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Putting your best voice forward with Takenya Freeney Battle



Welcome to Zeitgeist Radio. I'm your host, Morgan Roe, founder of the Zeitgeist Academy. Zeitgeist means spirit of the times, and it is the collection of cultural forces that all contribute to what it feels like to be alive and part of a dynamic culture. Every episode I speak with someone from a unique musical subculture.


We dig into their passion and explore how music is a powerful force that brings people together. If you're like me, you come out of these interviews with all sorts of questions. Each week, after speaking with one of our amazing guests, I dive into something they introduced us to that I find interesting or important.


I write a blog post about it and email a nice tidy bundle to your inbox. Every two weeks, never miss an exploration of an awesome musical subculture. Join the academy and sign up for my free newsletter@zeitgeistacademy.com slash radio.


My guest today is Takenya Freeney Battle, a musician and educator from Texas.


**Morgan:** Right. Takenya, welcome to Zeitgeist Radio.


**Takenya:** Let's do this, Morgan. You ready?


**Morgan:** I'm so ready. So you have a fascinating musical journey. Would you want to start by kind of telling people? Who you are, what you do, like your, your background is so cool. You've done it all.


**Takenya:** It's wide and diverse. I tell you, so I am to Kenya Frini battle.


I'm a musician and educator. I call myself the chief treble maker because wherever I go. Some kind of chaos ensues and sometimes chaos can be a good thing. So my background, I'm a classically trained vocalist and pianist. I'm an HBCU grad shout out to my fellow family rattlers out there. I'm a musician and producer.


I write. Music for people's podcast intros, and I'll also do vocal coaching in a unique way. It's, it's quite unique.


**Morgan:** It is quite unique. And I'm really excited to get into that part of things. You sounds like based on our conversations before that you kind of like me have a long, rich history with music.


We both come from very musical families. Do you remember the first time you started making music? Or was it just too far back?


**Takenya:** Oh, man, we're talking the 1980s, you know, the whole 20th century. I think I recall like being what they call it. The name of my elementary school was a Mark Twain music maker. You could be in the choir.


And so I remember being in the choir in elementary school. I remember taking my first piano lessons in the fourth grade. I remember the parties. My parents would throw and being able to hear the music but not be in a room because you know, no kids allowed only. And I also remember growing up in the Black Baptist Church, the whole youth choir was nothing but me and my cousins.


**Morgan:** Nice. Was that because it was a small church or you got a lot of


**Takenya:** cousins? Yes and yes. Yes and yes.


**Morgan:** Lovely. So family, family music all the way through. Yeah. So. So you studied you studied in school did you focus on 1 or the other piano


**Takenya:** or voice? No, I didn't have a gravitation towards 1 or the other per se.


It was just the next thing to do. So it was kind of a natural exploration. It was never forced. It was always looked at as something that was fun to do and. It was something where I'm like, okay, it's hot in Texas. I don't have to be outside to do it. Those practice


**Morgan:** rooms are nice


**Takenya:** and cool. Okay. Cause chocolate melts.


That's all I'm saying.


**Morgan:** Did you intend to major in music?


**Takenya:** No.


**Morgan:** I'm so happy. Cause I didn't either.


**Takenya:** Yeah, I'll be all about it as a kid. I kid you not. I wanted to be a paleontologist. Oh my gosh. Yeah. And I thought, well, what's the closest thing I can, I can get to that, you know, in college. And so I was a biology major when I first got to college and consequently, I got a big fat D.


Oh, in a, in a core class, which was kind of not a good thing to have happened because I was attending college on a full academic scholarship and you kind of need the grades to stay. Yeah. So, whoops, I lost my full academic scholarship by one GPA point. Oh no. And my daddy said to me, he said, do you want to stay there or you want to come home?


What you going to do? You know, this, this is positive. Parental. What do you want to do? I was like, I want to stay. He said, well, you better figure something out. And that made me think like what had always been there. And music had always been there all throughout my life. When I reflected on my young life at 18, 19 years old, music had always been there.


And so I changed my major to music education and things took off for me there. It all made sense. Yes. Yes. So that D didn't stand for doomsday. It stood for destiny.


**Morgan:** Destiny. Oh, that's great. Yeah. I just kept taking classes because, you know, that's just what I always did. And then at senior year, my advisor was like, you have a lot of credits, a lot of credits.


I was like, wow, I do have a lot of credits. But yeah, I love that. I love that. That just just kind of like sneaks up. Some people know from the beginning, like, this is me. But at least, at least I feel like me and probably you too, you're like, the world is so big out there and music, it's like, you don't even think about it.


It's just there for you all the time. So yeah, and then after, after college, things got interesting for you too, right? So can you describe what happened after college? Because, Yeah, definitely


**Takenya:** lines. Do you, I do, I do not operate in straight lines. Lines confuse me. What's the shortest point? I don't know.


I don't know. Where do


**Morgan:** we have a point somewhere?


**Takenya:** I don't know. People like some of my friends are like, no, you, you have to, you have to set dates to be accountable. And I'm like, I barely know what today is. You can't tell me. I need to set a date in order to hold myself accountable. My accountable thinking is like, I'm doing the thing that I'm doing.


Yeah, I'm doing. Doing the thing, but after college, I interview with just one school and was hired on the spot. So, I taught elementary music in a neighborhood that I grew up in between 6 and 800 students a year. And, you know, the school district had an error in their financial department, and they started handing out pink slips all willy nilly.


Oh, no. And at this point I was, I was somebody's mama at this point. And I was a single parent on top of that, you know, freshly divorced, got to get you at least one husband in just for a test run, right? And I was thinking like, how can I best provide for my kids should I receive a pink slip? And what came to me was, Oh, no, I'll join the army.


Join the army, you know? So I became an army reservist and did all my training in the summers when the kids were out of school and I've got to do some interesting things as a result. So I was a teacher at the same time that I was a soldier for about 10 years.


**Morgan:** That to me in my head is like, what, how can you be both of those things at the same time?


Like, how in the world would


**Takenya:** that even work? If you had to ask me which one was easier, sometimes being in the military was easier than being a teacher. Like, no lie. I actually believe that. Yeah. Sometimes. Yeah. Other times I was grateful to be able to go to the range and just imagine the target at the end, not naming names, no names, no names are needed, but both were rewarding in different ways.


Yeah.


**Morgan:** Yeah. So what, what


**Takenya:** grades did you teach? I had kindergarten through six plus the SPAT population at the same time. So like I said, anywhere between six and 800 kids every year. If you add that up times 14 years, we're talking roughly 10, 000 kids. And that's


**Morgan:** crazy, because if you think back to like, you know, at least for me, like some of my early teachers, like, they made it so fun and that's why I'm here right now, today, and like, think how many people, like, just are like this, like us, because of you, that is so cool.


So I, I've run, I ran a school, but it was like a private school up in, up in Portland. And. So it was a lot of one on one lessons. It was, you know, kind of, we did, we do some bands, but no big classes. And I always was just like, like those bands, even, I mean, five kids in a band, they were exhausting. And I, I, I, every time I walked out of one of those, I'm like, how do classroom teachers do it?


So now I get to ask you, how do you


**Takenya:** do it? You learn how to evaluate everyone very quickly. So everyone's, you know, success is a sliding scale for us all and that one student's success mark may be different from another student's success mark. So, if it's me, there's 40 chairs in my classroom. A lot of the times, though, all 40 seats would be filled and sometimes the kids would have to sit 2 to a seat.


The little ones would so it'd be not not 1 class, not 2 classes, but 3 classes. All in one, all in one, but I'm expected to evaluate these children for mastery of a skill. And so sometimes yeah, it didn't, I wouldn't say everything always was always perfect.


**Morgan:** There's kids around my God.


**Takenya:** No, but on those days where the magic moments were more.


Frequent and occurring. It's just magical when you see that they get it when they have these aha moments when they have these breakthroughs when they realize that they can contribute. 1 person can contribute to the whole. It's them taking ownership of something that they created and that. I live for those


**Morgan:** moments.


Yeah. Oh, I love that. I love that. All right. Well, we could definitely do an entire episode just on that, but that's not actually, but wait, there's more. We're not actually done. What did you do after you stopped teaching?


**Takenya:** I started teaching in my own studio. You know, I got. I got tired of being called to the principal's office.


And so, you know, the last time the principal called me to the office, that was the last time you finally got your pink slip Oh, not even I just resigned. I was like, you know what? I'm out. I'm out the cherry on top for me He was calling you to the principal's office all the time. So usually, you know by this time I was out in the portables My, my portable had been broken in several times at this point.


A lot of the items that were mandated for every music classroom to have just weren't there anymore. Oh my gosh. And it was me supplementing with my things. I was done. I was done. You know, they say, Oh, you know, you do it for the kids. You know, at some point it's not going to be enough me left to take care of these kids.


And so I had had enough and I resigned and I started my own business where the principal could no longer call me to the office because I would go to the principal and say, When are y'all going to replace my little boom box? Who's gonna replace the metallic? I mean, like, 1st of all, who steals a metallic phone?


Yeah,


**Morgan:** actually.


**Takenya:** Okay. Where are you going


**Morgan:** for those who don't know? Metallic phone is a yeah, it's, it's. I mean, it's a bar. It's a bunch of bars. You hit it makes noise.


**Takenya:** Yeah. Yeah. Where are you going with them?


**Morgan:** So you're, you just kept getting stuff stolen and nobody did anything about it. That sucks.


**Takenya:** That, and you know, I would hold admin accountable for the, for yes, yes, I teach a fine art, but you're not going to treat me like an other. I am just as valuable as the other classroom teachers.


So yes, yes. Okay. Chief


**Morgan:** treble, treble maker. I love it. Yes. All right. So you've been teaching now. Have a private studio. Yes. Now let's get into, unless there's a piece that I don't know about that you would like to fill in for me here. Let's get into your, your, your thing kind of where, where I've met you and, and what I know of you as, as your project.


Where did this whole thing come


**Takenya:** from? Wow. This came from me learning that some people don't like. The sound of their voice and I'm like, what ideals meal, you know, what do you mean you don't like the sound of your voice that it just did not compute to me as a singer, as a performer, this is what I do.


This is how my children eat. Right. And so I was kind of digging deeper into that. And when you look at the correlation between someone who is singing and the correlation between someone who is speaking, there are, there's a lot of overlap. And I was like, you know what? I can help you fall in love with your voice by using the principles of singing.


And so I was, I'm already doing piano and vocal coaching for singers and pianists. Why not turn it just a little bit, just turn the cube and look at a different face. And now we're talking about public speaking. Like


**Morgan:** this makes so much sense, but your approach to it, I just think it's so cool and so fascinating.


I love it. Yeah. Several questions on this. So I'm kind of with you. Like if someone came to me and said, I don't like my voice, like, like how, how did you Take that because I would I would take that like I don't like my singing voice I don't even know that it would translate over into like the actual sound you mean like the actual sound of their speaking voice like Even just talking on stage Like what was that moment?


Like when you realize when did someone like share specifically with you? Like was it a particular person that changed your mind on this or was it kind of like


**Takenya:** pieces? One person told me, and I'm laughing at her because she's my friend, she told me that she's, she says that when she listens back, because she's recording webinars and, and things of that sort in her business, she says, when she listens to the playback, she sounds like one of the munchkins in munchkin land.


I was like, that's cute and adorable. But she may not necessarily want to come across as cute and adorable, right, right with the material she's delivering. And so there's, there's ways to find a happy place for your voice. And that's really my, my, my end game goal.


**Morgan:** Yes. Yes. And I've, I've definitely encountered people cause we also.


At the school, we had a recording studio, and people would go in, and, and it, your voice does sound different because it's your head, it's your literal head, it is impossible, it is physically impossible for you to correctly hear what you sound like, because all of the vibrations, whether you're singing or talking, you're vibrating all over, you're bouncing all over your head, so it's physically impossible, so oftentimes, yeah, when they would record a track or something, and then hear it back it was a bit of a, Like, oh, I didn't know that's what I sounded like.


So, so that part to me makes sense that you don't know, but then


**Takenya:** to feel They were shocked. She was shocked. She was like, I sound like that? To feel that


**Morgan:** disconnected. To feel like, wow, I don't like, I sound like a munchkin. That must have been, I mean, of course that's a confidence. Issue as well, right? Yes, because if you feel like you sound like a munchkin, you're not going to want to talk on stage.


You're not going to want to present in front of your colleagues


**Takenya:** even. Right. But I told her these are the things you should absolutely lean into. These are the, these are the things that make your voice uniquely yours. Yes. So like there's some Tik Toks and some Instagrams going around where, you know, there, there's a group of young ladies singing a song from Destiny's Child and Destiny's Child has a distinct sound.


Well, these young ladies also have a distinct sound. They just don't match. They don't sound alike. And that's, I want people to understand, like, there's nothing wrong with your voice.


**Morgan:** Yes. Oh my gosh. I have a whole thing on this. I have a course on, on how to sing and, and so many people compare the comp, the comparison of like, of what you sound like there's the world of music is so big and people compare like, like if Ariana Grande tried to sing opera, she'd be booed off stage.


She absolutely has totally the wrong voice for that because she that's not what she's doing. She hasn't trained that way,


**Takenya:** you know, different, different sounds apply to different genres, different techniques apply to different genres. And I think we know that we know that you and I know that, but the public at large may not.


**Morgan:** Right? Yeah, there's just this big. Singing. It's just singing. I want to learn how to sing. I mean, there are some basics, your breath and you know, there are some basic techniques that apply across all genres, but there's a lot of styling that you do once you figure out where you, and I think part of a good coach is finding that and figuring out where do you sound good.


Where, what is your, yeah, where's your happy place?


**Takenya:** The nuance of the diction, the nuance of the articulation. These things matter. These things matter. It depends on where I am. It depends on who my audience is as to whether or not I'm going to tighten up the Texan that's in this voice because that Texas, Texas runs deep.


But since this is an audience that's new to me, I'm going to bring the Texas in just a little bit, but I'm still me.


**Morgan:** Right, right. Yeah. And it's, I just think it's so interesting because I've taught people singing wise, like how to, how to add elements in or shape your mouth in a certain way to sing, you know, maybe in more of a folk style, maybe more of a blues style.


What are you trying to do here? And I know that you have done that too. Yes. How do you approach that with speaking?


**Takenya:** So I think I just go back and use my framework. There's three steps in my framework. The first thing we do is we activate your awareness. We just bring awareness to how your voice sounds.


Throughout the day, your voice changes. The way I sound right now is not how I sounded when I woke up this morning. This morning, I sounded like I was Barry White's little sister. My voice is super low. Yes. So, I mean, I don't want to scare your listeners, but like my, my voice can get really low. Wow, you got some


**Morgan:** pipes down there.


**Takenya:** Yes, you can. Now, when, when I was a single parent, I would answer the door and say, who is it? Who is it? Because I don't need them to believe that there's, there's a vulnerable young woman in distress on the other side of the door. Yeah. So I needed to put some bass in my voice and that, you know, I don't want to scare your listeners, but that, that was really me.


I love this so


**Morgan:** much. Okay. So activate, activate your awareness. Yes, that is, that's so, and that is hard to do. I hope people understand the muscles that control your voice are some of the tiniest muscles in your entire body. So to, to be aware of how you use them, how you control them or, or, you know, all of the supporting pieces.


That's a lot. Even just that one step is,


**Takenya:** is a lot. And to be able to do so in a way that doesn't cause damage. Yes. Is crucial. So that's why the second step in my framework is to tighten up your technique, where we've, we dive into those elements that keep your voice safe and protected, or what do you do when you do lose your voice?


Should it happen? Yeah. So, those are the things we do in the 2nd, part of my framework and the, the 3rd, part of my framework is to elevate your expertise and you do that by way of a persuasive performance. You have to tell me how to sandwich gets made. Excellent. And that's a literal thing. This is something.


Like one of my students right now, she's going to the seventh grade and she's coming to me for for assistance with the public presentation of her speaking voice. She's coming to me having graduated from speech therapy. She's coming to me. I love her so much and I'm getting goosebumps already. I know I'm getting goosebumps.


**Morgan:** And I don't


**Takenya:** even know the story. She just wants to use the summer for her glow up so that when she walks into seventh grade, she can confidently say exactly what it is that she wants to say in ways that everybody understands her. And so I asked her, tell me how you make your favorite sandwich. She became so animated and so detailed and so thorough in her description.


I was like, I want this sandwich now. Even her mama piped in her mama. I see the mama's head pipe. I want this sandwich right now. This sandwich is delicious. And I want her to be able to carry the spirit and energy of how she told me about that sandwich in every conversation that she has.


**Morgan:** Yes, speech therapy is used like if there's, if there's something like if there's a baseline and you're below the baseline to get you up to the baseline, but there's nothing you're, you're in that next step there where it's okay, great.


We're at baseline. Most people hate public speaking and are bad at it anyway. That's a terrible baseline. Let's take that next step and make you super engaging. I just normal conversations really engaging and really confident, just. Just in talking with your peers or, or maybe you have a new job or maybe you have something where you just really want to present yourself.


Well, that's so cool. Or


**Takenya:** maybe you just want to share your favorite sandwich. Maybe you are really


**Morgan:** into this sandwich.


**Takenya:** I mean, that sandwich was amazing. She was like, it's going to have toasted gluten free bread. And then she like described the spicy mayo and I mean, like she described everything. Okay, I was here for


**Morgan:** the sandwich.


I know. I'm kind of here for the sandwich now.


**Takenya:** Yes, the sandwich was the hero in that conversation, but I love how people kind of discover or they uncover things about themselves. They just like, step into their, their stardom. I want you, I want them to shine. Oh,


. The mission of the Zeitgeist Academy is simple. I want everyone to live their best musical life. If your dream includes singing with confidence, I got you. I made a mini online course so you can get out of musical drama and finally understand which vocal elements make you sound good. Banish forever.


Those fears of being out of key, off rhythm, and other assorted mayhem. Step into your best musical life my friends. Sign up for the free course@zeitgeistacademy.com slash radio.


**Morgan:**


So, in my lessons, when I'm teaching voice, you know, we'll take a song, I'll be working on a song with a student and I get really deep, you know, there's so much detail you can do.


And I, and I have the background, the schooling to take little pieces. And I mean, we're talking like a word I can spend easily 30 minutes on like. A couple words, . So when you work with people, it's not singing, but it's speaking. Are you using those same musical techniques, the crescendos, the day, crescendos, the, the different types of, of, you know, accents or staccato, like


**Takenya:** inflection, pausing, hasting enunciation, yes.


So I love how the principles of singing can still apply. When we're speaking, so another exercise I do with students is I have them to think about 1 word. If they only could say 1 word for the rest of their life to express every emotion, because we're focusing on expression. And some of the answers they give me back are just like, my word would be.


Why am I thinking sandwiches and


**Morgan:** hamburgers? Hungry, obviously,


**Takenya:** you know, they may give me their word, right? And they have to take that one word and show, well, how do you say this word in a way that sounds happy? How do you say this word in a way that sounds sad, mad, glad, and you go on, on, on the spectrum of emotions in ways that they understand.


But the way I introduce that concept is by watching the duet of Bufo Gatti. Okay. I don't know that. Oh, so the, it's an aria and it's two singers who only say one word. And the word is meow. Okay. They have this whole entire conversation with just meow. I love that.


**Morgan:** I'm laughing because with my guy, we sometimes will do like that. We use that word actually. And just like meow, meow, meow. Like kind of when you like don't know, like, like, Hey, how's it going? Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, you know, you don't really have words. And so we'll actually, we have done that actually, is have whole conversations with the meow.


**Takenya:** It's so dumb. Think about, I mean, I'm maybe dating myself here, but think about on Sesame Street when you had those two Muppets where all they would say was like, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, yip, huh, huh, huh. It's that kind of thing. Yes.


**Morgan:** Okay. Well, I'll have to go look up that aria because that sounds amazing.


**Takenya:** It is. Oh my gosh, it is like thrilling. I'm going to send you the link so you can check it out.


**Morgan:** That thing is amazing. I'll put that in the, in the notes, in the show notes, if anyone wants to, to check it out as well. The other thing that came to mind as you were talking a new project I've done recently is I've joined a musical improv group and I'm playing the piano for them, but it's so interesting to watch them because they're just literally making up songs.


On the spot, but the like the ebb and the flow again talking about styling, it's kind of this like split second decision between them and then me at the piano, you know, they're doing their little comedy scene and it's like, okay, sounds like a song. We're going to jump into a song here. What is that song going to be?


And so it's the split second. Okay. Am I going to go like punk with this? Am I going to go like a heartfelt ballad? And one of the games that we've played, that we play is to do that. Like this is the same scene in different styles. And that's kind of like what you were saying with like doing, just playing with words and all of the inflections.


Like the same song, you know, maybe I turn the piano into a harpsichord and we, we do like some 17th century, you know, feel. And then we turn it into a cowboy, you know. Country ballad, and then we turn it into something punk and, but it's the same scene, the same, they try to use the same words, same ideas.


It's, it's shocking how different, how completely different that, that comes


**Takenya:** across. I love this so much because that takes me back to when at, at the age of 15, my father's a preacher at the age of 15, I was violent told. That I was the church's new piano player, but daddy, I only took lessons in fourth, fifth and sixth grade.


What do you mean? I'm the church's new piano player. Oh my gosh. There was no open your hymnal to, to number four 35 and begin type action in the kind, in the church that I grew up in. Okay. It was They sang it, you better get it before they get to the chorus. You better find us. We're just going to start singing.


Oh my gosh. And so either my grandmother would say she, I would catch her saying, thank you, Lord. Yeah. You know, because I'm, you know, like I'm doing it, like I'm hitting the right notes at the right time. Or I can hear her saying, help alone.


**Morgan:** And you're like, yeah, help me. The pressure.


**Takenya:** All or nothing, but you know, the black Baptist church, that's a lot of that is rooted in call and response. These are things that have, have survived the transatlantic slave trade. These things are still relevant today. And it was nothing but call and response and trying to hurry up and catch them before they threw me off.


**Morgan:** How long did you do that? Still doing it.


**Takenya:** 30


**Morgan:** years. Okay. Trial by fire. You survived the fire.


**Takenya:** My gosh. And don't let, don't let a preacher who's like a Hooper, you know, whooping, you know what whooping is. Okay. We got to get a little black history lesson in here. So a whooping preacher again, they, they thought they tune up, so to speak, and they find this flow where there's.


Some sound and then a pause. Some sound and then a pause, but it's rhythmic. It's like, I'm going up yonder, and I'm gonna find my way, cause I'm gonna go this way, so I don't have to do anything else. It's like this whole rhythmic thing, and so the pianist has to play in the pause. You, but you have to make sure you're not playing over them speaking, you have to play in the pause in the key that they are hooping in.


**Morgan:** Let's hope they can keep


**Takenya:** their key. Yeah. If it's, if it's my daddy, you're going to be chasing him because he'd be all over the place. Yeah, I think that job, 15 year


**Morgan:** old you, that is, that is, that is good. 15 year old, like bravery right there.


**Takenya:** I'm really just going to my own horn here because I think this makes me like a phenomenal musician, a phenomenal musician, the classical training, the baptism by fire in the black church, the ability to play by ear and read.


These are not a lot of people live in that world. Genuinely and honestly, unapologetically.


**Morgan:** Yes. Yes. What was it like bringing that into bringing that background into classical study? I just got to know, like, cause classical, like I love classical music. It lights up. I have like so many good memories around it and it can be a really stodgy, boring place.


It can be a really uptight place. There's, it's, they could use some loosening up. What was it like coming from that, that expressive community? Into the classical world where expression is very, very controlled.


**Takenya:** So there's a translation here of skills. The being able to hear things quickly and pick them up and make it make sense.


When you hear a classical piece being played, I'm, I'm more quickly honing in on the repetition, the, the, the parts that are, Oh, it's almost the same or here's the section. Oh, this is a transition. I can hear the different parts in the, in the classical piece without having necessarily played it. So that's advantage.


Number one advantage advantage. Number two is now that I know what the sound looks like on the keyboard. I can see what the sound looks like in the sheet music. I hope that makes sense.


**Morgan:** Okay. Not really. I mean, yeah. No, I cannot do that. So yeah, it's like, so like in my opposite way, I do like if I can see it, but, but it's you do it the other way.


**Takenya:** I can, I can walk both ways and I can walk both ways. Yeah. That's, that's what I love. That's another part of the overlap here. So I can see it on the, in the sheet music and I can know what it looks like on the keyboard and I can see it in my head and know what it looks like on the keyboard. It's like, I see the shapes of the sounds.


Wow. Yeah, yeah. I see the shapes of the sounds. And, but what makes the classical world. It's, it's classist and elitist and it's, it's, it's not available and accessible to everyone. And so there's a lot of gatekeeping in there. There's a lot of gatekeeping. Yes. And yeah. And I think, yeah, that's enough right there.


There's a lot of


**Morgan:** gatekeeping. So you, you play by ear a lot. We were sort of talking about this earlier. And that's another, I just, before we move on from classical music, that's another I've had actually on this podcast, some some, a buddy of mine who We have a whole discussion about classical musicians, myself included.


We're just not taught. I was never really taught to play by ear. I had some super basic ear training and singing has helped a lot. But as far as playing piano it's, that's a skill that kind of actually terrifies a lot of classical


**Takenya:** people. I know, but that's not you. They go together, like, to me, to me, they're, they're compliments to one another.


And it can be as simple as, you know, if you look at Mozart's variations on, on Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, he's just taking us, you can, you can train your ear to figure out what comes next if you take the simplest variation. And that's where I start. A lot of my kid piano students, they are able to find Twinkle Twinkle if I give you the, if I give them the starting pitch.


And what comes next? All right. Now you, you figure out the rest. Now keep singing it until you find the one that matches what you just sang, what you just sang. So there's overlap there as well. Don't be afraid of it. Embrace it. Go get it. I love it. I love it. Awesome.


**Morgan:** Well, what's next for you right now? What is your class?


And I'll put links for people who want to check it out.


**Takenya:** A couple of different elements there. So I have some webinars available at your at your disposal for you to easily digest. They're not even more than an hour long, but over the course of the webinar, what you do is you got to work. It's a, it's a workshop.


You will work, but you'll see other people who attended the workshop doing the same work. So you're not by yourself. You have an example there to follow. So that is my put your best voice forward workshop. Then I also have my slay the mic webinar where I show you how to stand out in a public speaking scenario.


And again, those are individual things that you can, you can purchase from me. I think the slay the mic one is free and then people work with me 1 on 1 and an ongoing weekly format. And then I also do group sessions.


**Morgan:** So all of the things, all the things, all the things that group sessions, it would, do you have like a progression where it like the one on one almost like, again, like a singing studio where you have your private lessons and then you'll do like a group, whether it's a recital or just a group lesson, you know, like a lot of studios will do that where they'll, you get to kind of practice, like show off what you've practiced, but also when you put other people in front of you.


It suddenly is a lot, you know, people feel more pressure. Yeah. Yeah.


**Takenya:** The pressure to perform in front of an audience, which is. Why you came to me in the first place. So this, this is the safe place to do that. This is the place to make your mistakes. I love when I make a mistake in front of my students, I need them to see that I am a human being and that I am still learning, even though I've been doing this thing since forever, I am still learning and I will continue to make mistakes.


So this is a safe place to do that.


**Morgan:** Yes, almost like the the Toastmasters thing, you know, where they get together and they practice in front of each other, except this adds an element of, of direct coaching in addition to that.


**Takenya:** Yeah, so some of my students in a group fashion, what they end up doing with their, their culminating activity using those teacher words is.


They will tell me in two minutes, hi, my name is, and I am, and you know, and they give me like a quick short bio. It's, it's their choice what, what their culminating activity is, but they, the ones who are less. Inclined to do so publicly. They can still do it with me privately for feedback and critique. So I do, I honor where people are and I'll never push you further than I think I can push


**Morgan:** you.


Yeah. Yeah. And again, that's, that's part of being, I think of an effective teacher is, I mean, there's throwing to the wolves and then there's, and then there's being eaten by the wolves.


**Takenya:** There's being volatile and there's being.


**Morgan:** Not everyone can respond the same way that you, that you have the ability to do. Are you ever afraid of public speaking?


**Takenya:** Every single time. I kid you not. And I think that's, that's one thing people are, but I'm, I'm afraid I'm nervous. They're going to judge me. Yes. To all of that. Yes. Do it anyway, do it afraid, do it scared because there is only one you, nobody can deliver it like you.


If Morgan says the alphabet and then I say the alphabet and then Patti LaBelle sings the alphabet, we have three different alphabets here, but we've all used the same letters. Yes. Your voice is uniquely yours and we need you to stand in your authority. We need you to take up space because when we don't, there are dire consequences for the whole of society.


We need you to say something. Here, here, here, here.


**Morgan:** I love that. I like, I'm so excited to watch where this is going for you. This is a fairly new project or how It is!


**Takenya:** Yes. It's fairly new, like, as of maybe in the last few months. So it's, it's


**Morgan:** young. Yes. No, I'm so excited to see where this goes. I just like the, my, I mean, I'm sure your brain just gets going to people who need their stories told and, and I feel like everybody needs their story told.


And I feel like, you know, for me, music is, is an expression. You know, you can use a single word, a silly word, meow, and you can. Make a lot of expression happen in that one word like you can really some of the well here going back to the musical improv. One of the the realizations that the singers, you know, they're like, Oh, I'm in this class, either it's this music.


I have to sing, making a song and they often have done scenes before where you talk and they have to like. Backtrack and realize when you sing, you actually have to simplify because if you, you know, I mean, I guess like Bob Dylan it out or you're just talking, but like, if you really want an effective chorus, some of the most effective songs in the world have really just been a couple, a very simple message repeated.


You know, and, and that's hard for people when they're making it up on the spot sometimes. And I'm sure, I'm sure this is part of, you know, just keep it simple.


**Takenya:** Yes. It's hard. Simple, simple. I'm helping someone prepare. They're getting ready to speak at a national convention in a couple of weeks and everything has to be kept within 25 minutes.


She has to make her point. Captivate her audience, draw them in and educate them all about her thing in 25 minutes. And some people are like, Oh my gosh, that, that sounds like forever. It can be forever. It can feel like, or it can feel like time has flown because she has been prepared. She has practiced.


She has worked with someone who can help her fine tune and tweak her content and the delivery. But when she goes, she will, again, Stand in that authority and affect positive change by amplifying her voice.


**Morgan:** Yes. With that, that message. Cause you could also picture that 25 minutes as being like, Oh, I have to, I have to rush to get my point across.


I have to speak all these words. Well, can we condense some of these and, and use your voice to, you know, make points instead of the words to make points. And that's, that's, man, it's crafting, it's crafting a song with somebody. That's what you do.


**Takenya:** And to your point, like. Simple. We, we, we crave simple and we crave repetition.


All the, the hit songs, simple repetition. There's some blips in there, you know, like Bohemian Rhapsody that didn't follow the pattern, so to speak, you know, there's blips on the radar. But for the most part, we are thriving on simplicity and repetition. Again, going back to twinkle, twinkle, little star, that melody.


And I'm using that one cause that's public domain and you ain't got to worry about paying nobody. That was just a bump bump bump bump bump bump bump bump bump bump bump bump bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump. Going back to what we did before. Dun, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump.


Simple, but there's repetition in there. Yes. ABA for, for my musician friends out there.


**Morgan:** Yes. Yes. And you can take that. And if you choose to make it complicated and do some Mozart variations, yes, you can do that. And you can do it in different styles, but the messages. Still the same and then you choose the delivery.


I'm getting so excited about Yeah, I get excited about singing but I Again, I just really has a teacher I'm so used to looking at songs with this type of this eye for detail lens Yeah, and I am really enjoying the mindset of looking at speaking Public speaking is the first place my brain goes like that's where that makes sense because it because you're crafting a message the same as if I was performing a song right and you and the need to practice is very obvious.


You know, I, and my, that's the first place my brain goes, but you've brought up so many examples today of just everyday life, you know, a seventh grader. Like, let's be honest, seventh grade is the worst, like it's middle school, like that whole, like,


**Takenya:** and if you talked about that, you know, we were talking, I was like, you know, seventh grade, this is, this is where you really learn who your friends are and who your


**Morgan:** friends are not.


And they aren't. Yeah. Yes. And it's so it can be, I mean, there's so much going on. It's just in your physical body and then your emotional and to be able to. At least not have your voice working against you. Everything else is working against you. But you know what? If you can go in and talk to people honestly and eloquently, I mean, that's a whole nother level.


**Takenya:** I love that she's really excited about the fact that she's going to have lockers. What? We're going to have lockers in seventh grade. Oh man. I love the simplicity of enjoyment. In the seventh grade. This is a transition. This is huge. It is.


**Morgan:** It is. Yes. All right. Well, I have one last question for you and I ask all of my guests this.


So do you know what zeitgeist


**Takenya:** means? Do I know what zeitgeist means? If I said what I thought it meant. You can still use it because we're all learning.


What I thought, what I think I understand is like ice to mean is it's some kind of collection of thoughts. It's some kind of collection of. Of like material.


**Morgan:** Yes, very much. So it's called the literal translation is spirit of the times. It's German, right? So site is time and then Geist like poltergeist, you know, the time ghost anyway.


So Zeitgeist. I studied anthropology and that was my real major. Music was my accidental major, but I am fascinated by people's culture and how it shapes the music that they create and vice versa, you know, the, the music is so integral, it's just tied. You cannot separate music and culture. And I found that for myself tapping into the zeitgeist of an, of an era is a way that.


I can bring that alive to me in a way that, you know, like an example, I share all the time of a, a, a class, an opera class. I'd never really been an opera person. I'm not that I didn't like it. I just was like, it's not really my thing, but I had this 1 class where he, he, we didn't just talk about the, the, the, the teacher professor didn't just talk about here's the form and here's the technique, but it's like, Here's the society and he made it like the juicy gossip and here's who was dating who and here's who you know This mistress affair here and it was like and the food was this and the fashion and it was like, oh my god This is cool.


This is exciting And I just so for me that moment of like I just get it it all clicked into place and I loved opera for that Moment like it was you know, it made it make sense It came alive. It


**Takenya:** came alive. We have teachers. We have educators who make the lesson come alive where you get visuals just off of them speaking that that's top notch.


That's top tier teaching. Yes. My teachers did the same for me. I love how. You know, okay, let's say my piano teacher. She's a she's a Juilliard grad. Let's say, like, I'm studying Heidner Chopin that week. And she would say, well, you know, Chopin wrote this song. He was trying to holla at this girl and but he was trying to get in good with her kids.


And, you know. There was this dog involved, like she would go into all the juicy details and I loved it. I'm like, it's not just Prelude in E minor or, you know, it's, there's more to it. Yes. Oh,


**Morgan:** that is so, yes, exactly. And then you get, you just get it. So I call that moment a zeitgeist moment where the spirit of the times comes alive for you.


And we've all had that moment, even if. We don't necessarily intellectualize it that well, but like, you know, when you have, when everything just clicks and you just align and you're, you're on fire and you're connected, what was a recent Zeitgeist moment for you?


**Takenya:** One that I, that I'm, I'm thinking about sharing that wasn't too personal. The first thing that came to mind was something like super personal, whatever you feel like sharing, you know, and I don't have to make it untied to a person specifically, but sometimes you just outgrow people. That's true. And you outgrow your environment and you have to.


Go back to your roots. So I think that's, that's a Zeitgeist moment that I've had just over the last year and a half. Everybody ain't for you. You know, and I said, I spoke that in Texan. Everybody isn't for you.


**Morgan:** Oh, and I feel like that's what your seventh grader is going to go learn too.


**Takenya:** Yes. What about,


**Morgan:** what about add a soundtrack to that? What, what soundtrack would that be?


**Takenya:** Oh, my gosh. Oh, the song of the moment. It would be Stevie Wonder's You Haven't Done Nothin with Jackson 5 singing background. Oh yeah.


Yeah. You Haven't Done Nothin If you really want to hear our blues, You Haven't Done Nothin Well


**Morgan:** Takenia, thank you so much. It has been an absolute pleasure having you on my podcast. Thank you so much for joining


**Takenya:** us. Thank you, Morgan. It's been a pleasure. It's been a pleasure.


Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Zeitgeist Radio, to uplevel your musical journey and become a music student for life. Join the Zeitgeist Academy by signing up for my biweekly newsletter. You'll get exclusive content, blog posts, and behind the scenes insights. I love putting it together and you'll love reading it.


Head over to zeitgeist academy.com/radio. That's Z E I T G E I S t academy.com/radio.



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