The Newsletter
 March 1st, 2009                                                                  Find your natural dynamic speaking voice and maintain it!
Vocal Tip of the Month!
Your Natural Speaking Pitch

One of the most common problem with the speaking voice is to speak on a pitch that is either too high or too low for you.  With the voice fluctuating back and forth during speech, it is important to find a comfortable starting point where your larynx can sit in the back of your throat completely relaxed in a neutral position (where a minimum of movement is required to manipulate the vocal cords and produce sounds).  To find your natural speaking pitch, close your eyes and imagine the following scenario in your mind:

You are coming home after a long day at work.  As you open the door, your senses are greeted by the wonderful smell of chocolate chip cookies (or an apple pie or any other of your favorite treats!) baking in the oven.  Say "Mmmm" aloud with a touch of surprise in your voice and rub your stomach at the same time!  Say "Mmmm" a second time as you walk towards the kitchen to investigate what's cooking.  In the kitchen, put on your oven
 mitts and pull down the oven door.  Here they are...  Those chocolate cookies look and smell absolutely delicious!  Say "Mmmm" and rub your tummy again!  Take those fantastic chocolate chip cookies out of the oven now; they are ready!
Put down the baking pan on top of the oven and let the cookies cool down as you say "Mmmm" once more as you impatiently await the moment of indulgence.  The time has now arrived.  Take the biggest cookie on the plate.  Admire how perfectly it turned out for a second: it has a flawless round shape and a beautiful appetizing golden tan.  Enthusiastically say "Mmmm" and rub your belly in anticipation.  Your mouth is salivating and you can't resit anymore; take a bite.  Wow!  This is the tastiest most delightful chocolate cookie you have ever had:  Crispy on the outside and tender in the inside!  Explode in contentment with your loudest "Mmmm" yet!  Come on; it's ok to be a little greedy!  Eat it all and take another one as long as you happily keep saying "Mmmm" to express your appreciation!  

You might, wonder, "What do cookies have anything to do with my voice?"  Well, a lot!  The way you said "Mmmm" is the pitch on which you should speak.  Try to be self-aware of what it sounded like and maintain that level from now on when you speak.  It should neither sound unreasonably high, nor unreasonably low.  This pitch should more or less sit in the middle of your range and it should feel very comfortable to speak on it.  

Well, I hope this vocal tip was useful to you.  I gotta take a break from writing now; I'm hungry!
Interesting Facts

The Adam's Apple

The vocal folds sit in the larynx in a "V" like shape with the wider part in the back of the neck.  They are held by the thyroid cartilage, which is responsible for applying tension to articulate the elongation of the vocal folds during sound.  It is composed of two plates that are joined at the midline at an angle* of 90° in males and 120° in females.  That partially explains the difference in pitch that occurs after puberty as the body of the larynx grows larger in men.

The prominence of the thyroid cartilage produces a protrusion often referred to as the Adam's apple.  Both men and women have it, except that it is, of course, not as prominent in women as it is in men.  It got its nickname after the biblical story of Adam, Eve, the Serpent and the Apple when Adam gave in to temptation and ate the piece of forbidden apple the serpent tempted him with and the fruit got stuck in his throat.  

The Adam's apple is helpful to monitor how much effort one puts into his/her speech.  If you see the Adam's apple moving up and down continuously when you speak, you are probably not relaxing your larynx enough.  There should be minimal movement going on in that area of the neck when you speak.  

*Vocal Parts. Blue Tree Publishing Inc.

What's Happening?
Report Card Time!

I haven't been really good with posting my newsletters on time, that is on the first of each month lately...  I apologize.  I just got Internet connected at home again and my computer is almost fixed so hopefully this won't happen anymore.  Maintaining my website and writing my newsletters from the public library has been quite challenging I have to say!  Report cards have also kept me pretty busy this month as it probably kept you busy too.  So happy report card time everyone!  Let your students shine and be proud.  Then, you can fully enjoy your spring break!  Have fun!
Relevant Links

Voice Yourself in the Classroom

Valerie Bastien

The Voice Connection
Inspiring Quotes and Stories...

For our last Ontario Federation Day, I attended a workshop on humanitarism and viewed the movie "Triage" about the Rwanda Genocide based on the intervention of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. James Orbinski, head of "Médecins Sans Frontières" (Doctors Without Borders).  It was disturbing to see how many atrocities an entire people, the Tutsi, have had to endure to become nearly completely wiped out because of ethnic beliefs.  It was a very sad and poignant movie.  

After the viewing, Dr. Orbinski spoke to the audience about his visions.  In his speech, he said: "To preserve your dignity, treat your enemies with dignity."  That touched me because it takes a lot of courage and selflessness to do what he does and this is something I want to aspire to.  The next day, I brought this idea into my classroom. Peace starts in everyone's life with simple gestures and I hope to teach my students the value of not lowering yourself to someone else's stupidity.  That is how I feel we can all make a difference.

As everybody was leaving the theater, I walked to Dr. Orbinsky and introduced myself.  In his eyes, I saw the satisfaction of being able to help thousands of men and women with their most basic needs and the dispicable misery he witnessed in doing so.  I thanked him for being such an exceptional human being and for his work.  He signed my copy of his book An Imperfect Offering,* on which the movie is based, and I told him I would talk to my kids and colleagues about him.  I shook his hand but I wanted to give him a hug so badly:  I thought this man needed a hug and it haunted me for the rest of the day...  So instead, I'm taking this opportunity to say thank you again for your kindness.  You truly touched my life on that Friday morning and I hope to meet you again and make it up to you!  In the meantime, can we please all have a virtual group hug now?!  

*An Imperfect Offering by Dr. James Orbinski; buy it here
Things to Note
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Have a wonderful month!

-Valerie Bastien