Brett Walker

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Affiliation: McGill University
Presentation: Interest Session
Title: Teaching the Transgender Singing Voice
Abstract: With the change in social conventions, more people in the LGBTQ community have been able to come out and live an authentic life. The Transgender community face a set of challenges that no other member of the LGBTQ community face. That is undergoing Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) in order to claim a physical appearance which properly reflects their gender identity. As vocal educators, and choral conductors we have taken great strides to ensure they acceptance of all people in our musical spaces. However our trans singers need guidance when it comes to reclaiming their voice.

New literature has begun to emerge giving some form of guidance to educators on how to approach teaching the transgender singing voice but unfortunately there is a divide in what should be done. Conceptualizing the transitioning process as a form of puberty can be a term that helps the vocal teacher in their approach to the voice, but this can cause issues in teaching methods. Voice teachers, like Loraine Sims, and trans singers, such as Joshua Palkki and Alexandros Constansis, have written about the Transgender Vocal Journey and how they navigated the voice during the transition. The most unfounded teaching method is to allow the student to resume vocal lessons post HRT once the voice has settled. Much like a teenage boy telling a person to remove themselves for their creative and social activities is unhealthy for the voice and unhealthy for the social and mental wellbeing of the singer.  

Along with vocal techniques we must educate ourselves on the how HRT affects our tans students and their voice, how we can help them navigate and reclaim their voice to match their gender identity, and we must adapt and ensure that our private lessons, and rehearsal spaces reflect the inclusive nature of our modern society.

Biography: Brett Walker, is a recent graduate of the performance program at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. There he studied alongside William Dean Jobin-Bevans the Dean of humanities. Since then he has become a graduate student at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec. He works as a student conductor with the McGill Concert choir and spends his summers as Musical Director of a musical theatre camp in Ontario. Having studied a wide array of music styles, his central interests have shifted towards contemporary choral music and issues of representation of the LGBT community in musical repertoire.