I was saddened to hear recently that Jo Estill, who created The Estill Voice Model, had died a few weeks before Christmas. Fortunately, she had lived a relatively long- and full life- leaving us at the age of 89. Her life is one marked by significant achievements, both as a professional performer and in the later stage of her life; as a contributor, researcher and educator of voice science and technique.
Many actors, singers and professional voice users may be familiar with the Estill Voice System (13 Compulsory Figures for voice and 6 voice qualities), through attending Estill Workshops. No doubt, many have also been indirectly influenced by Jo through their own teachers, who may teach/ have taught many of her techniques- without even knowing the true origins of those techniques.
Jo Estill was born in 1921 in Pennsylvania, USA and began singing from a very young age. As an adult she had a successful career as an Opera singer in America and also toured throughout Europe. Despite her level of vocal proficiency and all the lessons she had received, she was aware that none of her teachers had ever TRULY explained to her how the voice worked, thus she was unaware of how she was actually able to make the sounds that she did. Even more importantly; she was unaware of how to fix things when her voice wasn’t working. It has been quoted that she often said to herself “how am I doing this?” and that it was this fundamental question that led her to leave behind her performance career and go back into education to undertake an MA in Music Education to uncover the answers. Much of the information obtained from the research conducted during her MA (and subsequent years of research) paved the way for the Estill Voice Model.
It was with Jo’s passing that I realised just how grateful I feel towards her efforts and her dedication to uncover the answers to the questions that she- and so many other singers have asked. I also feel immense gratitude for her generosity of knowledge and the fact that she has shared this information with others. I have found the Estill model excellent for obtaining real and tangible vocal results as opposed to many other teaching methods that I have also been exposed to that have no grounding in scientific facts or reality and consequently… results are elusive. Knowledge is power. The more you know about your voice and how it works the more likely you are able to improve and be able to make adjustments or fix things yourself (when having problems), without needing the constant assistance of a teacher. The Estill technique has given me that.
I feel that without Jo Estill many singers would not be where they are today; many would have not reached their true potential and there would still be an abundance of teachers teaching damaging vocal techniques or blaming their students for a lack of talent because they do not know how the voice functions or how to teach. Her discoveries and her training system have revolutionized the teaching of the voice and peoples understanding of how the voice functions.
So… thank you Jo!
I would encourage anyone if they are interested in developing their vocal ability and their knowledge and awareness about the voice to do an Estill course. You can find more information about Estill courses below.