AVA Lifetime Achievement Awards

Lifetime Achievement Award for “Outstanding leadership and sustained contribution to the field of voice over many years”

The highest honour accorded by the Association

  • Open to AVA members or retired previous members only
  • Nominees shall have evidence of significant contribution in at least three of the following areas:
    • Exemplary practice within their profession
    • Education
    • Commitment to cross-disciplinary activities
    • Research and publications
    • Promotion of voice and/or advocacy for vocal health
    • Service to AVA
    • Service to the voice community
  • Nomination received unanimous support from Board
  • Entitles the awardee to Life membership of AVA

 

As presented by Dr Debbie Phyland at the Australian Voice Association AGM, October 25th 2020:

 

“To introduce and contextualise the two wonderful ensuing recipients of this award necessitates a reflection on the inception of AVA and their pivotal roles. Back in Adelaide some 30 years ago, Cecilia Pemberton, Janet Baker, Alison Russell, David Close and Alison Bagnall met up and deigned to hold a multi-disciplinary voice conference, the first of its kind in Australia.  As a committee they were impecunious, but their US keynote presenter Professor Bastian generously agreed to present with no remuneration and they proceeded in good faith. The Inaugural Voice Symposium was held in Adelaide in May 1991 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Two hundred delegates attended the symposium; speech pathologists, ENTs, teachers of singing and voice coaches. The success of the symposium was the impetus for the formation of the AVA.

 

By the end of 1991, Alison Russell, Jan Baker and Cecilia Pemberton had established the AVA with a charter to foster collaboration between all voice professionals in the education, research and care of voice users.

The financial success of the inaugural symposium meant that, from then on, seeding funds were available for future AVA organising committees.

 

All three of these women should be congratulated for their vision and commitment to Voice in Australia but in particular today we wish to recognise the two that have sustained this commitment and been true doyennes in our collective worlds for the past 30 years. In case you haven’t been able to identify them from this introduction, they are none other than Dr Janet Baker and Cecilia Pemberton. In their own different ways, they have both been pioneers and pundits. It is fitting that we celebrate them together, but this does not in any way diminish the extraordinary relative contribution of each. So, in alphabetic order:

 

Associate Professor Janet Baker

Dr Baker (Jan) is an inspirational thought leader in our field, and an exceptional role model to me and so many others. I personally recall attending a therapy workshop she ran about 28 years ago and feeling like I had an epiphany as I had met my new idol. Witnessing her work with clients and hearing of the strong physiological and psychodynamic rationales underpinning her therapy represented a pivotal and inspirational moment in my own journey as a voice clinician. I know I wrote a letter to her then (which now may seem obsequious) but my words of gratitude and admiration still ring true today and would be echoed by many others.

 

From the beginning of her speech pathology career, Jan has been fascinated by the intrinsic links between communication, human behaviour and emotion and she has championed the importance of recognising and exploring these connections, especially in relation to the human voice.  Her further studies which led to qualifications in counselling and psychotherapy and family therapy, demonstrated in practice, her commitment to dealing with communication issues and their impact in the wider framework of family; beyond the individual. Further, her impactful PhD research reflected her passion and commitment to the area of voice. Dr Baker was the first speech pathologist to qualify as a clinical member of the International Transactional Analysis Association (ITAA) and as a Family Therapist.

 

As previously noted, Dr Baker was one of the founding members of the Australian Voice Association and has played a pivotal role in this association for many years.  Indeed, she has also been well recognised in SPAA for her service and advocacy for voice as part of communication. She has been a regular invited presenter at AVA & voice events, made significant contributions in the areas of speech pathology clinical services, academic education, influence and advice to government, clinical education, research and publications, management of health and education services and service to the community. She has been heavily involved with tertiary education throughout, setting up the curriculum for the new Speech Pathology course at the School of Communication Disorders at Sturt College of Advanced Education in Adelaide and later in her career from 2004-2006 she worked in curriculum planning for the Speech Pathology Masters’ Program at the School of Medicine, Flinders University, SA and was appointed as Associate Professor Speech Pathology and Audiology.

 

Dr Baker was similarly recognised by Speech Pathology Australia with transfer to the highest accolade with Life Membership and she has also received prestigious recognition in the US receiving the American Psychosomatic Society (APS) Scholar’s award and Citation Poster Award in Denver 2006. We know she has received numerous other awards. She is well known and respected internationally and nationally throughout the speech pathology, laryngology, performing arts medicine, psychology and voice fields. She has presented in her inimitable, poised, erudite and inspiring manner for an impressive number of invited national and international presentations and workshops-the invitations testament that she is indeed considered most worthy by her peers.

 

She is similarly very well published. Most significantly, Assoc Prof Baker has authored the truly extraordinary book “Psychosocial Perspectives on the Management of Voice Disorders” (a work of art as well as science). She has also written a chapter on “Functional Voice and Related Disorders” in the excellent textbook Functional Disorders in Neurology Handbook of Neurology Series and is Lead Author (along with other international notables) on a multi-disciplinary consensus document for Management of Functional Communication, Swallowing, Cough and Related Disorders: Consensus Recommendation for Speech and Language Professionals.

 

Perhaps many don’t know that Jan is also a highly acclaimed mezzo-soprano with a long list of performance and stage credits. (I recall first hearing Jan’s magnificent voice when she performed at The National Gallery of Victoria for the 1998 AVA Voice Conference with her witty reworded version of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Major General “I am the very model of an otolaryngologist”).  Being an operatic performer herself, has no doubt further informed her intricate understanding of the performance voice, its strengths and fragilities and symbiotic relationship to one’s physical and psychological wellbeing.

 

So… there are so many things I could say about Jan (Associate Professor Janet Baker). Her sheer hard work, creativity, multiple gifts and extraordinary achievements represent outstanding involvement and service to AVA over three decades and indeed merit this award and more.

 

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Cecilia Pemberton

Equally but for different reasons, Cecilia Pemberton is similarly one of my, and so many others, cherished mentors and sources of clinical inspirations-a passionate speech pathologist who is a clinician to the core and has made a sustained and outstanding contribution to the speech pathology profession during her career.  She is a recognised and valued specialist in the assessment and treatment of clients with any form of vocal dysfunction across the board and has worked for the last 43 years in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia and in the United Kingdom-she gets around our Cecilia!  Colleagues at both a state and a national level frequently seek her opinion and advice about client care.  She is well recognised for her expertise and clinical judgement. She has also been involved in formal research in her specialty area and had her work published in international professional and scientific journals. Other researchers in the field of voice refer to her depth and breadth of knowledge in clinical expertise which is always grounded firmly in evidence-based research.

 

Cecilia has been an active promoter of clinical excellence and research.  She has been involved in a number of formal research projects, all of which have resulted in ground-breaking publications in international refereed journals. In particular three publications she co-authored have been well-cited and received much media interest  “Have Women’s Voices Lowered Across Time?” and also  “A Cross Sectional Study of Australian Women’s voices; Speaking Fundamental Frequency Changes Over Time in Women: A Longitudinal Study; and “Characteristics of Normal Larynges under Flexible Fibrescopic and Stroboscopic Examination: An Australian Perspective” . All of these articles have in fact had a significant impact on our understanding of the Australian voice landscape.  

 

In 2000, Cecilia who is here tonight led a research project evaluating the Voice Care for Teachers DVD. The DVD was an update of the educational video (created by Cecilia, Dr Alison Russell and Professor Jenni Oates) and has been sold widely to educational institutions, speech pathologists and voice coaches throughout Australia and overseas. The specific focus on prevention and early intervention for voice problems was pioneering and has been the impetus for many other proactive approaches to occupational vocal health.

Cecilia has continued her commitment to this cause by investigating the prevalence of voice problems among teachers and developing long-term vocal health programs particularly targeting Catholic Schools in NSW. The first of her programmes started in 2008 with Wollongong Catholic Schools and was based on the concept of Employee Assistance programmes which had a long history of success. The results have significant implications for the prevention of voice problems in teachers and have been widely disseminated and recognised at OH&S conferences and influenced/guided Work Cover voice policies and recommendations. She has similarly provided voice care programs to the fitness industry. Her private practice is aptly named “Voice Care Australia”. Cecilia has also been engaged as a voice consultant by Occupational Health Solutions to provide independent medical assessments for workers compensation cases presenting with voice disorders.

Indeed, Cecilia’s work in the occupational health space has been ground-breaking and recognised on the international stage earning her the British Voice Association’s Van Lawrence Best Paper prize; the Speech Pathology Australia Community Based Innovation award and finalist position for the Australian Human Resources Institute Awards, the BMA Best Workplace Health & AMP Wellbeing Program, and NSW Workcover Awards.

Cecilia has been a regular invited speaker at conferences and workshops both nationally and internationally. She has been instrumental in setting up, maintaining and leading Voice Interest groups whichever state she has been in (SA, Victoria & NSW), showing boundless generosity in sharing her knowledge and experience among her colleagues. She has been an active teacher and clinical educator of both students (including those at Flinders University, SA) and speech pathologists alike showing a tireless commitment to collegiality and lifelong learning.

 

Cecilia arrived in Australia from the United Kingdom in 1977 and has worked in the field of head and neck oncology and voice disorders ever since. She has been involved in, and frequently the development of, joint clinics in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney for 43 years: evidence of her truly collaborative approach. She is committed to, and models, best practice in the area of voice.  Her passion for her role as a speech pathologist, her excellent networking skills, her innovation and significant contribution to the field of voice through the development and implementation of therapy programs, outcome measures and prevention programs, together with her willingness to share information with her colleagues make her a perfect candidate for the award today and second to none.

 

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On a personal note, I am exceptionally honoured to present these awards tonight and to have been mentored by both of these extraordinary and truly inspirational women in different ways.  I wish to also take this opportunity to thank them for their invaluable contribution to my own professional growth (even if I neglected to send Cecilia a similar letter to Jan’s one!).

 

On behalf of not just speech pathology but the entire Australian Voice community, we congratulate you Jan and Cecilia on your Lifetime Achievement Awards (as Life Members of AVA) and thanks you both unreservedly for your “Outstanding leadership and sustained contribution to the field of voice over many years”. The Australian Voice Association also thank you for your vision and commitment in setting up this organisation which remains so strong and important to us all nearly 30 years later.”

 

Dr Debbie Phyland, October 25th 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobility Tips for teaching, coaching or consulting – Annie Strauch

A video post from Annie Strauch – Physiotherapist

In this short video, physiotherapist Annie Strauch offers mobility tips for those of us teaching, coaching or consulting online. Annie demonstrates some short and simple exercises to help us find release through the body, and to assist in a healthier and stronger vocal function. She focuses on the shoulders , neck and upper back in this series of movements that we can all enjoy throughout our working day.

How to use your voice when teaching online – Amy Hume

An Article by Amy Hume – Lecturer in Theatre (Voice) at Victorian College of the Arts
Originally posted online 21st April 2020 – reposted with permission.

Several teachers have reached out to me over the past few weeks asking why their voices feel so tired after a day of teaching online.

Vocal fatigue is common for teachers, whose job requires them to use their voice an extraordinary amount during the day with few moments for vocal rest (school teachers even have to use it at recess and lunch time whilst on duty).

So, I thought this was interesting. Teachers talk all day, so why is talking online making their voices tired?

There are a few reasons your voice may be feeling tired or sore at the end of a day of online.

1.    You may be over-compensating

It’s highly likely that the main contributor to vocal fatigue from online teaching is coming from a tendency to over-compensate.

In a face-to-face environment, you rely not only on verbal communication but your physical presence in the room. You can signal to students with a gesture or even a glance.

Teaching online is totally different because physical presence is removed and there’s a boundary between you and the learner. You may start to overcompensate with your voice in an attempt to ‘reach’ students and connect with them through the new medium of video conferencing.

This would, in turn, place extra strain on your voice as you try to be louder or more animated than you ordinarily would in a face-to-face environment.

One teacher told me that he feels his online classes are ‘not as good’, so he’s trying to mask his insecurities by being extra upbeat and animated. It only took a couple of days before his voice was giving away exactly how he was feeling – he’d exhausted himself and had barely any voice left.

Tips:

The challenge is to trust that whilst your teaching is different when delivered online, you remain a good teacher! Students are also adjusting to the new environment. Remember that less is more, trust that your energy and your lessons will reach you students.

Also, make use of the camera – experiment with how your facial expression could do the work your body language might normally be doing in the classroom.

2.    You may be talking more loudly than what’s required

 Whether you’re using a laptop or desktop computer, most in-built microphones these days are very effective. Although it might not be up to the task of recording an interview or podcast, unless your inbuilt microphone is damaged or you’re standing a few metres away, you can trust and rely on it to be working well.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need to speak clearly! As always, a microphone will only pick up the work a speaker is already doing. Always put the emphasis on clarity rather than volume for digital environments.

You also don’t need to fill your whole living room, house or apartment with your voice. Speak to the group in front of you by speaking to your mic or screen, but don’t assume you have to be any louder in order for them to hear you. Unless they tell you otherwise, assume that they can hear you fine and you don’t need to be putting any extra effort into being loud or increasing your volume.

Tips:

If in doubt of your audio quality, ask your students for feedback as to whether they can hear you or not. This will help you determine whether you need to dial up the clarity or volume.

Note that audibility and intelligibility are two different things. If your students say they can’t hear you, play with speaking more clearly (you could think of us as dialling up your consonants or putting more energy in your articulators). If increasing the clarity doesn’t change their experience, it may be an audibility issue rather than intelligibility.

You might also want to consider using a headset. I find headsets great for video conferencing as I know the mic is right in front of my mouth, plus I can hear the students more clearly, and I can gesticulate freely! Colleagues and I have worked out our favourite headsets at the moment are Logitech H800 Wireless Headset (hooray for Bluetooth) and Corsair HS45, but you could even opt for something as simple as Logitech H110 Stereo Headset.

If you’d prefer a desktop mic, the Rode NTUSB is great value for money – it comes with with a desktop stand and will plug straight into your computer. The Rode NT1A condenser mic is also a crowd favourite and a great option if you have an audio interface and mic stand at the ready.

3.    You may be using your voice more than you would in the studio or classroom

In an effort to make sure instructions are clear and your students are engaged, you could be speaking more than you would in a face-to-face environment.

Many of my colleagues in the voice profession have commented on the importance of clarity of instruction when teaching online. There’s unanimous agreement that our instructions need to be specific and deliberate. Clarity of instruction doesn’t necessarily mean giving more detail or speaking for longer, it can mean finding the simplest way to say what needs to be said.

This reduces the chance of confusion, which itself leads to frustration, annoyance or discomfort from the students. Confusing instructions also increase the vocal load of the teacher, as suddenly you’re explaining something more than you normally would.

Most significantly, clear instructions make the lesson easier for the students (who are experiencing the same amount of Zoom fatigue as their teachers). It takes the pressure off them having to dissect information that’s being delivered to them through a different medium than they’re used to.

Tips:

Find the most simple, clear and direct way to give an instruction or explain a concept to students. Rather than ramble and draw out your explanation, pause and give them the space to ask questions.

Remember that students are getting familiar with this new learning environment too. They need space to comprehend information and take in instructions

4.    Resist the temptation to fill every silence with your own voice

Silence in an online class can make you feel like the lesson isn’t landing, the students are losing focus or people are distracted. But perhaps these moments of silence are the same in-between moments that present themselves in any face-to-face class – only now they’re not filled with student chatter or background noise?

In an online environment, the background noise of a school or university disappears, and the silence can be overwhelming. The space you give students to comprehend concepts, respond to instructions or complete their work is crucial – not only to their learning, but to preserving your voice (and probably your wellbeing!).

Tips:

I know some teachers who are using the Pomodoro technique – teaching for 25 minutes, then giving students a 5 minute break, so it’s 25 mins on and 5 mins off. You could invite students to put some music on in short breaks like these, or you could play some music and the students hear that. Music or no music, any sort of break in a class is a chance to build in moments of vocal rest.

You could also embrace the silence! Rather than racing to fill every pocket of silence with your own instructions or talking, get familiar (and comfortable) with the silence. This is certainly a challenging one when teaching online, as I know a lot of teachers are feeling a need to fill every little moment of the class to keep students engaged. The best solution is probably to investigate and strike a balance.

5.    Have a look at your working-from-home set up and check that it’s supporting effective voice use

One singing teacher told me last week that she injured her neck in the first week of teaching online because she insisted on putting her laptop up high on top of her piano because she didn’t want to have a double chin.

There are few things more daunting than seeing yourself on camera all day, every day, day after day. It’s no wonder some teachers have opted for the most flattering camera angle as opposed to the most ergonomic set up!

She quickly realised how ridiculous her concern about a double chin was, but only after she injured her neck and was wondering why her voice was so tired and scratchy.

When it comes to using your voice efficiently and effectively, alignment and breath are key.

In a classroom or studio you’re probably standing, and chances are you’re moving around a bit. You may not always have the best posture when standing but at least you’re not leaning over a laptop or slouched at a desk.

Working from home, you might be sitting at a desk or table delivering classes to a screen that’s requiring you to gaze up to it or lean over to it. Preferably, your camera will be at the height of your head so that you can keep your head and neck in alignment. If your head and neck are off balance, that’s going to put extra strain on your neck and shoulders, restricting your breathing and disconnecting you from using your voice functionally.

Tips:

Find the balance between a camera angle and lighting you can cope with, and prioritise your alignment so that you’re not stretching your neck forward or slouching in your spine.

Any moments you can build into the day that allow you to stretch your neck or shoulders will be beneficial as well.

If you’d normally go between standing and sitting when teaching, aim to have the same variety in your online classes.

6.    Make sure you are breathing

One of my colleagues from New York remarked recently that on a trip to the supermarket, he felt tension in the air, and he looked around and observed that everyone was holding their breath (a voice teacher’s trained eye can quickly notice when people are breathing shallowly or holding their breath).

This phenomenon of holding your breath through the pandemic was also observed in David Marr’s article on The Guardian, One day we will tell stories of the virus, a time when we held our breath passing people on the street.

Sadly, in Australia, it feels like after going through a summer of being scared of the air due to bushfire smoke, we’re now scared of the air due to the virus.

I’m finding myself frequently holding my breath on my morning walks through Carlton Gardens and on trips to the supermarket, and whilst I thank my impulse to survive, I remind myself to reconnect to my breath when I’m back in my teaching space (aka my living room).

It’s important to acknowledge we’re not only shifting to teaching online, but doing so in the midst of a global pandemic that comes with a range of its own demands. You’re not only learning to teach online, you’re also processing what’s happening in the world, in your institution, in your family and with your students – all of which as a singular concern could be discombobulating and disconnect you from your breath.

Tips:

Whether you teach standing or sitting, take a moment to check in with your breath before teaching. You can place a hand around the level of your belly button and focus on breath moving your belly out into your hand as breath comes in, and your hand moves in towards your spine as breath leaves.

Low and slow. That’s all you need to remember.

If you can take this moment to centre your breath before class, you’ll be more likely to be using good breath support when it comes to teaching.

What does a Voice Coach Do? – Jennifer Innes

When someone asks me what I do, and I say, “I’m a Voice Coach”, the conversation usually continues a little something like this:

 

Them: “oh, you’re a singing teacher?”

Me: “No, I don’t teach singing; I teach spoken voice.”

Them: “Oh, so you’re a speech path?”

Me: “No, not that either, though some of our goals are similar”

Them: “Erm….so, you teach elocution and how to speak properly.”

Me: “That’s closer to it. But not really right either”.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame them.  For people outside the performing arts world, there’s no reason for them to know what I do.  Sometimes when I say I teach accents as part of my job, that is familiar (and often inspires QUITE the conversation), but otherwise, how should they know what a Voice Coach is? If I’m honest with you, many people within the performing arts field also don’t realise the full scope of my job.  This is a topic of much discussion and some frustration among ‘Voicies’. Sure, we can warm up the actors, but what we do goes way beyond that.  As a colleague recently observed – half our job is in educating others about what we actually do.

 

We often butt up against the dated and inaccurate perception that we Voice Coaches function solely to teach and drill technical skills, and to craft our students’ voices into some standard and universal ideal.   As a trained and practising actor, who had studied Spoken Voice myself at drama school, even I had a limited idea of the full depth and creative potential of my job before I retrained in Voice at the Victorian College of the Arts. During my immersive training, and since entering into my new career of University teaching, private practice and production coaching, my eyes have been opened to the full potential of my profession. Which leads us back to the original question, what is it that I do?

 

Before I describe my job, I want to state that other Voice Coaches might offer different perspectives or opinions on the role.  There’s a range of different approaches out there, and I’m sure that many vary from mine to some degree.  However, I’m certain that many of my colleagues, both in Australia and overseas, share many of my guiding principles.

 

So yes, we do teach technical skills.  We teach people how to use their bodies in a way that supports a flexible and healthy voice.  For me, this is step one.  Sometimes this means we need to undo: undo patterns of physical tension that might be unconscious and habitual, but which might restrict a full and free breath; undo habits of movement that contribute to tension or inhibit vocal freedom; undo patterns of thinking which restrict or limit vocal and creative potential.  Blocks and restrictions can be physical, mental and emotional (which is where things can get tricky. But more on that later).  As Cicely Berry, former Voice Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company put it: ‘Voice work is a matter of finding a way past people’s fears and defences, connecting them with the full potential of their voice’[i].

 

In a basic sense, I think about my practice as teaching people how to walk and talk.  Don’t laugh – it’s harder than you think.  Because talking with a fully expressive, flexible, and embodied voice takes practice, patience and a delicate awareness of your physical (and mental) habits.  My job is to facilitate an environment in which the student or client (I’ll call them the ‘person’ from now on) can develop that awareness.  I feel strongly that in order to create that environment, I need to build trust with the person. I must not criticise their voice, or seek to ‘fix’ it, but provide tools to expand the possibilities of their unique voice while celebrating that very uniqueness.  I (and many peers) avoid using terms such as ‘wrong’, ‘bad’ and even ‘normal’ in our teaching. Because the voice is more than a sequence of physical processes resulting in sound vibrations – it is part of our identity, and opening up the full range of the person’s voice can be a confronting and emotional process.

 

Here I must comment on what I am not. I am not a therapist.  I don’t claim to be, I don’t have any relevant qualifications (beyond Mental Health First Aid Training), and I will never seek out dramatic emotional responses in the person just for the sake of it. If a Voice or Acting teacher ever asks a student to dredge up some past emotional trauma in order to really ‘get there’ emotionally, I believe they are entering into an area that is unsafe for the student.  There is research to support this assertion[ii], but that’s a whole other can of worms, and we needn’t go there now.

 

An oft-heard refrain when coaching Shakespeare is ‘play the thought, not the emotion’.  If an emotional response does occur, as a result of the text, it should serve the story and leave the person unharmed.  If the emotional response is separate to the story and the character, if it lingers, or if it is clearly disproportionate to the task at hand, I will care for the person in the moment and take appropriate action if needed.  Sometimes moving the body can help to release lingering emotions[iii], and sometimes rituals[iv] can help people step out of character.  In some cases, the person should be referred to a mental health professional.   In my experience, this rarely happens.  More often, I have seen the process of breathing deeply result in tears which signify little more than a release of long-held tension.  Still, it is important to recognise our duty of care and practice our craft with awareness and professionalism.

 

OK, Jen – I hear you say – I still don’t know what you actually do, like, in the studio.

 

Fair question.

 

After I work with the person to build an awareness of their body and move toward releasing extraneous tension, we work together to develop strength where it is helpful.  We redirect effort to the back and abdominal region, which in turn relieves the muscles in and around the shoulders, neck and larynx of the urge to over-compensate and strain to push out the voice. If there is a medical condition, or I suspect there might be, the person is referred to a medical professional. I am not a therapist, and I’m certainly not a doctor. My work does not replace the work of the ENT or Speech Pathologist.

 

After some breath and  body work, I assist the person to stretch their speaking voice by building and strengthening resonance and pitch range. We exercise the articulators (not so that the person sounds like a robot but so that they have increased vocal possibility – notice a pattern here?).  And many Voice Coaches work with text. Lovely, rich, muscular, invigorating text. And we work creatively, not mechanically. If you watched many of us working with text, you might think we’re teaching acting; and you’d kinda be right.

 

And here is the element to our work which is, to me, most important, most valuable, and most thrilling: connection.  We teach (allow? remind?) people how to connect.  In an age of illusionary connections (posts, feeds, likes, message notifications pinging up a storm), it is a pretty special thing to stand, breathe, look another human in the eye and tell them a story.  It can also be terrifying.  Often,  we’re so out of practice that many of us are overcome with self-consciousness in the moment of actually being seen. I have worked with students who physically shrink themselves, or blurt out jokes at their own expense to cover their discomfort.  I’ve seen people cry and people launch into critical attacks on themselves or tell me how ‘bad’ their voices are.  But we persist, and this is why: to witness the effect of a true, human, completely in-the-moment connection; to see someone stand tall and take up the space to which they are entitled; to hear someone send their voice out into the room with assurance, rather than retract it apologetically at the end of every phase.  We persist in order to witness the charge and change we humans can experience and bestow when we truly access freedom in our voices, and let language move through us.  This is what I do. What a thrill.

 

For those who perceive my job as fixing, or standardising voices, or pushing actors towards perfect, crisp but inflexible elocution (as it was once called), I offer this quote from renowned Voice Coach and Pedagogue Kristin Linklater: ‘the natural voice is transparent, it reveals, not describes, inner impulses of emotion and thought, directly and spontaneously. The person is heard, not the person’s voice’[v].

 

Oh, and I teach accents. But please don’t ask me to do one for you if I see you at a party.

 

[i] C Berry, ‘Transforming Texts’, in Well-Tuned Women: Growing Strong Through Voicework, , F. Armstrong & J Pearson, Pirate Jenny Publications, 2013, p.45

[ii] S Burgoyne, K Poulin & A Rearden, ‘The Impact of Acting on Student Actors: Boundary Blurring, Growth, and Emotional Distress’, Theatre Topics, vol. 9, no. 2, 1999, pp. 157-179; M Seton, ‘Post-Dramatic’ stress: Negotiating Vulnerability for Performance’ Proceedings of the 2006 Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, 2006; SL Taylor, ‘Actor training and emotions: finding a balance’, PhD thesis, Edith Cowan University, Perth, 2016, p.52

[iii] M Seton, ‘Post-Dramatic’ stress: Negotiating Vulnerability for Performance’ Proceedings of the 2006 Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies, 2006, p.4

[iv] R Barton, ‘Therapy and Actor Training’, Theatre Topics, vol. 4, no. 2, September 1994, p 112

[v] K Linklater, Freeing the Natural Voice: Imagery and Art in the Practice of Voice and Language, Drama Publishers, Hollywood, 2006, p.8