I've always been fascinated with voices. As a young girl at school in England I can remember mimicking all the voices of the Thunderbirds characters (and doing horrific things to the vocal cords in the process, I now realise!). As girls we were delighted to get all the male voices right too – my specialities were Parker, Brains and Jeff Tracy and, naturally, Lady Penelope. Vocal impersonations were certainly an antidote to adolescent shyness and like so many ‘shy’ girls, I went on to study drama. I’d grown up with an awareness of the voice – lots of stories and quality radio – I think I’ve developed a good ear.
After my degree I worked with a small performance company taking new material mostly around the country and to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. After a while I began my teaching career in Salisbury, then Leicester, London, Shropshire, the Welsh Borders and Cheshire - all those differing dialects and accents! Having taught across the age and ability range and in a variety of institutions I moved into Further and Higher Education, lecturing in Performing Arts. In Stoke on Trent I worked with fantastic young people on BTEC Performing Arts Courses and many of them went on to secure places in Drama School – overcoming their lack of confidence and resistance (at first) to soften local dialects for audition purposes. Many of the students were so talented yet vocally inhibited but we had regular 3hr sessions devoted to the voice in their courses – wonderful! What a luxury! I also began working with would-be Public Speakers and Teachers who were so vocally stressed their performance in the classroom was suffering. I became very aware of the need to look after the voice and began studying it further.
I will listen to lovely voices for inspiration. I adore the almost clinical crispness of Peter Cushing’s diction, the mellow elegance of Joanna Lumley, the ‘another time’ delivery of Edward Fox and the reassuring, lifting high pitch of Celia Johnson – the sort of voice that makes one feel ‘ah well, let’s just get on and make the best of things’. I had to do that when I was made redundant from my lecturing posts and with all the changes in education anyway I felt I’d seen the best of times.
I was getting requests from coaching around this time – radio journalists, managers, church speakers. Most of my background and work had been in Education and Theatre so I took a Business Management Course and began designing my own tailor-made voice courses for various clients. This naturally led to forming my own company Sounds Right Ltd which offers Voice, Speech and Communication Training.
I examine, assess and adjudicate regularly and was an Examiner and Ambassador for a leading Examination Board for some time. I have initiated Spoken English Events and Public School Competitions and I am frequently asked to judge Rotary Speaking Competitions. I firmly believe that every child and young person benefits enormously from having the opportunity to speak in public or at least in front of their peer group.
I love helping people make the most of their speaking voice and overcome obstacles and difficulties – real or perceived. The voice says so much about us but we can take it for granted. I love the varied nature of my work – one day it might mean going into a school and working with teachers and lecturers and helping them to keep their voices healthy, the next day might find me working with an executive who needs to give a first class presentation or someone who’s been asked to chair a meeting.There are very many jobs, occupations and professions but the voice is common to all and everyone.
In my role as an Assessor, Examiner and of course, delivering workshops to teachers, I am constantly made aware of how important the voice is to successful and harmonious relationships in the learning environment. The provision of some basic voice training for educators is something I feel very strongly about especially when one considers how much work the voice has to do each and every session, day after day, term after term.
I am taking my Masters at the moment and specialising in online Education and Business. It is an exciting challenge and different but I am hoping the technology will help me to reach out to an even wider range of people who appreciate the need for an enhanced speaking voice.