Honoring the Masters. Sharing the Journey.

Jenevora Williams

Voice Teacher, Trainer of Voice Teachers, Vocal Rehabilitation Specialist, Author, Veteran Performer

Biography

Dr Jenevora Williams is passionate about teaching and a leading exponent in the field of vocal health, rehabilitation and singing teaching. She was the first singing teacher to be awarded a PhD in voice science in the UK, and won the 2010 BVA Van Lawrence Prize for her outstanding contribution to voice research.

Teacher Training for Singing Teachers

As voice science is a relatively young discipline, she has engaged in pioneering work at a grass roots level through the delivery of innovative lectures on Vocal Health, Performance Anxiety, Vocal Pedagogy, Teaching Young Singers, Singing in the Brain, Voice Acoustics, and Teaching Studio Communication Style for bodies such as the British Voice Association, British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM), the Association of Teachers of Singing in the UK; NATS and the Voice Foundation in the US; PEVoC and EVTA in the EU. Jenevora has delivered her courses in Belgium, Finland, Portugal, Austria, Slovenia, Perth (Australia), Chicago IL, and has bookings for an Australian tour next year. She also offers more general training for teachers in regional and national music organisations like Sound Connections, The Voices Foundation, Sing Up and Sistema Scotland. Her work now is mainly through Vocal Health Education: along with Stephen King of the Voice Care Centre, she has set up Vocal Health First Aid training that leads on the Vocal Health Practitioner and Vocal Rehabilitation Specialist, all of these are fully accredited qualifications.

Singing Lessons

Jenevora has a busy private practice for professional singers at her home in Guildford, Surrey, and in her London studio in Soho. She is experienced in preparing singers for solo professional performance and recordings (Royal Opera House Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, Les Arts Florissants, Aix-en-Provence, Garsington, Decca, EMI, Hyperion). Many of her students are members of professional opera choruses and groups such as the Monteverdi Choir and The Sixteen. Others perform as soloists both nationally and internationally. She has given masterclasses in Portugal, Belgium, Germany, United States and Australia. Much of her teaching work is in voice rehabilitation; she offers guidance for singers who may have challenges with vocal health or technique. Jenevora works alongside the UK’s leading voice doctor Declan Costello in more than one voice clinic. Jenevora is an Associate Lecturer in voice rehabilitation for professional singers on the MSc in Performing Arts Medicine at UCL. She is one of the recommended vocal rehabilitation specialists for BAPAM, and she also takes referrals from voice clinics around the country.

Teaching Younger Singers

As one would expect for someone who has always been interested in advanced training for young singers; Jenevora’s PhD research looked into the vocal health of intensively trained child singers. She has taught elite musicians at the Yehudi Menuhin School; and was Singing Consultant and teacher-in-residence for the National Youth Choir for twenty years. She has taught singing at The Royal College of Music Junior Department, as well as young adults at the Guildford School of Acting and many universities. She has been the singing teacher for the choristers at St Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, as well as a consultant teacher for many other British cathedral foundations.

Research and Writing

The book and DVD “Teaching Singing to Children and Young Adults” has sold several thousand copies worldwide. Jenevora’s publication list includes several research papers published in the Journal of Voice, Logopedics and Phoniatrics and Vocology as well as chapter contributions to The Oxford Handbook of Singing and The Oxford Handbook of Music Education. She has worked as a Research Associate at York University, working with Dr Gillyanne Kayes and Professor David Howard.

Performing

For many years, Jenevora was in demand as an international concert and opera soloist. Her performing career included many major roles in operas: several with WNO, including Dorabella. She had recital tours throughout the UK, Europe, Asia and North America; and performed and recorded as a soloist with Sir Charles Mackerras and Carlo Rizzi. She has relevant experience of Western Classical and Musical Theatre music of all styles and periods. As well as the Classical canon of operatic works, oratorio and recital repertoire, Jenevora performed many contemporary song cycles, including premieres of ones that were written for her. She also performed and recorded medieval music with The New London Consort. Jenevora’s rigorous academic study in tandem with her own practical professional experience has equipped her for teaching and teacher training to a level beyond that of any other singing teacher in the UK.

Find more about Jenevora Williams at JenevoraWilliams.com

Interview with
Jenevora Williams

What would you consider to be the main focus of your career, or your “specialty”?

Within the overall concept of teaching people to sing, I have focussed on two areas. The first is working with younger voices, understanding the development of singers from birth to adult and how this informs the way that we can work with them. The second area is that of vocal health and rehabilitation. Most of my work with individual singers now is helping those who are seeking a healthier and more sustainable way to use their voices. This is always a holistic approach, it’s impossible to consider one part without looking at the other influences, beliefs and environmental factors.

Within both of these areas I am now training the teachers as much as I am working with individuals.

How did you discover your calling for your specialty? How did it start?

Good question! As is the case with many people, I had no idea where I was going to end up when I started out. My career took many twists and turns, when I now look back the path led me to an inevitable destination – but that is only evident with hindsight. I’d also like to keep an open mind for the next turns and changes that may open up ahead of me. I’ve not finished yet!

What do you love the most about your work?

I love facilitating change that makes people happier. Nurturing people through difficult times and helping them to heal. Watching the lights come on when I’m introducing teachers to new ideas, or explaining things in a different way for them. Hearing a singer discover the sound they identify with, in the easiest way that they can.

In your opinion, what qualities do you feel make an “excellent” Vocal Pedagogue?

In no particular order:

Knowledge of singing – both from study and from experience, cognitive and visceral understanding of what is happening.

Empathy and kindness – essential if learning and change is going to take place.

Knowledge of self – respect for and awareness of one’s own bias and triggers, and the ability to contain these; awareness of one’s own strengths and superpowers, and implementing boundaries both personal and professional.

Curiosity to recognise and explore the unique, individual nature of every encounter.

Imagination, play, and a gentle touch.

Can you speak to the importance of having mentors? How have mentors influenced your life/career? Can you tell us about some of your mentors?

Well the older you get, the longer the list. The people I’ve sought advice from have been mostly colleagues rather than teachers and ten to be those who have had the courage to tell me what I may not want to hear: Christina Shewell – how to listen to voices; Sara Harris – when to act and when to hold back; Meribeth Dayme – what’s really important and what is just moving parts; Stephen King – how to be a reasonable human and run a business; Graham Welch – how to complete a PhD; all my coaches and conductors – how to be a musician; all my students – how to teach; my parents, my husband and my children – priorities and overall direction for life.

Building Blocks – Questions about ten key areas of voice

When it comes to breathing, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

There is no one way to do it. Any rule that you may land on can always be broken. Take the way that feels easiest, and keep exploring. Keep moving.

When it comes to the larynx, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Reductionism leads to misunderstanding. It’s complicated and we only know a little bit of what goes on. Everything is related to everything else, and so teaching will always involve a zoom-in, zoom-out approach. In terms of feelings and sensations in the larynx, the ideal is a feeling of no feeling.

When it comes to the vocal folds, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

For such tiny, delicate parts of our bodies, they are wonderfully resilient. The power of the noise that they can initiate is phenomenal.

When it comes to acoustics/resonance, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

When you think you are in control of what’s going on, you may only be aware of some of it. Your body has an amazing ability to seek out and find the optimum resonance within the system Trust it, remain flexible and keep playing.

When it comes to registration, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Worry less and just sing.

When it comes to vocal health, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Remember that the health of your voice depends on your overall level of wellness both physically and emotionally. And that is dependent on your environment and circumstances. Health and wellness is a direction, not a destination.

When it comes to style, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Listen to great singers, go to hear as many live performances as you can. Keep an open mind about singers and styles you are less familiar with, everything is relevant.

When it comes to posture, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Keep moving. If you can’t move, stay loose and soft and a bit buzzy.

When it comes to teaching methods or communicating complex ideas about singing, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

I always say that if you really understand something you can explain it in any given time to anyone. Try explaining a really complex system to a five-year-old without patronising them, then try explaining it to a postgraduate student; the framework is the same, it’s just the detail that changes.

Final Thoughts (Words of Wisdom, Resources)?

Always be ready to be wrong.

Please note that Jenevora Williams is not affiliated with VocalPedagogy.com and we do not disclose contact information. We hope you enjoy the interview!

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