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Return to the Scene of the Crime

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My first exposure to Estill Voice Training was in the summer of 2000 in Mars Hill, NC at Mars Hill College. After teaching standard classical technique for 27 years, I was exploring other possiblities. Most of my students were involved in Musical Theater and needed more than I felt adequite to give. My vocal world opened big time when I bought my first computer and discovered the "WEB." One of the first things I did was to joined a yahoogroup called Vocalist.org. I was primarily a lurker looking for information on singing that I didn't already know. Then one day someone brought up a very evil word-BELT. It was also about this time I was able to join NATS. It was in The Journal of Singing that I saw an ad for Estill Voice Training System as it was known then. I had read about Speech Level singing, Lisa Popeil, Jeanie Deva, Dena Murray and the list goes on. Two of the systems training programs were in California but that was just too far. The Estill program was in North Carolina only a one day drive from my home near Baltimore, so EVTS won the toss. I have to admit, that I was skeptical. I could hear my first voice teacher saying, "You'll ruin your voice and so and so ruined so and so's voice." I was scared and my mind was still a bit closed, but not for long. Here was a room full of curious, open-minded teachers desperate to find a way to address commercial singing in a safe way. this is not to say that Lisa, Jeanie, Lis, Jeannie LoVetri, Seth Riggs, Dena Murray etc. had not also found a safe way, they were just too far away for me to drive there. I did have a background in Anatomy and Physiology of the Voice, so I was not completely in the dark. Although Estill addresses all voice qualities and styles, everyone was there because of the evil word--BELT--shhhhh! In 2000, Estill had identified 11 structures that could be moved/adjusted then mixed together to make 6 different basic voice qualities. (This is highly simplified-more detailed explanation is elsewhere on my section of the site.) After one exhausting and intense week of learning and making wonderful friends, I came home with one compusary figure that I really could do and understand--false vocal fold retraction. I used it in warm-ps for all my students and each was able to add 3-4 notes to the top of their range without feeling it coming and thus without fear . There was no difficulty in getting jaws dropped that week. This week, I am heading back to Mars Hill to do a little review with two of the most wonderful teachers in the world. They and their Estill colleagues opened a door for me that I thought was closed forever to me. They also led me to a life of voice nerdery. Thanks!!


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