Volume 11, Issue 1
Table of Contents:
A Message from the President
Letter from the Editor
VASTA MD Column
Committee Chair Updates
Awards and Grants Committee
VASTA Debut Panel at ATHE
VASTA at the PAVA Conference
Tech Corner: A Review of Slack.com
Memory Composition and Vocality in Performance
Fitzmaurice Voicework® Training in Europe
My ASHA Experience: Building Professional Bridges Between ASHA and VASTA
An Interview with Andrew Jack
The VASTA Board of Directors met in Dallas December 4-6 for the annual three-day weekend meeting. Planning for the upcoming 2016 conference in Chicago, hosted by DePaul University, was a major topic of discussion. The title of the conference is “Dynamic Dialogues and Connections,” and though the presentation schedule is not finalized, it promises to be an exhilarating event with fascinating presenters and experiences. Watch the VASTA website for updates as they become available.
Plans are underway to offer CEUs (continuing education units) for speech/language pathologists at the Chicago conference. To maintain their accreditation, SLPs are required periodically to complete a number of professional development activities, which includes earning CEUs. If you propose a member presentation, you will be asked on the proposal form if you would like your session to be considered for CEU credits. I encourage everyone who submits a proposal to click the "yes" button in response! VASTA conference sessions include a wide range of information and voice training methodologies that are valuable for SLPs, with topics that include vocal production, vocal range, breathing, voice and posture/movement, diversity and language variation related to students and clients, presentation skills, speech and accent training, singing, and many other subjects. VASTA's focus on voice and speech for performance/presentation will provide new and welcome perspectives for SLPs who are unfamiliar with our work, and VASTA will likewise increase awareness and knowledge through expanding connections with SLPs.
Starting in Chicago and in keeping with the conference theme, VASTA will embark on a new leadership initiative. The initiative has its source in the 2014-2023 Vision goals, which state that we will “open conversations, provide mentorship and nurture leaders.” These goals have gained urgency as one witnesses the current climate of conflict, and the imperative to galvanize actions based on the “better angels of our nature.” The leadership initiative promises to illuminate, challenge, and inspire.
And Happy New Year!
New Year - New Connections. For the first issue of 2016, we have some great articles about the ways that VASTA is reaching out to other organizations. In addition, be sure to read Cynthia's Diversity Column for information on the Diversity/International scholarship opportunity for the upcoming conference. If someone you know qualifies, please share the information with them if they are not a current VASTA member.
We would also love to hear more from you! Yes! You! If you have an idea for a small article you think would be appropriate for the newsletter, please email either myself or Lisa to discuss. Also, be sure to check your email or read the member news section in the November 2015 newsletter, for the 2016 member news schedule so that we won't miss your update.
Wishing you the best for the New Year,
Editor, The VASTA Voice
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Dr. Yolanda Heman-Ackah
Many women experience difficulties with fertility, especially in the 3rd and 4th decades of life. Many women also experience difficulties with a low sex drive. In women with low egg counts or with a decreased egg reserve, DHEA (dihydroepiandrosterone) is sometimes prescribed by fertility doctors to help improve the egg quality in an effort to help promote fertilization and pregnancy. Testosterone is often prescribed to women with low sex drives to help boost their libido, both within the context of infertility and outside of that context. DHEA is a naturally occurring sex hormone that is a precursor to testosterone in humans. Because its structure is similar to testosterone, it can cause some of the same androgenic side effects as testosterone, including lowering of the pitch of the voice, among others. When the voice changes in pitch as a result of DHEA or testosterone, the change is permanent. This is an important factor for female professional voice users to consider because much of the top range is lost when this change occurs, and the voice takes on a huskier, masculine sound. The change can be subtle or it can be career altering, especially for females who are also vocalists. My advice for any woman considering fertility treatment and/or treatments to help boost her sex drive is to avoid taking testosterone or DHEA in any form or for any reason. Once the voice changes, there is nothing that can be done to help return the pitch and timber back to the original state.
The VASTA Awards and Grant Committee is pleased to announce that 2015-2016 Dorothy Mennen Research/Professional Development Grants have been awarded to Rockford Sansom and Adriano Cabral. Each will receive a grant of $1000 to support their advanced professional development. Rockford is based in New York City where he coaches in private practice, professional theatre and has been affiliated with academic and actor studio programs. Adriano is an Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of West Georgia Theatre Department.
Happy New Year!
Many thanks to those who submitted proposals under VASTA’s Focus Group for the 2016 ATHE Conference. The rankings have been submitted and we are awaiting the results from the ATHE team. We should be provided with results by early to mid February, so if you submitted, stay tuned…
We are now searching for VASTA members to be part of our VASTA Debut Panel at ATHE! We encourage First-Time ATHE Presenters who have short presentations to share, approximately 20 minutes, to share hands-on voice and speech exercises and/or paper topics. Please send your “proposed exercise to present” or paper/presentation abstract directly to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than March 7, 2016. You may still participate in this panel, even if you have already presented at conferences other than ATHE.
Please let me know if either you or a colleague/professional in the field might be interested in presenting. Keep in mind this is an opportunity for VASTA to feature presenters that might not present otherwise. I will begin recruiting right away so if you have any ideas, please forward those directly to me.
See you in Chicago in 2016 for VASTA and ATHE!
Officer, ATHE Conference Planner for VASTA, 2015-2017
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In October 2015 I attended the inaugural Pan American Vocology Association (PAVA) symposium in Greensboro, North Carolina. It was a wonderful gathering of teachers, coaches, clinicians, and researchers, all passionate about working with the voice.
On the website, the organization is described as “a membership driven group of voice professionals from all voice related vocations including Vocologists, SLPs, ENTs, Professional Singers, Voice Teachers, Voice for the Actor Coaches and Voice Therapists.” PAVA's mission "is to advance the scientific study of voice for artistic and professional use by fostering vocology in all countries of the Western Hemisphere through research, dissemination of knowledge, training, and the creation and development of professional standards and credentials in voice habilitation and rehabilitation.”
VASTA members new to the medical side need not fear the jargon of SLPs or laryngologists. PAVA is keen to connect all practitioners and researchers under an umbrella of collaboration and understanding. You may know its first president, Dr. Ingo Titze, a Vocologist dedicated to bringing more awareness of the scientific study of voice to practitioners. He has presented at VASTA conferences often over the years and has always made his knowledge accessible to all, with plain language and well-organized methodology that immediately impacts a practitioner’s ability to understand and to apply new knowledge in teaching and coaching.
This symposium was a celebration of the work that is being done on many fronts to explore both old and new models of practice for optimal voice use across the population of performers and oral presenters. While the conference was only 2 ½ days, many connections were made, inspired by the partnerships and research teams that were modeled. The sense of sharing information freely and willingness to learn and explore new methods was in the air at all times.
Famed soprano Renee Fleming gave a gracious and eloquent interview about her career and care of her voice for performance.
There were many presentations every day that covered a wide variety of subjects, with diverse approaches featuring individuals and teams. The overall focus showed how science and art can work together to provide the best care and training. All types of voices and situations were equally valued for investigation and care.
- Voice Teachers and Singing Voice Rehabilitation specialists spoke about how they are part of an extended voice team, and how this benefits clients far beyond the initial SLP sessions.
- "Habilitation and rehabilitation considerations for working with Rock Singers" was a fascinating session with examples of voices before and after treatment. Suggestions for ongoing habilitation work were very useful.
- I was also pleased to hear of how some practitioners are training resistance to fatigue and how this positively impacts vocal performance.
A few breakout sessions were dedicated to discussion of major issues facing practitioners and this new organization. This was a terrific way to get to know participants more fully, as we discussed issues that we felt particularly connected to. Some topics were:
- To credential or not
- How to grow the field of Vocology in visibility and profile
- How to foster partnering in research
- How to promote vocal health education for target groups (primary education, vocal performance degrees).
The poster presentations also covered diverse methods and approaches to research in the field. One explained how current research in singing techniques could be described through qualitative measures; another made full use of instrumentation to track changes at the laryngeal level during vocal extremes.
I met Ryan Luchuck, a singing teacher from Toronto who invited me to a one day Voice Conference in November, anchored by Ingo Titze. Again it proved an accessible way to learn more about the science of voice habilitation, spreading the word to singing teachers and students in that major centre.
I am pleased that this organization recognizes the interconnectedness of all organizations that represent work with the human voice- for both speaking and signing. There is much to share and learn from each discipline if we are going to serve our patients, clients and students and performers with a depth of understanding of process, medical advances, methodologies and challenges to vocal production in all forums.
Kate Devore and I specifically represented VASTA at this conference, making sure the discussions included the speaking voice along with the singing end of the spectrum. While the impulse to create this organization sprang from the SLP and the singing teaching communities, the speaking voice has been represented as well, starting with Kate’s enthusiastic participation on the initial focus group and her unflagging advocacy.
I believe we are now at the point where more inter-organizational connection must happen in our field, and more freely than before. There is so much potential for better teaching and coaching on all sides. Vocal health for the performer cannot help but benefit from our sharing of expertise and research.
More detailed information can be found on the website. There is a “Find a member” section, making it easy to contact anyone listed for more information about what the organization means to them. Heads of the current committees are also a good resource and are happy to hear of your interests. The organization wants each member to feel included in the discussions around any issues defined in our field. There is a concerted effort to have every member on a committee to promote this connection, as the organization defines its major focus and issues.
So I urge you to join PAVA to complement your connection to VASTA, keep abreast of new developments via the PAVA website and make VASTA a strong presence in this new organization.
See you at the next conference!
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I was first introduced to slack.com last year at a local freelancer meeting I regularly attend. One of the members, a freelance game designer, was raving about this site for managing group projects and discussions. Having my inbox regularly flooded with reply-all production team emails, I was eager to investigate a possible solution.
Slack is self described as a “messaging app for teams” with the slogan “be less busy", which sounds like heaven to me.
Basically the site, and corresponding mobile app, allow you to create a place for a team (or production, or group of students) to communicate around one central topic or project. A place that is far away from your crowded inbox. Within the team page you can create different message threads, called channels. For example, on a recent production we created a channel for costume discussion, one for budget, one for pronunciation questions, etc. This allows members to read only those discussions that pertain to them and their work, or expand their reading into other realms as they wish.
You can also share documents and pictures. If you get especially ambitious, you can add any number of slack plug-ins and apps for additional features like calendar and sound file sharing, and loads more.
The best feature by far is slack’s searchability. The search box allows you to input a term, or hashtag, and find any mention of that term across all channels through the entire history of the team communication.
Slack can be overwhelming at first. There are a lot of bells and whistles and little pop ups telling you what to do. And there are hashtags everywhere. If you’re interested in giving it a try, I’d recommend planning to spend 30 minutes just looking around and getting to know the interface.
Slack is free, but there are also options to upgrade to paid plans with benefits like more storage, archiving, and customer support. For short term projects like productions or a semester long class, it’s likely the free option is all you’ll ever need.
The main drawback is convincing your production team to sign up! So far I’ve only been able to “slack” with projects I have been in charge of myself. I dream of a day when every production I coach with is “slacking” and I never have to see a reply-all email again. Until that day, all I can do is talk up the usefulness of this site and hope that more people want to get on board.
"Circus of Voices" was my first VASTA Conference. The cozy atmosphere created by the activities, and particularly among the people, brought me a sense of belonging to the organization. Despite being such a diverse organization, it nourishes the common interest in the humanity of voice in all its disciplinary biases. I could realize how, even with miles of geographical distance and cultural differences, we face very similar challenges in our various assignments in vocal work. It made me understand the relevance of VASTA´s work over these 30 years, as well as reinforced my desire to be part of this group.
I work in Brasília, Brazil´s capital, as a professor in the Drama Department at the Universidade de Brasília since 2003. I started researching the voice in performance in 1993 with the Argentinian teacher, singer, director and actress, Silvia Davini, while I was an undergraduate acting student.
Silvia Davini held a PhD in Theatre from the University of London, Queen Mary and Westfield College and graduated in music specializing in Singing from the Conservatorio Municipal de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires. She began her research on the voice in the theater in 1990, when she joined the University of Brasilia as a professor, developing it until 2011, when she passed away. During this period Davini conducted conceptual and aesthetic research projects in the hybrid field of theater and music, with an emphasis on voice, word, and on its relations with the diverse technologies of production and reproduction. Her book Cartografías de la Voz en el Teatro Contemporáneo (Universidad Nacional de Quilmes Editorial, 2008), discusses the various research questions that stimulated her and currently stimulate the research group Vocalidade & Cena founded by her in 2003 in partnership with me. Currently, the group is also composed of the voice professor César Lignelli from the Drama Department of the Universidade de Brasilia, and some postgraduate and undergraduate students.
Studies related to the human body on the stage takes on a central role for our research work about the voice on the stage. Situated at the confluence of the sound and visual dimensions of theater scenes, the body in performance is considered a place of vocality production. The notion of vocality refers to Paul Zumthor studies that defined it as the “historicity of a voice, of its use”. Echoing such a notion, we understand vocality as multiple forms of voice and word production implemented by a particular human group in a given historical contingency.
Thus, in the research group Vocalidade & Cena, we are greatly interested by the various relationships human bodies in performance have with technologies of production and reproduction related to sound, voice and word. I specifically research the relationship between textual materials (as reproduction technology through the writing) and the training of actors for contemporary theater.
In 2016, I plan to start investigating the memorization of textual materials (dramatic texts, narratives, poetry, etc.) for theatrical performance, or rather, the relationship the writing and the human body have with the memory composition and its evocation in rehearsals. The research group Vocalidade & Cena understands that the memorization process of textual materials, generally regarded as peripheral, plays a crucial role in the quality of rehearsals and performance. This assumption led us to consider the influence of this process on the flexibility of the memorized textual materials to be tested in rehearsals.
In the relationship between the materiality of the writing and the materiality of the scene, the human body appears as the first link. There is a significant change of bodily functions and behaviors when we read a theatrical text and when we perform it using the recall of memorized material. We start our contact throughout the visual record that favors a visual-graphic-individual sensory practice to anchor in an acoustically-kinetic-collective sensory practice.
We understand that human memory is composed from the body's relations to the object memorized. Its nature is diverse, since its composition depends on different modes of human perception - the previous experience with the object, feelings and emotions. Similarly, the composed memory recall process comprised of the object experienced by the human body appears to also be multiple, and can respond to its composition mode.
If the composition of the memory favors visual-graphic sensory practice, its evocation will hardly open to the word performing needs on the scene. So, we can understand that, depending on the procedures we use in the memory composition of textual material, we may take to the performance of the scene markers of the textual material. For example, when, without realizing it, our vocal production turns monotone with few timbre nuances, with intensity, frequency, duration or pace reminiscent of the linearity of the written word.
We believe that investigating how the process of memory composition and its evocation works, in relationship to the actor's work, can allow us to trace procedures that may optimize the relationship of actors and directors with textual material and with the voice in the performance of the scene itself. Hopefully, I intend to share some aspects of this research at the 2016 VASTA Conference with the intention of collaborating with the "Dynamic Dialogues and Connections" theme proposed for Chicago.
Professor at the Drama Department at the Universidade de Brasília.
Phd in Arts (Universidade de Brasília, Brazil)
Masters in Applied Theater (University of Manchester, UK)
Happy New Year!
I’m excited to a start a new year with a strong resolve.
We at VASTA are committed to continuing the discussion on diversity issues in the VASTA Voice. As chair of the VASTA Diversity Committee, I invite anyone to contribute to this column. We encourage our members to engage in open and generous dialogue, as more than ever diversity is coming to the forefront of major conversations in many arenas. Our aim is to broaden our understanding of diversity and strengthen our commitment to honor the diverse voices of our students, clients, colleagues and communities.
These are some of the committee’s projects for this year:
- Diversity Bibliography- Volume 1 (Performance materials)
This ongoing project, which includes plays, monologues and scenes, will be augmented and shared on our website in anticipation of our conference in Chicago.
- 2016 VASTA Conference Diversity/International Scholarships
These scholarships will provide an opportunity for a practitioner from an under-represented population to attend the VASTA Conference. VASTA will offer two (2) $750 Scholarships to early career voice practitioners to attend the VASTA Conference in Chicago August 8-11, 2016. In addition, the conference fee will be waived.
These scholarships are intended for:
1. Εarly career voice practitioners. This may include someone at the end of graduate studies or a freelance adjunct professor (tenure-track professors are not encouraged to apply).
2. Members who demonstrate a need.
3. Practitioners who have attended no more than one conference.
4. And one (or more) of the following:
• Practitioners who reside outside of Canada & The United States.
• Practitioners who identify as a member of a diverse group (including, but not limited to race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexual orientation, and/or gender identification) and/or Practitioners who are non-native English speakers.
Applicants for the Diversity/International Scholarships should submit the following:
1) A 2-page condensed C.V. (with contact info) and
2) A statement which includes:
•Affirmation that you meet the first three requirements
• Self-identification as a member of an international or diverse community
• An explanation of how attending the conference would benefit your practice and career
Scholarship recipients will be asked to write about their experience at the conference or how their experience at the conference affected their work. Scholarship recipients will be invited to serve on the International Committee or Diversity Committee.
Please Note: Applicants need not be current VASTA members. Please submit your materials in .doc or .pdf format via e-mail to Cynthia DeCure (email@example.com) by the March 30, 2016 deadline.
Identity Cabaret- Please join us our conference in Chicago and the 3rd Identity Cabaret. If you are interested in performing in the cabaret please let me know, as we will be gathering a list in next few months.
I look forward to our work ahead!
Chair of the Diversity Committee
Fitzmaurice Voicework’s international presence is growing. In addition to classes being taught by certified teachers in many countries, the Fitzmaurice Institute is offering two special training opportunities in Europe this summer. Both are opportunities to work with Catherine Fitzmaurice and many other teachers of Fitzmaurice Voicework in an intensive and supportive environment.
FITZMAURICE VOICEWORK TEACHER CERTIFICATION PROGRAM: BARCELONA, SPAIN
We are looking forward to the next Fitzmaurice Voicework Teacher Certification Program. Hosted by Institut del Teatre in Barcelona, Spain, the training will run from June 27 - July 29, 2016 and June 23 - July 28, 2017. The training will be in English, and there will be special sections conducted in Spanish for those who speak both Spanish and English.
INTERNATIONAL FREEDOM & FOCUS CONFERENCE: DUBLIN, IRELAND
The Fourth International Freedom & Focus Fitzmaurice Voicework Conference, Together Liberating Our Voices, will be held in Dublin, Ireland from July 14-18, 2016. Co-directed by Helena Walsh and Dennis Elkins, this conference is open to the public.
PAST INTERNATIONAL TRAININGS AND CONFERENCES
The first teacher certification program held outside of the United States was held in London, England in 2013/2014. That training was hosted by the International Centre for Voice at Catherine Fitzmaurice’s alma mater, The Central School of Speech and Drama. The London certification included teacher-trainees from eleven different countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, England, Ireland, Norway, Slovenia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. Recent certification programs have included teacher-trainees from Australia, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mongolia, Peru, South Africa, and many other countries.
Fitzmaurice Voicework’s international outreach has also been expanding in recent years thanks to our International Freedom & Focus conferences. Prior conferences were held in Barcelona, Spain (2010), Vancouver, Canada (2012), and Bogota, Colombia (2014).
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Teacher certification in Barcelona: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fourth International Freedom & Focus Conference in Dublin: www.freedomandfocusconference.org
All other upcoming trainings: www.fitzmauricevoice.com
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I realized at a very early point in my education that I wanted to pursue a career in speech and voice studies, but I was not always sure what this career path would look like. After attending the national American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) convention in Denver, Colorado this past November, for the first time, I have discovered a focus, passion, and determination for my future as a speech and voice professional.
While at the convention, I had the opportunity to network with thousands of other like-minded individuals, and I know I have come away with valuable professional connections and a clear idea for future projects. Overall, attending the ASHA convention was a truly humbling experience that has helped me mature in many ways.
As a developing speech and voice professional, my primary interests are in voice disorders and treatment, and training of the professional/singing voice. While at the ASHA convention, I attended a number of lectures, poster presentations, and networking events that revolved around these topics. One of the major highlights of all these events for me was the networking opportunities with many speech-language pathology (SLP) graduate school programs. While meeting with program representatives and explaining my interests, I continually came across similar responses; some programs had excellent connections for my interest in voice, and other programs had little to no opportunities for my interest. The more I encountered these responses, the more I realized how specialized this clinical interest is. As someone currently awaiting graduate admission decisions from SLP and theatre pedagogy programs, I was surprised how sparse university programs seemed to be regarding this major area in voice treatment.
Along with meeting many graduate SLP programs, I had the opportunity to attend the Special Interest Group (SIG-3) meeting for voice and voice disorders. As a fellow member of this group, it was really exciting to share a space with so many professionals who share the same types of professional interests. During the meeting, group leaders expressed interest in expanding the involvement of SIG-3. The group’s goal quickly registered with me as an opportunity to advocate for collaboration with the members of VASTA. Thankfully, after speaking with the SIG-3 director, Dr. Rita Patel of Indiana University, there is now a developing potential for strengthening connections between the members of VASTA and the members of ASHA SIG-3!
Throughout the convention, I greatly enjoyed the chance to represent VASTA while speaking with many other ASHA colleagues and professionals. Specifically, I had the privilege to meet other SLPs that were conducting research on the health habits of performers, industry representatives from the Corporate Speech Pathology Network (CORSPAN), and fellow VASTA members from local universities and clinical practices. During every conversation, I was very excited and humbled to spread the presence of VASTA and share the organization’s mission with like-minded professionals.
Reflecting back on everything I experienced at ASHA, I know I have come away a more well-rounded, confident speech and voice technician. As a teacher, the ASHA convention taught me many valuable lessons for improving my work. First, as I continue to refine my skills, I need to always be aware of the diversity in others. A client’s or student’s background says so much about them, and their personal goals for seeking out professional services ultimately has to guide my approach. Second, to better prepare future generations of speech and voice professionals, I adamantly believe in a holistic guidance approach. Regardless if a person aspires to be an SLP, an academic theatre practitioner, a research scientist, or the next Broadway superstar, future generations of students need to be exposed to ALL the possibilities their education and training can provide them. Third, and possibly most important, I see how vital it is to take ownership of my personal and professional work. Working in the areas of artistic and scientific speech and voice studies, there is a constant need for reliability and ownership. Even if a situation is less-than-ideal, I know I must always be accountable for my results with a client or student. In the end, I believe every individual I work with presents the opportunity for me to learn and grow within my pedagogical technique.
Thanks to this experience, not only do I have a better foundation for my teaching skills, but I also have a much stronger outlook for my interests in clinical speech and voice treatment and research. Overall, I have gained an invaluable look into the prospects of my potential future career in speech-language pathology. In general, I knew my interest in professional voice treatment and research was specialized, but I never knew just how specialized this interest was until this experience. Looking ahead, I know I have found a worthy topic to continually pursue and advocate for continued advancements. As a future clinician and current teacher, I now see how important the need is for clinicians that truly can relate, understand, and respect the professional voice needs and demands. From talking to other SLPs and performers, I can only imagine the positive difference it makes for clients when their therapist actually understands what tech week is and the stamina required to perform extended runs of a demanding show. Along the lines of voice research, there is the obvious need for funding. None of these developments could be possible without having respectful, professional collaboration between all interested parties (both artistic and scientific). If this experience has taught me one thing about professional development, it is that collaboration is key. For future clinical, education, training, and research developments, I hope to continue with everything I have learned and experienced at the national ASHA convention.
In conclusion, I know my research and professional work has been enhanced tremendously by this convention experience. Thanks to the VASTA Engagement Committee and Interdisciplinary Engagement Grant funding, I feel like I have a solid foundation to confidently developing my future.
To learn more about the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, visit the organization’s website at asha.org.
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Marina Tyndall and Lucinda Worlock
In this issue’s Freelance Column, we put your VASTA member questions to Voice and Dialect Coach Andrew Jack.
VASTA Member: Do you differentiate between "dialect coach" and "dialogue coach”?
AJ: I differentiate, yes. I am a dialect coach and I also can coach people with dialogue. I think in both cases, particularly with dialect, dialogue coaching comes into it to quite an extent anyway, because an actor will say "How do you do this? What would you do?”
And that’s another question that comes up, one of line readings. Line readings are perfectly acceptable, provided you say "This might be how I’d do it." But you can never say "You’ve got to do it this way." Actors appreciate that, because they don’t want a coach that comes on set like God Almighty, who lays down the rules and then those rules can’t be broken.
VASTA Member: What do you rely on for your research?
AJ: Reference material I have: tapes, tapes that are stored away, things I have on paper - like hard copies of my notes that are written in phonetics. I rely on those, but most times I rely entirely on what’s in my head.
If I have to modify that for a specific area, then I’ll do what we all do - either go there and find out if it’s contemporary, or go to some other source. The internet’s very useful apart from those ridiculous videos where they just recite words they’ve been given. You can’t rely on those at all.
VASTA Member: Do you have a manager or agent?
AJ: I have a manager at Executive Management, but they’re like a diary service, they plan my schedule. They always want to know want I’m doing, so that when information comes to them about films in pre-production, then they will either submit my name or not. They have a collection of professionals - few dialect coaches - most of their clients are camera, lighting-camera, directors or other crew. So they represent me in that sense. I pay them a monthly fee, and they keep me up to date with a production guide, which tells me what productions have come in. Then if I feel I want to be involved, if I’m interested, I’ll phone them up and they’ll say "OK, we’ll put you forward for that".
I don’t have a lawyer or an accountant because it’s not quite the same here in the UK as it is in the US. I have an accountant but he’s not directly involved in my work. And neither do I have a lawyer or solicitor who acts on my behalf. I do all my own deals. I agree to, or disagree with, things in contracts with Production. Quite frequently on minor pictures, Production doesn't give me the contract until wrap day.
VASTA Member: How do you wrangle a very large project?
AJ: On Lord of the Rings I had an assistant, if that’s what ‘wrangling’ means. It was probably, in answer to one of the other member questions, the most difficult job I’ve ever done. We started with a Main Unit, then a Second Unit. Second Unit was doing run-bys and establishing shots. And we ended up, halfway through the shoot of sixteen months, with six units, all shooting dialogue, including ADR.
There was an idea, at some stage, where we could go to edit and do the ADR as we continued to shoot. It didn’t work, so we lost all that, thank goodness.
There have been other challenging projects that were difficult simply because of the number of actors involved. But Lord of the Rings was very difficult to do, and with six units, I could have done with at least three people to help out.
VASTA Member: Who in the production team do you primarily believe you are working for - Actor, Director, Producer, Executive Producer? To what extent does this shift from one production to the next?
It will always be the Actor, first and foremost. And then, after that, it depends on the Director and his or her attitude to the work that I do, and whether they like me or not. Most of them seem to, but there are moments when you can walk on a set and you'll be completely ignored from the beginning of the shoot to the end.
So then you’re not really working for the Director but having to imagine you are, and maybe listening to notes that he or she is giving, so you can then pick them up and service that, I suppose.
VASTA Member: Have you ever turned a project down because you knew that a miracle was expected?
AJ: No, I haven’t. But I got pretty close to it. I do speak frankly with producers and directors to manage expectations. I tend to do that in pre-production. If there’s anything I can’t manage, I get somebody else to come in and help me. Or if there’s an actor who has difficulty with the accent chosen for the character, then I’m totally honest with the production team, and I have changed their minds with maybe a couple of actors on a couple of productions.
MT: Such as saying, "I think he should use his own accent, because this one’s not working out for him" or, "If we’ve got two accents to choose from, this one is the safer bet between them"?
AJ: Yes, both of those can be part of it. There was one instance where a British actor had to be American, and, to coin a phrase, he couldn’t hack it. I went to the producers and said it’d be much better in his own accent, so that’s what he did.
I’ve also had the tables turned on me, in a sense, where I thought an actor was good to play a part in a feature, and on the first day of the shoot he just collapsed and wasn’t able to do anything. And we’d really achieved quite a lot in preparation, but he couldn’t do it. So he reverted to his own accent, which meant that I was no longer necessary. So I wrapped, and that was the end of that. But they paid me, so that was alright.
MT: In any case, you’d rather they made the right decision than make the wrong one with your name on it.
AJ: Certainly! You sometimes threaten under your breath that you’ll get your name taken off the IMDB page or the credits, but I’ve never been embarrassed to the extent that I’ve wished that my name wasn’t there.
VASTA Member: How do you negotiate around ADR? It is a given that you’ll be in the sessions and do you get to review a rough cut?
AJ: Well, I have to keep reminding Production. Most of the time. This is, I think, very important. Because there are so many camps involved with [large-scale productions] that it gets neglected. And you have to remind those who are involved with post-production that you are there, and you can save them a lot of money. They don’t understand that. They don’t understand that with a good Dialogue Editor, you can go through a rough cut, you can suggest alternative takes —
MT: — before you’ve even got in the room for ADR —
AJ: — Yes, because you’re saving them the extra ADR because you can do quite a lot technically. If you have a really good Dialogue Editor, you'll be able to replace sounds, lines, words. And they can massage them in and you’d never know.
MT: So not only do you advocate for the Dialect Coach getting their own rough cut to view, but you advocate for the coach to sit down with the Dialogue Editor and go through the whole movie?
AJ: Yes, and if I can, I’ll do both. Sometimes - and more frequently now because of security - you can’t get a rough cut sent to you. You have to go up to Goldcrest or somewhere, and go into a viewing room. And you sit there and you make notes. And you go through it and you’ve got a timecode. And, if you’re lucky, the Editor or Post-Production Supervisor will be there, and you can say, "These are things I think need attention."
And if, on that basis, you’ve been able to do that, then nine times out of ten you’ll be invited to go in and do the ADR sessions.
On other pictures, where it’s incredibly important that you’re invited to ADR, you’re not. And you have to bear it. And you sit there and watch the movie, thinking, "If only they’d used the other take!"
So ADR is one of the most important things. You can and do save them thousands of dollars by being there. But also by being there initially to view a rough cut and to make sure the actors don’t unnecessarily get pulled in for ADR. I know that in most leading actors’ contracts there’s a clause that asks them to volunteer four days or four sessions of free time for ADR, but of course it always goes over. You don’t want to put people under that sort of pressure if you don’t actually have to.
VASTA Member: How much between-takes feedback do you share with the Script Supervisor/Continuity in order to help the Editor sort through material more efficiently?
AJ: It depends entirely on the production, the Script Supervisor, and who you’re working with. I used to do a lot of it. I used to have my own sheets and I’d hand them in to the Script Supervisor, but I found myself doing less and less of that, and just walking in and talking to them instead. I come to an agreement with the Script Supervisor that I’ll give some notes, but not very many, and if I say anything, they can still use the takes that correspond to most of what I’m saying. It’s only the really rubbish work that I’ll go in and say, "They can’t use that." And generally it’s intonation or it’s odd words that are off target.
Regarding dialect coach notes that get as far as the Editor, that is...an ideal world. There are times when I’ve gone up to an Editor and said "Are you finding my notes helpful?", and we’ll be maybe halfway through a picture and they say, "What notes?" And you’ll say, "Well, I’m giving my notes to the Script Supervisor, you’ll get them on her daily report". And it’s, "Oh no, I haven’t seen them."
This happens occasionally. And that’s why we have to keep reminding them, to keep banging away at them, and say something if we care about our work. If we didn’t care about our work, we wouldn’t bother.
The Dialogue Editor may look at voice notes, but the general Editor often won’t. The Dialogue Editor is your best buddy, they’re actually interested in what you have to say. The general Editor might ignore your notes, then it’s passed over to the Dialogue Editor and he doesn’t know either. The Editor simply hasn’t mentioned it.
VASTA Member: Where did you learn the skills most important to you as a dialect coach?
AJ: The first skill came as a consequence of learning how to approach people as an air steward - a job I did for 6 years during a break from acting. Learning how to get on with people instantly when you’ve only got ten seconds to give them, and to be able to go up to that person, assess them immediately, and remember how they like working. And that job was all about how to approach people who either are very important or think they’re very important. And you approach those two groups in virtually the same way.
This was crucial, and taught me so much: When I was at the training school to be an air steward, I had to address people as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’, and I swore, the first day, I would never do that on the routes. And it paid dividends. I spent most of my time in First Class as I’d been promoted quickly. The moment that someone came onto that aeroplane they came into my space, but as soon as I called them ‘Sir’ and ‘Madam’, they ruled the roost. So I welcomed them into my sitting room, and offered them a drink. Instantly I’m on the same level with them, and they’re guests in my home, and I’m cooking them a meal.
That was absolutely essential, and that’s the way I regard the coaching process. I so dislike being on set and hearing the First AD call somebody ‘Sir’. Because you’re suddenly subservient to those individuals. And so I’m as chummy as I possibly can be. I become the friend of the actor.
Teaching voice and acting for 10 years at LAMDA, working with student actors, taught me that each one is completely different from the next. You cannot sit twenty people down in a class and say, "This is how you do it". You’ve got to know each individual. After a while I got to know the students and I knew how they worked, and I realize now that that was the training ground for what I do here on set.
VASTA Member: If you had complete control with no budgetary restrictions, what course of pre-production preparation would you take? (When would you have the key dialect coach brought on board? Would you have them work with Casting? Be part of creative meetings with other department heads?)
AJ: I think everyone whose main job is concerned with actors needs to know about the necessity of a dialect coach. The old adage about dialect coaches joining a production used to be that we were the last in and the first out. And I suppose that still happens. Because they seem to think that the budget will go up as far as a dialect coach, and you take them on if you really feel you need it. Then you’ll pay them as little as possible and have them on set for odd days and not the full week. So if the budget’s getting tight and you’ve got a dialect coach and you can afford to get rid of them, then you will. Because, you know, [channels Producer talking about actor] "They’ve done so well!" But what they don’t appreciate is that the actor can’t stand alone. The actor needs the support of a coach. If they’ve had already had two months, they’re often going to find it difficult to carry on without.
So the first step is giving information on our role to those that matter. But the more experienced a director, production manager, or producer is in terms of what dialect coaches do, the more they appreciate us and the more they’ll bring us on board. And they do bring us on now, to the most curious of things - things where you wouldn’t necessarily have expected to have a dialect coach and there is one.
And of course it’s not just about accents, but voice and speech. Period work, speech style, and all that stuff. By reason of our work, we are often quite well informed about other things. So they also rely on us [for background information on the era, language, or genre] as well.
A key dialect coach - or dialect coach that is going to be the cast dialect coach - should be there in prep six weeks ahead of shooting. By the nature of the way preparation is done on a major movie, you’ve got to be able to fit in with costume, hair and make-up tests, screen tests, camera tests, and all that business. Sometimes doing so demands more time than you thought. You might start by saying, "I can see every actor in 2 weeks." Actually, it’s probably going to be 4 weeks, because you’re going to have to fit in with everybody around all the other things, and probably coach at more than one location, depending on where your production and actors are based.
I think it’s extremely useful for dialect coaches to work with casting directors. I don’t think they all understand that yet. But I have been called occasionally to go in and say whether an actor can actually do an accent or not.
There aren’t many creative meetings that one can be involved with, apart from an initial discussion with the director, with or without the actor. And then maybe the same thing again, but this time with both of them. You might have some input on the development of the character, and it’s a good time to have a chat about what you’ve been working on thus far.
VASTA Member: How do you handle coaching conlangs such as Elvish?
AJ: The process is exactly the same as the usual approach we have to every actor when they’re learning an accent. Each one is going to work differently. Some want everything written out phonetically. Some want you to do it for them. Some want to just practice and then come to it. No two actors want to work the same way, and that’s how it is whether it’s an accent, a dialect, a language, or whatever it is.
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Happy New Year VASTA Members!
I hope you are all enjoying the start of 2016. This edition of the Newsletter contains news and updates from our International and Canadian members. As Josh noted, please refer to the November 2015 issue of The VASTA Voice for the full member news submission schedule.
I am also assisting Claudia Anderson with coordinating member presentations for the Chicago conference. Thank you for all of your presentation proposals!! Claudia and I look forward to reviewing them.
Associate Editor, The VASTA Voice
SHANNON HOLMES (Montréal, Canada) is currently in her third year as a Doctoral Researcher in the Department of Drama and Theatre Studies at the University of Birmingham, UK where her research focuses on somatic vocal practices that traverse singing and speech. This past November she presented a paper at the Brussels Arts Platform symposium “Ethnography and Artistic Research” held at the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, where she shared her research on the integration of performative autoethnography in voice work. That same month she presented a paper at Royal Holloway University’s Practice-based Research conference in London called The Body as Archive: Freeing The Voice With Autobiographical Narrative. This coming June she will present her performance project The Crook of Your Arm at The Royal Shakespeare Company’s new Studio space, The Other Place at Stratford-upon-Avon, UK.
HEATHER LYLE (Kolkata, India) This January Heather Lyle is presently teaching in Kolkata, India. She held a voice technique workshop for all the top professional singers in the Bollywood Industry that was filmed and will be used for educational purposes in India. She will also be teaching voice and speech at Loretto College, a teacher training academy. From Kolkata she is off to The Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts where she will be teaching her own Vocal Yoga work and the latest voice techniques of Swedish scientist Johan Sundberg's recent voice science research.
JULIA MOODY (Perth, Australia) is about to begin her 21st year as Senior Lecturer in Voice at the Western Australian Academy of the Performing Arts in Perth, Western Australia. Julia teaches students spoken voice in the Acting, Music Theatre, Aboriginal Theatre, Broadcasting, and Opera departments. Julia did her actor training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School in the UK and her voice training at National Institute of Dramatic Arts in Sydney. Julia is an Associate teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework. Julia has presented papers at VASTA, BVA, AVA and NEWZATS conferences. She also works in the general, broadcasting and corporate communities as a voice teacher/specialist throughout Australia. In 2016 a collection of over 300 samples of accents and dialects - all from an Australian English base collected by Julia and her students - will be processed and put on line.
SHANNON VICKERS (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) is currently on maternity leave after welcoming her second baby boy in August. Prior to this, she coached three productions during the theatre season at Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre; The Woman in Black, Private Lives, and Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Jersey Lily. While on maternity leave she is offering support on productions including The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Billy Elliot. Shannon is looking forward to returning to teaching at the University of Winnipeg in the fall of 2016, where she is an Associate Professor.
ALISON MATTHEWS, MFA, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) will be leading voice and text sessions at the internationally renowned Banff Centre as a faculty member of the Citadel Banff Professional Theatre Program. In the spring, she returns to Vancouver’s Arts Club Actor’s Intensive where she has taught voice since the program began in 2010. Alison is Head of Coaching at Vancouver’s Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival, now going into its 27th season. She is currently researching approaches that integrate song and speech in warm-ups for professional actors in rehearsal.
JANET MADELLE FEINDEL, MFA, DLT, Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework® (Sutton, Quebec, Canada) recently coached voice and Alexander Technique at the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, Stratford Festival, working with director Christopher Newton; presented workshops with VASTA and ATHE Conferences in Montreal, Montreal Yoga Festival, the Care of the Professional Voice Symposium in Philadelphia (also coached presenters) & the ACT16 Conference (Alexander and Voice/Text) in New York City. A professor of Voice, Alexander, & Dialect Coach at Carnegie Mellon School of Drama, she recently published a chapter “Alexander Technique and Strategies for Addressing Vocal Tension” in Performer’s Voice, Plural Publishing.
JULIA LENARDON, M.F.A - Voice Teaching Diploma (York University, Toronto, Canada) has been working in both Montreal and New York City. In Montreal, she worked as dialect coach for X-Men: Apocalypse, pre-production for Brooklyn, Hannibal, 12 Monkeys, and Revenge. In New York, she is busy as Assistant Voice Coach for Matilda, the Musical at The Shubert Theater on Broadway, language and text coach for Gad Elmaleh for his show Oh My Gad! at Joe's Pub at The Public Theater and is teaching and coaching private clients.
VASTA Board of Directors & Officers
Tara McAllister Viel
Michael J. Barnes
Janet B. Rodgers
Joanna Battles & Tamara Meneghini
Amy Mihyang Ginther
©2010, Voice and Speech Trainers Association