"For me, the invisible instrument manifests through the voice, that mysterious sound maker composed of vocal chords, lips, tongue, breath, and spirit. It's a peculiar and fascinating instrument, a peculiar and fascinating life," writes Joan Oliver Goldsmith, a freelance writer living in Minneapolis who sings with the Minnesota Chorale, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Minnesota Orchestra. More than 20 million Americans (10.4 percent of the population) now perform in choral groups. Goldsmith speaks for them in this enthralling book that salutes the passion, the joy, and the inevitable pleasures of singing, music, and practice.

The author calls herself "a Ninja auditioner" and lets us in on the challenges of these sessions. She describes the rigors of practice: "Teaching the notes to our muscles; engraving the geography of the music onto our minds; playing with phrasing, dynamics, words, tempo — negotiating the best agreement we can between the composer's notation, our musical impulses, and our instrument's capabilities."

With great enthusiasm and spunk, Goldsmith shares her love of singing that was nurtured in arts camp and living room recitals. She charts her switch from being a soprano to an alto and concludes with a discussion of "tessitura," the art of deciding "where you want to live with your voice." Goldsmith envisions her body as a clarinet, and we understand immediately why she takes such pride in being an amateur — it's all so playful and so much fun.

You'll savor the author's creative takes on conductors, the rigors of singing Bach, the meaning of singing Mozart's Requiem in Aspen before an appreciative audience, and the joys of making friends with others in a choir. Goldsmith reflects on why she's so enamored of this "glorious insanity"; it "has something to do with the invisible instrument we all carry inside — a creative spirit that must be expressed if the soul is not to die a slow, bleak death." This is a book to enjoy and share with your friends — especially those with a passion for music and the passionate life.