Voice Coaching

Magic Maggi Stratford -  Voice Coach

I'm Maggi and I’ve been using my voice since I was born! I’ve been working with it more consciously for about 30 years, on & off as a singer, performer, teacher, therapist, workshop leader. In 1985 I came across the work of the Roy Hart Theatre which challenged all I thought I knew about the voice. Surely we each fitted into one voice 'category' – soprano, bass etc..no? Well apparently not! I came to realise that we all have a far greater potential range to our voices than we normally would imagine.

I've worked with members of this company http://www.roy-hart-theatre.com over the years, and heard them use their voices in the most extraordinary ways ...some of the men far higher than any women I know, and women wallowing in beautiful bass tones.

The work of the Roy Hart Theatre (now known as the CAIRH) has inspired my own and I have run voice workshops for many years, often working with people who for any number of different reasons had come to distrust their voice, to feel limited by it, to think their voice was in some way 'deficient'.

Several years ago I was approached by Leeds Gender Identity service who were looking to put in place some voice work for their Transgender clients; this was a client group I'd never worked with specifically – but I put together an 8-week workshop programme which I hoped may be appropriate, relevant, and would offer the clients the tools to build their voice skills in the direction they wished to go; with the GI Service we agreed that this would be group work, rather than 1:1. There are lots of reasons for this – not least the support and learning that can be gained from shared experience within a group. This 'experiment' worked well and continues both in Leeds, and Nottingham. The Trans Female clients are an 'obvious' group for voice work; female hormones do not change the formed larynx, so the Trans F has to learn how to use her existent voice in a different way – a real challenge, but with practice and the right exercises it can be accomplished.

For Trans Males of course the voice journey is very different, and has historically been seen as more straightforward. Testosterone does indeed have an impact on the voice – but an assumption that this is the same as for a bio-male going through puberty is mistaken: 'natural' puberty is a very slow process, the development of the 'adult' larynx and vocal folds takes time and happens at an age when the larynx is still flexible. The older we are the more rigid our larynx - the container if you like of the vocal folds ('cords'). So although testosterone taken as an adult will enlarge the foldstowards a more male size, the larynx containing them may not easily be able to adjust to this expansion. Trans M’s can consequently experience loss of control of pitch, loss of volume, diminished range of the voice, and even after it has 'settled'. My attention has been brought to these difficulties by Trans M’s I've spoken to, and by the inspiring, thorough & detailed research of musicologist Alex Constansis (http://alexandrosconstansis.com)

My curiosity was aroused: How much do Trans M’s know about what happens to their voice in transition? Is this area one which Trans M’ s would identify as important and would they be interested in working on this area of their transition which may not figure as highly as other 'needs'? Would it be possible to devise exercises which support the Trans M’s voice on its journey of change? How willing would they be to work in groups? With all these questions & wonderings I approached the GI service in Leeds, and again they have been most responsive. Two initial day-long workshops were offered – one for pre & one for post hormone. The response from group was extremely positive – and I sincerely hope that there will be opportunities to develop this work in the future.

(For enquiries re group or individual voice work maggistratford@gmail.com)