look but don't see

"The eyes look, but don't see," Ms. Harshaw said, right after I'd stopped singing. Observation or instruction? Both, I thought. She was telling me what it felt like—what it looked like—to listen with utmost concentration. She was also giving me a simple tool to enable concentration. Having already begun my career with NYCO at that point, I found myself using it in earnest.

Singing onstage is like walking a tightrope; you have to have your wits about you and know how to stay balanced, both vocally and physically, or you will fall, crash and burn.


"That's hard!" Says a young baritone with a beautiful voice, who's just finished singing octaves in mezza voce. The look on his face while singing? Eyes looking but not seeing.

 "Is it physically hard?"

"No." He says, rather sheepishly. 

"What's hard about it then?"

"I have to concentrate!" He laughs, half-embarrassed at what's just come out of his mouth. 

"Where is the locus of concentration?" This throws him for a minute, because he doesn't know the word. After that blank has been filled in (locus means 'place'), his hands start talking, hovering in front of his eyes.


The Buddhist tradition has specific practices involving the "gaze" of the eyes during meditation. This can involve half-open and even fully open eyes; looking but not seeing, the practitioner draws his attention away from the visual field, not making a duality between inside and outside.

This is what great singers do.