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Continued: Achieving excellence: The voice coach

  • Article by: AIMEE BLANCHETTE , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 10, 2013 - 3:38 PM

Permission for imperfection

Forstein went from paying an assistant in Los Angeles to keep track of her busy schedule to practicing yoga, taking long walks and growing vegetables in a narrow plot at her rented Minneapolis apartment. She’s taking a break from performing for the next year to build her business in Minnesota, and things are off to a good start. Her clients include Minnesota Twins radio broadcaster Cory Provus.

On a recent afternoon, Forstein worked with local singer/songwriter Pamela Machala. After a warm-up in which Forstein asks her student to imitate a “bluesy Aretha Franklin,” Machala positions herself at the piano to play a new song she’s been working on. The one about her dad.

Forstein listens intently as the music pours from Machala’s lips.

“I’m gonna stop you,” Forstein interrupted. “Take a deep breath, plant your feet on the ground and start with intention about what this song is about.”

Forstein is trying to get her student to feel — not just sing — the words.

“Own the feeling you have for your dad,” she urges. “Give yourself permission to not be perfect and then whatever you do will sound great.”

Here’s what Forstein has to say about mastering a craft, going for what you really want and the vulnerability we all share.

Q What do you think mastery means?

A “I’ve heard that one truly masters a subject when they teach it. This makes sense to me, as the process of teaching has enabled me to truly see what works for myself and for others. However, this definition of mastery feels only partly true. Of course, my diva self wants to say, ‘Of course I have mastered my craft!’ But developing true mastery has no end. There is always more to learn.”

Q Are there sacrifices in your job?

A “I don’t feel I’ve made any sacrifices, though I’ve experienced a learning curve. While most of my friends were working steady, well-paying jobs in their 20s, I was out performing and working side jobs to pay the rent. It was constantly unpredictable, but all for the dream. After some touring and performing success, I wanted to help others have the same. Starting a business is not a sacrifice, but instead, a deep practice in risk-taking, faith in self and trust in my actions.”

Q Does everyone, regardless of their experience and skill, get nervous when speaking or singing?

A “Yes. The voice is one of the most vulnerable parts of us. It’s like we’re naked. Everyone has something they’re self-conscious about.”

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  • Project: Achieving Excellence

    Tuesday February 4, 2014

    Learn about everyday Minnesotans who exhibit mastery -- the combination of knowledge, skill, experience and understanding that offers a deep command of a topic or activity.

  • “Vocal empowerment coach” Ariella Forstein works out of her home in south Minneapolis. Here she guided singer Pamela Machala through a warmup.

  • Ariella Forstein, a vocal empowerment coach, took notes as she listened to singer/songwriter Pamela Machala during their recent session in Minneapolis.

  • Ariella Forstein, a vocal empowerment coach, talked with singer/song writer Pamela Machala about what she wanted to work on during their session in Minneapolis Min., wednesday, June 19, 2013. ] (KYNDELL HARKNESS/STAR TRIBUNE) kyndell.harkness@startribune.com

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