Profile: Artist and Educator Norma Gentile Heals with Sound

Norma Gentile, is an accomplished musician, healer, and “Sound Shaman,” and she considers herself an Ann Arbor townie, with strong University of Michigan academic roots.

“I have lived in and around the Ann Arbor area for more than 40 years,” noted Gentile. “Like many townies, I came to study at the University of Michigan, and after earning degrees—bachelor and master degrees in Voice Performance—and doing additional studies and working in Europe, returned to Ann Arbor.”

Gentile has also named her unique brand of mixing music and therapy.

“For 35 years I have combined singing with energy medicine.  I call this Sound Shamanism,” explained Gentile.

Her background and experience have shaped her philosophy.

“My training at UM was meant to lead me into a standard career in opera. But after a year under contract with an opera company, I felt greatly restricted,” detailed Gentile. “I was expected to sing the same music the same way each and every day. My love of connecting deeply and intimately with an audience was not being fulfilled. I believe music—and all live events—need to be flexible enough to interact with the audience. In this fashion the listeners are an active part of the creative process and shape what the performer does.”

Gentile also looks to the past for inspiration and creative influence.

“I have always loved music that was written before 1800 because it calls upon the performer to ‘listen’ to the audience and create music spontaneously by improvising,” she stated. “This improvisational component allows me to sing in a way that reflects what is happening in the room with each audience during a concert.”

There is a particular saint that Gentile favors. 

“In the early 1990’s I fell in love with medieval chants composed by Saint Hildegard of Bingen,” she revealed. “I find her music is like a blueprint for my improvisation and emotional expression.  The same song sound is different each time I sing it.”

Performance becomes a spiritual expression for Gentile as well.

“As I sing, I feel—and sometimes see—subtle energies gathering in a room,” she disclosed.  “Whether I am in a cathedral or a yoga center, my mind is focused on allowing the notes of the songs to bathe the listeners with a gentle compassionate quality. Ideally my singing leads audience members into a deeply restful state.  And this is true whether they hear me in a live concert or while listening to one of my albums of healing songs.”

Gentile has composed many of her own works as well.

“In the past 15 years, I have incorporated more and more of my own compositions and spontaneous songs into my meditation concerts,” she explained. “Using a number of instruments—brass singing bowls, shruti box, bells and sometimes harmonium and tambura—adds a lovely spectrum of color to the soundscapes that are possible as I sing. Inviting audience members to add their voices on some chants brings medieval chant alive as everyone participates in creating a tapestry of sound together.”

Gentile’s music is also available online.

“I have published nearly 60 spoken meditations with a touch of singing—available as podcasts at iTunes and my website—and four musical albums of healing music—available at iTunes, Amazon and my website.”

For more information, check out her music, meditations and brand new online courses at  

Gentile’s online course titled “How Healing Happens…and how to let it happen more” is free.