My Voice Has Got To Go

THE NEW YORK TIMES - JULY 2005 by PETER JARET

This is an excerpt from the article:

..... Many coaches say they work to eliminate specific problems, not an entire accent. "The letter R is a problem in many dialects, for instance, so we'll work on that," said Susan Miller, a coach in Washington.

Kate Rice, 35, decided to change her voce when she was hired as a spokeswoman for a California retail firm. "I'm from Wisconsin, where people speak with a nasal quality," Ms. Rice said. "Words get shortened. Swimming becomes swimmin'. Fishing becomes fishin'. You don't even realize you're doing it."

Age can take it's toll on how people sound, as voices become weak or shaky. Exercises can strengthen the vocal muscles. Dr. Miller demonstrated one, putting her lips together and blowing, making a sound in her throat while her lips fluttered. She also make a sound like a siren and then repeated a tongue-twister - "red leather, blue leather, yellow leather, red leather, blue leather, yellow leather" - at top speed. She recommended both exercise for anyone preparing to give a talk.

The ancient Greek orator Demosthenes is said to have overcome stammering speech by trying to speak distinctly with peebles in his mouth and by reciting verses when out of breath from running uphill. None of the voice coaches interviewed mentioned pebbles. But Ms. Miller did say she runs in place to get her lungs pumping before a speech.

"Having a voice coach is like having a trainer at the gym: you work on intonation, breathing patterns, physical exercises," said Jonathan Clemmer, 47, whose friends in the theater steered him to Dr. Rubin, who trains actors as well as doctors, lawyers and businessmen and women. Mre. Clemmer recently moved to San Francisco, where his job as a medical research consultant involves giving talks to scientists. "I find I have more power in my voice now and better inflection," he said.

The cost of coaching ranges from $100 to $225 a session. Some people learn all they need in just three sessions. Others may require 12 or more. A typical "voice makeover" costs about $1,000, Dr. Miller said.....