When Diane Robinson became a certified Fitzmaurice Voicework teacher in 2010, she decided to take that knowledge and start the Chicago Voice Center ( CVC ).
Shortly after getting her certificate, Robinson began teaching at Cal State Long Beach, where actress and activist Alexandra Billings was also a teacher. She also participated in a workshop with United Kingdom transgender actress and voice coach Rebecca Root during that time.
"I became inspired to work with the transgender and gender non-binary community, and as I reached out I found that what I had to offer was valued and needed," said Robinson. "I am working to make CVC a true center for voice in Chicago, offering lessons and workshops in person and online, as well as presenting performances and bringing in master teachers from around the world. I want to offer the best in voice and speech training to anyone who wants to improve their ability to express themselves. It is a crucial time for voices to be heard, and to educate the world to hear all the different ways humanity expresses itself."
Founded in 2013, CVC provides "voice and communication training to transgender and non-binary people, businesses eager to retain talent by providing professional development and film, television and theater productions seeking accent and dialect coaching for actors," according to its website.
Robinson's expertise also includes her work as an actor, director and producer along with her coaching and teaching endeavors. She has a master's of fine arts in acting and studied Knight-Thompson speech training.
"The goal of my work is to help my clients re-establish a connection the voice and their body," said Robinson. "Some recent coaching credits include working on-set on Chicago Fire and with Blue Bird Arts, an English-Russian language theater company here in Chicago. I have taught in training programs around town, including at Second City and DePaul University, and I lead workshops with the Chicago Sinfonietta and Rush Medical Center students. My most recent acting role was this year in the Piven Theater's production of a new play by Chicago playwright M.T. Cozzola."
Robinson completed the Transgender Voice and Communication Training for Voice Clinicians at Roosevelt University in 2015. She said it was such a good experience that she attended again in 2016. Robinson has continued her education at Northwestern's Center for Audiology, Speech, Language and Learning, where she attended their transgender voice training classes this past spring. She said one of the most valuable things the training provides is bringing professional voice clinicians and singing and theater voice trainers together to share information and their best practices.
"In the last year, I have lead voice workshops at the Transgender Voices Festival in St. Paul, the Transgender Singing Conference at Earlham College and at the Creative Bodies Creative Minds festival in Austria," said Robinson. "I am an active member of the Gender Spectrum Voice and Communication Trainer's Facebook group, and recently hosted one of their roundtable presentations on incorporating theater voice training methods into working with transgender clients."
Clients Cynthia ( who requested that only her first name be used ), Alessandra Pereyra and Josie Sanfordino praised their instructor.
"As an older trans woman, I was self-conscious about my voice," said Cynthia. "After working with Diane for only two months, I learned how to make my voice sound feminine, which gave me the confidence to go out freely."
"Working with Diane and CVC quickly became one of the highlights of my week," said Pereyra. "Something that could have easily become a jarring and awkward exercise, was not only far from it, but instead, a fun experience and a safe, trusting environment to share, learn, experiment and grow. After some months, I not only got back the confidence I had partially lost at the beginning; I also get to learn more about myself, what it meant to cherish and discover my own voice, and how to develop the tools that helped me in a daily basis through the continual interactions with other people."
"CVC has been inspirational because Diane sees the human being in all of us," said Sanfordino. "Diane directed me to the Irving Goffman book, 'The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.' The single takeaway I have gotten from the book is that we have different faces we show depending on the context we are in. I see there is a relationship between acting as if and being the person we are inside. This is the proverbial 'fake it till you make it' paradigm.
"I had not thought of that again until I started to read Goffman. I saw how Diane's acting knowledge pushes the envelope to have us experience different contexts and we get to see ourselves in an exploratory mode. Exploring is how we are in a place of possibility. Possibility thinking is essential to generate a full life. What she has taught me is invaluable and intriguing to me and the people I am privileged to work with."
Robinson explained that her classes and workshops are full of great information, including voice exercises, voice practice routines and learning about the latest voice apps and best ways to use them.
"My clients have told me they think I am a great listener who is very funny and nice with one client making me feel great by saying, 'You really care'," said Robinson. "I have lesson times available at various times of day every day of the week, and I can be reached at email@example.com ."
See chicagovoicecenter.com for more information.