As a child I always loved music, and vocal music especially. Among my happiest memories were the times when my mother would put a Broadway musical recording on our big, old Victrola console in the living room (an antique even in those days!), and we would dance around to the songs. I also loved acting. I started studying seriously at a young age, and did some work as a professional child actress. When I was twelve I decided that I was a singer. It was an idea that just came to me out of the blue. I remember standing on the stairs in our home, and it was like a lightbulb went on in my head. Suddenly I simply “knew” that I was a singer.
The only problem was that I didn’t know how to sing. Being twelve, it never occurred to me for a moment that not knowing how to sing might make one reconsider the idea of being a singer. I decided that it must be possible to learn to sing, and I set off on what turned out to be a life-long journey to unlock and understand the process of singing.
That journey took many twists and turns, and fits and starts. In the process, I sang musical theater, rock, jazz, and eventually focused on classical music and opera. I even walked away from singing a couple of times – once to work as an agent’s assistant at Columbia Artists Management in New York City, and once for a good five years to work in fundraising and non-profit management.
Eventually I returned to singing and music, and decided to go back to school to get my Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Classical Vocal Performance at UCSB. I had already gotten my Bachelor’s degree in Professional Music from the Berklee College of Music in Boston a number of years before.
This new phase of my journey was part of a bigger life change. My husband and I had just adopted our beautiful daughter, Amanda. Less than two weeks after I arrived home from China with my daughter, my husband and I moved to Santa Barbara, where he had been hired as the first Music Director for the then fledgling Opera Santa Barbara. But there was another huge change yet to come.
I had completed the first year of my Master’s degree studies. I was singing professionally again, in concerts, recitals and opera, and my performing career was gaining momentum. Suddenly I was confronted with a diagnosis of thyroid cancer. I was terrified. The surgery to remove the tumors and the thyroid also carried a risk of vocal paralysis. I remember my last performance as the alto soloist in “The Messiah” at Royce Hall with the Angeles Chorale, just days before the surgery, and crying all the way home. My daughter was only 3 years old. I wondered what our future might be.
Thank God, the surgery was successful. I did not have vocal paralysis. But even though my vocal cords were undamaged, my singing voice was completely ruined by the surgery. Before the surgery, I would vocalize to “D” above high “C.” After the surgery I was unable to make any sound at all past “A” above middle “C.” No sound at all. And the sounds that I could make were hideous, scratchy, and completely unrecognizable from my voice before surgery. It was devastating.
I did not know how to get my voice back, but like the time when I was twelve, there was no question in my mind that I would do whatever it took to regain my voice, in every sense of the word. That journey of recovery took me four long years of working step by step and note by note to rehabilitate my voice and body. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I emerged from it having acquired a depth and specificity of knowledge about the mechanics of singing that few who have not experienced such difficulties could know.
In the process of regaining my voice, I learned precisely what allows the voice to be free, full and beautiful. Like someone who has lost the use of his or her legs, I had to learn how to sing all over again. During this rehabilitation process I discovered my passion for teaching. I found that I was able to use my hard-won knowledge to help singers who were experiencing their own vocal difficulties or limitations, and help them realize their full potential as singers. That ability to use what I went through to help others has proven to be the greatest joy of my professional life.
I am thrilled with every step forward that each of my students make, as we work together to achieve vocal mastery. For me, those successes are more joyful to me than any I’ve had as a performer. Those moments make me grateful for my own journey, as challenging as it was, because it gave me the ability to help others achieve their goals as singers and artists. I can’t imagine anything more satisfying.
I look forward to helping you on your journey to vocal beauty and freedom.
Dr. Victoria Hart, D.M.A.