During the 1990s, I was teaching singing in New York City to aspiring actors. I studied voice for many years at several schools, including The University of Oklahoma, The University of Kansas, The Aspen Music Festival and the University of Missouri-Kansas City Music Conservatory, and I worked with many wonderful teachers. However, I was always frustrated by the intangible quality of singing. I always asked my teachers, “How does my voice work, exactly? What is happening to cause this particular sound or effect?” I was always told I would feel it when it was right, and that I needed to imagine my voice coming out of my forehead!
I decided I needed something more concrete to teach my own students. I began by studying my experience when I sang. After observing the transition from deciding to sing a pitch, to breathing, and then to singing that pitch, it became clear to me that my brain was guiding my voice. I deduced that if singing is really a brain function, I should be able to teach students that. I tried it, and it worked for everyone. I removed the uncertainty of knowing what to do when, and asked them all to trust their brain to create what they wanted. Of course, they supported that ability with technique, but as long as they trusted their brains, they were much better singers.
About this time scientists began scanning brains with fluorescent magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines to determine what was going on internally while people performed various actions. These included singing and speaking. The research that came out of these tests confirmed what I had deduced about the brain connecting with the voice. I still read all the research I can in the area of language, voice and the brain, and so far, everything I have read confirms my approach.
After teaching singing for several years, I wanted to create a business that would work with corporate America. While I was struggling to decide what that would be – I didn’t see a niche for singing groups at IBM! – I got a call that changed my life. A businessman on Wall Street saw my ad in Backstage magazine (a weekly for actor’s audition notices) to teach singing.
He said that he was desperate. He got talked over in meetings, and he was concerned that his chances for a promotion were being limited. Could I help him? He had searched all the media that supported business professionals, but he could not find anyone who focused on voice, so he turned to a singing coach.
I immediately realized that I could help him. I knew that the same parts of the brain were involved in singing and speaking; after all, we only have one voice. After that phone call, my business as a voice expert for business professionals was born.
I started teaching corporate executives and staff who wanted to be corporate executives to sound like leaders.