It’s a new year, and the Knight-Thompson Speechwork Blog is getting some updates as well!
Certified Teachers Jeremy Sortore and Tyler Seiple have stepped up to become Co-Editors of the KTS Blog. We’re excited to mobilize this forum to build stronger connections within the KTS community while also reaching out to performers, teachers, and speech enthusiasts in the world at large.
You can find our bios on the “Teachers” page (soon), but we wanted to introduce ourselves a bit more informally in this, our first joint post. We asked each other some questions, probing at the nature of Knight-Thompson Speechwork and our relationship to it. We then chose some our favorite responses to introduce ourselves and some of the topics we’d like to explore in the blog over the coming months.
JEREMY: So, to start off on a serious note, if you were an IPA symbol, which one would you be?
TYLER: I would be the eth symbol (/ð/). I admire its steadfastness in the face of frequent confusion, its ubiquity in English despite its frequent misapprehension, its long history and unique global profile. It also looks awfully darn cute.
What’s your favorite articulator and why?
JEREMY: I think the uvula wins the prize (okay, I usually think of it as a point of articulation rather than an articulator, but…) It’s fun to say. It means “little grape.” It’s prominently featured in Peanuts cartoons. What’s not to love? Incidentally, I recently discovered that I am unable to produce a uvular trill while upside down. I had never considered the effects of gravity on articulation, but now I wonder– could it be harder to talk in space?
What’s the most embarrassing coaching or performing experience you’re comfortable sharing with us?
TYLER: I think I’ll always remember my first big oboe solo in high school as one of the more influential examples of technical proficiency meeting performance anxiety. I had a prominent solo in an instrumental version of Orff’s Carmina Burana, and I had been practicing in class and in private lessons for weeks. I wasn’t destined to play in the London Philharmonic, but I felt no small degree of excitement and confidence in my first major solo. During the concert, as the Orff suite began, I felt the first tremors of anxiety. By the time my solo arrived, my embouchure — which, on the oboe, is a muscular activity essential to not only vibrating the reed but also to maintaining its pitch and tone — had completely given out. I was too anxious, physically, to keep my lips pursed together. The result was a rather embarrassing series of false starts as my poor conductor reassuringly, mid-baton-waves, tried to encourage me through awkward silences and missed cues. It was probably in that performance that I realized that the physicality of performance (of any sort) is not some magical, indivisible experience; it’s not a whole-cloth, “you’ve-got-it-or-you-don’t” inspiration, because I did have it, only the day before! Where had it gone?! The lesson I needed to learn at that time (and which took years thereafter to even perceive) was: Whether in the production of breath-driven music or accent-infused performance, technical mastery is only one part of a dynamic and ever-changing whole. Attention must be paid to not only the physical skill but also to the mental framing, the emotional confidence, and the spiritual integrity of the artist. I’m extrapolating much of this insight from a now-distant high school trauma, but that embarrassment still seems to come up whenever I reflect on my journey as an artist and how I’ve changed since I formed my earliest assumptions about performance.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from Knight-Thompson Speechwork?
JEREMY: We talked a lot about the “monkey” and the “robot” in our certification. And while there are limitations to that idea, I find myself more aware than ever about the importance of exploring my own boundaries and discomforts for the sake of my students. For me, that means allowing myself– even pushing myself– to be extravagant and unabashed in my use of imagery– more “monkey-like” in my teaching. That’s something I railed against for a long time, having decided early on that voice and speech pedagogy was full of charlatans and know-nothings who peddle their own subjective sensations as truth without any facts to back them up! (There’s some of that latent extravagance!) So I spent a long time getting my facts straight and feeling good about myself for not peddling nonsense (mostly.) And now the pendulum swings the other way– for the past several years, I have become increasingly aware of the need for play and delight in the classroom. Imagery, used with skill and kindness, is a powerful tool. KTS has encouraged me to bring more monkey into the room, without shaming my robot.
These first questions got us pretty excited to know more and opened up a bunch of follow-up questions that, in the interest of concision, we couldn’t include in this first post. So while we have to cut this first exploration short, we’ll post a few of our subsequent explorations next week.
However, we also look forward to opening up these conversations to larger and larger audiences. We hope to post at least twice a month, with some posts exploring a given topic from one perspective, some posts opening up our editorial dialogue for the wider KTS community, and some posts engaging members of that KTS community directly, through guest contributions and conversations.
Please, leave a comment below to let us know what you look forward to in this blog, what you’d like us to explore, and what you hope to gain from being a totally tuned-in member of the KTS community.
We look forward to continuing this journey with you.