The VASTA Voice

Volume 10, Issue 2
April 2015

 

Table of Contents:

A Message from the President
Letter from the Editor
Conference Update
VASTA MD: Reflux Laryngitis: Fact vs. Fiction
Committee Updates
     Engagement Committee Update
     Award and Grants Committe Update
VSR Update
Tech Corner
International Column
     International Committe Update
     Biculturalism and the Voice Curriculum at a New Zealand Acting School: A Conversation with Whaea
     Lynda

Diversity Column
     Diversity Committee Update
Freelance Coaching Column
Review of a Vivid Book on Alexander Technique
Member News


A Message from the President

Lynn Watson
 

Lynn WatsonDear Colleagues,

Recently at my university, I was invited to teach a voice workshop for a sound design course aimed at video artists. As you can imagine, these are folks who use computer programs intensively in creating their projects. The informal title of the workshop was, "telling the story; embodying the story." It was gratifying to watch the students move from their (initially) somewhat detached states, to energized physical/vocal engagement in voice and storytelling exercises. In this workshop, as in all beginning performance classes, a sense emerges of deep longing for connection—to self, to others, to the natural world. It is a privilege to teach in a way that opens a door to the artistic expression of those connections. In our own creative work as teachers and artists, we embrace the gift of flinging open the doors of expression with joy and abandon. It is a pleasure to share that gift and to consider that, to quote Juliet, "the more I give to thee, the more I have, for both are infinite."

There is so much good work happening within VASTA at any one time, that it’s impossible to capture the extent of it here. I hope that the newsletter—including articles and updates from individual members, committees, and officers—conveys a sense of the scope of the organization's endeavors. Since some discussion about the VASTA website has arisen on VASTAVOX, I thought I would take a moment to share a few thoughts on the subject. Overall, the fact that multiple people are now able to update and edit the website is a vast improvement over the old structure. Prior to moving to the new website design/structure, any changes to the site had to go to one person--as many of you will recall, that was Eric Armstrong and then Michael Barnes. Since those days, VASTA has grown in size and complexity in terms of what the organization offers--too large for a single webmaster-of-the-universe, though Adriano Cabral still does a huge amount. We're an ambitious lot and always looking to the future, but with growth comes growing pains. VSR has grown and evolved into an online journal with a prestigious publisher, but that transition, fabulous as it is, has been another enormous undertaking. I know that the board and officers who have wrangled the VSR transition don't regret it for a moment, but we have experienced some growing pains!

The website is new and complex enough that not all its features have been tested, nor all the kinks smoothed out, so there's still work to be done. Some fixes will take longer than others, as underlying coding changes must be made by the company that designed and maintains site, but we'll get it done. Also, the Director of Membership, Thrasso Petras, can assist you with technical membership issues, answer general member questions, or forward your queries to the appropriate person as necessary.

I'm looking forward to spring warmth, and then to the convivial warmth of our conference in la belle ville de Montréal!

-Lynn Watson

 

 

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Letter from the Editor

Keely Wolter

Keely Wolter

Happy World Voice Day, VASTAns!

I hope you are all out celebrating and vocalizing!  Or better yet, vocally celebrating!

Just today I walked out to my mailbox to discover my real life hard copy of the Voice and Speech Review waiting for me.  It was a nice reminder of everything VASTA has to offer, and what a truly exceptional organization and community we are.  

And, we all have so much going on!  Take a look at all the fantastic things VASTAns have been up to in this issue alone.  We have loads of information, ideas, inspirations, and resources to share.

Plus, are you aware that VASTA has merch?  Check out the VASTA store on the VASTA website.  It is a great way to advertize your association with VASTA and a small amount of your purchase goes to support our organization.  What else would you want to be sporting on World Voice Day?

 

 

Best, 

Keely Wolter

Editor, VASTA Voice

 

 

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Conference Update

Pamela Prather

Dear VASTA Members,

We are excitedly plugging away to create “Cirque des Voix/Circus of Voices,” our 2015 Conference in beautiful Montréal!

Key Presenters have been secured and special performances by Mump & Smoot: Clowns of Horror and Native Inuit Throat Singers are sure to delight. We are honored that amongst our member presentations, sharing their expertise will be Lifetime Distinguished Members David Smukler, Bonnie Raphael, and Rocco Dal Vera.

Please be sure to register for the conference and book your room at Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth before space runs out!

When registering for the conference, be sure to log-in to vasta.org first, then go to the Conferences Tab and choose VASTA Conference Montréal 2015.

To book your room at Fairmont the Queen Elizabeth, click here.  We have an outstanding rate of $179 CAD ($143 USD), which applies to both single and double occupancy rooms.

We cannot wait to experience vocal play, wonder, and joy amidst the cultural riches of Montréal with all of you!

Warmest regards,

Pamela Prather, Conference Director

Kristi Dana, Associate Conference Director

Cynthia DeCure, Scheduling Coordinator

 

 

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VASTA MD: Reflux Laryngitis: Fact vs. Fiction

Dr. Yolanda Heman-Ackah

There is a lot of misinformation on the internet regarding the treatment of reflux disease.  So, in this article, I’ve sorted through myths commonly found on internet and those commonly told from one vocal performer to the other and tried to explain the medical reasons why these myths are fiction and the facts that refute them.

Fiction

Fact

If I don’t have heartburn, then I can’t have reflux.

Most people with reflux laryngitis (also known as laryngopharyngeal reflux [LPR]) have no heartburn at all.  Common symptoms of LPR include postnasal drainage, chronic throat clearing, mucus and phlegm in the throat, chronic cough, throat tickle, difficulty getting food to go down with swallowing, and the sensation that there is always something stuck in the throat.

GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) and LPR (laryngopharyngeal reflux) are the same thing.

GERD and LPR are similar, but different diseases.  GERD causes acid damage to the esophagus (the swallowing tube).  LPR causes acid damage to the larynx (the voice box), the nose and sinuses, and the back of the mouth.

     Drinking apple cider vinegar can help to cure reflux.

Apple cider vinegar, even diluted with
water, is an acid.  It worsens the inflammatory changes in the larynx and throat from LPR and should be avoided as much as possible.

     Drinking lemon juice can help to cure reflux.

     Lemon juice is acidic.  It worsens the 
     inflammatory changes in the larynx and throat
     from LPR and should be avoided as much as
     possible.

     Cayenne pepper and whiskey can help to cure  

     reflux.

     Both cayenne pepper and whiskey increase 
     acid production in the stomach and relax the        muscles that help to prevent reflux, thus,
     making the reflux worse.

     It is good to eat right before vocal 
     performance.

     Filling one’s stomach immediately before vocal      performance increases the risk of reflux while
     performing.  It takes about 30 minutes for the
     stomach to empty simple sugars (such as
     grapes, apples, melons, and other fruits),
     about an hour to empty complex
     carbohydrates (such as bread, cereal, granola,
     rice, potatoes, and other starchy foods), and
     about 4 hours for proteins (such as nuts and
     meats) and fats (such as cheese, yogurt, ice
     cream, and milk) to empty out of the stomach. 
     While food is in the stomach, it can be 
     refluxed.  Thus, one should avoid fruits for 1
     hour before performing and complex
     carbohydrates, proteins, and fats for 3-4
     hours before performing.

     Drinking lots of water during performance is  

     good for the vocal folds.

     It takes about an hour or two for the water
     that you drink to be absorbed into the blood
     stream enough to help lubricate the vocal
     folds. Drinking large quantities of water during
     a vocal performance can cause reflux.  It is
     best to hydrate for several hours before vocal
     performance with either water or Gatorade and
     then only take sips of water for the 1 hour
     before performance and the entire time during
     vocal performance.   If your urine is pale, you
     are drinking enough water during the day to
     keep your vocal folds hydrated.  If your urine
     is yellow, your body is conserving water and 
     hydration should be increased.

     Reflux medications (i.e. proton pump
     inhibitors) cause osteoporosis and bone
     fractures.

     There have been no controlled studies that
     have shown that the proton pump inhibitors
     (PPI’s) that are used to treat reflux disease
     cause osteoporosis or bone fractures.  There
     are some studies that show an association
     between the use of proton pump inhibitors
     and the presence of osteoporosis or bone
     fractures, but no causation has been
     demonstrated. In the studies that show an
     association, the relative risk (that is, the
     likelihood) of developing osteoporosis or bone
     fractures if one takes a PPI is only about 1.3 –
     1.5 times the usual risk seen among people
     who don’t take PPI’s.  This means that if the
     risk of osteoporosis or bone fractures in the
     normal population is 2 people in 100,000,
     then the risk of developing osteoporosis or
     bone fractures in those taking PPI’s is
     increased to about 3 people in 100,000.

     PPI’s such as NexiumTM, PrevacidTM,
     ProtonixTM, PrilosecTM, AciphexTM, and
     ZegeridTM should be taken for only 2 weeks.

     When the FDA approved the sale of PPI’s for
     over the counter use, it put the
     recommendation on the warning label that if
     the individual feels the need to take the PPI for
     more than 2 weeks, he/she should seek the
     advice of a physician.  This warning label was
     made because there are several medical
     conditions that mimic reflux, and these need
     to be diagnosed and treated early.  Also, reflux
     that continues past 2 weeks, such as reflux
     laryngitis or GERD, usually indicates significant
     damage to the lining tissue of the larynx or
     esophagus, and these need to be monitored
     closely by a physician so that the dose of the
     medication can be adjusted as dictated by the
     disease process.  PPI’s taken long term under
     the supervision of a physician are safe.

 

 

 

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Committee Updates

Engagment Committee Update

VASTA Engagement Committee Co-Chair, Joanna Battles
 

Joanna BattlesHappy Spring, VASTA Community, from the Engagement Committee!

The Engagement Committee is pleased to announce the great success of our recent creation of a "VASTA Award" presented at each of the regional conferences of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival! Please join me in thanking VASTA members Patricia Riggin, Robin Carr, Adriano Cabral, Cheryl Moore Brinkley, Tamara L. Meneghini, and Marie Downing for volunteering their time and efforts towards selecting a KCACTF student performer who best exemplified superior Voice & Speech talent in their respective regional festivals. This is only the beginning of what we hope will be a long lived collaboration between VASTA and KCACTF, and so, if you would like to get involved in this partnership in the future, as a volunteer award selector, or for more information, contact Paul Ricciardi, member of VASTA's Engagement Committee and Co-Chair, KCACTF, Region I at paulkcactf1@yahoo.com

The Engagement Committee would also like to bring your attention to a VASTA Conference Scholarship available for junior high and high school drama teachers. VASTA will pay up to $500 toward airfare and waive the conference fee for a lucky drama teacher seeking to enrich their teaching and refresh their artistic inspiration.  Winners will be notified by May 1, 2015.  For more information please email Tamara Meneghini at engagement@vasta.org 

 

Awards and Grants Committee Update


On January 24th and 25th, VASTA Membership Enrichment Grant II recipient Kristi Dana (Adjunct Professor, Voice & Speech, Long Island University, Post) acted as host to International Teaching Artist and Actress Marya Lowry (Faculty, MFA Acting, Brandeis University) for The Human Voice for Life and Art, a 2-day intensive journey into the Roy Hart Theatre voice work.  The intensive was held at Brooklyn College CUNY, Dana’s MFA Alma Mater.  Eight VASTA members and two non-members attended the intensive—a wonderful mix of early and mid-career voice teachers, actors and theatre practitioners.Roy Hart Intensive Group

The work was exploratory and imaginative, physical and invigorating. With a focus on the importance of the breath and awareness of the body, attendees were given tools and exercises to, as Lowry so deftly states, “harness untapped resources of energy, deepen full-bodied breath connection and strengthen the imaginative muscle.”  At the core of the Roy Hart work was extended voice work done at the piano (championed by Alfred Wolfsohn and Roy Hart) where the group had the unique opportunity to engage the use of multi-octaves and explore the many colors and timbres of their voices.  Thanks to Lowry’s warm, open heart, generosity of spirit and boundless energy, all participants were inspired and enlightened by the work. The group has been in communication since to express their deepest gratitude to each other for the positive energy and support in the room and especially to Lowry for her incredible leadership and sharing of her knowledge. Many thanks to VASTA and to the Awards and Grants Committee for its support of this truly special and memorable intensive.  

Also, The VASTA Awards and Grants Committee is pleased to announce that Ms. Alicia Richardson, a graduate student, York University, Toronto, is the 2015 recipient of the Clyde Vinson Memorial Scholarship.  Professor Eric Armstrong nominated her.  In his nomination letter, Professor Armstrong stated,

"along with other influential and passionate new members,...Alicia represents something new and invigorating in the world of vocal pedagogy, and I believe that she has global potential to help us integrate diversity into all our work."

The scholarship includes one-year free membership, up to $500 toward travel expenses to the VASTA Conference, waiver of the conference fee and a $500 award.

 The Committee wishes to commend all of the nominators for supporting remarkable candidates.  There was evidence of depth of work and commitment in all of the dossiers.  It is clear that these early-career VASTA members will contribute to the continued integrity and growth of our profession.  

 

 

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VSR Update

Jeff Morrison
 

Jeff Morrison

Hello VASTAns,

First, I would like to thank everyone for their patience during the process of getting the hard copy VSR printed and shipped. It’s finally on the way, and may be there in your mailbox already.

We are hoping that once everyone has the shiny new book in their hot little hands, it will remind everyone what an amazing publication the VSR is, and motivate more people to write and submit. In anticipation of the flood of new submissions, I’d like to remind everyone of the three basic ways you can submit to the VSR: Articles (formerly Peer-Reviewed Articles), Forum pieces (formerly Essays) and Reviews.

Articles are the most overtly scholarly pieces of writing the VSR publishes. These articles typically follow academic writing style rules and support their conclusions using evidence from other people’s writing (often scholarly, but not necessarily so) in the form of citations. These articles are peer-reviewed, meaning that the article, once ready, is sent anonymously to Voice and Speech scholars or practitioners who assess the article’s content, style, and suitability for publication. These articles often deal with issues specific to the actual practice of Voice and Speech practitioners, but often bring in other perspectives in the form of other academic disciplines. Articles range from 6000-10000 words.

If you are an academic on the tenure track, this kind of writing is the easiest “sell” to the kinds of people who will be reviewing your portfolio. This is the kind of writing that is also most readily recognized as scholarship in other disciplines. The VSR has many people who can help with this kind of writing if it’s what you need or want to do but you lack experience or confidence with it.

Forum pieces are, from a certain perspective, less traditionally scholarly in that they are often personal, slightly less formal in style than Articles, and often use experience, anecdote, or interview to as evidence to support the author’s conclusions. However, most Voice and Speech practitioners seem to feel most comfortable expressing in this mode, and so the VSR is continuously working to find ways to make this kind of writing “count” as much as any other. The important thing is that Forum pieces aren’t simple records of an experience, but that they endeavor to say something that hasn’t been said before, for example they describe an unknown corner of Voice and Speech practice, or they postulate a new way to solve an old problem. These articles tend to deal directly with the nitty-gritty of Voice and Speech practice. If you aren’t an academic, this is the way to go; if you are, this is also a great way to get your ideas down. These articles are usually a little shorter, 4000-8000 words.

Reviews are for many the easiest way to break the ice and get started writing for the VSR. Reviews are traditionally for books, but we have a smartphone app review in an upcoming issue, and we have had audio and video material reviewed in the past. Reviews are meant to be more than “I like this book” – they require a summary description of the contents and some in-depth critique, from your position as an expert, of whether or not and why or why not the book (or app, or CD, or DVD) is useful to the Voice and Speech training community. These are the shortest thing we publish – 1000-1500 words.

At the VSR, we value all of these contributions equally. In fact, the Article and Forum categories often overlap – an especially detailed personal account of a coaching process may go out for peer review and be published as an Article; likewise a shorter piece of writing with only a few citations may end up as a Forum piece, especially if the author is not interested in peer review. In some academic circles, essay writing is seen as “less-than;” at the VSR, we try to make it clear that the division has less to do with any intrinsic value we ascribe to these different kinds of writing and thinking, and more to the conventions that pertain in academia and in the publishing world.

We all look forward to your submissions in the coming year. Please keep them coming, and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions at vsr.editor@vasta.org.

 

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Tech Corner

Josh Moser

Josh Moser

HAPPY WORLD VOICE DAY VASTANS!!

In honor of this glorious day of vibration, this issue's Tech Corner is a slightly different spin. I'm in the middle of rehearsals for Kid Simple by Jordan Harrison - the freshman lab show here at the Savannah College of Art and Design where I also teach the first level voice classes. The entire play is about vibration, sound, and how the visible and invisible can affect and work with each other. Our dramaturg's first words at her presentation at the table read were Nikola Tesla's most famous quote - "If you want to find the secrets of the Universe, think in terms of energy, frequency, and vibration."

As VASTAns working with the voice, we certainly understand the unique power and potential of the human vocal vibration and frequency range. What I found particularly exhilarating about the dramaturgy presentation, and this play, are the possibilities of other scientific explorations and applications of sound. In our beginning exploration of Cymatics, one video we watched showed the effect that different frequencies have on a column of water. Another video shows New Zealand musician Nigel Stanford playing different instruments with different elements - including a tesla coil. That one made all the students sit up because of the way different instruments affected various elements - like a dance. A third clip showed us scientists from George Mason University using low frequency sound waves to extinguish fire. Other science presented to the cast and crew was information about prosthetic larynxes and laryngectomies - which was interesting as the lead character in Kid Simple chooses to literally give up her voice at the end of the play - a la Little Mermaid - in order to defeat the antagonist and restore balance and order.

This play seems appropriately timely to me on this 2015 World Voice Day. Most of you have probably seen these clips, or versions of them, and understand the science, but what was magical for me during this was watching the faces of students who had never learned or considered this research for a production that, at its heart, is all about what we do as VASTANs - plumbing the depths of science and art to help our students, clients, and each other restore balance. It is encouraging to see people so eager to discover their own vibratory potential, and to see many events happening in so many different places around the world. Sending you all good energy, frequency, and vibration as we celebrate our individual and communal voices.

 

 

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International Column

 

International Committee Update

Amy Mihyang Ginther
 

Amy Mihyang Ginther

Greetings from the International Committee!

The April Newsletter continues our series of our amazing committee members sharing their experience teaching and training all over the world. Keep reading for Alexandra Whitham's reflections on teaching in New Zealand.

We are starting to gear up for the conference in Montreal and we are aiming to make it as accessible as possible for the international VASTA membership. We have just closed our call for Diversity and International Conference Scholarships and also member video submissions to help create a promo video for the conference this year.

Do you know someone who may be interested in joining VASTA? The International Committee has written an email that you can copy and paste to tell prospective members and conference attendees about how you will benefit from being part of the VASTA organization. There is a small part at the end for you to write something brief about your own experience as a member - don't forget to add your own words! Also, thanks to the amazing Ana Laan, we also have a copy in Spanish to share as well.

Please feel free to contact me at info@vocalcontext.com with any questions or suggestions on how we may better support the international VASTA community.

Looking forward to seeing many of you this summer!

Amy Mihyang Ginther

Chair of the International Committee

 

Biculturalism and the Voice Curriculum at a New Zealand Acting School: A Conversation with Whaea Lynda 

Alexandra Whitham
 




 

 
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Diversity Column

Diversity Comittee Update

Michelle Lopez-Rios
 

Michelle Lopez-RiosThe Diversity Committee received several excellent applications for the 2015 VASTA Conference Diversity/International Scholarship. VASTA as an organization values the benefit of hearing the voices and ideas of a diverse group of practitioners. We will announce the recipients in the next newsletter!

We are also excited about the return of the Identity Cabaret!!!  We had a blast with this in London and look forward to your contributions in Montreal!  Judy Shahn & Claudia de Vasco have volunteered to spearhead the cabaret this year.  Look for announcements on the Vox and Facebook.  If you have any questions, please feel free to email me (michelle.lopez.rios@gmail.com).

Finally, the Diversity Committee will meet as a group in Montreal. More information to come.

Abrazo,

Michelle Lopez-Rios

Chair of the Diversity Committee
 

 

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Freelance Coaching Column

Erik Singer

 

Marina TyndallGetting the vocal tract posture of a language or an accent right is a crucial part of successful accent acquisition. Vocal tract posture (also called oral posture), is the particular patterning of muscular engagement, release, and positioning characteristic of individuals and groups of speakers. It is, if you will, the ‘home base’ for the accent, and can be thought of as the position to which the vocal tract returns when at rest, or when preparing to speak or resume speaking. As dialect coaches and accent teachers know, ‘hesitation sounds’—those little filler noises people make when thinking about what to say next—can be valuable clues to the posture of the accent. Think Scottish , Barack Obama’s , or French . When you’re in the middle of a stream of speech, but not quite sure exactly what you’re going to say next, your articulators naturally assume a position of maximum mechanical efficiency for the speech actions they’re most likely to need to execute next. The nice thing about careful, conscious work on oral posture is that if an actor can really click into it, many of the sounds they’ll need to execute will fall naturally into place. It’s both a shortcut—potentially obviating the need for hours of painstaking work on every single sound in the inventory of the target accent, even those which might vary only subtly from the actor’s native accent; and also a way to come to grips with an accent through its shape and feel, rather than through the abstraction of studying tons of squiggly little symbols on paper. (Don’t get me wrong—I adore the squiggly little symbols. The more the merrier, and the squigglier the better! But not all actors feel the same way.)

One way or another, and whether they’ve done a lick of conscious work on it or not, when someone really, organically owns an accent, they have found its oral posture. People who are very gifted at accents may do this entirely unconsciously, but they are doing it, nonetheless. And whatever someone’s natural gifts, I have found that they can invariably be enhanced through deliberate and precise attention to oral posture. It confers some level of ability on those who lack it, or lack confidence, and it refines and deepens the skills of those who are already accomplished.

A few years ago I stumbled across a YouTube video of a little French girl telling a story about a magic hippopotamus. I was teaching speech and accents in an MFA program, and generally began our study of each new accent by examining the oral posture of native speakers in class with my students, leading them though the process of making specific observations and beginning to put them together. I thought the little girl was adorable (I think you’ll agree), and so brought her into class as we began to work on French accents.  There was something quite wonderful about the exercise, and it went beyond the cuteness of the video and the standard excitement of decoding and adopting a new posture. There was something startlingly clear, we quickly realized, about the little girl’s oral posture. Go watch the video if you haven’t already. Notice the position her lip corners return to when she’s finished with one thought and readying herself to speak the next one. Watch her jaw, her cheek muscles, and her lips as she speaks, pauses, and thinks. You can’t see what her tongue, velum, and pharynx are doing, of course, but if you “listen” with your own vocal tract, you’ll find that you can inuit these shapes and actions, performing them along with her. You should feel, for instance, how arched the back of your tongue is in your mouth, how close to your uvular area (the very back of your velum) it likes to hang out.

I formed a hypothesis. I decided that four-year-olds might be the ideal subjects for studying oral posture. They’ve mastered their language, and speak it expertly, and yet it’s still new enough to them that you can see the muscular actions required very very clearly. They haven’t had time to own their language’s sound system so thoroughly and perfectly that they can be a bit sublter, a bit more fluid, about stitching the physical actions of speech together. Everything that is there in an adult French speaker—the lip corner advancement, the buccinator (cheek muscle) engagement, the high jaw, the high back of tongue, the overall shape and feel—they’re all just slightly exaggerated in the magic hippopotamus storyteller. Admittedly, she’s a very animated and expressive speaker, but then, that’s the thing about four-year-olds. When they’re telling you a story, they tend to be pretty animated and expressive.

Here’s three-year-old Millen Eve, a Yorkshire lass, telling a story about her .

Of course, it’s not just oral posture we can see and hear so clearly in these pint-sized accent teachers—it’s also rhythm and intonation. Just listen to this “cute Italian girl with a bad temper,” or this funny 2 year old shouting at her mummy for laughing while she was singing Disney Frozen. And I think the reason is the same—they are just beginning to master the inflection inventory and rhythmic patterning of their languages, but we can see the outlines of these things very starkly. And so they’re great subjects to listen to for these things.

I also like the fact that there’s a kind of mirroring going on when we use these kids to teach accents to actors. The actors, too, are uncertain and incomplete in their mastery of the new sounds. But if they can match the enthusiasm and expressiveness of their young native-speaker sources, and emulate the way they don’t seem to care too much about whether all the details are right—well, that’s a great start!

Lest you think I’m favoring the girls, by the way, here’s a boy reciting the Lord’s Prayer in Scottish Gaelic. Though it does seem there are more “cute little girls” out there to be found on YouTube. YouTube being YouTube, however, there are surely tons more videos of small human beings of both genders out there for the finding. I have a small collection myself, but I’m sure you can find lots more!

Alright, one more. Here’s a Southern four-year-old telling his mom about how to find buried treasure. Cute, right? But while being charmed and entertained, we can also learn a tremendous amount from these adorable tykes about the oral posture, prosody, and intonation of their native languages and accents.

 

 

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Review of a Vivid Book on Alexander Technique

Judith Shahn

 

Judith Shahn

I am really motivated to inform and recommend to you my colleague’s new book: Integrative Alexander Technique Practice for Performing Artists by Cathy Madden. Cathy and I have taught together for 25 years at The University of Washington’s Professional Actor Training Program (PATP). We often say that Cathy is the “glue” of our program, because her approach is truly integrative. It is through her work that our graduate students are able to connect the dots between various forms of training, ranging from Suzuki Method to Linklater Voice and many other forms.

I have had the pleasure of co-teaching with Cathy for all these years and we’ve learned a kind of shorthand between the Alexander technique and the Linklater Voice Method. I know that people mean different things and have different experiences when they talk about Alexander Technique. Cathy’s direct mentor was the great Marjorie Barstow and it is Cathy’s own experience as an actor that motivated her to teach Alexander work and to do the extensive research she has done.

Cathy’s biography is extensive. She is a founding member and former chair of Alexander Technique International, Associate Director for BodyChance in Japan, Director of her own studio in Seattle, and Principal Lecturer at the University of Washington. She teaches all over the world.

What makes this book unique is that it is written in Cathy’s own clear, direct and inviting voice. It is not laden with theory, but offers a very practical way for performers to practice. In Cathy’s own words:

“The way we learn the Alexander Technique is through practice. I offer a way to rehearse using the Alexander Technique to perform something. I pick simple tasks applicable to all disciplines of performing, as well as to daily life. The tasks eventually create a short scenario. This is intended as a playful way to continue developing your ability to coordinate.”

Throughout the book, there are inserts called “performer’s chronicles”, which are anecdotes from students over the many years she’s been teaching. They each contain an “aha” moment of discovery, connected to coordination.

“In every movement you make, there is a change in the relationship of your head with your body that precedes and accompanies the movement, and which either helps you or gets in your way” (Weed 2004)

and Cathy takes this further:

“To coordinate is to consciously ask yourself to cooperate with the organizing movement – the relationship between head and spine in movement – in service of what you want to do”

This is the basis of what makes Cathy’s work with performers so profound. While, she absolutely uses hands on to suggest an idea to the person she is working with, the more important concept is the thought which one learns to give themselves. There is no dependence on the hands on work, which supplements the active thought and produces a change. Cathy often uses the phrase “to coordinate to restore design”, which also means an understanding of how the skeletal-muscular system is meant to work.

In my view, what connects the Alexander Technique to teaching voice is Cathy’s recognition of the body and voice as a psychophysical experience. We all know what it is like to have a student tell us a disparaging message they received perhaps years ago, for example: “Nice girls don’t shout” or “Boys don’t cry.” Cathy works with students to find out the underlying, perhaps subconscious messages  they have been carrying around for years that may be hindering their efficient performance.

She says:

“The full psychophysical phrase I suggest for beginning to use the Alexander Technique is as follows:

I ask myself to coordinate

So that

My head can move

So that

All of me can follow

So that

I can do what I am doing”

If it seems simple, it isn’t. The thought is absolutely simple, but as we know, to recreate new habits, it takes consistent and thoughtful practice. This is the work that Cathy engages in with students and professionals from all fields, and those who want to improve any task they are involved in.

For voice teachers and acting students, this book is a step by step workbook, with specific exercises for practical application. It is written with performance in mind and applies directly to the challenges that artists face. She speaks about the myriad messages of coaches and teachers: “Don’t be so tense!,” “Don’t think,” “Stop (you name it).” She teaches people how to supply a positive message – a “to do,” rather than a “don’t.” This isn’t a “new age” idea, but again, based on years of experience and research in neuroscience.  How is the whole self best able to make a change?

In addition, the book addresses common performer’s concerns, such as relaxation, discipline-specific techniques, warm-ups, performer/audience relationships, stage fright, exploring the role of the sense, emotions, and learned behavior.

The book is available on Amazon and is published by Intellect Books.

 

Member News

 

Greetings VASTANs,

Joshua MoserAnother spring has sprung here in Savannah, as evidenced by the fine layer of pale green pollen covering everything in sight. For our second 2015 Newsletter, we have member news coming to you from a mix of places! We are in the process of trying to update the VASTA Voice email lists according to the region selected upon your registration. I have gotten a couple reports that some of you aren't receiving emails when it is your region's turn. Please be sure to check that your VASTA profile is current with a working email address and your selected region or country. This will help us immensely as we begin to go through the VASTA Voice database.

All the best,

Josh Moser

Associate Editor, The VASTA Voice

 

Micha EspinosaMICHA ESPINOSA, Associate Professor of Voice and Acting at Arizona State University – School of Film, Dance, and Theatre, her book, Monologues for Latino Actors: A Resource Guide to the Contemporary Latino/a Playwrights published by Smith and Kraus is available on-line through Amazon and Barnes and Nobel. Her article, "Teaching in Cuba: a voice teacher’s awakening to the effects of commodification on the learning process" was published in the 2014 VSR.  She is proud to continue her acting intensives with Aole Miller in Bali Indonesia.  A special VASTA discount applies to participants wanting to join this summer. Information can be found at http://www.balitaksu.org. Micha was the proud recipient of the Dorothy Mennen Research Grant. The grant allowed her to create the world premier “Adam and Eve in Times of War” in partnership with the world renowned performance artist Guillermo Gomez Pena and members of his company, Pocha Nostra. It was a psico-shamanic event against the violence perpetuated by organized crime - a ritual of sounds, spoken word and participative performance. Micha is deeply grateful to have been part of the beautiful and politically important experience in Cuidad de Carmen- Campeche -giving voice to a community of rebel artists from "the margins" of the centralized cultural visibility in Mexico.

 

Linda GatesLINDA GATES, MA, HEAD OF VOICE Northwestern University (Chicago, IL) Is directing Anthem for Doomed Youth: The World War I Poets. It will be performed at The Poetry Foundation in Chicago on April 15.  The Northwestern Shakespeare Ensemble, which she directs, will be performing All the Worlds a Stage on April 25 at St. Cantius in Chicago. Her voice and speech book Voice for Performance will soon be issued in its 4th edition in paperback.

 

Clare HadenCLARE HADEN, MFA (Madison, WI) is currently working as Faculty Associate in the Arts Institutes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison teaching improv and voice for scientists and medical students/faculty.  She's in her fourth year serving as Oral Communication Specialist (TESOL) at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology teaching accent acquisition and public speaking skills, where her book Speaking Pastoral English in America Course is offered for the World Priest Program.  Clare continues to work as an actor (AEA) and voice and speech coach in the area and is a trained teaching artist for Overture Center of the Arts and Theatre LILA.

 

Anna HerseyANNA HERSEY, DMA (Portales, NM) is completing her first year as Assistant Professor of Voice at Eastern New Mexico University.  She was recently named Editor-in-Chief of VoicePRINTS, the peer-reviewed journal of The New York Singing Teachers Associaion, effective June 2016.  Her book, Scandinavian Song: A Guide to Diction and Repertoire is forthcoming from Rowman and Littlefield.  In February she sang with South Beach Chamber Ensemble in their Made in America concert series, a performance described as “richly satisfying” by Miami Artzine.

 

Sue Klemp

SUE KLEMP (Brookings, SD) directed the premier production of the newly revised musical I Married Wyatt Earp by Sheilah Rae, Thomas Edward West, and composer Michele Brourman.  This is her “swan song” at South Dakota State University.

 

 

Amy Mihyang GintherAMY MIHYANG GINTHER, MA (Seoul, South Korea) Amy is currently Voice and Text Coach for the Seoul Shakespeare Company's production of Titus Andronicus, which will run in Korea this June. In January, she was featured on the cover of the New York Times Magazine for her work in adoptee activism and performance. Amy will be teaching masterclasses at University of Kansas and Drake University, along with leading workshops with Savage Umbrella and Mu Performing Arts in Minneapolis in April. Her peer-reviewed article about dysconscious racism in mainstream British voice pedagogy will be published in the first edition of the Voice and Speech Review this year.

 

Betty MoultonBETTY MOULTON Professor, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada was the Voice, Speech and Text Director for Catalyst Theatre's Nevermore, which had its off-Broadway premiere Jan 26th 2015 at New World Stages. I t runs to the end of March so anyone in NYC- get out to see this wonderful show. I am really proud of the strong verse work and extended vocal abilities of all the actors.  Betty was also Voice, speech and text director for Catalyst Theatre's Vigilante, now playing as part of The Citadel Theatre’s season in March 2015.

 

Jeremy SortoreJEREMY SORTORE (Cambridge, MA) is currently in Russia at the Moscow Art Theater teaching voice, speech, and text to first-year MFA acting students from Harvard/ART. Jeremy also taught Polish acting students at the National Theater School in Krakow during the first week of March. He will return to NYC in late May to co-teach a workshop in Fitzmaurice Voicework before heading back to Cambridge to graduate with a second graduate degree in Voice & Speech Pedagogy from the ART Institute at Harvard University.

 

Phil TimberlakePHIL TIMBERLAKE (Chicago, IL) is completing a term as Chair of Performance at DePaul University’s Theatre School, where he is an Associate Professor. He will appear as arch-villain Dr. Impossible in Lifeline Theatre’s musical adaptation of the novel, Soon I Will Be Invincible this summer. Phil recently co-taught a Roy Hart Theatre Voice workshop with Marya Lowry in Chicago, and they are plotting more….

 

 

 

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VASTA Board of Directors & Officers

Board of Directors

Lynn Watson
President 
2014 - 2016

Mandy Rees
Past President
2014 - 2016

Betty Moulton
President Elect
2014 - 2016

 

 

 

Directors

Judith Shahn
2012-2015

Krista Scott
2012-2015

Judylee Vivier
2012-2015

Hilary Blair
2013-2016

Adrianne Moore
2013-2016

Kim Bey
2014-2017

D'Arcy Smith
2014-2017










 

Officers

Melanie Julien 
Secretary
2013-2015

Antonio Ocampo-Guzman
Treasurer
2010-2013

Jeff Morrison
Editor, The Voice & Speech Review
2011-2013

Tara McAllister Viel
Associate Editor, The Voice & Speech Review
2011-2013

Keely Wolter
Editor, The VASTA Voice
2013-2015

Joshua Moser
Associate Editor, The VASTA Voice
2013 - 2015

Thrasso Petras
Director of Membership
2013-2015

TBA
Associate Director of Membership

Pamela Prather
Director of Annual Conferences
2015

John Graham
ATHE Conference Planner 2014 -2016

TBA
Associate ATHE Conference Planner

Cynthia Bassham
Human Resources Director
2014-2017

Michael J. Barnes
Senior Technical Director

Adriano Cabral
Director of Technology/Internet Service

Joshua Miller
Associate Director of Internet Services

Yolanda Heman-Ackah
VASTA MD

 Associate Officers

Amy Stoller
Internet Resources Manager

Flloyd Kennedy
Officer for International Resources
2012-2014

Zachary Campion
VASTA Archive Catalogist 
2013-2015

Brad Gibson
Bibliographer

Judd Johnson
Social Media Coordinator

Rene Pulliam
ATHE Focus Group Representative
 

 

 

 

 

 

Committee Chairs

Barry Kur
Chair, Awards and Grants Committee

Michelle Lopez-Rios
Chair, Diversity Committee

Joanna Battles & Tamara Meneghini
Chair, Engagement Committee

Joanna Cazden
Chair, Teaching and Learning Committee

Amy Mihyang Ginther
Chair, International Committee

 

 

 

Contact Information Available at VASTA.ORG

 

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©2010, Voice and Speech Trainers Association