Role Models Help Us Shape Identity
Dedicated in loving memory to Mizzar, I thought I’d share a post about an important role model in my life. An 80-something voice teacher with whom I had the privilege of studying for 7 years. The way in which this mentor appeared in my life, is as important as her role …
In the year 2001, a close friend of mine presented me with a book that impacted me greatly. He handed me The Mozart Effect and for some reason it was one of those books that just falls into your life at exactly the right moment. Regarding the power of music, Don Campbell (2001) writes:
“In an instant, music can uplift our soul. It awakens within us the spirit of prayer, compassion, and love. It clears our minds and has been known to make us smarter. Music is a holy place, a cathedral so majestic that we can sense the magnificence of the universe, and also a hovel so simple and private that none of us can plumb its deepest secrets. … It is the sounds of earth and sky, of tides and storm.”
A few months later, I would be introduced to a voice teacher, Margaret Riddleberger. As a consultant for the Tomatis Institute (referenced in The Mozart Effect), there were now two ‘fingers’ pointing me towards “Mizzar.” Mizzar’s work involved sound-wave therapy—something that she taught me at expressly the time that I needed it most. At the time I didn’t know how significant Mizzar’s impact would be on my life, but I knew that many “coincidences” were happening at once, pointing to the same information, so I took note.
I had the privilege of studying with Mizzar every Friday for the next several years. Mizzar helped me to feel like one Being in the sense that my sense of my body, my voice and my self are one thing — they are not disconnected parts of me. She encouraged me to take risks and embrace my full potential… without judging me or my progress. She always said, “I will throw an entire “deck of cards” of information onto the table and you might take one of the “cards” in the next ten years. That is your journey … but I will always keep offering the entire deck to see what sticks …”
In 2003, she encouraged me to conquer one of my greatest fears and perform in a solo one-woman show. With her encouragement, I wrote and produced a piece about a tragic 1940’s film starlet named Kathryn Layne. On the opening night, Mizzar gave me a note BEFORE my performance. It read: “I’m proud of you just for doing it.” She knew it took every ounce of courage I had to get up on that stage. This note still exists today … almost 10 years later … a reminder and gentle vote of confidence.
In 2009 I was traveling with NORMAL THE MUSICAL at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland when I learned that Mizzar had lost her battle with cancer. That night, in her honor, I attended a presentation of an African tribal music group and wept as the music and sound washed over me. I said “goodbye” to my samaya role model, surrounded in music. I’m so grateful that I had the presence of mind to accept her teachings into my life for the seven short years that I had with her.
“If the student accepts and trusts the teacher completely and the teacher accepts the student, they can enter into the unconditional relationship called samaya [“sacred commitment”]. The teacher will never give up on the student no matter how mixed up she might be, and the student will also never leave the teacher, no matter what.” ~Pema Chodron
 Campbell, D. (2001). The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit (p.1-2). New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
 Chodron, P. (1997). When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. (p. 165). Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Robyn Hussa, MFA, E-RYT, is Founder and CEO of NORMAL, for which she was awarded the 2010 Champion in Women’s Health award from Ms. Sue Ann Thompson and the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation. Ms. Hussa is also a professional performer and New York producer. She is the co-Founder of the Drama Desk and Obie award-winning Off-Broadway theatre company, Transport Group, for which she won the 2007 Drama Desk award for the company’s breadth of vision and presentation of challenging productions. She is the Editor of the WeAreTheRealDeal blog site and author of Healthy Selfitude — a result of Hussa’s in-depth training in the performing arts, voice, movement, and yoga. She holds a Master’s in Fine Arts and is an E-RYT yoga instructor with the Yoga Alliance.