Exploring Vibrant Voice Technique in an Academic Setting

Guest Post by Stacey Cabaj, Official VVT Instructor

Stacey Cabaj is the Associate Head of M.F.A. Acting Program and the  Assistant Professor of Voice at the School of Theatre Louisiana State University

Stacey Cabaj is the Associate Head of M.F.A. Acting Program and the Assistant Professor of Voice at the
School of Theatre
Louisiana State University

Today’s guest post is especially for professors who are planning to incorporate Vibrant Voice Technique into their classroom. There are some special considerations for using the work in an academic setting and accommodating a large group. As one of the Official Instructors of the technique and as the voice and speech professor at Louisiana State University, I’ve been teaching VVT to our MFA Acting candidates for the last two years. Here are some best practices I’ve found that can foster your students’ safe, effective, and meaningful work.

Prime the Pump

Before diving into the major exercises, it’s useful to offer the students a theoretical introduction to the technique. My students found it helpful to understand the scientific underpinnings of the technique and its place in the larger context of voice pedagogy. To facilitate this, you could assign reading of articles or previous VVT blog posts at the beginning of the semester.

The next step is sharing the WIIFY, which stands for What’s In It For You? You might discuss the major benefits of the technique, including: efficient recovery from vocal fatigue, the ability to produce more sound with less work, and the reduction of muscular tension leading to enhanced resonance.

Once you’ve piqued their interest, it’s advisable to have an open discussion and address any student concerns. You may answer questions like “what kind of device are we using?” and “what risks are there?” If there are any questions that you don’t have the answers to, feel free to leave a comment below!

Lesson Planning

You might be wondering how to incorporate VVT into your program’s curriculum. While it’s a fabulous technique that works in complement to whatever other methods you’re teaching, it ideally builds upon a strong foundation. Pamela Prather, fellow VVT instructor who teaches at SUNY Purchase, introduces the work at the end of her BFA students’ third year and teaches the primary exercises in the beginning of their senior year. Similarly, in LSU’s MFA Acting Program, I introduce VVT in their third semester of training, alongside heightened text, singing, and extended voice work.

It’s advisable to scaffold the work, starting with exercises that don’t include a device like Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Circumlargyngeal Massage. From there, you could teach one primary exercise as a part of your daily warm-up, reviewing and adding an exercise each day. At the end of each week, you might do a review of the exercises that you’ve covered so far.

In our final week of the unit, my students enjoyed spending a class period doing the whole sequence of exercises. We concluded by doing individual text coaching sessions while using the device to address any vocal challenges that manifest in performance.

Nuts and Bolts

Finally, here are some practical tips for safety and comfort when using the devices in your classroom:

Purchase innocuous looking massaging devices. Pamela Prather and I like the inexpensive Magicfly Mini Penguin Massager, which we buy in bulk on Amazon and make available for students to purchase at the end of the semester.

Have biodegradable wipes available for sanitizing devices between uses.

Address the agency that students have in each exercise, i.e. to adjust the level and duration of vibration, and to buffer with their fingertips.

If students are sharing devices, make sure to use a timer to ensure that they stick to the one-minute guideline for each exercise.

Consider using the “think-pair-share” model where you demonstrate the exercise, then have students work in pairs trying the exercise one at a time, and finally discuss their observations.

We hope you find these tips useful. What other questions, ideas, or concerns do you have about using VVT in your classroom? Let us know in the comments!

Stacey Cabaj