In the summer of 1982, David Smukler gave a five week workshop on voice at Simon Fraser University. It was a great success, and so, he did it again 1984. Grant Strate, then Director of the SFU School of the Arts, invited Smukler to create a Voice Teacher Training Programme as part of a Summer Conservatory. In 1986, David Smukler established the inaugural year of Canada’s National Voice Intensive at SFU. It was a four-week in-depth examination of the human voice as the primary channel for communication in the performer-audience relationship.
The reputation of Voice Intensive spread quickly and soon attracted professionals and students alike from across North America. Equal parts voice, movement, image, and text from day one, the programme almost instantly established itself as a research ground for all involved. Experienced actors and teachers of the performing arts came to refresh and rethink their craft alongside emerging artists who came to discover. Committed to supporting the research and growth of emerging voice teachers, Voice Intensive established an Associate Faculty component in the first year. It allowed Graduate Voice Diploma students to apprentice with senior faculty.
Eventually more participants came from other continents, and growing interest in the program itself prompted Voice Intensive to evolve into a five-week full time programme. This accommodates the appropriate time needed for exploration and information. For the past 10 years, Voice Intensive has been generously hosted by the Department of Theatre and Film at UBC.
The core of the voice work lies in the tradition of Kristin Linklater and Iris Warren. The objective is to free the natural voice from habitual patterns that inhibit the performer’s ability to interpret and communicate in his or her particular medium. The key lies in addressing inhibiting patterns that form in the body. Initially, Lynda Putnam’s Grotowski-based physical training along with Audry Jolly’s teachings of the Iyengar yoga tradition provided the physical element participants needed to ground the vocal work.
In 1990, Judith Koltai joined the faculty bringing her philosophy based on observing the individual’s body and working from internal sources. Koltai’s innovative Syntonic(©) and Embodied Practice(©) were a perfect compliment in both vocabulary and approach to the Warren-Linklater philosophy. This framework remains the container for Voice Intensive today.
What continues to evolve is Voice Intensive’s curriculum. It adapts to include and address voice issues currently faced by actors and performing artists. Each year’s curriculum is revised based on previous observation and experimentation. The result is much like a free, natural breath: grounded and brimming with discovery.
As we head into the next stage, we look forward to new exploration, and expanding the program to include a public performance component that is dedicated to showcasing Voice Intensive alums.