The Salon and the Void a.k.a. Coaching and Musical Improvisation

Freddie strutted to show that he wanted to break free. And George sang powerfully of Freedom. Both would have been proud but unlikely to pen the liberating refrain: “All hairdressers are existentialist philosophers.”

This was one of the high-points of a day of musical improvisation that I immersed myself in on Friday. It was a fabulous day of play, singing and frequently incapacitating laughter organised by Steve Chapman of , MC’d by Heather Urquhart, accompanied by Joe Samuel, both of and

Now singing and play need no justification, they’re good for the soul. But I also went there to spend a day ‘out of my head’ and that’s what I got. As a coach, I try to respond simply and openly to my clients, trusting myself to know what to do, but that takes practice – whatever way I can get it. I have to regularly get out of my comfort zone of thinking and analysis. On Friday I was so far out of my comfort zone that it was a distant chimera.

Many of us spend a lot of our lives caged by our thinking. Many of my clients are familiar with that place and I can easily join them there. We coaches can practice breaking out of the cage when we are with our clients, going with the flow, trusting our gut, trying an experiment during a coaching session but I believe that we’ll bring even more if we exercise and build this muscle in other diverse, challenging, exciting ways.

Last Friday was a series of activities and experiments. Everyone sang – ensemble, duets and solos – whatever their vocal ability, that was not an issue. As Heather said, getting it wrong was more interesting and much more fun than getting it right. And we did get it wrong, gloriously wrong. And, amazingly, we frequently produced something elegant, moving or simply hilarious. Right or wrong did not matter and that is liberating.

Once you have improvised a solo about eight things to do with the body, been a full-on dubbed diva – lip-synching while your partner-in-the-wings composes a song as they sing it, and instantaneously co-created the latest hit single from the Slutty Vicars, few other things will hold much fear. So this sort of playful improvisation brings courage and perspective. But it also re-charges the energy, lightness and playfulness that I find I need to coach well.

I believe strongly that coaching well is not solely a matter of practice and learning skills. The wisdom, resources, awareness, calm, energy, range, release and perspective we need are often to be to found elsewhere. Where we explore is individual, the Slutty Vicars will not be everybody’s cup of tea. But if you do fancy some singing for the soul, a visit to Hairdegger’s for a Shampoo and Sartre, or simply want to part company with your comfort zone, you might try some musical improvisation with Heather and Joe.

photo by Barna Bartis on Unsplash


Leave a Reply