A FEW WORDS WITH STEVIE RICKARD
Finding Stevie Rickard was one of the best things about 2015. We had been looking for a voice and dialect coach ever since the studio began as we could really see a need for specific accent and voice training. Luci spent a lot of time researching and investigating but never felt that she had found the right person. Either they were too expensive or too busy or she just didn't get the feeling that they would work. Then one day last summer, a friend popped round for a drink to her house and brought a friend with her. And it turned out that he was exactly who she had been looking for all this time. One of the best voice coaches in the UK but with an understanding of Spanish and Catalan actors' needs. So she kept pouring the wine until he agreed to come and give classes at Frank Stein Studio.
How did you decide to become a voice coach?
I did a 1st degree in Drama & English, then trained and worked as an actor, then taught drama students (focusing on scene study and improvisation), then qualified and worked as a teacher of English as a foreign language, then worked as a communications trainer and consultant in the UK charity sector. Eventually I realised that I needed to get back to working in the drama field somehow, and becoming a voice coach seemed to be a way of putting all those experiences and skills together.
What specific training or studies to do you have to do to become a coach?
Possibly none. But, like most voice coaches, I have a qualification. Mine is an MA (Master's) degree in Voice Studies from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, which is probably the foremost qualification for voice teachers. To work with actors, I think you also need to have an understanding and appreciation of what actors do - how they have to make sense of text, is an obvious example - so many voice teachers have also been, or still are, performers.
What do you think is most challenging for a Spanish or Catalan actor who wants to work in English?
Well, a core issue is the lack of direct spelling-to-sound relationship in English. So, in all of these words the letter 'A' is pronounced as different sounds (in the standard non-regional English accent at least): path, sat, many, warn, wash, allow, same, peace. And the sounds are nearly all different in an American accent too.This can be hugely problematic for speakers of other languages where a letter tends to have only one (or a few) pronunciations - and in whose language some of those sounds for 'A', for example, just don't exist.
What would be the one piece of advice that you would give to an actor who wants to have a perfect English or American Accent?
Accept that it will require a lot of hard work, submit to that work but break it into manageable chunks so it doesn't become overwhelming. That's maybe three pieces of advice!
What's the funniest thing that has ever happened to you during a voice class?
I can't really think of one incident in particular. The work can be lots of fun, especially if learners aren't too self-conscious about making mistakes. Inevitably there are loads of misunderstandings due
to pronunciation differences. Probably the most memorable moment for me was when I was being coached on my pronunciation when I was first learning Spanish in Mexico; I could not grasp the difference between 'años' and 'anos', which caused lots of laughter.