Voice Training

Voice Training with Melanie

As a singer, a Singing Voice Specialist, and a speech-language pathologist, I’m a super voice geek!  I absolutely love all things voice, and I understand how important your voice is to you, no matter how you use it.  If your voice is important to you, making it the best it can be is important to me.  Whether it’s singing voice care, transgender voice and communication training, accent modification and dialect coaching, safe screaming, or corporate communication and presentation coaching, I can help you use your voice to its full advantage!

Click on each one to take you further down the page where you can learn more about the kind of voice care that interests you:

Singing Voice Rehabilitation, Preventative Care, & Maintenance

As a professional singer myself, I understand first hand the expectations and lifestyle of the “vocal athlete”.  I empathize with the emotional toll any voice issue – big or small – can have on a singer, whether you sing professionally or avocationally, or even just in the shower.  Whether your family doc dismisses your concerns or your voice teacher wants you to get something checked out that you’re not sure you understand, if it’s important to you, I’ll help you figure it out.  Whatever your goals, I can help you optimize your singing voice, keep it in tip top shape, work out some of the little niggling problems you’ve been having lately, or help take care of the big scary things for you.  I can help you find more ease, range, strength, comfort, and joy in singing, and I’ll help demystify that marvelous instrument you own (but may never have laid eyes on!). Whatever you need, I’ll help you get it.  Just ask, one singer to another.

Voice and Communication Therapy for Clients Who Are Transgender

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 10.15.57 PMThe goal of voice and communication therapy is to help clients adapt their voice and communication in a way that is both safe and authentic, resulting in communication patterns that clients feel are congruent with their gender identity and that reflect their sense of self.

If you are interested in finding or developing your most authentic voice, and keeping your voice safe and healthy while you do, I am happy to work with you.  Here is some information about my approach to voice and communication training for transgender people.

Most people want to know if I can help them find a higher or lower pitch.  Therapy with me certainly involves raising (for trans women) or lowering (trans men) the pitch of your voice, but it also involves working on making your voice lighter (trans women) or deeper (trans men) and in both cases, more resonant and less effortful. Working on your voice doesn’t mean you have to conform to culturally-defined societal expectations of gender; these are just some of the aspects of finding a more authentic voice that many clients want to work towards.  Regardless of your personal goals, voice therapy with me also includes working on those other aspects of communication that make the voice sound authentic with your person, such as the way you use your body when you communicate, the kinds of words and phrases you choose, and the way you express yourself as a person.  As well, we will explore how you feel about your gender identity and how you would like to express that, examining what makes the most authentic voice for you.

We typically start with an in-dept 1-hour assessment session together, where I get a chance to learn more about you and your goals, which helps me design the most effective approach to voice work for each individual person.  Therapy sessions are typically between 30 minutes and an hour long, and often go in blocks of a few weeks’ worth of weekly or bi-weekly sessions, followed by a break to work on what we have explored and learned together.  This is often followed up with another block of sessions to build on what you are learning and practicing.  However, the length of individual sessions and how long we work together is always determined by a combination of your goals, how your voice changes from session to session, and how much support you feel you need, and this is a conversation we will always have together.  Sessions may involve speaking, listening, writing, thinking, expressing, and reflecting on your work with your new voice, and they always involve practicing what you are learning and evaluating how you are feeling about your voice.

I currently accept new clients at Vox Cura, the specialty voice clinic at St Clair West and Avenue Road, where I work on Mondays and Thursdays, and at the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada at Spadina and College on Fridays.  An initial assessment is one hour.  At that time, we will discuss a plan to help you achieve your goals, as well as what works best for you in terms of therapy scheduling.  Therapy sessions, both frequency and duration, are scheduled depending on your needs.  Regardless of where and how we do our therapy together, whether in person or via web conferencing (if it is appropriate for you as a client and you are in Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, or PEI), I am happy to provide you with a receipt that you can submit to your insurance company if you have supplemental coverage.  As well, if I think there are other clinicians or services that you might benefit from as well, I am always happy to help connect you to the right people.  I am proud of my connection to the LGBT+ community, and I maintain relationships with a variety of people, care providers, and resources that partner wonderfully with the work you’re doing on your voice.

I’m also proud of my efforts to stay on top of the current best practices in voice therapy and in particular, in transgender voice and communication work.  I’ve taken the weekend-long Transgender Voice and Communication Training Workshop for SLPs on three separate occasions, in New York, online, and in Toronto, because I feel like there is always something new to learn from new fellow attendees and from the experts’ continued learning!  I even facilitated training for SLPs in Canada for the very first time in September 2016 by Sandy Hirsch and Leah Helou, the experts who first taught me the ropes, and I often present workshops and mentor SLPs who are new to transgender voice and communication training because I firmly believe we need more competent, confident, caring clinicians in this area, and I’m more than happy to help us all get there together.

Accent Modification

Toronto is a wonderfully diverse city full of different cultures, languages, and cuisines.  You’ll hear many different accents and dialects of English here, and they are an important part of many people’s identities – it tells a story about who you are, and where you come from.  An accent is a wonderful thing!

For many people, though, an accent can sometimes be a barrier to full participation.  I grew up in Nova Scotia, and I had a darling regional accent that marked me as a friendly, approachable, East Coaster when I moved away.  I loved it.  But when I landed a coveted job with Disney as an entertainer, I needed to figure out how to sound less Canadian for the role, particularly to passengers who preferred the comforting sounds of the “TV American” accent.  I also worked with a crew from over 65 countries from around the world, and I loved the diversity in the crew, including the beautiful ways they all spoke the common language of the Disney holiday traveler:  English.   And thus began my love of accents and dialects; how we learn them, love them, play with them, and change them depending on other influences in our lives.

Accent modification isn’t technically “speech therapy”, because an accent or a dialect isn’t a disorder.  However, like in my experience, there are a variety of reasons people decide they would like to modify their accent.  You might feel you aren’t understood at times, you may want to audition for a role that requires a General American accent, or you may want to be able to “code switch” and speak with an accent that feels more comfortable for you in a given environment.  By assessing stress, intonation, speech sounds, and grammar/syntax, we can look at how you’re currently speaking English, and identify ways you can modify these features to align with your personal speech goals.  I’m not asking you to change your accent or give up your dialect.  But I’m here if you want to modify the way you speak English to achieve a personal goal – one that you decide, and only if you reach out to me.  Whatever your goals, I can help you shape the way you speak English so that you feel your most confident in any situation.  And for anyone who chooses not to change their accent at all, I celebrate you – it’s a wonderful part of who you are!

Public Speaking, Corporate Communication, Speaking With Confidence

The number one fear in the world isn’t death, it’s public speaking!  Your hands are clammy, your heart is racing, your mouth is so dry, you’re sweating profusely, and you have the shakes.  Suddenly, the brilliant message you worked so hard to prepare is coming out sounding like you just crossed a road race finish line.  You feel like Winona Ryder in Stranger Things.  You sound like the pimply-faced kid from the Simpsons.  And none of that is at all what you pictured in your mind when you were rehearsing your words.

Or maybe it’s just that you can’t seem to get taken seriously at work.  You have great ideas, but someone else always manages to find a way to pitch them better and spin them like their own. You’re not getting the credit you deserve, and the job you really want feels just out of reach.

Maybe you feel like your speaking voice lacks authority, confidence, conviction.  Instead of sounding like an expert your listeners can trust, you leave your audience with more questions than answers.  You long for a warm, resonant, captivating voice but you chalk it up to what you’ve been given and find yourself avoiding roles that require commanding leadership, when you know you’re up for the task.

You’d be surprised at what we can do together to give you the voice that serves you best.  Whether you want to kick stage fright to the curb, keep your audience engaged from start to finish, or build trust and confidence with your listeners, I can help you.