What was the biggest turning point in your career?
After completing my master’s degree in Voice Performance, I finally got my foot in the door teaching at liberal arts colleges. I started at Olivet College, then I joined the Voice Faculty at Albion College, where I still teach with fellow Somatic Voicework™ teachers, Maureen Balke and John King. I was teaching at so many different places. At one time I was on faculty at 5 different colleges and universities and had private studio locations in three different towns! A position came up teaching K through 8 in a parochial school where I also became the Minister of Music. Then in 2000, I took a full time public school vocal music position. The rest is history. I still teach at Albion, maintain a private voice studio, and am Director of Choral Activities and Theatre at Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn, Michigan.
How did you first stumble across Jeanie and Somatic Voicework™?
In 2003, I received a postcard in the mail announcing a musical theatre vocal pedagogy summer workshop at a university. I was highly skeptical, highly skeptical, because I had been to a couple of belting workshops presented by other organizations.
(pictured left, Donna Green, Jeanie LoVetri, Robert Doyle)
I told myself, “I am going to this institution because I need 8 credits to get to my next pay level.” That was the only reason I went. I didn’t hold out any hope for something useful. I thought I was going to hear another woman teach everyone how to scream high notes because that’s what I had seen at other reputable, noted conferences and workshops. I knew those individuals were not presenting the truth because I’d known lots of belters. I also knew the sounds of Ethel Merman and Whitney Houston, and knew they were not screaming.
I spent the first couple of days at the first offering of Level I of The LoVetri Institute going, “Oh! That’s why I can get that to work! I didn’t know that! Oh! I had no idea it worked like that.” From the very first Level of her courses, Jeanie and I connected and we have been great friends and colleagues ever since. I am beyond-words grateful for Somatic Voicework™, Jeanie’s friendship, and her mentoring. I am also deeply honored that she has entrusted me with both teaching my students using her method, but also to teach others how to use her work.
What keeps bringing you back to Somatic Voicework™?
The thing that is so wonderful about Somatic Voicework™ is that it doesn’t threaten what you’ve always done. It supports what you’re doing that gets results. You’ll learn why any exercise works. Additionally, Somatic Voicework™ gives you options and tools to bolster your teaching in areas that you might never have fully understood or even considered, or may have been struggling with in your own pedagogical journey. These are the things people really react to when they are working with Jeanie.
Somatic Voicework™ has infused my understanding of the voice with concrete scientific knowledge. I now always know with great clarity where I am going with someone’s voice. Somatic Voicework™ is so well crafted and clear, it links what you are hearing with what you are feeling, and combines that with the prescriptive exercises in the Solutions Sequence©.
I’ve never come across something that’s been left out of the Solution Sequence©, Jeanie’s recipe for creating vocal exercises. It even helps me when working with singers who have been referred to me by doctors and SLPs for retraining after recovering from vocal trauma or damage.
How has Jeanie’s work made you a better singer?
Jeanie helped me find the missing components of my own voice that had been lacking from my early days of singing training. Unfortunately, when I was a young singer, I worked with a teacher who had led me, intentionally or otherwise, into vocal damage. The negative effects of that early teacher on my voice lasted many decades. I was in my 40s when I met Jeanie and that’s when I began to reclaim the use of my voice as it should have been for my entire life. That reunion — of my spirit and my voice — was very profound for me. Jeanie facilitated that.
Any time a singer has anything go wrong with the voice, even the slightest cold or little bit of gunk on the throat, we panic. Our voice is our means of communication but, it is also hard-wired into our soul and our very sense of being. Coming back to a place where I could use my voice again has been truly life altering. And I’ve see this happen with many people Jeanie has worked with. She brings back the unity of voice and function and unites it with the heart and mind of the singer.
As a teacher, being able to do this for my own students and seeing the joy return to them, is beyond-words fulfilling in my life.
You are reknowned for using Somatic Voicework™ in a group context, can you shed some light on applying Somatic Voicework™ in group settings?
Everything I do as a music or choral director is registration based, which is a key component of Somatic Voicework™. All of the singers who work with me know how to sing in head register, chest register and in mix and knows exactly what that means in both sound and sensation. Having the ability to conduct choirs and put on school musicals, making sure that my students will not run into vocal health issues, is tantamount. Students might run into musical problems or have other questions, but they are not going to be slamming their vocal folds into hamburger by doing the show, and hopefully they take what they learn with them when they go on to work with other choral and music directors.
In one of the crowning moments of my life, I directed a student version of Les Miserables. It was a huge cast — over 120 kids — including those in the pit and the crew. Not one of the singing students throughout the run of rehearsals and performances ever reported a problem with their voice from their singing. I believe the work we were doing allowed the students to keep their voices balanced and healthy. I was confident that using the premises of Somatic Voicework™ allowed me to guide the students to healthy singing and voice use. With Somatic Voicework™, I know what I am doing, I know the exercises work, and I am alert to any problems that might arise. I am taking my choral groups further and faster than ever before, while they enjoy learning to sing and I enjoy getting them there!