VASTA Guidelines
for the Preparation of Voice and Speech Teachers

adopted & amended, Summer 1995


The following guidelines suggest a range of areas for study and personal development for the person who desires a career as a professional voice and speech teacher for performing artists - a person who trains and teaches the artistic and professional uses of the human voice. It is unlikely that any one person will become an expert in all fields which will be described below. Each person will design a personal path for training and development which is uniquely suited to individual career objectives (training actors, coaching theatrical productions, teaching in a liberal arts setting, training people for broadcast fields, etc.).


Experiential Education & Training

Voice & Speech Science


Teacher Training & Education

Vocal Direction for the Theatre

Additional Training for Teachers

Resources for Teacher Training


At present there is no single institution that offers courses in the entire range of areas of study described in this document. And individual may begin the process by earning a professional degree in acting, music, speech therapy or any number of fields; he / she may come to the field from professional experience as a performing artist or as a speech scientist. It is recommended that the individual work with several experienced voice and speech teachers, medical professionals and scientists as observers, apprentices and / or as colleagues. It is assumed that the individual's process is ongoing - that he / she will continue to learn long after beginning a teaching career.

Experiential Training & Education

The following recommendations are grounded in the belief that the voice and speech teacher is considered an artist as well as a teacher and that training in voice and speech is an integral part of the actor - training process. Those artist - teachers who intend to teach primarily in fields other than theatre would benefit from the recommended classes; however, the individual may wish to substitute and / or add classes as appropriate to career objectives.

Acting Classes: At least two years as a participating actor in acting classes, exploring the individual's own acting process. Performance experience with all major dramatic forms.

Voice Production: At least two years of work exploring and developing the individual's own voice through classes and / or private tutorials. Application of the voice work to dramatic and non-dramatic texts. Integration of the voice work with the individual's own work in speech, acting and movement.

Movement for Actors: At least two years of work developing the individual's own physical awareness as it assists the actor in releasing physical tension and freeing the voice. Development of effective use of the individual's body to facilitate ease and economy of movement. Exploration of processes used in actor training, such as the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method.

Text: At least two years education in dramatic structure and analysis of language using Shakespeare texts and other rich poetic dramatic forms. Experiential exploration to discover levels of meaning contained in texts: intellectual sense, shifting objective and actions, structural shifts and intrinsic musical qualities.

Speech for Actors: At least two years experiential work developing the individual's own sensory / emotional / intellectual responses to speech sounds and combinations of sounds. Application of the speech work to explorations of texts. Acquisition of a working knowledge of the International Phonetic Alphabet. Integration of the speech work with the individual's own work in voice, acting and movement.

Singing for Actors: At least one year working to develop the individual's own singing voice. Classes and / or private tutorials to expand the expressive range of the voice.

Dialects and Accents for Actors: At least 6 months work developing a systematic approach for acquiring dialects and accents. Integration of the dialect / accent work with the individual's own work in voice, speech, acting and movement.

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Voice & Speech Science

It is important that the artistic methods adopted for the development of the professional / artistic voice be grounded in a sound knowledge of voice and speech science and with anatomical accuracy.

Anatomy and Physiology: The equivalent of one semester of study of the structures and functions of respiration, phonation and articulation; a working knowledge of the terminology pertinent to voice and speech production; and the familiarity with relevant postural considerations, gender differences and vocal maturation.

Pathology of the Voice & Vocal Disorders: The equivalent of one semester of study of vocal malfunction and effects of disease, environmental and pharmaceutical agents and patterns of voice use.

Acoustics and Perception: The equivalent of one semester of study of the basic physics of sound. Specific attention to the physics of voice production and acoustics as it applies to indoor and outdoor theatres.

Voice and Speech Research: Seminars discussing the artistic and professional uses of the voice and related scientific research.


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Onstage experience as an actor or singer is vital for the voice and speech teacher. Comparable experience is work as an actor or voice professional in film, television or broadcast media.


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Teacher Training & Education

The art of teaching requires the understanding of teaching methodologies. Teaching actors and other professional voice users requires more specific knowledge and experience with the ways an artist learns and develops. Education courses, including those in educational psychology, philosophy and methodology are offered by artist learns and develops. Education courses, including those in educational psychology, philosophy and methodology are offered by colleges and universities.

Most useful to the voice and speech teacher is practical experience as a teacher. Supervised teaching and apprenticeships with experienced teachers are recommended.

Educational Psychology / Psychology of Learning: A semester studying human interaction as it relates specifically to learning. Also specific studies related to gender, cultural differences and the politics of speaking.

Voice and Speech Pedagogy: The equivalent of a semester studying teaching philosophies and methodologies in voice and speech. The development of skills for assessing a person's voice, effecting change in the use of the voice and establishing goals and steps for achieving those goals.

Teaching Observations: At least 6 months observation of the work of an experienced voice and speech teacher. Ongoing meetings with the experienced teacher discussing methodologies used.

Apprenticeships: Two or more apprenticeships with experienced voice and speech teachers and / or production vocal directors. Opportunities in the apprenticeship period to observe the experienced teacher, for the experienced teacher to observe the candidate's teaching or coaching, and for the experienced teacher to offer critical evaluations of the candidate's work.


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Vocal Direction for the Theatre

Vocal Direction, although it uses many of the same principles used in voice and speech teaching, requires additional skills. In the most collaborative situations, the vocal director / coach works in rehearsals and production meetings with the entire ensemble of the professionals assembled for the particular production. It is recommended that the individual acquire practical experience working with professional actors as well as student actors.

Theatre Education: The vocal director develops working relationships with the production director, the stage managers, the designers and technicians. Therefore, training in all aspects of theatre, particularly directing, would be useful for the vocal director. Training and practical work as a director, designer, dramaturg and / or technician are necessary for an understanding of theatre.

Supervised Vocal Direction: At least two experiences in production as a vocal director, supervised by an experienced vocal director. The individual should have the opportunity to experience the entire range of responsibilities required of a vocal director, including discussions with the production director, textual analysis of the script, vocal design of the production, attendance at production meetings, casting, leading company warmup sessions, leading vocal rehearsals and taking voice / speech notes. At least one of the experiences should include textual analysis of a poetic form.

Comparable training and practical experience in vocal direction for film, television or broadcast media would provide training for those interested in a career in those areas.

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Additional Training for Teachers

There are many professional voice users outside the field of theatre. The following courses of study will assist the voice and speech teacher in working with people in professions such as law, business, sales, teaching, etc. to increase their speaking effectiveness.

    Oral Interpretation

    Public Speaking

    Interpersonal Communication

    Media Training


    Accent Modification


Resources for Teacher Training

VASTA does not endorse any particular methodology in the training of voice and speech teachers. Those interested in pursuing a particular teacher's work should contact those teachers directly. Many VASTA members have trained voice and speech teachers. VASTA members have invited apprentices to work with them at conservatories, Shakespeare festivals and universities.

Many VASTA members are members of other professional organizations which are devoted to other aspects of the voice, notably

    ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association),

    NATS (National Association for Teachers of Singing),

    The Voice Foundation,

    The Canadian Voice Foundation

    SCA (Speech Communication Association), as well as

    ATHE (Association for Theatre in Higher Education).

Contact these organizations for education and training areas not addressed by VASTA.

There are several voice laboratories, in Irvine, Denver, Chicago, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Iowa City, where voice and speech teachers have received training in voice and speech science and collaborated with other professionals. Contact them directly for information.

The VASTA Newsletter regularly contains announcements of voice and speech conferences, symposia and workshops.

VASTA offers workshops, annual conferences and special conferences which could serve as introductions to a particular methodology or a particular teacher's work.

In addition to opportunities provided by VASTA , many programs have offered teacher training in voice and speech. See our International Workshops page for more information.

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Training Guidelines revised by Claudia Anderson.

© Copyright 1997, VASTA