During a rare Santa Barbara downpour, Agatha Carubia and I sipped fancy teas at Alchemy Café. “I was always a voice teacher,” she said when I asked her about her performing career. “My mother’s goal was for me to be a singer. We had singers in the family — my great-grandfather, my grandmother. There was always pressure to sing at the Met.” She found a different life that made her happy. “Performing wasn’t my thing. I had stage fright. I never felt 100 percent in front of people. Recognizing this healed that last bit of ‘I coulda been a contender!’ When you’re a teacher, you’re a teacher, and you have to understand your nature.” Her son, Evan Hughes, is carrying the family’s performing torch. He is a celebrated bass baritone who sings all over the world.
Carubia is a Juilliard-trained voice teacher, author, mentor to teachers, devotional singer, and yoga teacher and practitioner. Through study of classical voice technique and performance and Kundalini yoga, she conceived Heart-Based Singing, a method for helping singers find their truest, most resonant voices and wrote a book about it.
Carubia’s book, Heart-Based Singing: Vocal Technique, and method are for singers and voice teachers, but they are also valuable offerings for any person interested in freeing and enjoying his or her voice: serious singers, amateurs, or those who are terrified of singing anywhere but in front of their children or in the car but recognize that singing is just plain good medicine (that’s me). She hopes her new book reaches “everyone who has lack of clarity about how to find freedom in their singing and keep it … opera singers, pop singers, yogis who sing, speakers who use their voices.”
Carubia is from New York City and taught there for years before heading to Santa Barbara in 1981. She settled here and began teaching at Music Academy of the West and privately. She married, welcomed her son into the world, and taught singing to dozens of gifted artists, including a young, pre-celebrity Katy Perry.
Her study of Kundalini yoga, a form of yoga that emphasizes chanting and breathwork, inspired her to create Heart-Based Singing, which melds the Eastern chakra system with classical bel canto vocal technique. When she attended immersive yoga trainings, she ended up teaching voice to other yogis during breaks. “These yoga teachers felt uncomfortable singing the mantra at the beginning of class. I’d help them open up, to understand that the heart chakra is involved, not just the throat. I started to see that singing is a healing modality … a mindfulness practice just like yoga.”
Carubia will be offering three Heart-Based Singing workshops this summer: June 23-26, June 30-July 3, and July 7-10. She will also be offering two-hour workshops at Yoga Soup on May 28 and at the Santa Barbara Yoga Center on June 5. For more information and fees, see http://www.heartbasedsinging.com
Agatha Carubia will read from Heart-Based Singing: Vocal Technique on Tuesday, April 26, at 7 p.m. at Chaucer’s Books (3321 State St.). Attendees will be treated to a mini-class and a Q&A. Call (805) 682-6787 or see chaucersbooks.com.