Master of Arts in Music Composition from Wesleyan University
Leslie Allison is an interdisciplinary composer working in music/sound, language, movement, and textiles. She graduated from the Wesleyan University Music Masters program with a specialty in composition. In addition to western classical and popular song, she has studied extended vocal technique with National Medal of Arts winner Meredith Monk and her ensemble, and trained for two years in Carnatic (South Indian Classical) vocal technique. Alongside her working methodology somatic composition, she has developed a pedagogy called somatic singing, an embodied approach to vocal expression that is applicable across genre and experience level. She has taught somatic singing in private lessons, group workshops, and choral settings, and has worked regularly with trans/gender-non-conforming voices. Her live and recorded compositions have appeared in plays (New York Theatre Workshop, The Brick, HERE Arts), dance performances (New York Live Arts), art films (The Kitchen, Tang Museum, LACMA), and a podcast (prod. by The New School).
When did you join The Voice Lab?
Why do you sing?
As a queer artist, I sing to connect with forgotten voices of the past, ground with queer community in the present, and catalyze change for the future. As someone who experiences chronic pain, singing is also a form of healing for me - I sing to relax my muscles and nervous system, develop body awareness, process emotions, create positive sensations.
Why do you teach other people to sing?
Because it is all of our birthrights to sing! A great teacher and music therapist told me that years ago, and I think about it as my duty to help people access their birthright.
How do you practice?
I love practicing along to my old lesson recordings from past voice teachers - I learn new things about my voice and their pedagogy every time.
How do you describe your lessons?
- 1/3 grounding in the body, meditations, visualizations, breathing work
- 1/3 warm-up exercises at the piano focusing on range extension, balance, agility, etc.
- 1/3 performance and repertoire practice, exploring vocal styles, composition and improvisation
What makes your teaching style unique?
My emphasis is somatic, which means I focus on building a deeper awareness of how singing feels. With awareness, it becomes possible to make adjustments and choices about how your voice sounds to you. I see the instrument of singing as the entire body, not only the muscles of the voice, so I consider the singer and sound production holistically. In addition to the teaching styles I adapted from my voice teachers, my methodology has emerged out of experiences making collaborative music, movement, and theater. My teaching practice is also influenced by my parallel healthcare journey with physical therapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine (qigong).
Define a pivotal moment from your musical development that has helped you get here.
In New York in 2015-2016, I composed choral songs for a stunning and tragic play by Francis Weiss Rabkin called Won't Be A Ghost (2016), which was a kind of ode to Chelsea Manning and Magnus Hirschfeld - two queer heroes vilified by their governments. I formed a largely queer and trans group of mixed experience singers to collaborate with. Over the course of rehearsals and one-on-one lessons with these badass singers, I felt more emotionally, creatively, and socially fulfilled than I ever had before. I saw what a needed resource it was for people to have a safe place to sing, and realized I needed to spend my life working on providing that.