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Lisa Townsend talks about the power of your inner and outer voice

Jun 11, 2022

I met Lisa Townsend in a business mastermind and I’m so happy that she’s agreed to be a guest on this podcast. Lisa is a music therapist and she talks about how she creates joy for herself and for others through music. Lisa helps people listen to their inner voices to make the decisions that feel right to them and to use their physical voice to express their wishes and boundaries. Lisa tells beautiful stories that she’s experienced in her work and she shares how you can use your voice too - whether you dare yet or not. Let’s dive right in, enjoy. : )

Lisa introduces herself as being a board certified music therapist, a sister, a daughter and an auntie of three boys. She works with kids at school and she offers group voice coachings and 1:1 voice mentorship. “My passion is music”, Lisa sums up. 

“Music is a source of joy for me”, Lisa

In her vocal coaching, Lisa works primarily with women who have felt disempowered with their voice at some point. “People tell us we’re too loud, too noisy, too quiet, we don’t speak up…”. Lisa uses the joy of singing as a creative means to practice what it’s like to become emboldened by your voice, to discover your voice, to find a way to express your voice outside of public speaking which can be so scary.

“Anytime when you feel nervous about sharing your words or sharing yourself with others, find a way to check in with your voice, check in with your breath and really trust your instrument, we do that through singing”, Lisa says. In the past years she also started writing custom songs for people. 

“My passion is my profession”, Lisa

Lisa says that she grew up singing, Her grandmother was a barber shop singer - that’s a 4 part harmony, often acapella, that was often practiced in the 1930’s, 19400s - she’s now 92 and she still sings. Lisa remembers that music was always around, her grandmother played piano and her father played the guitar. 

I grew up with four other families and I remember that one neighbor never sang on Christmas. When I asked him why, he said that in school the teacher told him that he should just move his lips, because he can’t sing. That is so terrible. And that’s exactly what Lisa is working against.

“The foundation for music is the ability to be able to hear something before you can produce the sound. You have to be able to hear it and then you can sing it”, Lisa

Lisa says, if we can hear it, we can usually produce it. There is only so much breath to hit a note, that’s why people think they can’t sing, but you can change how you access your voice. Most choir teachers aren’t singers, their music educators. Their job is to teach you the foundation of music from an educational standpoint and they want you to all be in tune, they want you to sound good. They’re not going to help a child that is missing a tone, they’re going to tell them to zip it up and that is detrimental.

Lisa works for all the people who have been told to stand in the back or to play the drums or don’t sing.

“Joy comes in lots of forms, for me it’s through the music and through singing, other people just don’t connect that way but I do think that we all connect to music in our own way”, Lisa says and adds: “Singing brings up emotions, it can be really uncomfortable. It’s touching a place beyond words. For the people that work with me that is our superpower. We say we want to use this creative tool to access those parts”.

“What initially brings joy to me is being in community, connecting through music, that’s where it all started and that’s where it is today too”, Lisa

When did you decide to do music for a business?

Lisa tells the story of her choir teacher in high school that everybody adored. Lisa wanted to be like him in many ways, so she researched the college that he went to and started studying music education. Lisa soon realized that this wasn’t her thing. “ I love music and I love children, but where is the fun stuff?” It was hard for Lisa to read notes but she loved improvising and so Lisa’s journey went from studying music education for one semester to eventually becoming a music therapist, where Lisa found true joy: “It’s never the black and white on the paper, it’s like what does it feel like to put this beat into your body, what’s the sensation that it brings, so much of my work is that somatic piece”. 

Watching music therapy in action, Lisa realized that they’re using music as a tool to get to language, as a tool to get to building social skills, as a tool to building fine motor skills and that’s where she was hooked. 

“My journey happened kind of by accident but also by following what sparked joy and knowing what didn’t. There’s nothing wrong with that, I think that challenge is there for a reason, listen to your intuition and make a pivot and see what else is available”, Lisa

That’s life, we don’t have to take the straight path. What brings me joy? This no, this yes. That’s why my work is called “Joy is your Compass”. If joy is your compass, it will lead to a life with more joy, fun, clarity, bliss and everyone around benefits as well!

Lisa tells of one example that she experienced. On a day where Lisa had lunch plans with a friend, she just felt that something was off. Lisa decided to spend the day alone and on that same day received sad news. Lisa says that had she been with her friend, it would have been the wrong place to receive that news. She can’t name what it was, but something just didn’t feel right, it didn’t feel good, it didn’t resonate and it didn’t bring her joy. “I knew, there’s something I feel off and I can’t name it. That’s an honor, that’s hard to do. Those are hard moments and yet my friend was fine and I was in the space that I needed to be for what happened in the afternoon. But I can’t name that, that’s the intangible”.

For me that’s doing life on a higher level.

“We get taught to not listen to our inner voice all life long”, Ronja

You don’t need a lie, you don’t need a reason when you just don’t feel like it. I don’t mean that you should be rude or disrespectful, it’s a fine line between being egoistic and being true to yourself, that’s training too. It’s all about finding out how life works best for you. 

“I think that’s where our work overlaps. we’re allowing people to have those moments of reflection or giving them permission to take time for that reflection and truly honor what they need in the moment and not the needs of others”, Lisa says about both our works. 

“There’s times where honoring yourself means that you're not showing up. If I can’t show up in the present, then my time with you isn’t what you would want anyway”, Lisa

It’s not always clear. Sometimes you have to practice it to feel the decision-muscle and then name it. “I’m speaking with integrity, I’m acting with integrity, I’m choosing something that’s gonna bring me some joy and I’m not gonna feel bad about it, because I’m important and the people that I spend time with are important also”, Lisa says. That’s why she wants to show up fully, when she shows up. 

Next time, before you say yes, give yourself a little time to tune into your true feelings and then decide if you want to say yes or no.

Lisa’s work is currently shifting “to those who need to retrain not only their outer voice, but the inner voice. Your inner voice knew the answer and then all the other things came into place. I don’t judge the moments where we speak out of alignment or out of resonance, but if you can check in and say “I knew the answer, so why did I say yes when I meant no”, if we can have that reflection, it helps inform anything else that comes after”.

“The more you learn about your own voice, the more you hear yourself, the more you can tap into your inner voice”
, Lisa 

“Listening to your inner voice starts with hearing it”, Lisa 

“You don’t have to be loud to be somebody”, Ronja 

There are so many parts of life where people put you in a box. We talk quite a while about learning differences and about how we all experience the world so differently. 

We talk about school education (why is math still more important than singing?) and Lisa says that we’re often not taught the “why”. This is where our work comes into play. You have those answers inside of you and we can help guide you with questions to help come to those answers yourself. 

“I don’t care as much about the note as much as I care about the emphasis on the word that I want”, Lisa

Lisa’s transformation to a music therapist actually happened through writing customized lullabies: “Adults not feeling comfortable with their voice in front of others, that is understandable, but with their own children?” Lisa asked herself. To encourage their voices Lisa started writing lullabies that were simple, accessible and in the parent’s own words. 

“Some people have a very natural ability for singing, but everyone needs practice and training”, Lisa

Lisa tells a beautiful story about a boy who had a stroke before he was born. As a result it was difficult for him to express words. Lisa and his mother wrote a song with affirmations that encouraged him to use his voice and they built in an echo so that he could sing along. “The song was the way into his brain but then he translated it and was able to use it”, Lisa remembers.

When Lisa does one-to-one work with clients, one of the first things she does is, set an intention for the session. “What can we do to help imprint that intention in your voice in a new way?”. 

Realizing how powerful this is, Lisa built a vocal membership where members  meet every Monday morning, to make it accessible to more people. They start the week with a voice activation exercise and set an intention too. “That has been a real joy taking this work to more people”. 

“There’s a power in hearing other people sing your intention back to you”, Lisa 

“That’s the embodiment of playfulness: No one way is the right way, the way that I use the music embodies the sense of joy. We follow what brings us excitement, that means we can go off-book, that means we can do things differently than our culture, than our family, than our partners do and take an opportunity to recognize what brings us the most joy”
, Lisa 

Lisa’s message to the world

I think it’s really important to trust your voice, there’s lots of ways to access that and there’s lots of ways we talked about it. Whether it’s your physical voice, whether it’s your inner voice, I just think your voice is the most important instrument you have and it’s always with you, both internally and externally. Being able to trust from a young age (or backtracking for those of us who just need to be reminded of what that looks like and feels like) serves us so well and that comes into play with both joyful and tough conversations that happen day to day with children, partner, with family, with professional conversations. I just think it’s such an important thing. It’s taken me a long time to trust my voice and I know now that I’m getting faster. It’s getting fast for me to access what I truly believe and then I make decisions based on my knowing. Part of that is that inner hearing, how do I really feel about that decision, “does that light me up or does that drain my energy, well then, what’s my next step?” I’ve gotta trust that that’s here for a reason. I might not know why but I’m gonna honor it, I’m gonna trust it and I'm gonna keep learning, because we don’t always get it right on the first try. To me there’s no right or wrong, it’s just a process. It’s a journey, it’s a curiosity, it’s checkin in and it becomes intentional”. 

I loved this conversation. It was so much fun to talk about joy in the field of music and I really hope that you’ve enjoyed it as much as I did. Please share your thoughts about this episode on instagram @joyismycompass or with a review on iTunes. Thank you so much for being here! 

You can find Lisa here:


Resources we’ve talked about:

Shonda Rhimes, “Year of Yes”
Maxine Morrey, “My Year of Saying No”

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