Volume 10, Issue 5
Table of Contents:
A Message from the President
Letter from the Editor
VASTA MD Column: Marijuana and the Voice
Committee Chair Updates
ATHE Debut Panel
Engagement Committee Update
Tech Corner: VASTA Social Media
Inspirational Training from the Kristin Linklater Voice Centre in Orkney, Scotland 2015
Your Child Wants To Be in Theater: A Letter to The Parents
Freelance Coaching Column
Is Private Practice Right for You?
Join me in welcoming back two officers in new positions! Kristi Dana is now VASTA's ATHE Conference Director. If you have never before presented at ATHE but are interested, Kristi wants to hear from you! Contact her at email@example.com. Keely Wolter has begun serving as our Social Media Content Manager. Keely joins Judd Johnson (Social Media Manager) in keeping exchanges and ideas flowing on our social media sites. Board member, D'Arcy Smith, has been working with Judd and Keely to encourage a lively stream of activity, and to develop posting policies. The social media managers will also create the "official" conference Twitter hashtags each year.
The Pan-American Vocology Association (PAVA) held its inaugural conference last month at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Several VASTA members were in attendance, including President Elect Betty Moulton who will write about her experiences at the conference in an upcoming VASTA Voice newsletter. I hope you will consider attending a future PAVA conference to join forces in working towards our shared goals for vocal well-being.
The VASTA Board will meet December 4-6. Planning for the 2016 Chicago conference is at the top of the agenda for the meeting. As is customary, the Board will review reports of activities and recommendations from the standing committees and officers. The fall board meeting is always a jam-packed weekend, but the chance to meet face-to-face with a shared purpose makes it possible to accomplish much in a short period of time.
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I hope that the autumn has been treating you well. We have some excellent articles and updates for you in this final 2015 newsletter. Please pay special attention to our Associate Editor's introduction to the member news section for some updated information regarding the timeline and procedure for submitting member news each issue, in case you have been missing the calls for member news that we email out prior to each publication date.
As we glide to the end of another academic term and another year, I am sending you all best wishes for happy holidays. See you next year for Volume 11 of the Voice!
Editor, The VASTA Voice
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Marijuana use is becoming increasingly more prevalent among Americans, but particularly so among performing artists. As the use of marijuana increases, so does the number of observed complications associated with its use. The vocal folds and the other parts of the upper airway are particularly susceptible to injury from exposure to marijuana smoke, and recurrent marijuana smoking can cause vocal fold damage.
Because marijuana interferes with the normal function of the cells of the larynx and upper airway in ridding the airway of infectious and foreign materials, marijuana smoking (both inhaled and vapor) can cause coughing, wheezing, increased sputum production, vocal fold swelling (Reinke’s edema), laryngeal inflammation, and acute and chronic bronchitis. (1-4) For the vocal performer, this can translate to issues with hoarseness, decreased range, decreased projection, intermittent voice breaks, decreased breath support, chronic throat clearing, and vocal instability. Many performers self-medicate with marijuana to help curb stage fright only to have difficulty with the voice on-stage as a result.
Those with a history of “hay fever” or known allergies to weeds may have an allergic reaction to the marijuana (which is in the weed family of plants) and have no understanding as to from whence the allergic reaction came. (5-8) The allergic reaction to marijuana can range from mild swelling of the vocal folds and symptoms of hoarseness, decreased range and/or intermittent voice breaks, to severe swelling of the larynx and/or upper airway causing difficulty breathing and airway obstruction. Anyone with a history of “hay fever” or a weed allergy should, under no circumstances, use marijuana in any form at all.
Among those who smoke marijuana, the misguided sentiment often is that it does not cause cancer. However, several studies suggest that marijuana smoke is carcinogenic and puts the smoker at increased risk for vocal, mouth, and throat cancer. (1,3,9) In fact, marijuana smoking is felt to be a major cause for the early onset of aggressive laryngeal cancer in those under 50 years of age who develop laryngeal cancer. (9)
Thus, in terms of the effects on the larynx, marijuana smoking (both inhaled and vapor) is not recommended for vocal performers both for short and long term performance reasons as well as for the latter risk of marijuana associated vocal, throat, and mouth cancer.
1. Van Hoozen BE, Cross CE. Marijuana. Respiratory tract effects. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 1997/ 15(3):243 – 269.
2. Tashkin DP. Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2013; 10(3):239 – 247.
3. Tashkin DP, Baldwin GC, Sarafian T, Dubinett S, Roth MD. Respiratory and immunologic consequences of marijuana smoking. J Clin Pharmacol. 2002; 42(11 Suppl): 71S – 81S.
4. Hancox RJ, Shin HH, Gray AR, Poulton R, Sears MR. Effects of quitting cannabis on respiratory symptoms. Eur Respir J. 2015; 46(1):80 – 87.
5. Guarisco JL, Cheney ML, LeJeune FE Jr, Reed HT. Isolated uvulitis secondary to marijuana use. Laryngoscope. 1988: 9(12):1309 – 1312.
6. Boyce SH, Quigley MA. Uvulitis and partial upper airway obstruction following cannabis inhalation. Emerg Med (Fremantle). 2002; 14(1):106 – 108.
7. Tessmer A, Berlin N, Sussman G, Leader N, Chung EC, Beezhold D. Hypersensitivity reactions to marijuana. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2012; 108(4):282 – 284.
8. Ocampo TL, Rans TS. Cannabis sativa: the unconventional “weed” allergen. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2015; 114(3):187 – 192.
9. Bhattacharyya S, Mandal S, Banerjee S, Mandal GK, Bohowmick AK, Murmu N. Cannabis smoke can be a major risk factor for early-age laryngeal cancer – a molecular signaling-based approach. Tumour Biol. 2015; 36(8)6029 – 6036.
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I had such an amazing experience serving VASTA as the Associate Conference Planner for the Cirque des Voix/Circus of Voices Conference in Montréal this past summer. I am excited to be taking on a new Officer role, the ATHE Conference Planner for VASTA, and will be working alongside Rene Pulliam, the VASTA Focus Group Representative, to help VASTA represent at ATHE 2016!
We are searching for VASTA members to be part of our VASTA Debut Panel! 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!
Adjunct Associate Professor, Voice & Speech, Acting
MFA, MA, BFA Programs
Long Island University, Post
Miller Voice Method (mVm), Teaching Apprentice (2014-2016),
mentored by Scott Miller, hosted in part at the
Graduate Acting Program at NYU | Tisch School of the Arts
Officer, ATHE Conference Planner for VASTA, 2015-2017
Amy Mihyang Ginther
How Kindness Eases Change:
Falling (back) in love with my body and my voice at the Allied Media Conference 2015
Open your throat and sing.
Let the neighbors hear.
It is their grief too.
Attending the Allied Media Conference this year transformed me. It transformed my teaching practice, my activism, and my sense of self. As the recipient of the 2015 VASTA Interdisciplinary Engagement Grant, I was able to travel to Detroit this past June, along with hundreds of young people from a multitude of backgrounds and experiences. The name of the conference is a bit of a misnomer; it does deal heavily in media but there is an interdisciplinary inclusion of teaching artists, healers, facilitators, academics, and social justice activists. As participants, we were encouraged to use our unique gifts and resources to engage in empowerment and activism, particularly for LGBTQ communities, people of color, and those who are differently-abled.
I wanted to attend the AMC because many of the past sessions at this particular conference have explored the relationship between the voice, the body, identity, empowerment, and storytelling. I am particularly interested in how the physical voice intersects with the abstract, politicized voice of not just individuals, but entire communities. As a teacher, I know I can do more to explore my own privilege and oppression in order to serve my students in a more empowered way. As a theatre-maker, I was eager to connect with others to use our power of storytelling as an act of social justice.
I had hoped to deepen my understanding about these concepts, surrounded by a more diverse group that would offer me valuable insights on what I do as an educator, researcher, and performer.
What I had not expected to do during my time at the AMC was to spontaneously teach a session, to move grief through my body with fifty other bodies on stage, or to hysterically cry while watching Asian-American burlesque performers. I had not expected to leave the conference full of hope and possibility of what an empowered teaching conference or social space could really be.
The first day of the conference included full-day sessions called Network Gatherings. As a new hire at a university, I chose Dismantling the Ivory Tower, which, according to the description, “is for people of color connected to colleges, universities, and academic centers who want to chart new strategies for social justice organizing … to create strategies to better engage these institutions.” This was the first time I attended a conference session that was for people of color only. This may make some of you feel uncomfortable or excluded but as soon as the day began, I knew that these types of spaces are vital for many of us to grieve, heal, be heard and seen, and legitimize each other’s experiences without the burden of accommodating White Fragility. We spent the day discussing the unique experiences and strategies people of color had as they navigated success and promotion at their universities. I was comforted to know that I am not alone when it comes to feeling unsafe as sometimes the only person of color in predominantly White spaces. It was clear how much work we all had to do in order to empower and support our colleagues of color and of LGBTQ backgrounds. As part of the day, we created an online zine as a way of galvanizing our dialogue and strategies, which I encourage you to check out here. The day ended with a joyful soul train dance party.
One of the sessions I attended was supposed to be Our Bodies Our Sounds: Creation to Recording, where we’d learn about using sound for justice and trust building. After realizing the facilitators weren’t going to show up, Billy, a Detroit native and theatre facilitator jumped up and said, “I can teach a few things if you are all up for it!” The group seemed interested. I jumped up and said, “I can teach a few things, too!” So Billy and I co-taught a spontaneous session, getting the participants into their bodies and voices. It was a perfect opportunity for me to engage with the resonance pools I’ve been developing, where participants create soundscapes based on moments of empowerment and oppression in order to express their emotional experiences without using explanation or justification. It was inspiring for me to explore this work with such a range of ethnicities and gender identifications.
How the AMC is different
The philosophy and practice of the Allied Media Conference was unlike any other conference I’ve attended. There was an emphasis of self-care and personal safety. There was a centrally located relaxation room where conference participants could rest, meditate, and even nap. At the session I attended about grief, a woman introduced herself as a member of the Safety Team, assuring everyone she was present and available if anyone was triggered emotionally during the session. It reminded me of how little many of us are trained in this when we work so intensely with the body, the breath, and the voice. At the AMC, a gender binary is not taken for granted. People generally introduce themselves with what pronouns they identify with (she/he/they) and this information was also on our conference tags (if we wished). Sometimes, people identified quite differently than an assumption I would make based on how they look.
During the conference-sponsored karaoke night, one of the women got up on stage and shouted, "I WANT TO DEDICATE MY SONG TO ALL THE POOR AND WORKING CLASS PEOPLE OUT HERE TONIGHT. WHERE YOU AT???" I have never heard these words uttered at a conference before. Despite efforts to be more diverse and inclusive, class is often invisible and left out of conversation in these spaces. We easily forget that many people do not have the funds for travel and registration, cannot afford to take time off, and/or do not feel entitled to participate in an academic space. The AMC works to make the conference more economical by offering a sliding scale option for registration and affordable campus housing.
What I Learned
My takeaways were both practical and philosophical. The facilitation session I attended directly impacted my co-facilitated socio-metrics session with Hilary Blair, Judd Johnson, and Bimbo Benson at the VASTA conference in Montreal, allowing me to incorporate more inclusive terms and framing into our dialogue.
Overall, the sessions I attended reminded me of my responsibility as a voice and acting trainer, working with a diversity of bodies and voices that have experienced a myriad of trauma, micro-aggressions, and larger-scale oppressions. I was reminded of both the possibility and potential of other conferences I attend and continued work that needs to be done. Despite its progressiveness, the AMC is not perfect and it strives to continually re-examine its own practices. This was clear in its post-conference open letter that addressed specific incidents that happened this year, seeking ways to do better in the future.
I am still reflecting upon and resonating with the words of the conference’s keynote speaker, Patrisse Cullors, one of the original founders of #BlackLivesMatter: It’s a great time to be alive, ya’ll. She said this two days after the devastating shooting in Charleston when she took the stage and invited all of the Black participants to get on stage and joyfully dance and sing as the rest of us cheered and supported them from our seats. In that moment, I realized that my activism and my teaching practice starts from the love and care I have for my own body and my own voice. Only through being authentically in my embodied self can I begin to fully see and hear the student or client in front of me. Our bodies and voices are politicized every day, whether it is during a corporate presentation, a performance, or in a public space with police. Ignoring this is not a passive act; it actively perpetuates the inequalities that exist.
In the session I attended about grief, we were all asked to write a mantra that we could share and use in the future. One of the women shared hers:
Open your throat and sing.
Let the neighbors hear.
It is their grief too.
I will, I will and I won’t stop. I won’t stop until all of us are heard.
Love and gratitude to the VASTA Engagement Committee for this opportunity.
I encourage you all to learn more about the AMC by visiting its website.
In recent years VASTAs social media reach has expanded beyond just VASTAvox. There are now a handful of ways you can interact with VASTA and VASTA members online. It can be a little confusing if you aren’t familiar with each of the various platforms. So, here’s a quick and easy guide to VASTA and social media.
This is the platform where VASTA has been active longest. Many of you probably know about it and have used it in the past, but for those who haven’t: VASTAvox is a Yahoo Group where members can communicate via discussion threads. Topics range from job postings to International Tongue Twister Day, and you can view discussions dated back to 2008 (and beyond if you are feeling ambitious). Check out more info about VASTAvox and how to join the discussion here.
VASTA has two active pages on Facebook. First, there is the Official VASTA Page. This page acts as the public face of VASTA on Facebook. If you are a Facebook member, you can “like” this page by clicking the “like” button at the top. Then, you will see official updates from VASTA in your newsfeed.
Then, there is the VASTA’s Voices group. Much like VASTAvox, this is a place where members can communicate, post interesting links, ask for advice, announce job postings, etc. Though some discussions on VASTAvox and VASTA’s voices are the same, some members seem to prefer one or the other. It is worth checking both of them out. To participate in the discussion, you’ll need to request to join the group by clicking “join” in the upper righthand corner.
VASTA also has an official account on Twitter. This is where VASTA posts official news and announcements, as well as fun links. If you are a Twitter member, you can engage with VASTA posts. The account is only occasionally active during the year, but it’s a great place to stay up to the minute with the goings-on during the annual VASTA Conference. You’ve got to be a Twitter member to follow VASTA, but anyone can read the tweets!
VASTA is also on Instagram. This is where VASTA shares photos for you to view or comment on. Like Twitter, this account is inactive most of the year. During conference time, it’s a fun place to check out what members are up to whether you are attending the conference or not.
So whether you are social media savvy or still a little unsure about it, it's worth checking out these VASTA pages. They are a great way to keep up with VASTA and VASTA members all year round.
One of VASTA’s relatively recent initiatives has been the development of an International Committee. This group, committed to increasing the dialogue between members of the global voice community, is eager to explore practices and research from groups that have not been typically heard from due to possible language or cultural barriers. This year the International Committee welcomes a few new members to our team and we thought it would be a great idea to introduce you to those of us who are working towards expanding our awareness of voice practices and research around the world.
Our fearless Chair, Amy Mihyang Ginther is currently an Assistant Professor of Acting and Voice at University of California Santa Cruz, voice coach in the Bay Area and Founder and Owner of Vocal Context. Her research looks at the relationship between voice, identity, and power structures within both social and training contexts. She is a Master Teacher of Frankie Armstrong and Janet B. Rodgers' Archetype work. This year, she published and co-published two articles in the Voice and Speech Review, which can be found here and here. Amy is in the early stages of her first edited collection and a new solo show about her last 10 years of living and teaching abroad in the UK, Ireland, Argentina, the Czech Republic and Korea.
Luis Aros is a Chilean actor and voice teacher with an MA in Voice Studies from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. His experience as a performer has led him to work with some of the most important theaters in Santiago, Chile as well as many international theater festivals. His research examined the relationship between the voice and the body of the performer. He has explored physical actions and the way we can build bridges between impulse and text. Currently he is head of the vocal research program at the University of Chile.
Abimbola Benson is a passionate voice practitioner from Nigeria. She has Knight-Thompson Speechwork Training as well as Lessac Training and currently teaches student actors at the University of Ibadan. Abimbola is motivated to develop a vocal pedagogy that truly meets the needs of the Nigerian voice and in order to better inform her work, she is eager to bring together singing and speech practitioners from around the world to share their experiences.
Chiara Claudi is an actress, singer, voice teacher and counselor in Psychosynthesis. She currently teaches at the Paolo Grassi National Theatre School in Milan, Italy and her research and work explores voice as an expression of our personality and the relationship between voice and emotion. She is also interested in using singing pedagogy in her work with actors and acting voice pedagogy in her work with singers. She has recently been travelling across Canada visiting colleagues and friends as well as conducting voice workshops in Quebec and Alberta. She hopes to strengthen her ties between Italy and Canada and looks forward to bringing her experiences and connections to VASTA’s International Committee.
Marcela Grandolpho is an actress and voice coach. She holds an MA in Voice Studies from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and is currently living in São Paulo, Brazil where she has started her own business, coaching executives and actors around the world. She also teaches voice and acting at Teatro Escola Macunaima, a drama conservatoire, and coaches several theatre productions annually. Her book, The Vocal Embodiment of Text: how psychophysical acting techniques can help you connect voice and text, is going to be released the beginning of 2016.
Floyd Kennedy, performer and producer of the Dame June Bloom Pedagogical Theatre Presentations, explores the nature of voice in performance. Her most recent Dame Bloom sequel, “Yes Because…” delves into Shakespeare’s sonnets and recently enjoyed a brief season of performances in Brisbane, Australia. Floyd has re-located to Southend-on-Sea, England to take on a temporary post of Voice Tutor at E15 Acting School. Floyd would like to acknowledge VASTA member Tara McAllister, who continues to further her research in Berlin.
Ana Laan is a singer-songwiter from Madrid, Spain. She composes in English, Spanish and Swedish, with a smattering of French. She is a Professor of Voice and Movement at Centro del Actor – Lorena Garcia de las Bayonas.
Dawn Sadoway is a singer/actor and an Assistant Professor of Voice Studies with the Theatre Department at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Over the past several years she has taught at various other universities across Canada, working as both an instructor and professor but is pleased to return to her hometown to assist in the development of a degree granting Musical Theatre program at MacEwan University. Dawn’s research has focused on "Bridging the Gap between an Actor’s and Singer’s Vocal Pedagogy", "The Language of Teaching Voice", "Voice and Creative Aging" and she is currently working on a Heavy Metal adaptation of MacBeth, exploring “Metal Voice”.
Sulian Vieira has been interested and active in researching voice in performance since she was an undergraduate acting student in South America. Currently, Sulian is a Voice Professor at the University of Brasilia in Brazil. She is actively involved with Vocalidade & Cena, a research group initiated by Silvia Davini, where the focus is on the development of conceptual, methodological and aesthetic works on the subject of voice in performance. Their research focusses on the initial approaches of theatrical texts to the staging of those texts, emphasizing the entire sound dimension of the scene. They also understand the voice as being strongly related to its postural and kinetic aspects, a notion that runs through their technical and aesthetic practices. To this end, they dialogue with the body techniques of Eutony, developed by Gerda Alexander, as well as Raul Husson’s Neurocronaxica phonation theory.
Alexandra Whitham is the full-time Lecturer in Voice for the Department of Performing & Screen Arts at Unitec in Auckland. She teaches First, Second, and Third-year acting students in Voice, Speech, Text, Experiential Anatomy, and Dialects. Alexandra also works as a theatre director, and voice, dialect & communication coach with actors and non-actors at Unitec, and within the wider community. Alexandra is a Designated Linklater Voice Teacher and her interests include: voice and speech for theatre and film, the integration of voice & movement practices, accents & dialects, the embodiment of classical text, song, Forum theatre, Laban Acting Method, physical theatre, yoga, and inter-cultural approaches to acting training.
Your international committee members are a dynamic group of voice practitioners who would like to extend a warm welcome to anyone who is eager to explore ways in which we can create opportunities for people to write and share their experiences about voice work globally. We are aware that translating our work and thoughts into languages that can reach a vast and growing global membership is going to be only one of challenges we will face as we move ahead. On that note, we invite VASTA members to submit ideas to our committee about how we can continue to create a more international and culturally diverse membership of voice practitioners and researchers.
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Deb is a longtime VASTA member, a Designated Linklater teacher since 1993, and an Associate Professor of Voice at Florida State University.
On August 13 through September 6 in Scotland, a group of talented voice trainees completed their rigorous pursuit to become voice production teachers. Kristin Linklater, one of the world’s foremost voice specialists for professional actor training, has established a voice centre in the Orkney Islands that is attracting an international crowd. This years' teacher trainees hailed from Canada, Italy, France, England, Scotland and America. Training requires a mastery of many components and the development of a variety of skills before a student is considered for graduation and honored with Linklater Designation.
Senior Linklater teachers Paula Langton, Susan Main, Simon Ratcliffe, Joanna Weir, and myself joined the sessions to take notes, observe and assist. I was struck by how much this voice work continues to elegantly evolve over the years since Kristin first began training her teachers. She has conducted twelve Designation sessions in the last 40 years in the States and four in Europe. I continue to be moved by the way the Linklater work can transform actor's talent into a refined skill set which consistently elevates their artistry. There are currently approximately 200 Designated Linklater teachers teaching, acting and directing in professional programs and venues in all parts of the world.
For all of these trainees, years of previous study in both the Linklater technique and related work have brought these individuals together at this particular time. The teachers are both young and mature, some distinguished teachers in their own right, many professional actors and singers. Alice Bologna, Jane Boston, Kate Brennan, Isa Byloos, Sara Holden-Boyd, Gary Horner, Leonardo Gambardello, Ben Joiner, Danielle Meunier, and Benjamin Moore were welcomed to their graduation ceremony with bagpipes and champagne toasts, Scottish dancing and many songs of celebration for their accomplishments that brought them to this day.
In Part 1 of the training, which occurred in 2014, Kristin taught her work to the prospective teachers, who continued to study the detail of it until they returned to Orkney this year for Part 2. This past summer during the first week the trainees taught a section of the work to each other which was especially challenging for them, and received feedback from Ms. Linklater and the senior teachers who were observing and assisting. In the second week they then had the opportunity to re-teach the same work to community members, many of whom had no previous experience with voice production. The Orkney volunteer students also had private sessions with the trainees, who had the chance to practice their one-on-one skills in addition to group teaching. They then reported back to Ms. Linklater in afternoon critique sessions on their individual students’ progress.
In all classes, attention was paid to the teachers’ own physical and vocal skills while instructing, vocal anatomy, specific language and imagery. Also critiqued was the trainees’ ability to communicate the information in a dynamic way, watch the room and what occurs and how to make adjustments in those moments of challenge for the student. The process of how the trainee accomplished objectives in what was being taught in the given amount of time was addressed, as well as many other elements of effective teaching.
The third week of instruction addressed hands-on work and text with Kristin Linklater, group singing with Paula Langton, and improvisation with Special Guest Artist Ken Cheeseman.
Classes in Orkney are still developing but include the following: an Introduction to the Linklater Voice Technique, Introduction to Shakespeare, Advanced Voice Technique and Text, Advanced Voice and Shakespeare: Monologue and Scene Work, Poetry Workshop from Haiku to Hopkins and onwards, and Sound and Movement: Embodying Language. There is Continuing Professional Development, the Linklater Designation Programme, and various workshops that can be customized to individual and group needs. It is a glorious environment in which to revel in intensive vocal study. Kristin has a terrific team of business women that go the extra mile to make all studio participants feel at home; from taking care of business to fabulous cooking to tremendous sightseeing. Kudos to Barbara, Rena, Yvonne and Ruth for their wonderful work and support.
The Orkney Islands are a short plane ride from Glasgow or Edinburgh or ground transportation and ferry if a longer trip is desired. There are amazing archaeological excavations taking place throughout this region. At the Ness of Brodgar the dwellings of ancient societies of 5000 years are currently being unearthed and the guides are articulate and passionate storytellers. Stunning lochs and beaches are visible from the Centre’s campus, cows are plentiful in the farmland; starlings and grasses weaving in the wind are a familiar sight. On certain nights the “Merry Dancers” can be seen - this is the name given to the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, by Orcadians. Orkney is one of the few places in the UK that has a wonderfully clear and dark night sky.
On one of the final evenings walking home viewing a particularly magical array of stars, hearing people from the Centre singing one more farewell song, I marveled at the incredible sound of the human voice reverberating in this beautiful landscape. I can hardly wait to return to learn so much more.
For further information about the Kristin Linklater Voice Centre, see the website at www.linklatervoice.com.
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Susan Patrick Benson
As the voice and speech specialist for Southern Illinois University theater, as well as the Director of Undergraduate Studies for Theater, I often talk with and tour parents and prospective students. I continue to run into the problem of Parents thinking that studying the arts is a waste of time and money, and should be a hobby. So, I've written an open letter to the parent that perhaps other professors, teachers, and coaches could use as a teaching tool to prospective students and their concerned families. In addition to being published here in The VASTA Voice, it has been published by my department on the department website.
I have been a professional actor since 1989. Actually, I was earning money as an actor years earlier, but for the sake of this letter I will start when I joined Actors’ Equity Association, our stage actors’ union. Much of my career took place in New York City, performing Off Broadway, working as a voice and speech teacher at the HB Studio, and as a private coach/consultant for stage, screen and corporate America, as well as performing at many regional theaters from Maine to Texas. To this day I continue to work as an actor nationally as well as internationally. I conduct invited workshops across the country and am a returning voice coach for the ActorSpace in Berlin.
I paid for most of my Master of Fine Arts degree from a top theater graduate program, with earnings doing commercials and an assistantship. I own my second home outright, my student loans are paid off, and I am on my third new car. I have no debt and a healthy savings. I have never been unemployed, never needed to stagger my utility bills, and supported three people in New York City. I chose no “fall back” career in college. My career has always been, and continues to be, in the performing arts.
Why am I telling you this? In 2006, I became the voice and speech specialist at a major Midwestern research university. I left New York so that my son could be raised with a Midwest upbringing similar to my own.
Knowing Southern Illinois would not offer the same acting opportunities as New York or Los Angeles, I happily took a position as a voice and speech specialist for the university theater department. As an actor and voice/dialect coach I had always been an independent contractor. My new position brought new responsibilities. One was showing prospective theater majors the facilities for production experience and discussing opportunities that the department could offer. While prospective students are often excited, curious, and optimistic about their new independent path, parents are often less than thrilled. They encourage their young adult to look at theater as a hobby, an extra-curricular interest, or, at the very most, a minor. I listen to parent after parent use the phrase, “If theater is their interest, I need them to have a 'fall back plan'”. My answer? The degree is their fall back plan.
Consider! If your child wanted to become a plumber, computer programmer, physician, or dentist would you solicit or accept the advice or opinions of a banker about those professions? My guess is no. You would get your child to talk with a physician, dentist, computer programmer, or plumber who was already successful in their chosen career. You would research the steps needed to build a successful career in that field. Theater is no different. It has a long history of successful fiscal support for many people over hundreds of years.
Like all careers it has the top one percent, the unemployed, and the 98% in between. If your child was not going to become the Surgeon General, Bill Gates, or owner of the biggest plumbing chain in the country, would you still discourage a career in those areas? Of course you wouldn’t. Theater works the same way. Media tends to highlight our top 1%. Exaggerated portraits of the “Starving Artist” make for good movies or television specials. (In 30 years I’ve yet to meet an artist with no food in the cupboard.)
The reality of employed theater artists are the following: the regional actor, dancer, voice over artist, cruise ship performer, scenic artist, lighting designer, box office manager, stage manager, costume designer, dialects coach, singing coach, graphic artist, playwright, production assistant, light board operator, sound designer, cameraman, stage hand, dresser, carpenter, electrician, house manager, dramaturge, location scout, agent, personal manager, dance captain, acting coach, speech coach, technical director, producer, managing director, artistic director, literary director, make up artist, and entertainment accountant. All of these careers, and so many more, exist in the professional world of commercial theater.
Now let’s broaden the scope a bit. Perhaps your child earns a BA or BFA in theater and decides he/she wants to seek employment beyond the commercial world of theater. Now we step into the world of using the theater degree to launch your career in a new direction. Consider the following careers: art therapy in public or private schools, public speaking coach, teacher, professor, fundraiser, on-air broadcaster, motivational speaker, museum curator, carpenter, camp director, events coordinator, hotel, restaurant, resort or cruise ship director, marketing director, hair wig stylist, sales, speech therapist, fitness trainer, life coach, meditation therapist, custom painter, wardrobe consultant, image consultant, editor, critic, CEO of any company in need of a person who has interpersonal and problem solving skills, etc.
What does theater training offer beyond the aforementioned exciting careers? Your graduate will leave the university with a new appreciation for music, dance, performance of all kinds, history and visual arts. He/She will have skills in persuasion and reading nonverbal signals from others, and will develop broad points of view about death, love, politics, religions, human frailty, civic duty, human rights, human dignity, gratitude, global connection, empathy, compassion, perseverance, self actualization, diplomacy, team working skills, and the ability to make deadlines.
Know that your child will develop talents enabling them to feed their own joys by creating music, poetry, storytelling, welding, stitching, carving, designing, decorating, journaling, cooking, sculpting, dancing or any other creative activity that makes life worth living. Know also that the majority of theatre artists across the western world are middle class parents, small business owners, sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles, community leaders, entrepreneurs and contributing members of society. These people were drawn to a profession and took the steps necessary to immerse themselves in its culture. Every worthy career requires years of building, dedication, and personal sacrifice. Please support your child’s search for a path that is emotionally fulfilling, nurturing both body and soul. Living and working in the arts is not just a career, it is a way of life.
In conclusion, this is what I tell my new students each year: Working in the arts has provided me with more than just a comfortable means to care for my family during the past 30 years. Being an artist has enriched my world by deepening my humanity; giving me a voice to speak out about intolerance and injustice; teaching me grace, empathy, humility, and emotional healing; and providing me with endless knowledge and beauty. The gifts of awakening and life’s purpose were given to me by artists. For this, I am truly grateful.
Susan Patrick Benson
Associate Professor - Voice and Speech
Director of Undergraduate Studies - Theater
Southern Illinois University
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Marina Tyndall and Lucinda Worlock
Our final Freelance Column of the year is brought to you by Heather Lyle. Heather teaches singing, voice and speech in private practice, for USC and for "Indian Idol" in India. She is a professional singer for film, TV and theatre and has performed on every type of stage from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to the smoky caves of Paris, the Playboy Mansion, and inside the Great Pyramid for an NBC special. Lyle presently sings with her eight-piece band "The Bluecat Express".
I have been in private practice for eighteen years and it is still one of the best professional decisions I ever made. What started as a home business is now my own voice and speech school in the Los Angeles area.
As college professors often ask me how I started my practice, I thought I’d share a few tips:
1. Keep your overhead low.
As my business grew, I went from teaching at home to renting a tiny office space in a reasonably priced building. When I taught larger classes of five students, I would have to move my furniture into the hall, which my neighbors fortunately tolerated.
Eventually I was able to move down the hall to a larger office where I could accommodate more people for classes. I had the office sound-proofed, so I could have clients scream or practice loud singing.
2. Design your website.
In today’s digital age, it can often feel like you do not exist to clients without a website. You can start with a do-it-yourself website with templates that allow you to pick the artwork and just fill in the empty boxes. Wordpress is one of the most popular sites, because it also has a blog attached to it; you can use this to keep your clients updated on voice news and upcoming events.
3. Get business cards.
Find an online design site, like Vista or Moo, and create an eye-catching card that provides your contact details, business name and logo. Get into the habit of carrying your cards with you and give them out to prospective clients or put them on appropriate bulletin boards. Over the years many clients have come to me having found my card and decided to click on my website.
4. Bring in clients.
Outside of the acting industry, there are many professionals who require voice coaching for clear, confident communication. From accent acquisition to presentation delivery; vocal health to communication skills decide on the area/s of training in which you are particularly interested, and focus on bringing in those clients.
For further advice on becoming a successful entrepreneur, US Small Business Administration has plenty of online resources available.
Running a Healthy Business
Once you have made that leap into the world of freelance coaching, consider as well the following tips on maintaining a thriving practice.
1. Pick the hours and days that you want to teach and stick to them.
I received this excellent advice from a friend when I started my business. If you aren't firm on your hours, you will be teaching day and night and on weekends.
2. Create products.
They create passive income for you and assist your students. Each student that studies with you does so because they like what you teach. Create some products that they can purchase so they can take a little bit of you with them.
3. Accept credit cards.
There are many apps like PayPal, Venmo and Square that make it easy to take payments on your smart phone. They may take a small 2 or 3% percentage for each transaction, so this needs to be factored into your rate.
4. Keep good records for tax time.
1. Give an initial free lesson for a client to check out your skills. Advertising a free lesson can often attract people who will take advantage of you and rarely return after the free lesson.
2. Lower your rate. There will always be a student or client who tries to persuade you to cut your price. While I offer a small discount for block bookings, I am confident I offer a competitive price for the Los Angeles market.
3. Continue to teach people you don’t enjoy working with. One of the advantages of being in private practice is you can choose who you teach. Most private clients are motivated, do their homework and are incredibly appreciative.
Remember that embarking on any new venture can create a certain degree of fear and self-doubt. We may convince ourselves we are too young, too old; too smart or just not smart enough. Instead of sitting and procrastinating about making that first step, the most important thing to do is to start — then providence can step in and the magic will happen.
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Dear VASTA Community,
Season's Greetings! This volume of the newsletter is packed with news from a number of our current members. In hopes of sharing more member news in each issue, Josh and I will be observing the following schedule for seeking member news submissions, based on the region you self-select in your member profile:
January Newsletter - all 'Canada' and 'International' members.
April Newsletter - all 'Western' members (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, California, Alaska, Hawaii).
July Newsletter - all 'Northeast' and 'New York' members (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland).
September Newsletter - all 'South' and 'Southeast' members (Virginia, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida).
November Newsletter - all 'East Central' and 'West Central' members (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio).
Please double check that you are listed in the correct region for where your main practice is currently. This will ensure that you receive the correct email for your region based on the above schedule.
To double check that you have selected your current region as described above:
- Log in to your member profile.
- Click on the 'Membership' tab at the top of the page.
- Select 'Member Profile Management'.
- Click on the 'Pro Index Pref' button and scroll down until you see 'Region'.
- Select your region and save changes.
Member news should be submitted using the following format:
YOUR NAME IN ALL CAPS (Location City, State or Country)
Book Titles: italics
Play Titles: italics
Articles: quotation marks
Please let us know if you have any questions about Member News submissions. Keep them coming!
See you next year!
Associate Editor, The VASTA Voice
PAUL MEIER (Founder of IDEA and Professor at the University of Kansas) reports that all is well with IDEA (International Dialects of English Archive), now in its 18th year. Four new associate editors have been appointed so far this year: Amelia Morse Kolmeyer, Irene-Chen Shen, Linda Nicholls-Gidley, and Lynnae Lehfeldt. Thanks to these new editors and all others who have contributed to IDEA’s now over 1,200 samples. And he thanks the many VASTA members who have adopted his Accents & Dialects for Stage and Screen as the textbook for their dialect teaching.
ROBIN CARR (University of Southern Mississippi) was promoted to Professor of Voice and Acting at the University of Southern Mississippi. In 2015, Robin was awarded the Mississippi Higher Education Award Day: Working Towards Academic Excellence (HEADWAE) Award and The University of Southern Mississippi’s College of Arts and Letters Teacher of the Year. Robin directed Spring Awakening at Southern Miss and received an excellence in directing award from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Region II. This past summer, Robin taught a Lessac voice and body workshop for the apprentice company at the Berkshire Theatre Festival in Stockbridge, MA and led a British Studies in Theatre course in London. This fall, Robin is directing Violet and vocal/dialect coaching Nickel and Dimed and As You Like It. Most recently, Robin was featured as a theatre alumni in Muses, the College of Arts and Letters Magazine for Michigan State University.
ADRIANO CABRAL (Carrollton, GA) is finishing the first semester of his second year as Assistant Professor of Voice and Movement in the Department of Theatre at the University of West Georgia. He just completed a successful run directing the musical Side Show and looks forward to picking up more production/tv/film vocal coaching in Atlanta, GA this Spring. Adriano is preparing for the second part of Fitzmaurice Voicework® Teacher Certification while reviewing material in preparation for his application into the Knight Thompson Speechwork Teacher Certification. Adriano is currently working on his Master Level Reiki training.
MICHAEL COBB (Denver, Colorado/Minneapolis, Minnesota) is in the middle of his first semester of a nine-month contract as Interim Lecturer in the University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A. Actor Training Program. At the University he served as Vocal Coach for Uncle Vanya (dir. Michelle O’Neill) and The Cherry Orchard (dir. Risa Brainin). For the Guthrie he is currently in rehearsal as Voice and Text Coach for A Christmas Carol (dir. Joe Chvala), and will serve in the same capacity in Spring 2016 for Harvey (dir. Libby Appel) and Trouble In Mind (dir. Valerie Curtis-Newton) by Alice Childress.
CHRISTOPHER DUVAL is in his 3rd year as an Assistant Professor at the University of Utah, where he teaches Acting, Stage Combat, and Fitzmaurice Voicework®. He continues to work regularly as a fight director and actor in regional theatre. Most recently his work has been seen at the Pioneer Theatre Company, Utah Shakespeare Festival, and at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s upcoming 2016 summer season where he has acted, taught, or fight directed for 17 years. His book, Stage Combat Arts: An Integrated Approach to Acting, Voice, and Text Work + Video, is being published by Methuen Drama and will be available in January of 2016. For more information, visit stagecombatarts.weebly.com.
TANERA MARSHALL (Chicago, IL) is back to work in Chicago after a sabbatical semester in Los Angeles. She just finished voice & text work on UIC's production of As You Like It, dialect work on a Showtime pilot (working title The Chicago Project, about the lives of young people on Chicago's South Side) and is half-way through shooting Season 4 of NBC's Chicago Fire. She became an associate editor (for pedagogy) for the Voice & Speech Review earlier this spring (and asks all teachers, voice-and-dialect designers, and coaches to please consider writing about your work and submitting it for publication!!!)
COLTON WEISS, BA (Columbus, OH) just finished speech/dialect coaching a production of A Piece of My Heart at Columbus School for Girls, directed by Janetta Davis. Recently, he was awarded the Interdisciplinary Engagement Grant and will be using the support to attend the national American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) convention in Denver, CO. Be on the lookout for his newsletter article detailing his convention experience. Additionally, he is in the process of applying to multiple graduate programs to pursue either a Master’s degree in speech/voice pedagogy or speech-language pathology.
KEMI JORGE-OYEWUSI, PHD (Abuja, Nigeria) is an emergent teacher. As a teacher and a teacher's coach she is passionate about Teaching for Understanding. Her article, "The Assigned Teacher vs. The Emergent Teacher" is available online. As an Elocution teacher, Kemi is involved with teaching speaking from kindergarten to university. She tutors individuals and corporate staff in the art of Speaking, the art of Listening and the art of Thinking. "The Art of Listening as a Key Component of Emotional Intelligence" is available online at Academia.edu. Kemi's work in teaching speaking centers on clarity, correctness and confidence. Her book, The Speaking Life is due for release in December 2015. Kemi presently runs her training outfit, Shinexcel Communications, where she provides effective solutions for individuals and corporate organizations in the area of communication skills and leadership skills.
NATALIE McMANUS, (DC Metro Area, MD) is busy teaching voice and speech at Landon School in MD. She has been busy acting and directing this year at various area theaters. Acting credits this year include Miss Maudie in To Kill a Mockingbird; Sue Bayliss in All My Sons; and the Waitress in the short film On the Right Side of History, being released soon. Natalie also works privately with clients through her company Professionally Speaking, working on voice, speech, and presentation skills. She has a number of theatre and video projects in the works, and continues to record the news for the blind through The Metropolitan Washington Ear, Inc. in Silver Spring, MD.
JENNIFER THOMAS, MM, MFA (Denver, CO) was the dialect coach for PhAMaly Theater Company’s production of Cabaret at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, this summer. She is currently teaching Irish Dialects in the Education Department of the DCPA and will be teaching a class in British RP for the Winter session. Jennifer continues to teach privately, working with a diverse clientele from the theater, voice over and business communities.
DEBRA HALE, Associate Professor of Voice, Florida State University: Debra Hale taught Public Speaking this summer at University of California San Diego. A founding member of KLVC, Debra spent three weeks in Orkney, Scotland observing and assisting Kristin Linklater in the second part of her international teacher training. This fall at FSU she coached Neil LaBute's Some Girls and was Voice and Text Director on Twelfth Night.
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