Courtesy of Nancy Salwen

Andrew Michaud
Equinox Staff

Keene’s Nancy Salwen helps non-singers overcome a fear of singing.

Stage fright is a common fear faced by many today, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Salwen, the founder of the Fear of Singing Breakthrough Program, works with people who have that fear to bring out their inner voice.

The Breakthrough Program aims to help people who believe they can’t sing to begin seeing themselves as singers, said Salwen. She uses exercises designed to be simple to master and a heavy use of folk music in order to make students comfortable with their voice.

Folk music is meant to connect people and be easy to pick up, Salwen said. Folk musicians such as Woody Guthrie used it to connect people, and Salwen hopes to do the same.

“The idea of folk music is to be accessible. It’s not fancy music, you don’t have to be trained,” Salwen said.

The idea to start the Breakthrough Program came from helping a friend with her pitch, said Salwen. As she helped this friend, who she sang with in the same choir and many casual group singalongs, Salwen realized how much she liked teaching vocal lessons.

As Salwen developed her workshops and began to form a brand, she said she realized there was a lack of classes for true beginners out there. Finding most classes taught more advanced techniques to those who could already sing, she decided to help those who wanted a foundation in music. Salwen wanted to help people find their own love of singing.

“Getting people into the world of singing felt like a real delight and privilege for me,” she said.

Salwen, who has been involved with music her entire life, understands her students’ fears firsthand.

“Performance was never something I enjoyed when I was younger,” Salwen said. “Performing brought out a real fear for me.”

Rather than performing, Salwen encourages herself and her students to focus on the parts of music that they love.

“I do perform sometimes, and I’m willing to, but what I love is rehearsing,” Salwen said. “Making music together is my great joy,” she continued.

While stage performance isn’t her favorite, Salwen does enjoy the performance of teaching. She said she loves getting groups of students together, all singing together and learning. Salwen said she loves connecting with people, and that helps her enjoy her teaching performance even more.

Due to the pandemic, Salwen has moved lessons entirely online. Luckily for her, she said, she was already familiar with teaching online. She still hosts large group meetings, now entirely online. While it was a change, it was not a bad one, she said.

“It turns out that it’s all really fantastic. You can still form a feeling of community online with all those little squares on zoom. It’s really pretty neat,” Salwen said.

Zoom also allows her to meet with people from all over the world, she said. She has one student from Thailand and is planning to meet with a student in Germany soon as well.

The effectiveness of Salwen’s program is shown through the experiences her students have shared online.

“I wanted to increase confidence in my own singing voice. Nancy used so many techniques, approaches, which made me feel at ease and gave me an ‘I CAN’ feeling,” said Bonnie, in a testimonial on Salwen’s website.

In her years teaching, Salwen has one piece of advice for anyone out there who thinks they can’t sing.

“Be playful, go back to being a kid again…. Make some sound, explore,” she said.

Listen to The Chirp podcast episode five, featuring The Fear of Singing Breakthrough Program’s Nancy Salwen.


Andrew Michaud can be contacted at:

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