No man—or woman—is an island. No matter how successful or powerful someone is, there is no way they can do everything on their own. However, too often, we shut people out and do not allow them to support us. But, what would happen if we allowed others to come alongside us?
In this episode, Elena talks with Ann Baltz. Ann is a social justice powerhouse, a vocal advocate for musical improvisation, and the director of Opera Works, an incredible training program for opera singers. Through their conversation, Elena and Ann highlight the importance of vulnerability, understanding, and connection as we all strive to support each other.
Opening Up to Healing
Healing can only take place if a wound is exposed. It requires vulnerability, trust, and commitment. Ann beautifully opens people’s wounds and pains through music so they can find healing, connection, and purpose. Opera Works, the program she runs to teach opera singers, is focused on training the entire person, so that their music and performances are infused with their identities and emotions.
In order to accomplish this, Ann incorporates innovative techniques and physical activity into the program, because, as she says, “If the body is locked up, then the voice is going to be locked up and the soul is going to be locked up… When you unlock those physical barriers, a lot of tears happen, but it's beautiful when people sing from that place of openness in their heart and their soul.”
Classically trained musicians are taught to approach music without much room for creative expression, as the prevailing thought is that there is a right way and a wrong way to perform a piece. This limitation can often lead people to eventually drop out of the musical world.
In Ann’s experience, whenever she would play a piece on the piano, her piano teacher would stop and correct her, without encouragement for the ways she performed the piece correctly. Instead of taking this approach, Ann always provides her students with a balance of positive and constructive feedback. She also ensures that there is abundant room for creative expression, so they can be vulnerable, emotionally aware, and open with themselves and others.
Just Do Good: Understanding Each Other and Celebrating Our Differences
Ann’s approach to training musicians applies to leadership and the world in general. After all, how can you connect with who you are if you are tense all the time? How can you heal if you do not allow your broken parts to be exposed?
Furthermore, if someone believes another person is waiting for them to do something wrong or offend them, there cannot be vulnerability or a true connection between them.
Ann has a powerful, two-pronged solution to these barriers:
- Understand that people need community. People must have a place where they belong and are connected with others, which requires openness.
- Recognize that everyone wants to contribute to the world and do something significant with their lives. Consequently, people need encouragement and support to accomplish those desires.
This perspective can encourage us to disrupt the current narrative of division, as we seek to understand and support each other.
Through Opera Works, Ann can lay the groundwork for connection by producing unique shows that are presented by her students about current issues, such as homelessness, immigration, technology, and more. Her strategy is to bring awareness to current issues, rather than presenting only one side. She requires every student to research their character’s perspective and background, so they can develop deeper knowledge of the issue and of the people who are involved. By presenting both sides to her students and the audience, Ann intends to broaden people’s understanding, so that they can have open discussions and move forward together.
The Disruption: As community-oriented as she is, Ann is also passionate about acknowledging the individual. Her dream is to ensure that the education system acknowledges each student’s contributions to the class. In her program, she uses the Socratic Method, which is a teaching philosophy that asks questions, encourages students to think critically, and initiates constructive conversations.
Through open engagement and a focus on emotional connection, Ann creates a way for her students to recognize similarities in others. “I would love for people not to focus on the differences,” she says, “but, rather the similarities. [We should] celebrate the differences and learn from one another.”
Truly, Ann is vibrantly living out her mission: To just do good.
Weekly Coaching Tip
Solopreneurs are those who do it all by themselves… but does anyone truly run a business on their own?
Running a business takes a massive amount of support and requires a team. If you’re a solopreneur, you need to ask yourself a few vulnerable questions.
- Where are you keeping people out?
- Are there partnerships that you could develop you’ve been resistant to because you think you’re a one-person show?
- Is there support that you can allow that would make your job easier?
- What would be possible if you let yourself have more support than you’ve ever had?
Most people who build successful empires and are groundbreaking leaders have much more support than anyone can imagine. They need others to fill in the gaps for them, come alongside them, and help them do what they need to do in order to thrive. Most importantly, they are open and honest with themselves and with others when they receive the support they need.
What areas do you think you need more support?
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This podcast was produced by the following amazing team:
John Biethan, President of Imagine Podcasting
Sam De Santo, Creative Director
Rye Taylor, Podcast Design Strategist & Producer
Meg McCarley, Brand Designer & Social Media Manager
Raejan Noh, Business Writer