My name is Cynthia Robinshaw and I am an experienced vocologist, master voice teacher, speech trainer, and accent modification specialist living in the Tucson, Arizona area. I moved from New England in 2014 to the wonderful, arid desert of the Southwest where I spend most days online with students throughout the US and teaching from my home studio in the Tucson, Arizona area.
What does a voice teacher do? Voice teachers are university or conservatory trained singers who instruct vocal technique including posture, breath control, pitch, tone, registration, resonance, music reading, solfege, diction, and musicianship. Voice teachers may understand voice disorders but they are not qualified as therapists. For this you must search out a vocologist.
How is Vocologist Different? A vocologist is a relatively new designation for an elite group of singer-voice scientists who are either master voice teachers with training in speech-language pathology or vice-versa. Vocologists practice healthy speaking/singing habits and rehabilitate voice disorders by negotiating the complex bio-mechanics, physics, acoustics and neurology of the singing and speaking voice. What began as a small number of voice teachers, then called singing voice specialists, voice therapists, and voice science specialists in the 1990s blossomed into graduate level degrees in vocology at some of the most highly regarded institutions of higher learning through the USA today. Those of us trained before 2019 were forced to negotiate different paths to accommodate the requirements to succeed at this career.
What do speech trainers do? Speech trainers educate individuals in public and interpersonal situations coaching organization and speech delivery. Concentration is in posture, breath control, resonance, language, listening skills, assertiveness training, voice production, diction, and non-verbal communication (body language).
What is accent modification? Accent modification also called accent reduction concentrates on the clarity, speed, and prosody (accent) of American speech. Most students/ clients are foreign born adults seeking help to communicate in business, medicine, education, and customer service. Accent modification specialists utilize modeling, mirrors, video/ audio recording and other tools and apps. The objective is for the listener (the audience) to understand the speaker without asking to repeat what the speaker said. This is frustrating to both the speaker and the listener(s). I have trained students from Pakistan, Iran, Yemen, China, Philippines, Thailand, Korea, Mexico, and Russia. I can adapt to any language and train the individual after I listen to them read a few paragraphs. I try to make my students comfortable and stress the importance of having fun while we learn.
Education and Experience:
I began my journey as a performance voice major at Baldwin-Wallace University Conservatory of Music where I earned a BM degree and encountered my first case of vocal nodules from the never ending singing and choral practices. I moved on to the highly acclaimed New England Conservatory of Music where I also studied vocal pedagogy. Subsequently, with a Masters of Music degree in hand, I studied with Metropolitan Opera legend Eleanor Steber, voice faculty at The Julliard School in New York, commuting hours each way twice a month for several years.
While studying with Madame Steber I continued to teach at a number of music studios, my private studio, and at Naugatuck Valley Community College. College level teaching was not stimulating enough thus I began studies at Barrington College ( which closed while I was in the program) and the University of Rhode Island where I completed requirements and student teaching for a K-12 music education certificate.
Once I was certified I taught elementary, middle school and high school chorus, voice classes, music theory, general music and accompanied students on the piano for several years in Rhode Island and Connecticut, where my choruses won many superior ratings at international festivals. It was during this period in time that I developed another vocal nodule which threw a wrench into my career. To ameliorate this problem I trained in the Alexander Technique, learned the Estill Voice Method, mastered Speech Level Singing, and studied at the McCloskey Institute of Voice. Once I determined I had repaired my voice I returned to the education field until I developed muscle tension dysphonia from days of teaching middle and high school choruses - shouting over 300 students in a cafeteria with workers talking and banging pans around. Consequently this ended my career in classroom music.
At that juncture I began my journey to become a clinically trained vocologist; I studied for a masters at the University of Rhode Island and Worcester State University in speech-language pathology which took a few years until I completed coursework and clinicals. Simultaneously, while teaching privately and working on my second masters degree, I received a teaching assistantship in the department of speech- communications where I honed my skills as a speaker and taught hundreds of university freshman and sophomores the art of public speaking and interpersonal communication classes.
During these graduate years I was introduced to my first singer with vocal cord paresis. This young lady sang in the church choir until she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Upon removal of the tumor she was left hemiplegic leaving one vocal cord paralyzed. That same year I met an older gentleman who had suffered a stroke and left with Aphasia. This gentleman could not speak but still could sing simple melodies. His daughter, a medical doctor, had learned about me from an ENT friend and wondered if I could help. For two years I worked with Vasil and eventually he was able to communicate satisfactorily. I was hooked! I finally found the niche I was searching for all these years.
Through the years I have remediated hundreds of singers and speakers with vocal overuse problems, vocal misuse issues, laryngitis, vocal nodules, polyps, vocal edema, vocal cysts, and neurological vocal issues such as vocal paresis, muscle tension dysphonia, spasmodic dysphonia, aphasia, and recently, singers in gender transition. I am also a consultant to numerous businesses and hospitals as an accent modification specialist, using my experience in communication disorders and my foreign language skills mastered as a voice student singing opera and classical song.
My training and experience speaks for itself and I am extending to you an invitation to join me in a relaxed, judgment-free zone in person or online. Contact me today to learn how I can help you find your voice and increase your confidence!