myself on a totally different and exciting path where I am exploring a new balance of singing more, teaching differently and pursuing a passion I’ve unearthed for using singing and sound as a tool for meditation and healing.
Can you tell us more about your work in sound meditation and healing? How did this come to be an artistic focus?
Anyone who sings, knows that making sustained sound can profoundly impact one’s life. Further, if you teach singing, you’ve witnessed the ways in which exploration of the voice and sound can facilitate growth and change beyond singing. The voice is a giant mirror that reflects deep truths within each of us. I’m no stranger to this as a singer or as a teacher. The whole thing is paradoxical, mysterious and also based in science.
Because of my personal experience in this arena I’ve wanted to continue to find ways to create while bringing others into a fuller experience of themselves through singing and sound. I’ve worked for years to do that in the private studio, but this year I found myself committed to exploring how I could do it as a singer, guide and artist.
I am deeply committed to the art of improvised singing and have studied it with a beautiful teacher named Rhiannon. It is through that work that I began to explore improvised singing with electronic looping while folding in instruments that are historically associated with healing. Because I love to dance and I love a beat, I also explored integrating electronic beats into my work. It was a circuitous path, but I found myself in my studio creating meditative sound experiences that uniquely brought together all of these elements. It wasn’t like anything I had heard before and so I became anxious and excited to share it with the world.
I offered my first sound healing and meditation experience earlier this year to positive response and have since traveled around the US and Canada doing something similar, while offering workshops and teaching.
It’s a truly unexpected expression, but it feels right and now for me.
You also host Chicago Circle Singing and are the creator of VOXUS, a team building experience that uses improvised singing in corporate settings. What can you tell us about those ventures?
When I discovered Somatic Voicework™ I began a long and intense journey of transforming my voice and my teaching. After completing all three levels and working privately with Jeanie for about two years, I had a strong urge to JUST SING! That summer, I found myself at the Omega Institute with Bobby McFerrin for his Circlesongs workshop. This experience introduced me to the world of improvised singing in community and I was absolutely hooked.
I immediately returned home and started Chicago Circle Singing, a group that gathers as many as four times a month to sing in spontaneous song.
Further, I was so gaga about how this work quickly and deeply connected groups I people, that I became curious what might happen if I was able to take it into the most unexpected of settings... the corporate arena. A year and a half later, I created VOXUS and found myself working with incredible companies and organizations like Coca-Cola and Chicago Public Schools.
I honestly find improvised singing to be the fastest way to get a group to connect on the deepest of levels. Singing is vulnerable, but when you add the element of improvisation, all walls are immediately torn down and the spirit seems to move. Further, anyone with a voice, regardless of skill can immediately participate. It’s some sort of magic.
If you’ve been at SVW training in Baldwin Wallace the last two summers you’ve gotten a brief taste of the experience. It’s a really beautiful thing.
You are a prominent figure in Chicago’s vocal pedagogy community, what is it that makes Chicago’s creative scene so special?
I feel so fortunate to be in this city making music and teaching. It truly offers the best challenges and conveniences a big city can. If you are willing to roll up your sleeves and make things happen, this is the place for DIY. Moreover, we have access to some of the greatest talent in the world, with a bit less of the competitive edge that you’d find in other cities.
I would hard pressed to be able to do everything I’ve done if I weren’t in this incredible city.
As a teacher, Chicago has afforded the privilege of working with some incredible artists from this area in all genres. From hip hop, to gospel, to R&B to punk, the singers in Chicago are gifted and willing!
(Davin and Tim McIlrath of Rise Against)
When did you first meet Jeanie LoVetri and what has Jeanie’s work/Somatic Voicework™ done for you as both a teacher and a singer?
The answer is either 30 seconds or a half an hour, so I’ll opt for the short version and offer that I’d be happy to share the long version with anyone who would inquire.
(Davin after level III in 2014)
I met Jeanie at Oberlin in January of 2014. This is our 5th year anniversary of knowing one another. Meeting Jeanie that snowy weekend at my alma mater pointed my life toward a more noble and exciting journey. That single master class immediately set me on an obsessive path of finding my most free and authentic voice and becoming my most whole person. I’m still on that journey and plan to continue to travel the winding road throughout my life. I owe and incredible debt of gratitude to Jeanie and Somatic Voicework helping me sing with authenticity, giving me my success as a teacher and changing me as a human.
This work is transformative, if you’re ready for it to be.
(Jeanie and Davin in 2018)
What’s on the horizon for you?
You know, I’m still trying to figure that out exactly.
I can say that I am earnestly seeking balance.
I’m traveling quite a bit, offering sound meditation experiences, teaching workshops and leading improvised singing gatherings.
I’ve begun teaching again with a much smaller load of students, trying to dedicate increased time with clients whom I really connect and are on board for this work. This feels amazing!
I’m also working hard to keep my creative tank full and be out in the world making music and art that brings beauty, transformation and change.
Oh, I am also the music director at Grace Chicago Church and I am just finishing up an album I produced for the community. It is full of songs that we sing and perform as a community, many of which I wrote. I am very proud of it and look forward to its release in March!
It’s a beautiful life, isn’t it? Especially when we sing.