As a voice teacher for 30 years I rejoice when I connect with a student in such a way that he or she experiences a new potential within him or herself.
I wish to use my gifts of knowledge, relating, and communication to affirm, motivate, and prepare my students for a future in singing; to help them discover their own musical gifts so that they are free to release their innermost voice with confidence; that they will have a clear technical understanding of vocal function, and most importantly that they will realize what they wish to express has value, meaning and is worthy of being heard.
Following is a brief article I wrote a couple years ago. This is what I'm about. For me, teaching singing is more about what is going on in the body than specifically what is going on in the throat. I hope you enjoy reading it. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about my approach.
Body in Motion, Voice in Motion
The number of methods for teaching voice more or less equals the number of voice teachers. Many teachers spend a large percentage of time working on specifics related to the vocal tract: the open throat, raised tongue, lowered larynx, vowel placement, etc. Teachers also work to improve breath management by reminding students to stand up straight with a lifted sternum, keep the upper chest still, and take a low breath.
I believe that these traditional approaches to teaching voice demand unnecessary manipulation of both the body and the instrument. As we often refer to singers as “vocal athletes”, teachers should look more closely at the thought processes and training programs of those who participate in serious sports training.
Athletes in every genre of sport train for years in the most efficient way to successfully perform their activities. Tennis, soccer and baseball camps run drill after drill where dozens of participants work on the most effective way to swing, hit, throw, spike, punch, or kick. Athletes consistently work on issues of coordinated balance and motion in order to get the body into a dynamic phase that allows optimum functionality of all muscle systems. Sport coaches understand the importance of physiology and motion’s positive effects on muscle function.
The human body is an amazing machine. We intrinsically know how to do many things without thought, including breathing well and deeply. But as we grow up we form habits that pull the body out of alignment – out of optimal connection, each part to the other. Compensatory behaviors develop due to the body’s built in system of adaptation. If the core muscles of posture and balance, which lie deep within the body, adopt dysfunctional connections, then over time other torso muscles will assume the functions of holding the body upright. These compensatory behaviors begin to impact the various bodily systems, including respiration. As muscles assume other functionalities, they can no longer function optimally to their designed purpose.
If muscular dysfunctions are not corrected, then manipulation is the only available path to voice building. I believe that we, as singers, must return the body back to its original design template. Pete Egoscue, an anatomical functionalist, calls this the “body’s birthright.” In vocal instruction, I work with students to restore that function through motion. I take my students through movements they know well and understand, typically beginning with the sport with which they are most familiar. Through motion we can coax the body back into phase, to an elegant poised and balanced stability. This allows expression of the full tonic capacity of the diaphragm. This in turn initiates a full organic expansion of the lungs allowing the student to breath well and deeply. When this happens, the student experiences increased breath energy and the sound becomes vibrant, free and expressive.
Your Body, Your Voice, by Theodore Dimon, EdD
Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin