Voice Your Potential™

Jo Estill (1921 - 2010)

Jo Estill attributes many of the insights that led to the development of Estill Voice Training to her early childhood. Josephine Antoinette Vadala was born in April 1921. The daughter of Italian Americans who settled in Pennsylvania, USA, her naturally beautiful singing voice was appreciated at a very young age. Hers was a musical household ringing with Italian folk song.

Jo pursued a career as a soprano soloist, working in churches and as a staff singer on radio in Pittsburgh and Hollywood. Following marriage to Thomas Estill she embarked on an extensive European Tour in 1953. Reviewers remarked that she would become one of the great singers of her time and she should stay in Europe to continue developing her technique.

Jo, however, did not enjoy the pressures of performing:

"I never knew what I was doing when I was singing…the conductor would wave his hand to start the orchestra…I was so scared I would say, please God get me out of here and I will never do this again"

Jo returned to America leaving international ambition aside, to raise her young daughter, Alice. She continued to sing, with choirs and orchestras in the Colorado area, and she taught singing. During this time, Jo grappled with the elusive challenges of voice training finding few answers in the existing literature.

In 1966, aged 45 Jo returned to education, completing a Master’s Degree in Music Education in 1971. She took electives in the Speech and Hearing department, learning about the anatomy and physiology of the head and neck and the principles of speech science (respiration, phonation, resonance/acoustics). It was there she gained new insights that began to answer the long-standing question 'How am I doing this?'

Research became Jo's primary area of interest. She was appointed Instructor in Voice in the Department of Otolaryngology, at the Upstate Medical Centre, Syracuse, New York under the mentorship of leading voice researcher Dr Ray Colton. Together with Dr David Brewer, they completed many pieces of research into the perception, physiology and acoustics of voice quality.

"From the very beginning I felt it my mission was to show that everybody has a beautiful voice …all the research since has proved to me that everyone has the same equipment, everyone can use it the same way and yet there are no two voices that are alike."

From this research, a cohesive model emerged. Jo began teaching workshops on a regular basis to support further research endeavours. She produced several videos and presented numerous scientific papers.*

In 1988, Jo founded Estill Voice Training (originally called Estill Voice Craft) including the Figures for Voice (originally known as Compulsory Figures for Voice) and Figure Combinations for 6 Voice Qualities. During the years following, she travelled to five continents training singers, actors, teachers, speech pathologists and others, making her first visit to the UK in 1992.

Jo Estill was recognised for her contributions to research by the National Centre for Voice and Speech Sydney Australia in 2002. In 2004 she was awarded the Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters (LittD) by The University of East Anglia.

*A detailed list Jo Estill’s publications, videos and presentations can be viewed at http://www.estillvoice.com/pages/research

 

“From the very beginning I felt it my mission was to show that everybody has a beautiful voice …all the research since has proved to me that everyone has the same equipment, everyone can use it the same way and yet there are no two voices that are alike..”


Jo Estill

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