Monday, June 28, 2010

Finding Your Voice

I’ve been going through an old file looking for blurbs that would work on the public speaking book jacket, and have been struck by the number of former clients who thanked me for “finding my voice.”

That phrase usually has two meanings: that they found their natural speaking voice, and that, having found that voice, they used it to speak up.

We learn to speak by imitating our primary caregiver. Not just by imitating the sound, but by adjusting physical musculature in order to produce that sound. My daughter’s kindergarden teacher sent me a note, warning me that something was wrong with the child’s voice–she spoke at too low a pitch. I’m a contralto, my husband was a bass. Yes, she spoke at a low pitch, but not “too” low.

Little thought seems to be given to voice training in theatre programs in this country. Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart, Jimmy Stewart–their voices were distinctive and instantly recognizable–but today one actor’s voice sounds pretty much like every other actor’s voice. I said as much to the Dean of a university program. He agreed, but said, “Where do I find the teachers?”

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