Sound Stories #001 – The Power of an Authentic Voice

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    Thousands of years ago we began telling stories with our voices, preserving information and cultural identity from one generation to another. Today, our voices still play an active role in our creative life, whether we intend them to
    or not. Is your voice authentically telling your story?

    Vocal Coach and Author, Jocelyn Rasmussen, describes how creative professionals can harness the power of their voice and reap the emotional, mental and physical benefits that may follow.

    Learn more about Jocelyn:
    http://meanttobeheard.com/

    Presented by: www.voices.com

    TRANSCRIPTION SOUND STORIES #001

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Welcome to Sound Stories. I’m Stephanie Ciccarelli. Today in studio we have Jocelyn Rasmussen. She’s here to talk a little bit about the wonderful voice that we have and the identity we find in it. So Jocelyn, welcome to the show.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Thanks Stephanie. It’s wonderful to be here with you.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    I am a singing teacher and coach now. I do executive voice coaching and teach singers. I started out as a pop and jazz singer, and then I sang classical music and opera, and I had my share of illness and various things. And at one point when I was recovering from thyroid disease, I started teaching and I realized that singing had been the career I wanted as much as breathing, but that teaching was really my calling and it would never be enough for me again to just have my own voice. That I wanted everybody to have their voice.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Well, that’s a beautiful thought. And I know you’ve gone through quite the personal journey there too with it. And part of why you teach is because you do want to share that with others and to help them to discover who they are and also how they can heal through using their voice.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Yes. And it’s been a great surprise to me and so exciting and I’m thrilled that we’re starting now to have the science, the ways of measuring these things, so that what we experience when we do voice work is now starting to be verified in experiments. And it’s really exciting to me how much the voice can do to improve our physical energy levels, our mental clarity, our emotional balance, and the way we’re able to relate with one another throughout our day.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Absolutely. Now, something that we were talking about a bit earlier actually focused on authenticity and in our business, doing voiceovers and helping other people to bring life to their scripts, we find that authenticity is a huge piece of what might set one artist apart from another and certainly to make one campaign perform better than another. So can you maybe share a bit about what authenticity means and how that comes across in the human voice?

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Yes. I think there are a lot of reasons why we try to sometimes disguise the way we’re really feeling. Can be as simple as not wanting people to know how tired we are. It could be something more of an emotional nature. I talked with one gentlemen in the book, he was say contractor who did really huge construction projects in New York City and a client he had had before gave the bid to a competitor and he was very surprised. And a mutual friend of theirs told him it was because the client thought he didn’t have the energy to do the project. And he was really surprised by that.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    And as we were working in his session, I was helping him find ways to be physically more energized and present and so on. And what he told me was that he had just recently separated from his wife, something he didn’t want. And he thought he’d been doing a really good job of covering that up. But as we worked, he could see how that had been stealing his energy and that he needed to do some work around that so that he could show up at his job with his full energy and that people would believe he really had that.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Now that’s a great story, Jocelyn. And it reminds me maybe of actors who maybe when they go to an audition and they’re not quite bringing their best with them, that might come across in a different way than it would say on the job, but the feelings are very much the same.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Absolutely. You can even have an actor who you’ve hired for other spots and who you really like and just find that on this particular day, there’s a certain sparkle missing. It might be because they have a cold and they took a bunch of medications so that it doesn’t show. It might be that they’ve had a big disappointment, a loss of another job, and they’re just not quite finding that spark today for this because that disappointment is still with them. And it’s not that they don’t want the job or care about it, but some things just pull our energy down and they stay with us and they get carried into the next situation unless we have very strong techniques for shifting that energy.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Someone would definitely have to teach everyone those, because I know I have not a clue on what that might be. Just thinking again about when someone speaks to you, maybe it’s a line they’re reading or maybe you’ve asked them how they’re doing or whatnot, and the way that we answer with our words might actually be betrayed by our feelings or emotions that might come through that. So this again is like, you might be reading something from a script, but internally you’re really not feeling it and it’s coming across in a way that is not how the words would expect it to be.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Right. And so there are just different frequencies in the sound and some of them will betray what we’re thinking, some of them will betray what we’re feeling. And if what we’re thinking doesn’t agree with what we’re feeling, there’s going to be some sort of disconnect. We might not be able to name it, but we’ll know. And part of the reason we know it is because we have sound receptors in every cell of our skin. And so quite often we won’t say somebody sounds creepy, we’ll say they feel creepy. Or we’ll love the feeling that we get from someone’s laughter. So we’re feeling that sound in our body, and it’s resonating our bones and our organs and things. It’s stimulating our brain. It is actually stimulating our brain and producing chemicals there that give us clues about what our authentic response is to whether or not they’re being authentic.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, so you could be sitting in the room or maybe listening to an audition online, whatever the case might be, and when you’re listening to someone or observing their performance, you’re really thinking, “Is this moving me? Do I believe them? Are they credible? Do I trust them with my message?” So if you have a number of people who are really, really good and you have to make a choice, then how would you make that choice given some of them may not, I guess, have the same spark there. Is there a way to tell who should be booking a gig?

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    In my own experience, I would go with what moves me. For me when I’m really moved by something I’ll get full body chills, I’ll get goosebumps. And it might not be the most polished performance, but if I know I’m going to get to rehearse and work with that person, if that natural ability to move me in that deep and powerful way is there I would be more tempted to go with that than with the more finished product. Because even over the airwaves, over radio or television, I teach a lot of people over Skype and I will still get the goosebumps and the hair standing on end over Skype or over the telephone. And I’m not seeing them.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    I’m not getting all of those other cues if I’m on the phone, but I will still feel it physically in my body or my eyes will mist over or my heart will be open. Sometimes when someone is really moving me, it’ll remind me of a story in my own life that relates and draws my passion or my interest. So basically I would go with the person who’s engaging me, not the one who’s impressing me with their techniques as much as the one who’s engaging me.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    No, that’s very interesting and I appreciate what you’ve said. It reminds me of the movie Inside Out. Have you ever seen that from Pixar?

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    No.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, well basically the main character, this little girl, she has all these feelings. Like we all do, right? So, but anyway, you’ve got anger, sadness, joy. I know I’m forgetting someone, forgive me. Go look at IMDb. Anyway, so we’ve got emotions was the bottom line. And these emotions have a main role in the film because they’re in her brain and whenever something happens, Riley is going to feel joy. She’s going to feel sadness. She’s going to be angry. She’s going to have some kind of a response. But when I was thinking about this movie before, and I know a lot of people love it, but it really speaks to method acting what I find. Because when you can actually draw on an experience that you’ve had, like what you said, sometimes when you hear someone, it brings you back into something that you might’ve experienced that was similar.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    If an actor can go to that place where they have authenticity, they have this core memory we can call it here, because I believe that’s what they call them in the film. But if you can access that, then you can actually take that memory, almost relive it. Maybe not completely, but to such a degree that when someone else hears it, they have that connection. There’s authenticity. They feel like this is coming from somewhere. This is not just a cerebral experience.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Right. The brain doesn’t know the difference between a memory, a projection, and what’s really happening. So as actors we read a script and we understand the emotion that is being called for, then we go into our own biography, our own story, and we find a feeling that matches that and we relive it and that animates the script. And if somebody understands the script and layers on the approximation of what… So, “I’m going to sound angry,” or, “I’m going to sound warm,” or, “I’m going to sound excited.” But if they haven’t tapped into the essential part of themselves that truly animates it, it just won’t get us in the same way.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    It’s almost like a shell of that feeling or experience. It’s like they’re paying lip service maybe to the script. They’re just reading it. It means nothing in a certain way. So I know with our talent, what we always tell them to do is, “When you’re evaluating an opportunity, don’t just look at it for whether or not you are a technical match for this. Like you can speak the language. You’re the right gender that is being called for the role. Maybe you can do that accent, whatever it might be. Think about, ‘does this actually feel like I would voice this? Is this something I can relate to? Is this something I even support really?'” Because, well, there’s a lot out there that people could be reading and not all of the scripts in the world will be the right fit for every actor that comes into the audition room, right? So they have to be a little bit, I guess, introspective in that way.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Yes. And I think it eventually leads to more success because when you do the things that are authentically yours, you do them better. You get called back. And when you turn away the things that are not going to be so strongly yours, you don’t weaken your overall portfolio.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That’s true. And on that vein, I know there are a lot of actors probably listening, but we do encourage them to think like an agent. So if you’re an actor, then you have to be thinking, “Would my agent send me out for this? If I had one.” Maybe you don’t have one, but you need to think like one even if you don’t. So, “If I were my own agent, would I send me?” I guess that’s the bottom line, right? Because if you were the agent and you wouldn’t send you, you shouldn’t be auditioning for it. It’s just that simple, right? But you do need to have that connection and having connection with the script, with the character, creating a backstory in your mind, using all the clues that you’ve been given along the way, because you will be given clues, then you can come to that place where you feel that you’re prepared, this is the right fit for me. And you can bring that emotional side, but also that more cerebral side to have a more balanced performance.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Right. Perfectly said.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So we’ve talked a lot about just getting into the character and understanding if something is right for us, but I think I want to go back to words because words are so very powerful. And as we know that words can sometimes mask something. We might say a word that we don’t really mean and our voice may betray us, but there are other instances where just even the word choice itself can have a dramatic effect on the listener or on the person who’s speaking it.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    So at some point I came across this wonderful quote. It was through a song, actually. This recording artist, TobyMac, he has a song called Speak Life, and I love that song. And it was an anthem for me for a little while. But at any rate, he went and he found this wonderful quote and it comes from Brennan Manning and what he said that, “In every encounter, we either give life or we drain it. There is no neutral exchange.” I mean, there’s a lot of weight there.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    A lot. And I think it’s true. And it probably comes back to the breath that inspiration, our ability to take that in in a way that is fully nurturing, fully releasing, fully accepting of that life force, and then the ability to put that back into the world with our truth and with our heart and with our wisdom. And that’s a training, that’s a something that we can learn how to do. And then if life starts to take over, if we start to get too frantic, we can think we’re putting into life, but we’re actually draining life because we’re needing too much from it in too big a hurry or something. And if we can just breathe and allow, then instead of thinking about everything we have to do or get, we can just think about what the moment wants. So I can listen to you and just try to understand you rather than listening to you, thinking about how I’m going to respond.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I think a lot of people listen for the sole purpose of knowing what they’re going to say next. And I know I do that a lot.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    And we think of that as being on the giving end of things, right? Of putting into life and filling it up. But in a way, our presence is what really, really gives and our faith in that life that’s there and in the meeting and in what wants to come between us. And so I think in a lot of these jobs in our relationships, whether it’s professionally or personally, what we’re wanting is what we didn’t know was going to happen, but what is so true between us. And when we cultivate that, I think then whether we’re doing a commercial spot or reading a book or doing a show or having a business meeting, that possibility for true sparkle and creativity and awesome things to happen is just there.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    And it all does come back to the breath though, doesn’t it? Because if we are unable to breathe, then we can’t support anything. The foundation suffers. Just wondering what you can share with us about just breath, and why it is so very important?

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Breath is one of those miracles, to me. It’s completely autonomic. We don’t control it, thank goodness, and yet we can do so much that interferes with us, with the breath, and with our liveliness. So if the physical body is depleted, we’ll tend to collapse. And then our breath will go about as low as the clavicular bones. It just gets stopped. And if we are spending beyond what is really natural or healthy for us, the breath will start to become stressed and labored and we’ll be gasping for it. And there are all these places in between, but if we’re just aligned and open then oxygen goes in, carbon dioxide goes out. It just is the natural property of gases to equalize. And only if we are efforting greatly do we have to help it out, but it’ll just be there.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    The point is the structure of our body has to be erect, aligned, and open. Otherwise we’re compensating. So every emotion that affects us, whether it’s puffing us up or collapsing us, our physical state of being, what we’re thinking, what we believe, all of those things are going to start to affect the breath. So if I’m angry, I’m going to start to have stronger exhales. I’m going to be spitting my words and doing all of those things. And we have that wonderful expression, “Take a breath and count to 10.” And what that does is actually as you slow your breathing, your respiratory rate slows, your heart rate slows, you stop producing cortisol and all of that, and you start producing positive endorphins. And so it’s not just that you sound less angry, you are less angry. And those same things kick in with other feelings and so on. So just by being able to change your breath, you can affect all of these other things. And then if you start to change the voice with it, it’s amplified.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. And amplification is pretty big. For most performers, you do want to know how to control your voice, the volume, the pitch, the everything about it. Just thinking, because we’re just a stone’s throw from Stratford Festival. For instance, if you work there and you’re an actor, then you have to project all the way to the back of the stage and into the audience. I mean, that’s a lot of work, that takes work. Or an opera singer, this sort of thing. But when you are doing a performance that is more intimate, like a voiceover, essentially what we’re podcasting right now. So we’re both sitting here with a microphone in front of us, little pop filter, all of that. There’s maybe a different way to budget that breath or to use it, especially if you’re seated as opposed to standing. So how can we maybe make the most of our breath for those who would like to do that?

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    It’s a beautiful question. So the vocal chords are real, real tiny and they pace the air and our thoughts and our feelings. And they did a study back in the 70s where they measured lung capacity, and they thought that the singers with the greatest lung capacity would be able to do the longest phrases. And they found, in fact, there was no correlation whatsoever. That the ability to do a long phrase was the ability to pace the breath, and it actually doesn’t take very much breath to sing or speak. And what creates volume is resonance, not force. So if you want your sound to be more, to travel into the house, what you need is for it to be acoustically efficient. So it needs a full complement of overtones.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    So if I’m speaking to you here, I’m not going to put all of that resonance in it. But if I was in a full, it would be a thing of filling the trachea, the bronchial tubes, the face, the head. I would just be vibrating with the resonance, not so much with force, but just full of the sound. And it would put all of these things that make it travel. If I’m in a more intimate situation, I would still want a complete sound and I would still want that resonance to be everywhere, but it just would be just less. So it’s more the intention that you have that determines those things than a force. The power comes from accessing things with precision rather than from excess muscle.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    I like the way you said it’s more about the intention behind maybe what’s being said, as opposed to just how much lung capacity you have, or how loud you’re trying to be, frankly. And when you’re doing voiceover, you don’t want to do that. Obviously there’s a way to use your voice, that you don’t abuse it, that you’re coming across in a way that is safe and the right proximity to the microphone, all of these wonderful things. But if we haven’t mastered our breath, right? Then there’s the possibility for physical tension to creep in. And I know… Because as a singer, my background is in voice. I know what it is to feel like you have tension living somewhere. Usually it’s in the neck or it’s maybe in your hands, you get a little claw going on there. But I know that in a book that you had written just recently, you did have a great example of a singer who was in your studio, who was having a really hard time hitting some high notes. Maybe tell us about that.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Yes. She just could not get through to the top of her voice and my feet were killing me. And so just on a whim, I asked her to take her shoes off. And when she went for the high note, she gripped and curled her toes. And I said, “So what did you feel in your feet that time?” “Oh, nothing,” she said. So I finally took her and stood her in front of a full length mirror and asked her to watch her feet. And she was absolutely stunned when she saw that. And as soon as she stopped gripping her feet, her high notes came out because that was causing tension in the legs, causing tension in the lower body, making it impossible for her to get a good breath and causing her to grip in her neck. It just set off a whole chain of tension. And once her feet were released on the floor, her voice was free to function.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    That’s amazing. Well, physicality is so very important to doing voice work at all. Just because you’re not seeing someone on camera doesn’t mean that they still aren’t using their entire body to do this. Any vocalists would know that it literally is your entire body. Your instrument is your body. It’s not a violin. You can’t just pack it up in a case and carry it around and shield it. You really have to be careful, and you have to be very just focused on what you’re doing and grounded in what you’re doing.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    And another thing I just thought of, salespeople who do cold calling on phones always keep a mirror beside the phone so they can remind themselves to smile. We hear a smile in the voice. Even those small things in the body will make a big difference.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. They can make or break a deal, but it also comes across as being friendlier. And maybe if you have an actor who is reading from the script and they’ve got a smile on their face, all of a sudden there’s this different color that comes in and-

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Absolutely.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    … that could completely affect their read. It’ll maybe change the entire tone of that piece.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    And the other point, it occurred to me to make, when we were talking about the projecting and all of that, if you don’t in a quiet way… Let’s say I’m reading a 250 page book. If I’m not bringing all of that physical energy and support, my voice will be very fatigued from reading for an hour or two if I’m not using the same musculature and energy that I would in a big hall.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Yeah. Well, I guess you have to know your setting as well as just your instrument. You have to know how it works, and some actors can get away with drinking milk before they go on stage for their voice work and some say, “No. No dairy. None at all.” I think we really just have to be in tune with what our own body is telling us-

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Absolutely.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    … but also when someone is casting, as they are listening and they’re experiencing, whatever that read is, whatever they’re being drawn into, that world that the actor has created for the time being, they have to think, “You know what, are they suspending my disbelief? Do I trust them? Do I see myself in the setting? Or is this maybe falling in and out of authenticity?”

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    The person doing the voiceover, maybe their character is dropping in and out, or if it’s an accent and they’re not a native speaker, then you will hear what the result of that can be, right? We’ve seen enough movies with some Hollywood stars who will remain nameless, who in those roles sometimes, they don’t quite stay on message. And so far as the role they’re portraying, it’s really easy to lose an audience. And so when someone is listening to an audition, or maybe they’re in a actual live casting session in person, then you need to be watching for that. Like can this person carry this all the way through? Do I actually feel moved, as you had said earlier, by what their performance is? It isn’t just giving me information. It’s making me feel something.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    Yes. We’ll think about the information. If we feel motivated, we’ll go out and do something about it.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Thank you for being on the show, Jocelyn.

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    It was my pleasure, Stephanie. It was really fun to be here with you today.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Oh, and we’re going to put this in the show notes don’t worry everybody, where can people learn more about you and your book?

    Jocelyn Rasmussen:
    At meanttobeheard.com.

    Stephanie Ciccarelli:
    Fabulous. Thank you for tuning in, and if you haven’t already done. So I’d like to invite you to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, as well as give us a rating. We love hearing from you and gathering your feedback. Once again, I’m your host, Stephanie Ciccarelli, and I hope you can join us for our next Sound Stories podcast.

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    Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer of Voices.com. Classically trained in voice, piano, violin and musical theatre, as well as a respected mentor and industry speaker, Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Musical Arts from the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the University of Western Ontario. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, her podcast Sound Stories serves an audience that wants to achieve excellence in storytelling. Stephanie is found on the PROFIT Magazine W100 list three times (2013, 2015 and 2016), a ranking of Canada's top female entrepreneurs, and is the author of Voice Acting for Dummies®.

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