Jean McClelland
Voice, Breathing and the Alexander Technique

My History

My teaching comes directly from my own journey. It has been a journey of exploration and discovery, and I feel so fortunate to have had such excellent teachers and guidance along the way.

One of the great blessings of my life happened right after I graduated from college when I was led to Mme. Olga Averino at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Olga was recognized as an extraordinary artist and teacher, and her demands on her students for complete vocal honesty, no matter what their aspirations, were legendary. Olga’s great gift to her students was her understanding of impulse. In her book, “Principles and Art of Singing,” Olga describes this as “subtle, elusive, and all-powerful energy.” Olga taught that we sing “on impulse.” This was amazing to me. Although at the time I found it hard to grasp on an intellectual level, I knew that the more I emotionally connected to the life of the music the freer I became. Olga’s teaching has never ceased to inspire me and the truth of what she taught has never left me.

It was also at this time that I was introduced to the Alexander Technique. A friend of mine at Longy was advised by her voice teacher to take lessons to help her with vocal tension. I had never heard of the Alexander Technique and in fact, at that time, there was only one certified teacher in the area. Nonetheless, I was intrigued and started taking lessons. Little did I know how profoundly it would transform my life. When I started lessons I had no idea what would happen. I vaguely knew that it had something to do with posture, and, indeed, my posture did change dramatically. But for me, there was also a wholly unexpected sea change in my personality in terms of openness and spontaneity. Perhaps it seemed so incredible because it was so unexpected, and something in me knew that someday I wanted to be able to guide others in this gentle but powerful way of “opening.”

Another great influence on my life, my singing, and my teaching was Carl Stough and his Institute for Breathing Coordination. Carl’s discovery, which he termed “breathing coordination,” revealed that the correct use of the muscles of respiration affects every major system of the body. His students ranged from prominent Metropolitan Opera singers to patients with intractable respiratory illness. Every one of us who studied with him came away physically and mentally renewed.

Throughout all my study and searching, all my teaching, and all my performing, I have come to understand that everything that helps us sing and move freely and spontaneously is already in us. We only need to learn how to open to it and bring it to consciousness. On the most basic level it could be called our coordination, or to use Olga’s term: “impulse.” It is the most deeply creative part of ourselves that “sings us.”


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