“The voice is the muscle of the soul”. With these words I quote Alfred Wolfsohn, singing teacher, guru and philosopher.
These words, in my opinion, say everything there is to say about the nature of the human speaking voice and how we can approach it. Which is why I decided to use them for the courses I offer in voice work. I coach actors, or other people who use their voice as their professional tool, give presentations, or anyone who wants to become a better communicator,” says Thorey Sigthorsdottir, actor, director and voice coach.
Mannlíf contacted Thorey to learn more about the workshop “The Voice – The Muscle of the Soul,” a course for people that use their voice as their professional tool. People that want to strengthen their voice and build confidence in giving presentations, have courage to speak up in meetings and in personal communications.
The sounds from the dying soldiers hunted him
Thorey is an accredited teacher of The Nadine George Voice Work, which was partly inspired by the German Alfred Wolfsohn.
Wolfsohn was a singer and as a young man he was forced to participate in WW1. He never became the same. After that experience, the sounds from the dying soldiers hunted him. They made him wonder, if the sounds from the dying bodies could be so powerful, what kind of power do the voices of healthy bodies hold? He started exploring the possibilities of the voice, creating an approach to the voice work where he, by doing the work, healed himself of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
At a conference for the teachers of Nadine’s work The Voice Studio International in Glasgow July 2019
From left: Thorey, Ros Steen, professor emerita at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, one of the leading vocal specialists of Scotland, and Nadine George.
Photo: Thorey Sigthorsdottir
Many waiting for the opportunity to work with her
„I am a solo entrepreneur, but I have been working with Nadine George’s Work since I met her in 1996 where she was teaching at a workshop for young Nordic actors in Denmark. Nadine George is British but she has been teaching for over a decade in Nordic Theatre Schools. In 1999 I participated in her first International Workshop for Actors in London.
After that I started to organise workshops with Nadine, annually here in Reykjavik, for actors in collaboration with The City Theatre, The National Theatre and The Actors Union, until the year 2008 when the financial crisis happened. It wasn’t until 2019 she was able to come back and teach again in Iceland, but then the Pandemic hit the world. Now I am hopeful that I can bring her back to Iceland this year, 2022, to teach a long awaited workshop. I know there are many waiting for the opportunity to work with her.
During the time I began teaching her work, I had been teaching voice to actors full time for 4 years at The Icelandic University of The Arts. From there I went on to teach as well at The Icelandic Film School, where I am now The Head of Voice and Acting. I am the only accredited teacher of The Nadine George Voice Work in Iceland. I teach my workshop The Voice – The Muscle of the Soul and give custom made workshops for companies and individuals on request.
The feeling is very empowering
“The Voice as Your Professional Tool.”
Photo: Ásgeir Helgi Thrastarson
Personal success stories
Thorey shares many success stories from her clients and says it is really rewarding to get their feedback. Becoming aware of the ripple effect the work has on people’s life, on a deep level, and for the better, is a great feeling. “Everyone goes through the process of discovering that their voice is so much more powerful than they have ever experienced. That amazing feeling alone is very empowering.”
A woman, working in a male dominated working space where she experienced she wasn’t being heard or listened to, went through a great transformation when she started showing up to work stronger and from a new place in herself. She had a different energy and a more powerful presence, which resulted in the employer beginning to see her and listen to her in a new way.
“It is so important in life to feel that you have a voice, and that it is being listened to. In your workplace and in all departments of your life. It really affects the overall quality of your life. It is not just about the muscular voice itself and how you use it. It’s about how you as a whole being show up differently in every situation. With a stronger voice and therefore stronger presence. ”
A woman going through a divorce felt that she could now, after doing the workshop, express herself with her husband without her voice breaking in her throat.
“I was especially happy to hear this. It is a big step in everyone’s life to be able to stand up for oneself in personal communication. Especially in difficult emotional situations like a divorce is.“
A CEO going online
A man, who felt quite confident giving presentations in his work, but due to Covid-19 having to take all his work online, became anxious seeing himself in recordings of himself talking. By doing the work he became successful in mastering his skills, and learned different techniques needed for different situations, since one as a virtual speaker doesn’t have a physical audience to inspire one with their immediate responses.
„One thing is to have the confidence to speak, the other is to keep mastering your skills to an advanced level. We can always go deeper and do better with new awareness, polishing our presentation, voice and the style in how we deliver our presentation. By doing that we are able to adapt, and speak through a different medium, and in the most powerful way.
An experienced scholar, who had given many presentations through the years, achieved a new awareness of herself and deepened her presentation skills. She realised, when connecting to her real voice, how her personal communications and relationships were affecting her performance at work, and vice versa, which was a new breakthrough for her. She got a new sense of how she could become more authentic as a lecturer, and how “not having a voice in her personal life” had interfered with her intimate relationships in life. As well as held her back as a lecturer. She could see how the two were related, and was able to work on it and change it for the better.
Defending your phd
A PHD student, who felt she had spent so much time, money and energy on her studies, decided to give herself time to train her technical skills in giving lectures, to be fully able to enjoy her PHD defense, without experiencing stress. That work paid well off and she peaked at the perfect time, delivering it to her fullest compatibility.
Influence your job opportunities and income
„I am convinced that it influenced the job opportunities she got immediately after her defense. I am always a bit surprised by the fact that scholars take so little time in general to practise the delivering of their presentations, compared to the time they spend writing it.
I myself hold a MA degree in Applied Culture and Communication from The University of Iceland, and did my final project under the guidance of Eggert Bernharðsson, the historian and pioneer that established that department. Blessed is the memory of that great teacher and culture mediator. The ideology of that study is to bring all those theories down from the book shelves and into an accessible form, so people can really use them and enjoy them.
It was also a pleasant surprise to know that a graphic designer, who came and did my workshop The Voice – The Muscle of the Soul, said that “after each class she would go to a café and draw up all these sketches and ideas, since she felt so inspired after the work”. The exercises helped her open up into flow and creative energy. We have used these exercises often in courses for creative writing.
The voice work transformed my life
“It was life changing for me to be introduced to Nadine George’s Voice Work. I felt the impact immediately as an actress, my voice opened into new dimensions and the depth of the work and where it takes you is a never ending story.
I will never forget the moment when I heard the story of Alfred Wolfsohn in my first workshop with Nadine. I got goosebumps and it ignited in me a totally new way of seeing the voice. His quotation and approach are still very powerful for me.
Gradually I started to use the voice work to heal traumas in my own life. The transformation I experienced for myself, both as an actress and a human being, inspired me to teach the work so I could pass it on to others in the hope they could experience the same transformation I did through the work.
“The transformation I experienced inspired me to teach the work”
Photo: Ásgeir Helgi Thrastarson
The voice and our self-identity
Thorey says the main emphasis is to embody the voice, help it expand and strengthen the resonance of it in one’s whole body.
Training the voice you learn to recognise and sense the possibilities of it, so it will respond to you in the way you need it to in specific situations. You want to be able to consciously use the voice, so it doesn’t take control over you and for example start to tremble when you are under stress. When the voice is well connected to your body and soul all articulation becomes more organic and authentic. You are less likely to sound pretentious and people will be drawn in to listen. It will create a shortcut too powerful and effective articulation and storytelling.
“The magical thing is that when you start to train your voice on a deep level, there are so many benefits that come alongside the work for you on a personal level. When you think about it, the voice is such a personal thing and connected to our emotions and how we perceive ourselves and others. Such a big part of our self identity. We are in fact connecting to our core essence, because the base for a good vocal projection is your breath connection. There have been many scientific articles written on the positive benefits of deep breathing, for example when experiencing anxiety. Therefore training your voice is also a holistic way to train our wellbeing, as well as sharpening your tools for storytelling and powerful presentation. The amazing thing is that when you start to train your voice, you experience so many positive benefits on all levels as a human being.
The chakras and the voice
” Empower your balance and presence” at Yogavin in Reykjavik
Photo: Hera Hilmarsdóttir
Thorey says the exercises are simple, which she says is great, but with a steady practice you can always go deeper.
“The core of my method is Nadine George’s Voice Work. Of course I did also learn a lot from my good voice teacher at The Icelandic Drama School (now LHÍ) Hilde Helgason, as well as my Shamanic teacher Patricia Whitebuffalo and from my experience as an actress in the theatre.
I have started to weave more energy work into the voice work, cleansing and opening the Chakras and I use meditation. Some of Nadine’s exercises are like a meditation in movement too. Studying the voice, as well as the shamanic healing methods, has helped me go deeper and strengthen my intuition as a teacher and as an artist. It is all very practical, each method supports the other.
Who are mostly your clients?
„They have been actors, tour-guides, teachers of all kinds, entrepreneurs, leaders and people who want to be able to speak up and give presentations in their work.
Just recently I had a few days workshop for the teachers at The Education and Career Development Centre of The Icelandic Police.
That was really interesting, since they are already aware of the fact that the voice is the most powerful tool of the police force. On top of that is very important to stay connected to your core essence in a critical situation. It is a known fact that at a certain stress level your judgment goes out of the window, and then reactions to a challenging situation you are met with are not always acceptable. The voice training helps you control stress. You have to learn where to support your body and where to let go in the right way. This technique, which we can call body mind connection, comes in very handy when you are faced with a lot of stimulation and helps you react with calm focus and heightened awareness.
The corporate world
I have also given workshops for people working in institutions; museums, tv channels and employees of The Icelandic Parliament, to name a few. I find it incredibly interesting to get to know people in these different fields and realise that the core elements in our challenges in life are usually the same. The voice is a magnificent professional tool, and last but not least, a powerful healing tool for oneself. When approached in the way I have been so lucky to dive into and develop through the years alongside my amazing teachers.”