CALIFORNIA – When Alisyn Drake, 15, was invited to attend Estill intensive voice training, as one of the workshop’s youngest participants, she was floored.
“You obviously can’t miss out on this,” Drake, a Belle Vernon Area High School student, said. “If you get invited to this, it’s something that you can’t pass up – it’s such an honor.”
Beginning June 26, Drake and about 30 other singers, actors, educators and performing arts students took part in the vocal workshop hosted by California University of Pennsylvania.
For six years, the Cal U. workshop attracted vocal professionals seeking to expand and hone their vocal range.
This year, the Blaney Theatre on Cal U.’s campus hosted its largest workshop yet, taught by Dr. Kim Steinhauer, certified master voice teacher at Estill International. Estill Voice International has more than 400 certified instructors around the world.
The comprehensive training attracts all professions, from actors, looking to adapt their dialect for a role, to speech-language pathologists, seeking fresh treatment techniques.
“We all have the same parts, so we were all born with a beautiful voice,” Steinhauer said. “And once you understand how to use it and mix those voice parts into different recipes you can sing or speak in any quality.”
Cal U.’s workshop also had international attendees from Pakistan, Australia and Italy.
“We thought it was going to be local at first,” Steinhauer said. “But then again the reputation of the program brought people from all over.”
Dr. Michele Pagen, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at California U., assists with the workshop on campus. She stressed the curriculum’s mission for vocal health.
“(The workshop) does help to repair and protect a damaged voice, so as not to do further damage,” she said.
A typical day at the workshop begins with large group session, under the instruction of Steinhauer. She leads a series of exercises, while indicating which part of the vocal anatomy the drill is engaging.
“Everybody has a tongue; we do a tongue exercise. Everyone can put their tongue high, low and compressed,” Steinhauer said.
Afterward, she discusses the theory behind the training. She then assembles participants into random groups, regardless of occupation, and they practice the exercise.
The workshop allows participants to visualize their voice through a computer program, displaying vocal ranges.
These vocal exercises are then fine-tuned at home.
“You have to balance your breath, your vocal cords and what happens with your voice spaces,” said Steinhauer. “Now we have a way for focused deliberate practice.”
According to Steinhauer, the results reach beyond theatrical performances.
“When someone has to ask you, ‘What did you say?’ You stop talking. Then you become introverted and you become depressed,” Steinhauer said. “It impacts your entire day when your voice is not healthy and working.”
Morgan Hartley, 15, signed up for the program to improve her diction. The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School student said she appreciated Steinhauer’s hands-on approach.
“I like listening to (Steinhauer) say what she has to say,” Hartley said. “It’s educational to learn what (my voice) looked like.”