Nowadays, I am a writer. Whilst I was trained as a voice coach, I no longer do so due to a number of reasons I’ve outlined below (pain being one of them). For a few years, now, I have focused on writing and occasionally running writing workshops, some of which leverage my past experience to help other writers in reading their own work to others.
However, though I am no longer an active voice practitioner and trainer, some may find it useful in going through what I think about voice. There is a reflection on why vocal training is more important than people realise and also how voice training can help in business.
I urge everyone to train their voice, develop it, be involved in vocal activity: it really helps.
Background – Voice
My experience was that voice development is often held back by conventional (and unquestionably trendy) vocal development approaches, though voice development is something from which we can all benefit.
I had a successful career in business, during which I developed my voice skills such that my inherently shy, inner character was disguised. Through training and personal research I was able to present and speak at all levels in industry and commerce and in a wide variety of situations. The range included basic group presentations, training, sales presentations and meetings, board presentations, lecturing or giving complex papers at conferences. Eventually, mentoring and coaching became a key part of my focus, helping others hone their business and presentation skills. Vocal training was here, a central aspect of my life, but never fully appreciated; singing was a sideshow, something I kept up but never realised its real input into this process.
However, life changed in the 1990’s when the realisation struck. I started helping others develop their singing skills, finding that in many cases simple, basic techniques were the most effective and the most easily forgotten. For example, the recent trend in singing lessons is to ignore breath control – ‘It will just sort itself out’ – but I found that whilst this may be fine for the more advanced singers, beginners, in particular, need to include vital support techniques to get anywhere at all. Eventually, I ended up taking advanced voice training, particularly focusing on the reality of our voice, its anatomy and physiology and what actually happens when we speak or sing, not what tradition thinks happens.
My voice coaching and mentoring is now on the back-burner, though I occasionally run workshops on voice care and basic skills when asked to do so.
Voice and Disability
Following a serious injury, I was disabled for several years. It was a harsh lesson on how unforgiving and disabling the able-bodied society can be towards the disabled, whether individually or through our culture and everyday habits. It is rarely a conscious process but merely something we do. However, in no area is this more clearly demonstrasted than in the area of vocal development. This is an area I am particularly concerned about: voice should be for all.
The area of voice and disability is an even more personal area. It was a disabling accident (see Pain Management) that made me look at the much-loved arena of voice development. During training, though, it was discovered I have a permanent growth on my vocal folds, something that a few operations has revealed to be inoperable. This has led to a severe reduction in my capabilities as a singer or as vocal performer: try getting a consistent note out of a violin when someone keeps altering the length and tension of a string as you play!
Whilst it has forced me to look elsewhere for income (hence these writing pages) it has also left me with a concern for voice as a whole: how can we overcome such a problem? How do we cope? It barely need be said that, due to personal circumstances, I am somewhat sympathetic – empathetic – towards those with real physical and vocal problems.
Despite everything, I retain a belief that everyone’s voice is there for the taking: virtually anyone can improve their voice and, in the process, they learn about themselves. This, I think, is key to life as a whole – being happier with your self means you are more likely to respect and be happier with other selves. And making the world a bit happier is, in my mind, a good thing.