Montreal Gazette article link
Photo by Dario Ayala. Story by Erica Ruth Kelly.
MONTREAL – Gone are the days when I would rock out a solo at my children’s choir (then again, it was at my local church, so perhaps the word “rock” isn’t correct). Like so many, I’ve confined my singing to the shower. The founders of Kin-E-Vox, however, a new joint venture that provides workshops in kinaesthetic vocal training, want us to step out, get dry, and get ready to learn how to sing for the pure joy of it. Our bodies and minds will thank us.
“Re-learning” is probably a more appropriate term, actually, says Amanda Mabro, co-founder of Kin-E-Vox, a native Montrealer, now living in Toronto. The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter and professional vocal coach has been studying and instructing for the past 12 years and describes her role of “teacher” in terms of being a guide. She wants to help students reconnect with something they are already aware of, but have forgotten about: their authentic voice.
“We are bombarded with all sorts of different ideas about what should be celebrated vocally, but I believe that it should start from home, with the self,” says Mabro. “That sound is only unique to you. Why would you not want to begin there?”
The goal of students should not be vocal imitation but liberation, adds Mirjana Milovanovic, Kin-E-Vox co-founder. This Outremont resident and former Cirque du Soleil vocalist has been a vocal coach for the past 20 years.
With similar values and complementary working styles, Milovanovic and Mabro have developed their enterprise to specialize in a kinaesthetic (i.e. learning by doing) approach to singing.
Different from a one-on-one lesson, a Kin-E-Vox workshop aims to help students learn through more than participation. Observation is also key: Students can quickly gain perspective by seeing others make similar mistakes to their own, often bringing clarity and a deepened understanding of the process, Milovanovic explains.
Kin-E-Vox also strives to create an encouraging, non-competitive atmosphere in which students can appreciate a variation of vocal colours and approaches to rhythm, phrasing and attack, which often allows them to take greater possession of their own voice, according to Mabro.
Inasmuch as everyone is welcome in a Kin-E-Vox workshop, everyone can reap the health benefits, including improved breathing, core strength, sleep, and concentration. Some of Milovanonic’s asthmatic students have seen a vast reduction in the severity of their attacks, she says.
Mabro and Milovanovic have teamed up with yoga instructor Lily Salehi and plan to incorporate yoga into some workshops. Yoga helps students ease into the correct alignment, Milovanovic explains, which is “crucial for singers as their lungs, organs, muscle co-ordination, and freedom from unnecessary tensions permits them, in turn, to liberate their voice and helps keep the vocal production healthy.”
Sandra Margolian, 37, an arts administrator, Joey Waknin, 27, a clinical researcher in neuropsychology, and Keiva Burrowes Mclean, 24, an employee at Air Inuit, all participated in a recent Kin-E-Vox workshop. They have all reaped the physical and psychological benefits of learning vocal technique. “I did not expect that learning to sing would help me overcome so many of my emotional blockages,” says Margolian. Waknin thinks of his lessons in terms of meditation, as they force one to “be in the present, think of where you stand, and allow a free flow of energy in and out.” Lessons also lent to Burrowes Mclean’s appreciation of the physical aspect of singing: “I have learned that singing is not just vocals on their own; the whole body is involved.” The group setting added something different to their individual experience of the workshop: “Having the opportunity to practice harmonizing and improvising with other singers is a treat,” said Margolian, while singing in front of a group made both Burrowes Mclean and Waknin feel courageous.
Despite my nerves and need for perfection, I made a conscious decision to remain open to making mistakes. I was dumbfounded when I heard a voice I vaguely recognized singing Buddy Holly’s “Everyday,” one of my favourite songs growing up. Turns out it was me, rocking out as a child might, in a voice I knew I had, but had forgotten about.
Kin-E-Vox’s next Montreal workshops: Saturday, August 4th at Re: source Yoga, 5141 St-Denis
Yoga-Vox from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Kin-E-Vox: 3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
$60 per workshop, or $100 for both