I am blessed to know many incredible women. One of those women is Sarah Hopen, Chief Administrator of STAR Company: the Society of Technicians for Administrative Removal. STAR Company is in the business of taking care of the book-keeping, filing, and organizing of creative people so that creative people can…well…create.
Thanks for that, Sarah.
And thanks for this: STAR Company profiles an artist in each newsletter, and this month, I got to be interviewed! With Sarah’s permission, I’m reposting the interview here, but if you want to see it in its original setting, go for it.
Oh, and STAR Company runs the Starry Nights house concert series, which raises funds for Toronto’s Art Starts–a really excellent organization promoting arts-based community development in Toronto. Starry Nights premiered Jen’s and my Undone Cabaret in May, which has opened up a bunch of new, exciting opportunities for us.
So yeah. Thanks, STAR Company.
Share a little bit about your approach to voice work. How did you come to be where you are today?
[Deanna Yerichuk] It’s been a long road, and there’s no end in sight. Fortunately, I’ve learned that it really is all about the journey and not the destination. My first voice teacher was Alice Wright in Edmonton, and I started studying with her when I was 17. Alice was the first person to get me to see beauty in myself. She knocked down all sorts of arbitrary walls and defenses I’d set for myself and introduced me to a whole new level of risk-taking: I found out that doing things that scared me tended to open up really interesting possibilities. I took a diploma program in music theatre (from Grant MacEwan in Edmonton if anyone is curious). I still have a soft spot for music theatre, even though I haven’t acted in years. When I moved to Toronto, I was introduced to folk music (yes, replete with guitar), world musics, and choral singing, all of which suits my desire to collaborate and discover and explore sounds outside of my comfort range. I now study with Fides Krucker who is incredible. From Fides, I’ve learned not only that it’s ok to make un-beautiful sounds, but in fact these wild and unbeautiful sounds can be immensely satisfying for both performer and audience. She has also taught me that learning how to sing is all about engaging opposites: technical precision with body and emotional intuition; mental acuity with body knowledge; learning to control with learning to let go. I’m finding singing and performing more exciting, more satisfying as I approach it less with judgment and more with curiosity. So now I perform solo and with groups and choirs, and I teach singing out of my east end studio. Oh, I also have 2 boys, which is surprisingly excellent training in creativity, curiosity, and gaining/losing control.
You are not only a vocal performer and teacher but also a researcher. Where do these experiences overlap for you? What is your area of interest right now?
[Deanna Yerichuk] Whew, that’s a tough question. These areas all overlap in sticky, tangled, complicated ways. For me, what it all finally comes down to is the human voice and its capacity to express itself. I’ve been curious for years about adults singing and reclaiming their voices: how many adults don’t sing because someone somewhere along the line told them they couldn’t. Or shouldn’t. And how finding and reclaiming their singing voices becomes a transformative experience, often also leading to finding a spiritual voice, an emotional voice, a political voice, an embodied and connected voice. I’m particularly curious to find out how singing in community changes us personally and in our communities. How has Westernized perfection of singing colonized our voices and how can we decolonize and reclaim or find our songs, our sounds, our souls? And can I ask all of these questions without losing sight of the fact that singing often brings immense joy and pleasure?
What is your absolute greatest pleasure as a singer?
[Deanna Yerichuk] There’s this…I don’t know…I think of it as the sweet spot. The moment in performance when the technician in my brain stops nattering at me, and my ego falls away. The past falls away. The future falls away. There is only now. This moment. My body, my heart and my voice all line up in one conduit of musical experience between me and the audience. I’m no longer performing…I’m…singing. This is, hands down, the most gratifying moment. So far, they’ve only come in fits and starts, but I’d like to stretch them, like toffee, throughout my performance and my practice. The sweet spot is rather elusive. I can’t hunt for it. I just have to do my work as a singer, and sink in.
Do you have any upcoming performances or workshops?
[Deanna Yerichuk] I have both! I will be performing with Jen Cook in the Undone Cabaret on August 27 and 28 in east Toronto. It’s a semi-staged house concert with Tania Gill on piano and Chris Banks on bass. We did the show is the West End in May to wonderful response, so we’re looking forward to remounting the show in a different setting. I’m also teaching a couple of classes this summer: a class that focuses on foundations of singing (starting with breathwork) and a new class called “Solo Salon” in which participants work on a solo piece with me and an accompanist over 6 weeks, and the participants perform their solos in an evening salon at my east end studio. It should be fun! If anyone wants more info, they can check out my web site at www.yerichuk.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is playing on your iPod right now?
[Deanna Yerichuk] my tastes have been largely influenced by CBC radio 2 and WFUV in New York lately: Meaghan Smith, Regina Specktor, K’Naan, the Decemberists, the Avett Brothers. Much to the surprise of my inner teenager I’m loving more country, especially Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. Tom Waits often makes an appearance, along with Leonard Cohen.