‘She said, “I will never, ever not be heard again”.’

Learning one of your workshop participants has ordered a coffee would not normally be cause for a celebration but, for voice specialist Dr Geraldine Cook-Dafner, it was a breakthrough moment.

With a grant she received from the Australian Research Council, Geraldine had been investigating the effects of actor vocal training techniques on people with impaired hearing who wore cochlear implants.

Dr Geraldine Cook-Dafner

‘It was very much about them finding their voices and having the confidence to be heard in public, because what often happens if they have electronic aids, such as a cochlear implant, is that people don't often hear them. People will often say, “What'd you say? Speak up”, and it's really disempowering.’

One participant had previously suffered great embarrassment when ordering coffee until the morning she rushed into the studio, excited at her success.

‘She said, “I will never, ever not be heard again”.’

Geraldine says young women often sound as if their voice is broken. ‘It sounds swallowed and creaky, which not only damages the voice physiologically but also they're not heard.’

Geraldine has worked in the UK as a drama teacher and director with youth and community theatres, was Head of Voice and Head of School of Performing Arts at VCA and is an Honorary Senior Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She is also a regular voice and dialect coach for the MTC and is currently working with the cast of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

‘Vocal identity is really, really important, although we don't admit it. It always strikes me that we spend a lot of time working on our physical image if we feel it is letting us down but rarely, or may I say never, do we work on our vocal identity.’

Watch Dr Geraldine's 2020 Victorian Seniors Festival reimagined interview.