Imagine a teenage male singer. He has sung from childhood and stars in the school musicals. Then his voice begins to change. He doesn’t recognise this voice, know how to use it or especially like it. His voice is a stranger and he must get to know it if his singing journey is it to continue.
This is the story of my friend Brendan Zlatkis. Brendan always sang and I saw him perform many times over his younger years. He starred in Little Shop of Horrors at High School and was a confident soloist in primary school productions. But then he lost the voice he knew. Brendan says, “When my voice broke, I didn’t know it. I didn’t like it. It wasn’t a boy voice any more, it was my man voice.”
I recently heard Brendan sing for the first time in years^. I was moved by the deep, resonant sounds emerging from someone I knew. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Brendan is now a baritone and completing his performance degree at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. This voice is indisputably beautiful, but Brendan says he didn’t like it at first.
“It was like looking in a mirror and not liking what you see. I had to accept it. I needed to learn to like it. I needed to believe in my voice.” He emphasises the self-belief. There would be no future for him as a singer without it.
Brendan’s story spoke to me. Ten years ago, chronic laryngitis left me with a mere hour of voice each day. As a publicist, I was accustomed to pitching on the phone all day. Now I was whispering (barely audibly) to my young children, reserving my voice for work. I was frightened by the prospect of becoming a publicist with no voice. I thought my professional life would be over.
A speech therapist came to the rescue. She said my vocal cords were damaged from unnaturally deepening my voice. You see, I’d wanted to sound more authoritative to clients and media.
Like Brendan, I needed to come to terms with my natural voice. The therapist helped me discover an extraordinary range. I don’t have a naturally deep voice – I’m no baritone! Instead of using that narrow range of deep sounds, now I animate my voice using incredible variations. Now I can express naturally and more fully. If I feel curious, my voice goes a little high. If I feel compassion, I have softer, lower sounds. Most surprisingly, if I am presenting a workshop or speech, my voice uses all the variations. I no longer go deep to impress anyone. I can also shout with power and volume, which I enjoy.
Everyone needs trusted guides to partner us to full expression. Brendan thanks his singing teacher Andrew Dalton for showing him how to sing with his incredible baritone. I can thank my speech therapist for helping me discover the many aspects of authentic and authoritative expression.
In my working life, I help people with voice in a different way. Many feel disconnected from or unable to access the voice that feels most natural and authoritative in writing, social media and public speaking. Their expression may be missing directness, authenticity or courage. They stick to a narrow version of themselves, unsure what they really want to say. Lacking self-belief keeps them small, quiet and unable to freely express.
If you are ready to find your voice, click here to register for a Complimentary Place at my next live webinar, How to Start a Writing Practice, where I will help you find your voice and commence your journey to fulfilment.
^Meanwhile, for your Sunday pleasure, listen to Brendan’s beautiful baritone voice here.
Thank you for reading,