Detailed news about the 2019 LoVetri Institute for Somatic Voicework™ in residence at Baldwin Wallace University’s Community Music School will be announced soon but in the meantime please save the dates. Level I begins on July 20, Level II on 23, and Level III on July 26. Past participants still get an incredible 50% discount for any level they are reviewing. Our confirmed guests are Dr. Trineice Robinson-Martin, who will be on faculty for Levels I and II and then have a three-day intensive to certify participants in Soul Ingredients®, her work with Gospel R&B and jazz styles. Sign up as soon as the registration opens (in 2019) so you won’t miss her dynamic course. We also have Dr. Claudio Milstein of the Cleveland Clinic’s Voice Institute returning to do his highly successful vocal health seminar. Again, register early, as it is sure to fill up quickly. Other guests will be announced soon! Registration for all three levels, Dr. Trineice Robinson-Martin’s course, and Dr. Claudio Milstein’s course will go live very soon.
Excitement continues to build for the second year of the LoVetri Institute for Somatic Voicework™ at Baldwin Wallace University in July in Berea, Ohio. Participants are arriving from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Spain, the United Kingdom and all over the USA. Many people are also returning to review the course because the information is always presented in a new way, and new things arise as participants ask questions.
The LoVetri Institute in residence at
Baldwin Wallace University Conservatory of Music
July 21 – 29, 2018
July 21 – 23: Level I
July 24 – 26: Level II
July 27 – 29: Level III
Where else can you find an organized and respected method for teaching singing backed up by Jeanie LoVetri’s 47 years of experience and by outside experts in multiple vocal disciplines for a very low price? The original Vocal Pedagogy Training for Contemporary Commercial Music, Somatic Voicework™, in its newly revised and expanded form, was a tremendous hit last summer. The course has garnered rave reviews from singing teachers since 2002. The interest in learning a codified, vetted method to address CCM styles has always been very strong and continues to grow. Many classical singing teachers find the functional approach to teaching greatly helpful to their own work and compatible with what they do. It isn’t necessary to “re-do” your own classical singing to learn how to effectively approach CCM styles. Jazz vocalists report that it helps them with pitch accuracy, freedom, phrasing and vocal stamina. Music theater singers find it explains in a simple manner how to switch styles and choral music educators are able to get their choirs to sing in a unified blend in just minutes.
For those who have completed all three Levels prior to 2018, our special guest is Dr. Claudio Milstein of the Cleveland Clinic, who will be presenting an Intensive on Vocal Health during Level III. The course is designed for singing teachers and is only for graduates of Somatic Voicework™ Level Three prior to 2018. (more details later in the newsletter)
Somatic (meaning “of the body”) experts Suzan Postel of Los Angeles and Peter Shor from West Virginia have dozens of years of expertise behind them and are recognized experts in their own right, will be offering valuable information about being in touch with our bodies in unique ways. Insight into our own posture, movement, sensation and coordination and the consequent heightened awareness it provides, is deeply rooted in Somatic Voicework™. Jeanie LoVetri is delighted to bring these two bodywork experts to the course.
Somatic Voicework™ seeks to bring the voice, the person, the emotions and the mind together. It seeks to illuminate the path of vocal artistry by conveying objective information about vocal production based on what is currently known and understood in medicine and science. It supports inter-disciplinary exchange. It is an open system. All premises are subject to improvement and personal adaptation. It honors and respects the styles of music called Contemporary Commercial and believes that all styles of music have value and worth.
Somatic Voicework™ rests on respect for the body and allows it to take its time adapting to various stimuli while new responses emerge. It works with compassion, allowing artists to face difficulties, overcome issues and recover abilities even in the face of a diagnosis of pathology or damage. It treats every singer, young or old, famous or unknown, talented or talent-not-yet-tapped, the same. It allows teachers to say, with perfect integrity, “I don’t know. Let me ask.” It recognizes posture and breathing, physical coordination and kinesthetic conditioning, aural acuity and visual feedback and asks only that singers address all aspects of singing function through reasonable, repetitive and consistent training.
Somatic Voicework™ teaches “whole people” not larynges or throats or vocal folds, not time slots (the Tuesday noon tenor, “what’s his name” or the “A# soprano with the wobbly middle voice, Something-or-other Smith”). It incorporates physical, emotional and personal stressors as being factors in living an artistic life and does not diminish singers for having to address these things while training and/or performing. It recognizes that we are not mental health professionals but we are all human beings and that life can sometimes be messy but it is always worthwhile. It teaches careful use of language and its impact on students and taking full responsibility for the learning process as the flawed but passionate people we all are.
Somatic Voicework™ is for those who want to dig deep. It is for those who are not looking for the “10 quickest tips so you can be on American Idol” or the “12 best ways to get really great high notes by next week”. It is not concerned with helping people get tenure, being smarter than people who want to squeeze the throat, position the larynx, vibrate the vocal folds on purpose or with proving that all voices should sing the same way in every circumstance.
Somatic Voicework™ is simple and complicated. It is easy to understand but takes a long time to master. It is available to anyone who wants to investigate it but can only be completely assimilated by those who use the concepts on their own voices over time in many ways. It is up to each individual how much or little the concepts in Somatic Voicework™ matter in their own lives but, as teachers, in order to be both ethical and appropriate, it is imperative that teachers know about all voices, and all musical styles, not just their own or the ones they sing.
Somatic Voicework™ is a method of vocal pedagogy that grew out of the life of Jeannette Louise LoVetri, known as Jeanie to her friends and colleagues. It is the result of decades of singing, training for singing, study, investigation, experimentation and thousand upon thousands of hours spent in voice lessons for almost 47 years. She shares the work with an open heart hoping that it will be valuable to others and perhaps help them avoid difficulty, struggle, sadness, frustration and self-doubt, all of which she had to endure to learn what is in the course. It is not presented as “the way” or “the best way” just one way. She invites you to make it your way, if that would be of use to you.
Vocalist Maria Damore demonstrates her ability to sing in a variety of vocal styles in this compilation of Kurt Weill songs from her 2016 concert in Reading, PA. She is accompanied by Lars Potteiger. Song clips include Pirate Jenny, My Ship, Speak Low, Youkali, Lost in the Stars, and, Mack the Knife. Maria has studied Somatic Voicework: The LoVetri Method TM, Levels I, II, and III, and teaches voice using these principles in her home studio.
Maria Damore, Vocalist, Actor, Voice Teacher
Maria Damore Voice Studio: www.mariadamore.com/voice_studio
You Tube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCpcXGRfXTfdzRljuK7gmAoQ
CD “Moonglow” available at:
I know that older people always complain about “the youth of today” and praise the good old days. Now that I am an older person, I don’t want to do that, but it is hard not to look back at what I learned and think that much of it is gone. To me, that’s a loss.
What people think of now as “good singing” is very limited. It consists of what is found on The Voice or The X Factor, particularly here in the USA. It is what is found on the top 40 stations or maybe on certain YouTube or internet sites. Much of this singing is loud, pressed and emotional only in the loudness. On the other side of the equation there are the Celtic women who sing in a light, delicate head register that is pretty and only pretty. A lot of jazz gravitates to soft breathy phonation for no particular reason and many pop singers emulate the people with two or three separate kinds of sound in their singing, even though that doesn’t add anything at all to the impetus of what they are singing. It’s more a novelty factor.
There is electronic manipulation and physical manipulation of the sound and we are inured to this as being “normal.” If you listen to singing from the 40s, 50s, 60s, or maybe early into the 70s, you will hear many individuals with “voices” that are not just like the pop/rock model we hear today. If you watch old episodes of the Johnny Carson show, you will see Broadway singers, opera singers and jazz vocalists as a normal part of his programming. If you go back to the 50s on the live TV shows you will find a good deal of excellent singing of many styles, but most particularly opera.
A freely produced, live, unprocessed voice, conveying deeply felt, honest emotion through singing is a rare commodity and young people may not ever get to experience what it is like to see and hear such singing. That, folks, is a loss. Period. If you happen to also hear a great voice — a Stradivarius throat as it were — you can be literally blown away by such an experience.
I do appreciate many of today’s young stars in various styles but I lament the dearth of singing that has to do with being a living breathing person. The point of singing at a high level is to convey deeply felt emotion without struggle in various styles while sounding personally unique. This is without auto-tune, over-dubbing, sampling, or any help from machines. It is produced by two lungs pumping air across two vocal folds and only that.
Over-darkened sound, caused by a larynx cemented to the bottom of the throat, or shouted squawked sound emitted by a larynx pulled up somewhere into the top of the throat are very typical sounds of 2018. It’s true there is some value in each but what’s lost is just as important, if not more so, than what is kept. Mostly, the sound is not expressive at all. Rap music is energized and can communicate but it isn’t a substitute for a fluid, smooth and attractive sung sound that magnifies what a human throat can do.
I know we can’t go back to the past. I know people who do not have educated musical ears don’t hear the difference or care. I know that only those who have learned to hear and to see will understand what I write here. Still, it hurts to know that music education is nearly gone, that vocal education in public schools is virtually nonexistent and that the main factor behind all commercial music is money — if you can make money the people who promote the music don’t really care if it’s good or bad. What makes money is that which is sensationalized. The weirder or the sexier the better.
What appeals to the average person is extremism. That’s because what is “out of the ordinary” is exciting. If you do not have the capacity to appreciate subtlety in an artist, if you cannot comprehend something when it is profound and significant, explaining what you are missing is a waste of time. This kind of listening is justifiable in young children or those who have limited capacity to comprehend complex information for biological reasons, but shouldn’t be found in grown adults. For those who are sophisticated both culturally and musically the multiple colors of diversified artistic output are enthralling. That output, however, may not be commercially successful. People who like Andrew Lloyd Webber might consider him an equal of Stephen Sondheim but those who are familiar with music theater, the cognoscenti, wouldn’t ever dream of putting the composers in the same sentence. Of the two, Sir Lloyd Webber has made far more money and been more popular than Mr. Sondheim by a very long shot. They are not the least bit equal.
Things are certainly not going to reverse under the present Administration in Washington. That is sad but there are other things that are worse than the lowering of musical standards. Perhaps some day in the future when people realize how essential the arts (all of them) are to civilization, things might change. In the meantime, the continued downward spiral of more and more lousy singing continues. It’s hard to watch and to hear.
Imagine that you are a singing student who has been taught a method that leaves you with your throat feeling pain. It actually hurts when you practice or perform.
Imagine, also, that when you complain to your teacher, you are blamed for being unable to understand the great pearls of wisdom falling from his or her mouth. It’s your fault, of course, for being a student who can’t “get it.”
Is this actually an imaginary scenario? No. Sadly this is a real, present moment experience happening to singing students all over the world. Those who do not understand the throat and the function of the larynx and who have the hubris to teach singing based on faulty information (or no information) approach the students of the world, who are ripe for abuse, putting them in a terrible situation. The very people who should be helping singers to free their throats and voices are doing the exact opposite. To whom do these students turn? Another student? The internet??
This is meant to help those students:
If your throat hurts when you sing (or speak) STOP. Something is wrong. If you cannot get help from your singing teacher, go to a laryngologist (a doctor who specializes in treating the voice), or a Speech Language Pathologist who treats voice patients. If you can, stop taking lessons with anyone who tells you that you should ignore the pain and keep doing the same thing even if it hurts. If you cannot stop taking lessons (for instance f you are in a school situation), do not do what is being asked. Try to do something — anything — other than what you have been doing when you sing that is different and might help you be comfortable. It’s your throat, do not make it hurt on purpose in order to “learn something” about singing. If your throat hurts when you sing (or speak) STOP. S T O P.
And to the teachers of singing:
Singing is one of the great gifts of the world to those who sing and to those who listen. It is an art and a skill. It has to be regarded with respect and honesty. Teaching someone to sing is also a skill and it requires a broad range of knowledge that take years to learn. If you do not really know what you are doing, teach with very careful awareness and NEVER, EVER do anything that causes vocal or emotional harm to another. DO NO HARM!!
I do not look much at the “voice teacher” groups online because so much of what appears there is outrageously low grade. People who have no idea at all about what they are writing espousing ideas that are simply amazing in their lack of accuracy. They argue with each other, trying to “prove” who is “best” or “right”. Stunning, really.
If your singing teacher does not sing well, meaning she can’t apply what she is trying to teach you to herself, (and there is no medical reason why this is the case), if he cannot give you a solid explanation of why you are being asked to do something or why it doesn’t work, run away. Especially if he can’t tell you why what you are doing is wrong that causes your throat to hurt and, more importantly, what to do to stop that behavior, RUN AWAY!! P.T. Barnum said it best, “There is a sucker born every minute.” Don’t be one of those people!
You need only be exposed once to someone who has had a laryngectomy to understand how important it is to be able to speak. While it is certainly better than dying from laryngeal cancer, it is a terrible loss and staying alive becomes much harder. Since the larynx is responsible for keeping the lungs protected by the action of the vocal folds and the epiglottis directing food and drink past the lungs into the esophagus, and for the vocal folds being able to close so one can run, walk up stairs, and lift heavy objects, amongst other things, not being able to speak is only one of the things that has to be confronted when the larynx is compromised or removed.
Even severe laryngitis can be uncomfortable if it continues past a few days. Having to whisper or be very raspy can interfere with being heard and understood. If it lingers, only a few of us can manage easily in that situation .
Yet, truly, who gives thanks for this vital part of the body on a regular basis? On a day given to gratitude, does anyone think to be grateful for the ability to make vocal sound? And, if you sing, you may not realize that your entire career depends on two tiny pieces of gristle, not longer than your last joint on your pinky finger and much smaller than that in size. You may not understand that all your notes, for your entire life, depend upon the function of your vocal folds in response to your decision to sustain pitches in music. And, yes, it is possible to continue to have the ability to speak but lose the ability to sing. Julie Andrews is possibly the most famous example of such a person, but it can happen to anyone. Singing demands more of the vocal folds than typical conservational speech and you can discover this, sadly, when they no longer do what they once did easily, and there is no help to be had that will heal the problem completely no matter what medical expert treats it.
Those who deliberately teach singers to scream without any regard for vocal health, or who teach singers to deliberately manipulate the internal structures of the throat and larynx, are doing a terrible disservice to both body and voice, yet there are many who teach in this way. That the profession of singing teaching at large does not object to such instruction but, in fact, often embraces it wholeheartedly, is a disgrace, but this, too, is a fact.
Those who teach singing are not required to adhere to any tenets by outside objective experts. If you tell a young or inexperienced singer to squeeze the aryepiglottic sphincter (if you can locate it in the throat) or to retract the false folds (ditto), or to curb the vocal folds (as if they were a puppy) or to tilt the cricoid cartilage (which doesn’t move volitionally at all), or to sit on the back of the tongue and the jaw to prevent the larynx from moving up when that is part of its natural function, and if you then expect the student to both understand and comply with any of these instructions, only to find that they struggle, you must ask yourself why you would continue to teach in this manner. Why?
Why not just help your throat do what throats do? The structures in the throat, all of them, need to be free to move. (Singing freely requires no such deliberate maneuvers or restrictions.) Instead, why not be grateful that you can sing whatever you want and however you want by respecting the way the body is designed to function so that both can remain in excellent shape for your entire life?
Please be grateful for your voice in all of its many expressions from your first lusty cry as a newborn until you exhale your last breath. Do not wait until it is lost or impaired in order to be thankful for what you already have. Give thanks every day, starting right now.
In most spiritual traditions the “masters” are of few words, carefully chosen. They understand the power of words, as spoken sound, to influence. Strongly spoken words carry emotional and mental power and have an impact. Singing magnifies that experience.
Any authority figure must learn to choose words carefully and to pay attention to the consequences of the words uttered. You cannot take them back. Words once released last for as long as the person who heard them carries them in their own mind. Written words can last for thousands of years and effect millions of people.
We have now a President who speaks with no regard whatsoever as to the truth of his statements or the consistency. He is oblivious to the damage his complete lack of command of language causes and how it weakens both what he says and his own image. The country suffers because the truth is construed as lies and the lies as truth. Such is the damage than can be done by words uttered blithely and by an individual who either can’t tell the difference between truth or falsehood, or by someone who doesn’t care about it in any way.
If you teach, you simply cannot afford to be indifferent. Certainly you cannot come from that point of view when teaching singing which is spoken word come alive. Music well written and beautifully sung allows us to share the landscape of our inner lives. Those who are listening and open can be transformed, sometimes forever, by receiving this gift.
Therefore, we must ask ourselves what we really want to say and what it means. We must own the words, the sentences, the thoughts and the emotions, and when we sing, we must own the notes and rhythms, too, as part of our communication.
Not everyone is highly articulate. Some do not have diverse or broad vocabulary. Some people don’t bother to determine if what they want to communicate is what gets communicated. The only way to know is to ask. “What do you think I was saying? What did I just communicate? What did that mean to you, if it meant anything at all? What kind of a reaction do you have to that?” You cannot know if you don’t ask or if someone doesn’t volunteer to tell you without being asked.
A great deal of success in life is precipitated by knowing the right questions to ask. There are people who never question anything ever. If they end up in power, at any level, it is really scary.
In your life, try always to find the best words to express your thoughts. Take time to think about which words are the ones you need. Don’t press forward to say whatever comes to mind just because it’s easy. Choose your words with care and, following this further, when you sing, do so with clear intention.
You cannot retract what you say (or write) so be willing to take responsibility for your utterances. A song is words come alive through music. With both, make your choices carefully.
We all know that it’s very easy to sell something to someone who has no information than to have success with someone who is knowledgable. The Simms Clothing company has as its motto, “An educated consumer is our best customer.” They mean, of course, that people who are knowledgeable about high quality clothing will recognize the bargains at Simms’ as being good ones.
If you don’t know what “high quality” is you can buy “off the shelf” and think you are getting a bargain when you are just being ripped off. But quality costs more because it is quality. When it comes to services rather than goods, that’s even more importantly true.
If you “price shop” for a service you are making a big mistake. Singing teachers are not brands of laundry detergent. It would be much more useful to save up for one or two lessons with a well-established, highly regarded expert than to buy whatever is “inexpensive” in bulk. You might learn more from two really excellent lessons from a master teacher than from a dozen from someone who barely knows what’s what.
If you are being told that you can learn “all you need to know” in a few short lessons you should be highly suspicious. Be wary of all “the 10 best tips” people. There is nothing worthwhile that can be learned through 10 best tips, or 40 best tips, or even 500 best tips, although that larger number might be more useful, especially if the tips came from a real expert.
Recently I had a student who had studied seriously elsewhere and came to me with a number of significant technical problems. Breathing and coordination issues, tone quality problems and lack of awareness just generally. This was a large-framed person with an overly forward sound, a tight throat and less than stellar control over either body or throat. Still, progress was being made, sometimes significantly, and there was talent there and a lot of vocal potential. Then, just as things were beginning to turn around, the student disappeared to work with someone else. Happens. Is that other person going to know what to do? The best odds are only 50/50. That’s quite a risk to take if you have just started to get over your problems.
But some individuals like their problems. They enjoy the struggle. They identify with it. Maybe their “not-so-great” vocal behaviors were not, in fact, unconscious or accidental but deliberate. Maybe the singer has no clear idea of what encompasses good vocal production or free singing. Maybe someone else was very flattering in lessons and that ploy worked well enough to pull the student away.
In the end, you do not have an unlimited number of years to get things right and get out into the world as a professional singer. If you come to New York City and you have various technical issues you can’t spend forever fixing what’s wrong. There are too many folks who arrive here without those challenges who are your competition and they will be spending time learning rep while you are trying to figure out how to use your voice and body properly and get a better, freer sound. The worse off you are, the more you are vulnerable to becoming the victim of vocal “snake oil” salesmen.
If you get sold a bill of goods because you did not do “due diligence” regarding investigating your singing teacher comparing him or her to others with more experience, more skill and a more reliable reputation over many many years, it becomes your own fault if you get taken advantage of as you study. Be careful. Think. Use your eyes and ears.
Years ago the late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, came out clearly as being “against animal testing.” At the time, that was a radical thing for a company selling cosmetics and toiletries to do. Nevertheless, it became a battle cry and made The Body Shop stand out for a long time in a crowded field of similar businesses.
I hereby today, in this blog post, declare that am I against direct manipulation of the structures within the throat while attempting to sing. I am against it in every style, under all circumstances and for all reasons. It is a mistake. Further more, I have been against this for all the decades of my teaching. This is not a new conclusion on my part.
Vocal development is precipitated by vocal stimulation which begins in the mind as a desire to sing a pitch at a certain level of loudness or intensity on a sustained vowel for a specific amount of time using a specific type of vocal quality. The movements provoked by the exercise as a stimulus are spontaneous and occur as a response to exercise. The singer often doesn’t know exactly what will come out until it does. Often there is surprise.
Currently we are in an epidemic of vocal manipulation. Making odd and unnecessary movements of the vocal folds, the larynx and the throat is part of many popular methods of singing training and consumers (voice students) are oblivious to the negative effects such maneuvers have on their overall vocal responsiveness and well-being. Yes, you can, after a fashion, force your throat to do something it has no business doing and you can get used to it and even manage it well enough, but you cannot say such training has no cost. It is painfully costly.
Further, if you regard the throat and body as being “stupid” and in need of force in order for it “do what you want it to do” you can justify treating both badly. Over time, the movements of free vocal production will go away, making manipulation the only possible response to a stimulus to sing a specific tone. That is just awful.
The popular idea that the larynx must always remain down in classical singing is unfortunate. The larynx rides low in the throat because the throat is relaxed. Keeping the larynx down restricts natural movement and makes singing harder. In the end, you lose soft tones, high notes and soft high notes (both together). Bad choice? Just ask the throat of the vocalist.
Another one is that the larynx has to come up for belting. Well, maybe, but the less the better. And should anyone do that deliberately? Absolutely not.
What about singing in any particular place, adjustment or configuration just because you can? Does it help you express music? being alive? communicate something? Unless you are doing it as a “character” probably not.
Manipulation is what’s left when you can’t get your throat to do something you would like it to do so you make it happen. That is a bad idea but it is a very very easy and common thing to do. It makes for bad teaching, bad singing and no honest, unique sounds coming from a human being’s throat. If you are trying to imitate someone else’s voice or style and you have to force your voice to copy that model, you are making a mistake. If you are paying money for someone to teach you how to do that, stop. You are wasting both your time and your money, and, in a way, your life.
If your throat is giving you trouble, something is wrong. Singing should not be ridiculously hard. If it is, something is wrong. Even if it sounds impressive or important or “beautiful,” it’s still wrong. Trust your body. It has no reason to lie to you.