About Melissa

I have been teaching Voice and Movement since 1999 when I began as an Instructor of Record at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. My journey began while pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in Acting. I found the voice and speech classes, and some of the exercises being offered, challenging. It was through facing and overcoming those challenges that I gained my deepest gift as a teacher – I know what it is like to struggle to get my body to understand and integrate a new way of working. And I know many effective techniques to shift the struggle into an empowering journey towards success.

I went into a deep exploration of this work because I started having anxiety attacks. I was in a production of The Grapes of Wrath and it was opening night. I had my first anxiety attack while at work that day. Like most people experiencing that for the first time, I had no idea that was the problem. I thought something was medically wrong and went to the infirmary on campus. Luckily, the doctors quickly deduced what was going on and they recommended that I talk to one of the campus therapists right away. Every exercise she gave me to get through the performance that night was precisely what I was learning in Voice class. She explained to me that people have anxiety attacks because they forget to breathe. And that began my process of learning how to open up to myself, my voice, and to life.

During those first years, it became clear that I had to learn, embody, and integrate the work we were doing in voice and somatic-movement-1movement classes if I wanted to continue to pursue my love – acting. And I wasn’t willing to give that up. So, I dug in. As I learned, I shared with others. I was assigned to teach the Voice and Speech classes as an Instructor of Record while pursuing my Masters Degree. I loved it! As I shared and received feedback, it helped me learn more deeply! It was a symbiotic relationship. I had found my path to healing from anxiety, depression, and an inability to speak my truth.

Later, I began to explore Somatic Movement as a way to heal from PTSD and become comfortable with being fully present. I used to be very adept at looking like everything was alright when it was anything but. I was very good at having a “good voice” to the untrained ear and appearing confident. Luckily, I’ve had the best teachers. And I didn’t fool them. They have helped me and have done so with incredible compassion and honesty. Thanks to their excellent modeling, I now get to do the same with my own clients and students.

I find this work to be incredibly helpful in feeling like myself again, and in gaining my own power back. I, like many people, had learned just to survive in this world. I had learned to not speak my truth for fear of being abandoned or ridiculed. I have now learned how to speak truthfully, powerfully, relationally, and with compassion.

movement-1I started teaching Voice, Movement, and Speech (accents) at Texas State University – San Marcos in the Department of Theatre and Dance in August of 2002. I resigned from the tenured position and occasionally teach there, in that capacity, on a per-course basis. And I started my own private business in the summer of 2012, Austin Vocal Empowerment. I work with actors, yogis, Somatic Therapists, teachers of all subjects, and people looking to gain power in their voice and learn how to fully express their true self.

I’m skilled in Knight-Thompson Speechwork and have worked in TV and film, most notably as the Dialect Coach for the AMC series The Son, starring Pierce Brosnan. On that show I coached every accent and language that is spoken – it was an incredible challenge and an absolute delight! I have worked with stage actors, and people in business who need to acquire a new accent or sharpen their clarity of speech.

I’m not only a teacher of the work, I practice it. I’ve collaborated with dancers on productions that incorporate speaking into performance. I dance with a mixed ability improvisational group in Austin called BodyShift. I have performed as an actress in many productions and differing venues around the country including the Kennedy Center, Greensboro, North Carolina, and Austin, Texas. I have experience in voice over work and the skills I teach in speech work can help actors in that area, as well.

I’ve been teaching in the Austin area since 2002, have held workshops in Dallas, Mexico City, Utah, Colorado, Florida, and many other states in the United States. At the foundation of all of my classes, sessions, and workshops is the goal of getting the body and voice to be one.

I have continued training since graduating from UNCG. I was certified as an Associate Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework in August of 2004, have taken workshop intensives in Knight-Thompson Speechwork, and have been training in Body-Mind Centering since the summer of 2012 where I am pursuing my certification as a Somatic Movement Educator.

Some notable teachers I’ve worked with include: Catherine Fitzmaurice, Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen, Phil Thompson, Dudley Knight, Patsy Rodenburg, Nina Martin, Ralf Jaroschinski, Alicia Grayson, Margery Segal, Saul Kotzubei, Donna Snow, Lynne Innerst, David Howey, Joan Melton, and many more.

I have been a member of VASTA (Voice and Speech Trainer’s Association) since 2002 and am a former Secretary of the organization.