Childhood Influences on the Voice

Childhood Influences on the Voice

When parents ask me for advice on how to help a child who is reluctant to speak up in public, we end up having a laugh.   Every child has their own unique personality and will progress in their own sweet way if they are encouraged.  Sitting in an audience while your child is reciting a poem and mouthing the words “speak up” at them is not going to help. 
When we’re babies and say our first words and our guardian or parent goes into paroxysms of delight, then we get the message that it’s good to say words.  Encouragement increases confidence.  Once we get started and really communicate with words, we are finding our feet and our confidence, to speak out.
Some of our most notable speakers and actors started out as children sent to drama groups to help them overcome their shyness.  I think this is a good way forward.  Check out the drama group first.  We’ve got a South London Youth Theatre near to us and most towns will have similar youth groups. There are franchises like Stagecoach to train young people in theatre skills. I would always check out the franchisee and the manager and go to a couple of classes.   Some are excellent, some are not good.
Child actors becoming stars can make for a beautiful future, if they have the right coaching and support system around them.  They will, by law, need to be educated and that means having tutors on set or backstage.   They will also need licensed chaperones.  I was a licensed chaperone for a time when I left drama school because my then agent also had an acting school for children.  I had a lot of fun but also sadness when I witnessed how one child was ‘pushed’ by a parent. Encouragement is good but pressure, as I saw, can bring heartbreak.

Richard Madden started at PACE youth theatre to get rid of his shyness – and look at him now! 

Victoria Alsina, Laurel Sumberg, Heidi Williams and Sophia Goodman are all doing well, taking turns to play Matilda in the West End hit musical.