• Written by Katharina Menzel
    Translated from German into English. 

    Berlin. I push through Berlin's streets as fast as a sloth. Not even two minutes after the city limit sign, nothing moves nothing at all. Thanks to my friend Rainald Grebe, since I've been living in Brandenburg, I've always had enough food and drink with me - so we can camp out here for a while. The prospect of my interview today also makes me drum happily on the steering wheel: Backstage at Kara Johnstad! I am so excited! Kara is a gifted pianist, singer, and songwriter and a coach, mentor, and visionary. She reaches and uniquely touches people with her exceptional technique, spiritual nature, and charming manner. In this article, you'll learn how and why she helps women, in particular, find their voice. 

    Finally arrived, Kara shows me her School of Voice:

  • Backstage with Kara Johnstad in the studio

  • Kara’s Women’s Singing Circle

    One of Kara's many offerings is the Women's Singing Circle - sounds brilliant, doesn't it? Of course, I wanted to know more about that: The Singing Circle came about because Kara has worked in coaching with many women who in some way had difficulty using their voices. Whether it was because some choir director once told them they couldn't hold the notes correctly or because they heard their father whisper to their mother that their singing sounded just awful. Even money was offered to children so they wouldn't be so loud. The list of painful reasons seems almost endless. I notice how anger rises up in me because I recognize myself in some of the stories. I obviously can't hide this well because Kara smiles at me and says, "You know this too, don't you?". Whew. I just nod and hold on to my notepad, highly concentrated. 

    At the very beginning, it was the "I Can't Sing Choir" in which she bet people 100 euros that they could very well sing - and proved it to them within a week or two. Yup, I also asked again if I had misheard. Nope, I hadn't - she actually put the bills on the table. But for Kara, words and symbols have extraordinary power - and she realized she had to change the name. Sure, people came because they thought they couldn't sing, but that was history in no time - and so it became the Women's Singing Circle. With the name change came the particular focus on women - among themselves, they are simply more open, can let themselves loosen up. There is no competitive thinking, explains the American, who has lived in Berlin since the early 1980s. 

  • What can you expect in the Women's Singing Circle?

    All participants come together by candlelight, breathe together, and rest mentally and physically through deep relaxation. Kara leads voice yoga exercises that she has developed to relieve and release tension in the voice. After the voice has been gently warmed up, a few free activities with body percussion or drums follow, depending on what the group is in the mood for, before the actual singing begins. The nice thing about this group is that the women now know each other, can judge their voices and harmonize. (Editor's note: Currently, Kara's classes only take place online).

  • Kara Johnstad talking about her singing circle. Photo by Katharina Menzel

  • It is so wonderful to watch the women slowly open their hearts and with it their voices. Each one has her own story - usually very dramatically cast - and I get a little glimpse and get to be a part of it. That's one of the reasons I started this group.

    Kara Johnstad

  • The importance of the voice

    Our voice is the link between body and soul. The Women who come to Kara want to feel, find and strengthen precisely that again. In one way or another, they lost this connection. The German language illustrates this awareness, which we should actually have, in many idioms and phrases: "der inneren Stimme folgen, seiner Bestimmung folgen, im Einklang mit sich sein" (to follow the inner voice, follow one's destiny, and be in harmony with oneself.) 

  • And then when you see that in a small group: Wow, they develop self-confidence, they are no longer shy, they suddenly (experience) their big, powerful, flexible, delicate and vulnerable voice and are no longer afraid to say something, to really say something - that is simply indescribable!

    Kara Johnstad

  • Backstage with Kara Johnstad

    The feeling, the bright eyes, the posture with which Kara tells me about her vocation, the people, and their stories are indeed hard to put into words. She infects you, she pulls you along, and you instantly have the feeling that you can do anything. You are safe with her by your side; you are safe, you get to know yourself, you can express what you think and just be you. 

  • Kara Johnstad and her voice

    But Kara Johnstad is so much more than the leader of a singing circle for women - you're welcome to take a closer look at her vast range of service offerings, which she uses to help people find themselves and their voice through music on her homepage. But what is actually the best part of her work? What is her everyday motivation? Let's find it out.

  • Context and motivation

    At some point, Kara realized that what she does and how she teaches actually helps many people. This realization has encouraged her to be on the right path. Filtering out the best in her diverse activities is not really possible. However, she says, her most significant insight is that she can actually be all of those things and not have to choose one. She used to be very torn because each role also requires different behaviors and manners, has a different focus, and would also have to be marketed differently. Today, she knows that everything is interrelated and cannot and should not be considered separately. 

    We, as humans, are told we have to decide. I have decided that I am everything. I am a producer, songwriter, poet, author, radio host, coach, teacher, artist. I enjoy all of these roles.

  • Kara Johnstad

    Every day Kara gets up at 5 am and goes to bed at 12 pm. She draws her motivation from transformation and alchemy - in nature and also in people. 

  • I like to see a seed grow into a tree, I like to see a fearful person suddenly discover the beauty of love and happiness, or how a piece of wood becomes a drum. It motivates and drives me to see how things and people evolve - toward more beauty, more truth, greater understanding.

    Kara Johnstad

  • Kara Johnstad on the grand piano. Photo by Katharina Menzel

  • Voice Help for Self-Help

    Since I'm sitting here at the voice source, I took the opportunity to see what I could do to sing as a soloist. I've always been told that I have a typical choir voice, that I need to sing and speak louder, and that I'm just not cut out for solo warbling. 

    Kara approaches this in two different ways - on the one hand, she first explains precisely how the voice actually works. On the other hand, she clarifies how the "voices" that suggested certain things to me as a child still affect today and prevent me from developing my full power or letting it out. Super Exciting. As a human being - just as in the animal kingdom - it's also totally natural to feel more comfortable in groups. Singing together is an absolutely fantastic thing. I couldn't agree more. I really love making music together with others, trying out polyphonic things, and being carried along - but I'm all the more interested in why I can't enjoy that on my own. Again, it brings human nature to the fore: when you step out of a group into the spotlight, you show yourself to the world and are also directly more vulnerable. 

  • And otherwise?

    I could go on endlessly here; so many things came up in our conversation. Still, they would go beyond the scope here. I can only recommend that you see for yourself: if you have always imagined becoming a singer, but something has kept you from it, take the plunge, get to know Kara, and find your voice. 

  • And what does Kara pack in our adventure suitcase?