Head of Professional Voice Studies Carol Fairlamb with a vocal anatomy prop

Professional Voice Studies Blogging – Entry 1

Published on:
24th October 2019

We’re pleased to bring you a series of blogs from Bertie Newbery, one of our students studying for an MfA in Professional Voice Studies. In this series, Bertie will reflect on her time as a student at the School. This relatively new course is one with all sorts of material to cover from accents and dialects to vocal anatomy.

We’ll let Bertie tell you more!


Bertie’s Blog, October 2019

The posters on a classroom wall are usually a pretty good indicator of what subject is taught in there. But when I look at the posters on my classroom wall at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, I wonder what most people would make of them. As you walk in to the room, you immediately see two posters showing the muscles in the body.  Easy, you might think, it must be biology, something anatomy-related. Except, just below that is a timeline of  Shakespeare’s plays. There’s a little puzzle for you.

Well the answer is ‘voice’, or more exactly a Master of Fine Art (MfA) in Professional Voice Studies. A perfect mix of art and science, the course has me lying on the floor, learning to breath, one minute, and studying the extrinsic muscles of the larynx the next. The first class this morning was about sound waves and voice resonance, and in the next, we explored how an actor might deliver Lady Macbeth’s most famous monologue, taking cues from the text.

I’ve spent the last 20 years being a journalist, writing on a huge number of subjects. So, before I embarked on the course, I worried that I might find the Professional Voice course ‘limited’ in scope. I was wrong. In fact, my brain buzzes as I make strange and unexpected connections, my left and right hemispheres both lit up, it feels, by the varied demands of the timetable.

The varied lessons offer a little sneak preview of the many career paths I could follow after the four-term course. One day, I think I’ll go down the ‘reading audiobooks’ route. The next I hope to teach ‘voice’ at a drama school. Sometimes I think I’d prefer corporate work, helping the suited and booted with their public speaking skills, or I lean towards dialects, and the fun of teaching accents to actors. The course is preparing me for all of them. Perhaps, like many voice coaches, I’ll do a mixture. But I’m getting ahead of myself. There are still three terms to go before I walk out with a load of detailed knowledge, and a lovely voice, all ready to be put to use.


I’m constantly delighted by the talent, commitment and drive of our students. Their curiosity and joy in the work gives us all energy and keeps me on my toes! My goal is to ensure that their voices serve their acting - both in theatre and recorded media. They need to be able to project, learn accents, respond to a wide variety of texts and have a voice that is healthy and be able to sustain long tours and tough filming schedules. This involves them working extremely hard – but having fun as well. When the new students see the final year students in production for the first time I know they’ll come into class the next day fully understanding the high standard they’re working to achieve. Carol Fairlamb, Head of Voice