Volume 9, Issue 2
Table of Contents:
A Message from the President
From the Editor
London Conference Taking Shape
Hidden Allergies Affect the Voice
Diversity Committee Update
Engagement Committee Update
International Committe Update
National Teaching Award Goes to VASTA member Linda de Vries
On Developing A Philosophy of Mentorship
Mentorship (Part 2)
Clyde Vincent Memorial Scholarship Announcement
Our London conference planning is well underway and promises to be brimful with presentations, workshops and activities. I know we will all leave with insights, information and new friendships. Rena Cook and Jane Boston have assembled an impressive slate of master teachers and member presentations. Our second UK conference has generated a lot of interest from members and we know it will be an exciting time.
For those of you unable to attend this August, please consider being a part of the festivities next year in Montreal or the following year (2016) in Chicago. Both of these conferences are scheduled in tandem with ATHE, the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, so our members may attend the two events. ATHE draws presenters in all areas of theatre, so it is an opportunity to both learn from and share with our colleagues in different disciplines.
We are working on many projects, including tabulating our survey results on professional credit and compensation, working on community engagement and outreach, building our international presence, and planning activities around our new VASTA Vision. We are always looking for members interested in participating in the organization. If you are willing to become more involved, please contact us at email@example.com
As a reminder, our VASTA website has many resources you may find useful in your professional life as well as information about our grants for Interdisciplinary Engagement and Membership Enrichment. I encourage you to bookmark the site and take advantage of its contents.
I recently had the pleasure of attending the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival held in Washington D.C. Each year VASTA gives a $500 scholarship for Vocal Excellence to an actor competing at the festival, as well as sponsors a workshop for the participants. What a joy it was to see these young actors present their work and hear their expressive voices! The winner this year was Satya Chavez from Boulder, Colorado. Satya sent this thank you to VASTA:
I am honored to have been presented this award from VASTA, not only for the scholarship that will help me continue to pursue my education in the arts, but more importantly, it is an honor to have been recognized by the incredible people who work for the Voice and Speech Trainers Association. The members of VASTA are investing their energies in the betterment of the future of theater. I was blessed to have worked with Mandy Rees, Rena Cook, and Tamara Meneghini and know, first hand, that these people are actively molding young actors into strong professionals and inspiring them to utilize their whole instrument, their body and voice, to its fullest capacity. I have one more year left at The University of Colorado at Boulder and this scholarship will be a huge help in continuing my training with the amazing faculty there, which includes VASTA member Tamara Meneghini. Once again, I want to thank the Voice and Speech Trainers Association for this gift and thank you for nurturing the next generation of artists.
We wish Satya the best of luck and are pleased to recognize her for her vocal excellence!
Happy Spring, VASTAns!
We have lots of exciting news this issue, including continued thoughts on the important role of mentorship in our field, announcements of scholarships and awards, and a very timely article about the affects of allergies on the voice. I hope you will scroll through and check out all the varied things the organization has been up to.
Additionally, I’d like to announce that the VASTA Voice will now be making room for member news in each issue. We know that you have new things happening all the time (not just once a year) and you can post it on social media as soon as it happens, but consider updating us here as well. We want to know what you are up to!
Editor, VASTA Voice
The 2014 VASTA Conference, “Voicing the Future: Reinventing Traditions,” is shaping up to be a rich and full event. Some of the highlights include key note presenters David and Ben Crystal and “Current Trends in Original Pronunciation;” Patricia Bardi, presenting “Physical Voice in the Moving Body,” with Jane Boston;
and Christina Shewell will discuss her work, “Voice and Word in Body and Brain.” Each will do a plenary session then break out into smaller group so you can really dig into their work.
Also in rotation with the keynote presenters will be: Paul Meier, Leticia Santafé, Rocco Dal Vera, and Claudette Williams. Special Presentations include Fiona Shaw who will speak to us at the opening reception and Cecily Berry will drop by for us to honor her great contributions to our field! Kristin Linkater who will also share a few words at the opening as well as offer a special workshop on Wed. August 6, 7:00-10:00. Catherine Fitzmaurice will share a few words at the closing & she and Saul Fitzmaurice Kotzubei will offer a special session on Thur. August 7, 7:00-10:00. I know we promised you evenings free for theatre, but we want to give you all a choice of an opportunity to spend quality time with both Kristin and Catherine.
Rocco Dal Vera will lead a panel discussion exploring the conference theme of reinventing traditions and future trends in training. The first annual Identity Cabaret will feature performances celebrating herit
age, organized by Michelle Rios Lopez and hosted by Fran Bennett VASTA Member Presentation Day features 36 workshops covering a broad range of topics, you will be frustrated you can’t attend them all!
A closing celebration of singing together led by Judy Shahn, Claudia Anderson, and Lisa Nathans plus a surprise performance by a yet to be announced guest artist. Dates are August 5-9, at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Register today!!!!!! Go to www.VASTA.org. The daily schedule is on line and the conference program will be on line soon. If you have any questions contact Rena Cook or Jane Boston.
When most people think of allergies, images of flowers blooming and people sneezing, sniffling, and complaining about watery, itchy eyes comes to mind. What most people don’t realize is that allergies can affect any area of the airway, including the vocal folds and larynx as well as the nose, eyes, and lungs. Symptoms of allergy can range from mild, causing minimal symptoms to severe, causing multiple symptoms. Common symptoms of allergy include nasal stuffiness, nasal drainage, itchy nose, sneezing, watery eyes, itchy eyes, itchy throat, scratchy throat, soreness in the throat, hoarseness, wheezing, and worsening of asthma symptoms. The symptom by which vocal performers are bothered the most tends to be hoarseness.
Figure 1. Larynx with allergic laryngitis. Notice the thick phlegm on the vocal folds, the swelling of the vocal folds, and the deep purple color to the vocalis muscle on either side of the vocal fold.
Allergies that affect the larynx cause swelling of the vocal folds and thick secretions on the vocal folds (Figure 1). Often times, the tissues overlying the vocalis muscle, which is the muscle that opens and closes the vocal folds, become inflamed and have a violaceous hue. This purplish, inflamed tissue is the hallmark of inflammation in the larynx due to allergy and is not seen with any other medical condition other than allergy. The swelling of the vocal folds due to allergy interferes with the normal vibration of the vocal folds, and oftentimes, affects the pitch, making the voice sound slightly deeper in pitch than usual. The combination of the swelling on the vocal folds with the thick secretions that tend to accumulate on the vocal folds gives rise to raspiness in the voice and intermittent voice breaks, where the voice seems to “cut-off” in the middle of phonation. At times, the onset of phonation can be delayed because the swelling in the vocal folds causes the vocal folds to need a greater airflow pressure from the lungs to initiate vocal fold vibration. Many performers describe this sensation as feeling as though they have decreased power or as though a greater degree of breath support is needed to produce the voice.
The spring and fall seasons are common times of year that individuals with seasonal allergies suffer. Many people also have late summer allergies. Those with dust and mold allergies tend to have symptoms year round. Because the symptoms are year round in these individuals, many people with dust and mold allergies do not realize that they are allergic. Because some theaters have more dust than others, there are some individuals who develop symptoms while performing in particular venues. Oftentimes, vocal symptoms are the first to occur in these instances.
Treatment of allergies that are causing swelling of the vocal folds is best accomplished by allergy medication that does not cause drying of the tissues. Almost all of the anti-histamines, which are the over-the-counter allergy medications, cause some drying of the mucus membranes. Many of them also cause varying degrees of sleepiness. If anti-histamines are to be taken, they should be taken at bedtime to minimize as much as possible the residual drying effect on the vocal folds during the part of the day that vocal performance occurs. SingulairTM, whose generic name is montelukast, is an allergy medication commonly used to treat allergies affecting the nose and lungs. It prevents the inflammatory response in allergic reactions and tends to work well in treating allergic inflammation in the larynx. Because SingulairTM does not cause drying of mucus membranes, it is preferred over anti-histamines for the treatment of allergic laryngitis in performing artists (Figure 2).
Figure 2. Same larynx after treating the allergic laryngitis with SingulairTM. Notice that the thick phlegm is gone, the vocal folds are no longer swollen, the deep purple color of the vocalis muscle is less intense and less inflamed.
When nasal congestion and sneezing are also issues and they are not completely controlled by Singulair, the use of nasal steroid sprays and/or nasal anti-histamine sprays can also be added. In severe cases of allergy, systemic steroids may be used to help settle the allergy symptoms. In these individuals, consideration should be given for allergy shots to help lessen over time the reaction to the allergens.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE: When the voice becomes raspy or develops voice breaks in a new environment or at the change of seasons, consider allergy as a potential cause.
The Diversity Committee received several excellent applications for the 2014 VASTA Conference Diversity Scholarship. VASTA as an organization values the benefit of hearing the voices and ideas of a diverse group of practitioners. This is a wonderful step in helping that happen.
We are pleased to announce that Alicia Richardson will be the first recipient of the award!
We are also excited about the line up for the Identity Cabaret. Thus far: JoAnna Cazden, Judylee Vivien, Micha Espinosa, Rebecca Root, David Alan Stern, Gwendolyn Schwinke, and Foster Johns have all expressed interest in sharing their work. If you are interested in joining this lovely group (or if I inadvertently left your name off the list) please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will meet as a group in London. I look forward to breathing, speaking, and singing with you!
Chair of the Diversity Committee
In redefining our function as a committee, Outreach has officially changed its name to Engagement. Read below to see how we will actively serve you, and the communities we serve, in the future.
The VASTA Engagement Committee is a bridge between our voice and speech community and the rest of the world. We do this in a variety of ways:
• Provide resources to our members including PR/marketing and “Shared Best Practices” templates so that it’s easy to maintain a polished and consistent presence.
• Promote active participation with various groups so that the next generation is familiar with who we are, what we do, and how we can serve them.
• Expand our collective knowledge by exploring fields that are not typically connected to voice and speech so that we identify possible collaborations and expand our horizons.
• Offer our expertise to groups that cannot usually afford our services so that we simultaneously foster those relationships, give back to our communities, and raise voice and speech awareness.
We’re looking to expand our committee. Please reach out to us if you’re interested in reaching out to others!
In our desire to expand VASTA's presence in Theatre Education (KC/ACTF, International Thespians, ATHE, etc) and beyond (Voice Over, Corporate Training, SLP, etc), we are interested in hearing from members who are planning on attending a conference in the upcoming year. Please let us know if you would be willing to be a VASTA representative by emailing: email@example.com.
What could be more exciting for the International Committee than an international VASTA conference in London?
At the moment, we are focusing all our efforts on making the conference and London as accessible as possible for every VASTA member from all over the world. We are currently working on initiatives to assist those coming from overseas to stay with fellow VASTAns in London and working with the Diversity Committee to spread more awareness about special needs assistance at both Central and within London transport. Additionally, we will distribute a list of diverse and international theatre companies that are doing great work this summer and offer a wonderful alternative to the larger (and more expensive) mainstream theatre in London. It is such an international city; you'll want to take advantage!
And for fun (but also for informational purposes) we will engage the VASTA community about the uniqueness of UK social and professional culture. After dating and living with a Scottish partner for 7 years, I'm still discovering interesting differences between my US perspective and his. And when I was a postgraduate student at Central, I saw how these (sometimes subtle) differences can lead to either connection and curiosity or judgment and assumption. We are looking forward to dialoguing about this and continuing the conversation in London over pints!
In the meantime, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us if there is anything the International Committee can do to better serve you as a VASTA member, especially if it is in relation to the conference in August. More from us soon!
Linda de Vries, a founding member of VASTA, is one of six teachers around the USA to receive a 2014 Kennedy Center/Stephen Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award, which was created to celebrate the significant role of teachers in society. Teachers from any field of study and any level (K-12 through graduate) may be nominated by their students and the awards are announced annually on March 22, Sondheim's birthday. With a true educator’s generosity, Linda credits her award to the nominating letter submitted by her former student, Gabriel Ortiz, and she plans to share the $10,000 monetary award with him.
Ortiz's nominating letter praised Linda for reaching "across the lines of socio-economics, race, class, gender and privilege to show she cared, and remind me that I was somebody. ... She taught me to write with passion, act from the gut, and speak from the heart with fluid eloquence. She taught me history, voice, speech, dialects, movement, acting, directing, and Shakespeare; she reached out to me in a way that no teacher ever had before, or since. ... She’s my inspiration, and today I pay her education forward by using theatre and writing to help children transcend violence and poverty.”
When interviewed about the award, Linda described a lifelong love of learning. As her statement on the Kennedy Center award website explains: “I became a teacher because I was taught. At three decision points in my life a teacher reached out to reveal a path that led me to strive for excellence. I learned that to teach was to open doors, to challenge, and to transform. I could imagine no greater vocation.”
Linda received her MFA in Acting from Boston University and her PhD in Theater History at UCLA. She began teaching when she was 22 at Northeastern University in Boston, and went on to teach acting, directing, Shakespeare, voice and speech, dialects, and text analysis at CalArts, University of Redlands, Pomona College and Cal State Northridge. She was the founding artistic director of two Los Angeles theater companies, directed and coached many theater productions, and is a member of the Road Theatre in North Hollywood.
Linda’s accent and text coaching skills have remained central to her work with both academic and community-
based theater. She was a founding member of the "Voice and Speech Trainers" focus group of the American Theater Association, and has remained active throughout VASTA's development as an organization.
Recently retired from more than 50 years of teaching, coaching, and directing, Linda says that her creative drive is stronger than ever. She has discovered a passion for music and singing and has accrued 30 hours of credit toward a BA in Music. She sings with—and chairs the board of directors of—Whittier’s prestigious Chorale Bel Canto, whose 3-year strategic plan includes bringing choral masterworks into local schools. Her book, Bach Bagatelles, drawn from her blog of the same name, has just been published. Her newest project is to commission a music and dance performance of Federico Garcia Lorca’s El maleficio de la mariposa. She hopes to parlay the recognition brought by the Sondheim Award into support for the arts groups with which she works. “I love learning,” Linda says simply. Her recognition from the Kennedy Center testifies to her ability to inspire students to feel the same way.
The list of people who have had a lasting and profound influence on my work is a long one. From my first grade school singing teacher, to the instruction I received at McGill University, the Banff School of Fine Arts and finally the graduate training I received at the University of Alberta, I have been blessed with some strong role models and mentors.
Today, as one of very few voice “experts” in the community in which I now live, I find myself in a situation where I am considering what it means to become a mentor myself. In doing so I have asked myself what are the most important considerations to make when deciding what it means to mentor?
In exploring a few current journals and textbooks on mentoring and career development, there were some interesting findings that helped me formulate some specific ideas about what we all seem to want from a mentor. These ideas helped me to reflect back upon my own experiences and determine first and foremost what I had valued (or what I continue to value) from my own mentors as I began to develop a philosophy of mentorship of my own.
According to a study on mentoring completed by Levesque, O’Neill, Nelson and Dumas at Suffolk University in Boston, both men and women valued in order of importance:
1. Coaching (49 percent)
2. Information Support (46.3 percent)
3. Exposure and Visibility (27.8 percent)
4. Political Assistance (21.8 percent)
5. Championing (20.3 percent)
There is no doubt that a trusted and skilled coach who has a desire to see their student, player, or team progress and ‘win’ is invaluable. Ultimately I too believe this is where mentorship is at its most profound. Even the use of the word “coach” appeals to me. It brings all sorts of images of the classroom, the gymnasium, the hockey rink, the football field and the word TEAM screams loud and clear. And in my relative isolation these days I guess that I am seeking out my ‘team’ of players who I can help win their own ‘Stanley Cup’ of voice work. (Can you tell that I am a hockey fan?)
In any case, no matter what world the word “coach” lives in for any of us, it is clear that all successful coaches require a deep understanding of the work, a superior ability to observe, listen and analyze, to communicate and inspire and to be able to organize all sorts of information and use it in a timely manner to help set and reach goals.
While these skills are important ones to develop as a mentor, it is important to note that I am not speaking about the coaching and mentoring of voice students and/or clients. I am asking how we can become mentors to other voice practitioners who are coaching others. There is a subtle but significant difference. First of all, while a practitioner mentee is placing himself or herself in the vulnerable role of a student by allowing someone to mentor them, they are also practicing the art of teaching, leading and yes, mentoring others. Therefore what their mentor says and how and when advice is delivered is of utmost importance.
An example of this kind of relationship has to do with my experience in the University of Alberta’s Vocal Pedagogy Program. Here established voice practitioners mentored me in such a way that I was made to feel as though I were a junior colleague. I was invited to not only receive critical feedback of my own work but to question and reflect upon the work of my supervising practitioners. This atmosphere of inquiry, where everyone’s work is held up under a microscope, takes an enormous amount of courage. It requires that the mentor be in many ways as vulnerable as the mentee. The result however is an exciting atmosphere of learning for both mentees and mentors.
It is important to note that the practice of giving feedback was not only done in a collegial tone and manner but the time and place for these kinds of discussions were well thought out and in most cases private. When the time came and I began to take over warm-ups, classes or rehearsals, at no time were my teaching choices disagreed with in front of other students. This ensured that my status in the voice studio or rehearsal room
was elevated and respected. I know this coaching model would be one that would become a part of my own mentorship practice.
There is no question that information support is critical to mentees. Even now, in my new role as a professor, I am still seeking out other colleagues who can simply help me navigate through what I need in order to find supplies, equipment, follow policy and procedures, find other personnel, etc. To them, the advice may seem mundane and trivial but to me it is all ‘pure gold’ and makes my daily life in a new place bearable.
Never underestimate the value of what you already know to someone who is learning to negotiate the vast and complex world of voice work. When producing sound involves so many psychological, physiological, anatomical, acoustic considerations, it is easy to feel like we understand very little and still have so much to learn. Therefore how can we put ourselves in a position of mentoring our colleagues? “Of all the fears about becoming a mentor, this one has the least foundation.” (Boreen, Johnson, Niday, Potts, 103).
First of all, one does not have to have all the answers to be a mentor. One simply has to be able to assist in the “how to” of finding those answers. Many years ago, as a young high school teacher, I realized that I was spending a great deal of time trying to find out the answers to all the questions my students raised in a single day. I had felt it was my job to know those answers and therefore I spent many long evenings seeking out the information my students had requested. I finally recognized that I was teaching my students very little about the value of inquiry and subsequent research. Therefore, I began saying things like, “That is a very interesting question. How can we find out the answer to this? Who is willing to take this on and report back to the group?” I was pleasantly surprised to discover that almost all students were eager to actively participate more fully in their own learning. They developed much stronger abilities to research and there was a great deal of personal investment in the resulting critical discussions.
This example may be obvious yet I can’t tell you how many times I have used it to inspire others and myself when the appearance of that crippling response “I must know it all before I take the risk of being an expert” comes along. In other words, information support does not require knowing all, it means helping one figure out where to go to find answers.
In order to help others find answers I know that I will need to spend some time getting to know the other experts in my community. Being able to refer a mentee to a local organization, a medical professional or another practitioner can prove to be invaluable for all involved. Equally as valuable is the great deal of writing and research available internationally from several disciplines.
There’s also a growing body of research being done on the value of developmental networks as a means of mentoring. This is where a set of people advances a protégés career. Knowing who’s who in your community locally and internationally can go along way to setting up some exciting developmental mentoring networks.
Of course, one cannot discuss information support without mentioning VASTA. One of the best things Betty Moulton, one of my own mentor’s, ever insisted upon was that vocal pedagogy students become members of VASTA. The VASTA website, the conferences the outstanding journals and the generousity shown through information dissemination through users of VASTAVOX continues to inspire and astound us all.
Exposure and Visibility:
I had not initially considered that exposure and visibility would be such a significant factor in choosing a mentor and yet when I look back on my most valuable experiences as a mentee, I realize that all mentors allowed me significant opportunities to practice my work publically. I have been given opportunities to teach classes, to lead seminars and to publically present and discuss my ongoing research. I have been invited and encouraged to attend conferences, even to participate on panels and to lend my voice to expert discussions.
Allowing for exposure and visibility of your mentee also demands a generousity of spirit from a mentor that is often not addressed or recognized. It can be challenging to encourage others to take over things that we may normally lead. However, I’m also beginning to think that it may free up some needed time to complete some tasks that are further up on my list of priorities.
We all know that there are politics to be considered in any career. Helping a mentee understand the history of an organization or an individual, the necessary steps needed to apply for ‘that grant’, ‘that position’, ‘that tenure’ is beyond valuable and often overlooked. In an effort to pass along coaching wisdom, we forget that behind the scenes lies a grueling and challenging world of self promotion, securing projects and/or research funding and connecting to those with power and influence that will enable us to find security and further inspiration in our work.
As mentors seek to offer exposure and political assistance to mentees, there is no question that they often become champions of their mentees. I have been extremely grateful to my own mentors for their celebration of my work in their own writing and in their discussions with other professionals. It has allowed me to forge relationships with other professionals and to occasionally ‘be sought after’ for expertise.
Finally, the Levesque, O’Neill, Nelson and Dumas’ study has helped me critically assess and reflect on what mentees value and it has it has enabled me to begin writing a clear philosophy of mentorship for myself. This is different but no less valuable than writing my own teaching philosophy. It has led me to understand that our legacy of work is not left with our voice students alone but also with those who wish to carry the torch as future voice practitioners.
Ultimately, I believe we win when we are committed to each other as a team. Hoffman and Fewing in their book Coaching Principles for the Development of Championship Teams indicate that “a deep commitment to one another is the tipping point in developing greatness” (Hoffman, Fewing, 10). Therefore, in the world of voice work, mentors who are willing to commit to their mentees and encourage an atmosphere of sharing and support within the profession are not just valuable but they ensure that our voices live on.
This is the second part of the initial article, written from last year’s VASTA conference in Minneapolis, “Mentor Relationships: Connecting and Collaborating.” The first part covered the definition of an ‘ideal mentor relationship.’ The following celebrates some of the benefits of mentoring and the perceived challenges.
To mentor a new voice practitioner, you need to feel you are at a point in your own career in which you can embrace a full questioning of your practice. The ever-important questions that mentees will ask, like “Why did you do that, and at that point?” or “What did you see or hear that prompted that action or exercise?” require self-reflection which is a positive force in your own professional development. This prompts fuller and deeper personal understanding of the underlying reason for an exercise, an explanation, an assigned text, and timing in the curriculum.
Having a junior colleague to share ideas and methodologies prompts engaging debate, another key benefit. This colleague brings fresh ideas that can challenge old practice and through their own exploration of the practical work, bring new insights for you.
New resources and fields of exploration:
Mentees have continually introduced me to new resources. My shelves now boast new books and articles I hadn’t come across or had time to explore. I’ve also enjoyed the opportunity to explore related fields the mentees are researching. Each student brings a passion for a new aspect of the connectivity of voice work, introducing me to new colleagues across campus, into the near community and around the world.
Teaching and coaching support:
The MFA students take over teaching and coaching duties, when ready, whenever my colleague or I have a conflict. This serves the needs of the BA, BFA or MFA well, benefiting the students in those programs and continues to provide quality teaching experience for the mentees.
Life long relationships:
A happy result I have found deeply satisfying is that often students become new friends as well as ongoing colleagues. Mentorship can establish a rewarding life-long relationship.
Vasta as Mentor:
On the panel, I spoke of VASTA as a mentor. The organization certainly provides guidance, integrity and relationship through its member contributions, programming and resources. In my generation, there weren’t as many teachers spread across the country, especially in Canada, who were close by and accessible for me to study with while I was working in the field. While I attended many short, intensives, conferences and workshops, I honestly feel the organization of VASTA and the generous members doing workshops, speaking on panels and informally talking about their practice during conferences were a collective of mentors for me over the years. With email and Skyping now, help is just a computer away...
The organization provides opportunities for publishing, ongoing education, presenting at conferences, guidance through resources, meeting other teachers and coaches in the field, and connection to related fields.
There are challenges to mentoring. These certainly do not overshadow the benefits but they need consideration. Finding time to meet, and overseeing the mentee’s teaching, rehearsals and coaching means balancing responsibilities with other teaching and coaching you do yourself. Observing coaching sessions and rehearsals involves many extra hours, and when you are busy with your own coaching of productions with conflicting rehearsal times for example, commitments can be difficult to satisfy.
When deciding on whether to accept the responsibility of mentoring, one needs to assess the mentee’s ability to be independent. You don’t want to be following them around to ensure they complete assignments, do the required research etc. This calls for a maturity and an ability to self direct in the mentee, which often comes from extensive experience in performing, directing, or teaching before they start to train in the voice field. Assess where the mentee is in the journey from “passive learning mode” to a more critical, questioning and independent mode. To fully assess that background and experience, note how they talk about the work and where they feel they are in their journey. You want to ensure the individual can fully benefit from the type of personal philosophy, guidance and experience you can provide.
Assess how strong a framework you can provide to ensure steady and satisfactory progress. Mark out the stages that a student is expected to have completed at various points in the period of study. You will need to keep on top of the progress even when your schedule is very busy.
You will need to have the time for regular meetings and have a method of assessing the mentee’s work. An exam for admission will help to define those attributes you value in a voice and speech teacher against which you can measure the prospective mentee.
There needs to be great care in the timing of assigning responsibility to a mentee. In a specialized program where you have control over the curriculum it is more possible to move through a series of assignments, gaged to be appropriate at the time, and suited to the types of students in the program. Even so, each new student comes with a different background and experience, and juggling the needs of each student in comparison to others in the program can be challenging.
While the mentor should have the ‘expectation of a positive outcome’ from the relationship and from the mentee’s quality of work, it is sometimes difficult to be patient while guiding the work in teaching and coaching ‘after the fact’. For example, one wants a positive experience for the acting students that you regularly teach and yet as the mentee needs experience in conducting warm ups and coaching for the productions the actors prepare for, there are bound to be missteps along the way. Advice or a working session that doesn’t move the actors forward as swiftly or as deeply as you would expect through your own coaching, has to stand at the time. You need to assess as well as you can, the readiness of the mentee to tackle various tasks, be there as often as your time permits to catch trouble spots as early as possible, and oversee the whole process with periodic ‘check ins.’ Keep in mind, for this to work over time, you need to take a long view in the training of both the mentee and the actors you both serve, so that each opportunity to grow is embraced in a positive manner, without panic in the moment.
Mentoring is a fulfilling and very rewarding addition to a mature voice teacher’s practice. The time invested, the examination of your own practice and sharing a depth of knowledge about the field gives back. There is a deep sense of passing on valuable information that can change lives through enhancing human communication in any field.
The teaching and coaching opportunities that my students have obtained since graduating cover many situations, from professional theatre to children of new immigrants, student actors to realtors, teachers and fitness instructors.
Review your relationships with those you have touched through your teaching. You may have been mentoring in a very informal way, and the benefits will be ongoing in your practice and the whole field. Enjoy and encourage those relationships- you never know when they will become more formal or spark someone new to the field to study more in-depth, either with you or with others. It is a wonderful way to ensure your passion continues to affect positive and powerful communication.
Allen, Tammy D., The Blackwell Handbook of Mentoring. Blackwell 2007.
Bey, Teresa M., Holmes, C. Thomas. Mentoring: Developing Successful New Teachers. Reston: Association of Teacher Educators, 1990.
Council of Graduate Schools. Research student and Supervisor: An approach to good supervisory practice. Washington: Council of Graduate Schools, 1990.
Lovitts, B.E. Being a good course-taker is not enough: a theoretical perspective on the transition to independent research. Studies in Higher Education, 30(2), 137-154. 2005.
Roberts, Andy. (1999) "The origins of the term mentor". History of Education Society Bulletin. No. 64, November 1999, p. 313–329.
Rose, Gail. Ideal Mentor Scale. Research in Higher Education. Vol 44. No. 4 August 2003
The VASTA Awards and Grants Committee is pleased to announce that Ms. Elissa Weinzimmer, a graduate student, University of Alberta, is the 2014 recipient of the Clyde Vinson Memorial Scholarship. The head of the MFA in Theatre Voice Pedagogy, Professor Betty Moulton, nominated her. In her nomination letter, Professor Moulton stated,
“Elissa is an extraordinary learner, a sensitive and highly intelligent teacher and coach, and has shown over the two years of training that she is able to seamlessly adapt her practice to a great variety of teaching and coaching situations.”
“Elissa has already started to make her mark in VASTA, becoming a member of a number of committees and showing a strong ability for both vision and the detail work that is so important to advance the committee’s agenda.”
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.
Robin Carr (University of Southern Mississippi): taught Lessc Kinesensic Voice and Body workshops at the Carnegie Mellon School of Theatre, The Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin, Ireland and at the Southeastern Theatre Conference this spring. In January of 2014, Robin began her two year term as President-Elect for the Lessac Training and Research Institute. At Southern Miss, she was the vocal coach for Picnic and The Tempest.
Michael J. Barnes continues as the Artistic Director of the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre & Dance at Wayne State. He recently dialect coached Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde and August: Osage County at the Hilberry Theatre. He also just finished directing Guys & Dolls at the Bonstelle Theatre. Currently, he is braving the wilds of northern Ontario dialect coaching an independent film.
Antonio Ocampo-Guzman (Boston, MA) will serve as VASTA’s Treasurer until December 2014. He recently received tenure and promotion at Northeastern University, and will become Chair & Producer of the Department of Theatre in July. Last fall, he enjoyed a combination of sabbatical and paternity leave (baby Max is now 13 months!) after spending part of the summer teaching in Mexico, collaborating on CEUVOZ’s 6th Annual Voice Conference. Antonio will be directing Bedrich Smetana’s The Bartered Bride for Boston Midsummer Opera in July.
D’Arcy Smith (Minneapolis, Guthrie Theater/University of Minnesota) Recent professional coaching includesCrimes of the Heart, Uncle Vanya, Christmas Carol (Guthrie Theater), Cabaret (Theater Latte Da), My Antonia, Bill W & Dr. Bob (Illusion Theater), Driving Miss Daisy (Jungle Theater) and Spunk (Penumbra). He directed the BFA Juniors in Welcome to Thebes. He has also led workshops in voice in violence, acting Shakespeare and various dialects around the twin cities area. In November of 2013 he organized and participated in a one-day VASTA regional conference with Kristen Linklater as the key presenter, and taught a workshop for voice teacher trainees at Central School for Speech and Drama in London.
VASTA Board of Directors & Officers
Michael J. Barnes
Guy William Molnar
Tara McAllister Viel
Joanna Battles & Tamara Meneghini
©2014, Voice and Speech Trainers Association