“Losing My Voice, Finding My Artistry: Creativity, Healing, and Post-Traumatic Growth”
In 2013, at the outset of my professional career, I was diagnosed with bilateral vocal cord paresis, which accounted for my sudden inability to sing, burning throat muscle pain, and lack of power in my voice. My vocal struggles, though acute at this time, were not entirely new: I traced back their origins to an episode of sexual violence ten years prior that still haunted me. I knew that the trauma was linked to my paresis, and I knew that I could regain my vocal strength if I could process what happened to me through my singing voice—and not just through my speaking voice. I began a long process of body inquiry, guided by my understanding of Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book The Body Keeps the Score and trying dozens of body-based and manual therapies, as well as new singing teachers. In fall 2019, I premiered The Processing Series at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, which was the culmination of six years of non-linear, exhilarating, heart-breaking work. Though the four-part series was interrupted by the pandemic and only two shows premiered on stage, what I gained in the end was not only my ability to sing—and stronger than ever—but I was now truly an artist: free of people-pleasing, able to say no and set boundaries, and trusting my intuitive, non-rational senses—which are creativity; which is healing. In this talk I will:
- Outline my process and the questions, materials, and individuals that guided it;
- Talk about my most important breakthroughs (emotional, physical, and artistic);
- Show clips of the series premiere at National Sawdust, focusing on a piece I commissioned from composer Eve Beglarian called She Gets to Decide.
Lucy Dhegrae is a singer committed to changing and challenging how vocal music is perceived, performed and programmed. Hailed as an “adventurous mezzo-soprano” and “raconteur” (The New Yorker) known for her “vocal versatility and an omnivorous curiosity” (The New York Times), she moves easily between a broad variety of styles, and can be found “everywhere new music is being sung” (New York Classical Review). Dhegrae is also the founder and director of the boundary-pushing Resonant Bodies Festival (2013-2021), which was praised by The New York Times as “an annual highlight [that] gives some of the world’s most adventurous vocal artists full freedom.”
Dhegrae was the 2018 recipient of University of Michigan School of Music’s Emerging Artist Award, and among the first cohort of fellows with Turn the Spotlight, a new mentorship program for young professionals. She has taught at SoundSCAPE (Cesena, Italy), Banff Centre (Alberta, Canada), and Bard College Conservatory’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program; and has been invited to present lectures at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, CUNY’s Graduate Center, NYU, Peabody Conservatory, and William Paterson University. Since 2013 she has been a public speaker with RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, sharing her story of vocal loss and trauma recovery.