did your unique vocal technique come about? What is your story
and can you tell us about the discoveries you made along the
As earliest as I can remember, I
wanted to study singing. At the age of 13, I was finally able
to convince my parents to allow me to start taking voice
lessons. Over the course of the journey to develop the Marla
Volovna Vocal Studio Method, I discovered that my parents like
so many others, lacked the knowledge to choose a good teacher.
I began with a
local voice teacher who was a
soprano. She had a good reputation in the small suburb where I
grew up. As a high soprano she vocalized me in her own voice
range, which again, was quite high.
As a thirteen year old, the strain of singing to the extremities
of my register with no support (as she taught nothing about how
to use the breath) negatively affected my voice, leaving me with
a permanent sore throat for about a year. The teacher that
followed was also well intended, though did nothing to help me.
Then I received a
scholarship to the New England Conservatory in Boston. There I
studied with a Yugoslavian teacher,
Lav Verbanic, who had one piece of the
had the “deep
Larynx” technique, with no breath support behind it, however, so
I began to press the larynx down and ended up with my voice in
During the summer, I studied on
scholarship in Aspen with Olga Ryss and other teachers from
Julliard. All of them taught either what I call the “forward”
or the “back” technique, but there was little mention about
proper use of breath support and no exercises for its
development. After three years at the conservatory and one year
in New York, with Olga Ryss, I received another
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scholarship. This time I was
going to Europe, to study at the Mozarteum in Salzberg.
Unfortunately, I received more of the same sort of teaching
there. Although my powerful voice was still beautiful and
impressive (I was even chosen to do a small part in the famous
Salzburg Festival, Frau Ohne Shatten, by Strauss, with
famous artists such as Walter Berry Christa Ludwig, James
King) the effect of singing with no diaphragmatic support for
so many years had begun to take its toll on my vocal
instrument and defects of all sorts crept into my singing.
How did you find remnants of the
It was here that I studied
with the world-renowned teachers: Campo Gagliani, Luigi Ricci,
Sarah Corti, Valdamiro Badiali and Maestro Tonini, vocal
coach. Finding these living remnants of the bel canto
style greatly improved my vocal technique and understanding,
and helped me launch an operatic career of my own.
These fine teachers were able
to develop voices that had not been mal treated. They were,
however, unable to correct serious faults. Most good voice
teachers are capable only of developing a voice that has not
been maltreated, a voice that is still virgin territory.