Heather Maîr Thomas
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Singer, teacher, voice artist, coach
I come from Newlyn, in Cornwall, from an eclectic, musical family. I studied for 5 years at two leading UK conservatoires and became a Fellow and Licentiate of Trinity College of Music in 1992.
I had a varied performing upbringing involving methodist chapel, the Minack Theatre, Truro Cathedral, Duchy Opera, G & S, jazz, pop and punk bands, as well as theatre, public speaking and performing monologues.
I was raised in a world where people sang. At home, at school, in chapel, in the pub, at parties, on the way home... People would "strike up" in four part harmony - people knew the parts - and if they didn't they made them up!
I took singing for granted.
I have always been drawn to eclectic styles of music and have still love singing folk, jazz, pop, showtunes and world music as much as classical.
When I gained a place to study at Guildhall School of Music & Drama my family were very proud. However, in those days it was frowned upon to sing anything other than "proper" singing. This was before the jazz course was introduced to the conservatoire, and my eclectic tastes remained something of a guilty secret. Indeed, first year students were not permitted to sing in public at all, which I found very difficult.
But I followed my instincts and started session singing and acting. One of my early highlights was singing backing vocals for Gang of Four on The Old Grey Whistle Test (video below) and appearing in Dr Who (not a great artistic accomplishment, but it gives me kudos!)
After a while working in the music industry, in bands and making records I returned to conservatoire (Trinity College of Music - now Trinity Laban in Greenwich) and spent 4 wonderful years training full time with my inspirational teacher, tenor John Wakefield.
My singing studies included opera, German lieder, French song, English song and choral music. Performance and academic studies included movement, dance, Dalcroze eurythmics, music history, composition, sight singing, keyboard, and stylistic perception, song classes, masterclasses and competitions as well as languages, French, Italian and German.
Despite all my training, I have always retained my natural ability to sing crossover with the appropriate vocal sound.
In 1992 Dame Cleo Laine and John Dankworth recognised my ability to vocally "cross-pollinate" musical genres and awarded me the "Allmusician of the Year" award at The Stables, Wavendon.
That launched my vocal career in many directions and I love how diverse my musical world can be!
My personal taste in music and my eclectic work as a performer and teacher takes me in all creative and musical directions, from commercial studio session work and songwriting to opera, jazz, folk - particularly Cornish music - and contemporary music styles as well as the world of acting, voiceover and directing/producing theatre and radio plays.
I believe in everyone's right to sing without uninvited judgement or criticism. I have also learned that we all have our own relationship with our voice, which can be influenced by many different factors, physical, emotional and by what we believe to be true about ourselves. My teaching takes this all into account.
Some people have an effortless access to their singing voice and "just sing", whereas others experience it differently. Indeed most people have no reason to explore their voice at all - but, whatever your reason it can be a fulfilling journey on many levels.
Alongside my performing, I have been teaching singing and technique since 1992 in private practise in London. Teaching supports my own vocal health, making me focus on technique and finding ways to examine and keep developing my process.
My clients have included:
David Tennant, Andy Bell, Dori Sakurada, Sarah Blackwood, Matt Willis, Rosie Millard, Justin Lee Collins, Kimberley Stewart, Sathnam Sanghera and Mark Nevin.
I am particularly interested in the relationship between creative self-expression, relaxation and mental/spiritual and physical well-being. I believe in our innate ability to sing, whatever we may have been led to believe.
My conservatoire singing training was in the Bel Canto style, and in my personal exploration of singing across genres and learning styles, I adapted this, integrated aspects of other vocal methods, created my own exercises and developed a "Simplified Singing Technique" - an accessible, person-centred holistic approach to singing with your own voice.
My voice training method is designed to be accessible to all levels and styles of singer, promoting vocal health, controlled relaxation and wellbeing.
...my first job as a session singer in 1982!
Old Grey Whistle Test
Early on in my teaching career I was inspired by one of my clients, an adult beginner whose journey from severe depression to restored mental health was supported by her pursuit of "freeing" her singing voice.
It was the first time I had been a part of such a rewarding journey. It prompted me to explore therapeutic avenues relating to the voice, to help me use vocal training in a more holistic way.
I trained and qualified in Life Coaching Skills and Practise from Newcastle College, and studied Clinical Hypnotherapy at The London College of Clinical Hypnosis.
I also trained at Art and Business in Arts Based Training.
I am a student of Creating the Impossible by mentor, Michael Neill.
I now include elements of these holistic skills, hypnotherapy and coaching in my voice training and coaching practice, as well as working with people on unlocking their creativity and balancing the elements of their life.
In 2006 I started my "Voice Club' groups in Crouch End. Initially led by my desire to hold a space for people to practice and develop healthy, relaxed and reliable singing technique, in good company.
At Voice club I am able to teach, direct and motivate people to relax and enjoy their voices in a non-judgemental group. I am led by the needs and preferences of the members, and my greatest desire is to help people find joy in their voices, going on to join choirs, sing solos, access their voice for the first time or whatever makes them happy.
Voice Club has grown to include Voice Club Singers, Coaching choir and 4 other weekly groups.
My ever popular "Relax & Sing" course for anxious adult beginners has been the springboard for so many people connecting with their voice for the first time, and making lifelong friends.
I now also run training online and am developing the Happy Voice Podcast!
Having experienced a number of bereavements in my life, starting with my only sibling, Claire, passing away when I was nine, I had also lost both my parents by the age of 30, before my first child was born.
I have always found great comfort in singing, and I am acutely aware of how connected our voice is to our inner emotional world. I have found that many people avoid this connection to themselves. Some fearing what it may uncover, avoiding feelings of pain and sadness or fear of losing control.
I was fortunate to participate in a beautiful show for BBC Radio 4, telling my story about singing and bereavement. Listen here
For the countless people who experience other anxieties and fears relating to the voice, this can be compounded and become debilitating.
I am committed to facilitating people's relationship with their voices. I believe that this relationship is our right, and its benefits are profoundly healing and restorative with wide-reaching benefits.
I challenge society's acceptance of what I call "voice-shaming," having seen, for over 30 years, the long lasting damage it can do to confidence and self-esteem.
You may not wish to be a professional singer, or even an amateur singer. Your goals may be as simple as to sing to your children or join in with "Happy Birthday to You".
Your voice is your voice, and nobody has the right to shut it down. It expresses who you are.
The Happy Voice Podcast is a project I am developing and is very close to my heart, in which guest and I explore people's relationship with their voice.
I invite you to join the conversation...