Master of Music from North Park University
Onella started singing at a young age, and loves performing Baroque music, opera and jazz around Chicago and her hometown in Sri Lanka. She loves teaching and believes an enthusiastic and encouraging music environment helps build confidence and progress. Students looking for a playful, goal-oriented, and supportive environment thrive in her studio.
Onella works with both singers and speakers in gender-affirming voice care. She also teaches a section of our One Weird Trick Live student course.
Why do you sing?
I sing because it makes me unbelievably happy and it gives me peace. Singing has always been a big part of my life; it helped me grow out of my shell as a child, and even as an adult I find a lot of joy and release in singing.
How do you practice?
I like to first set goals for the practice session. I find it really helps me to stay focused, and stating my main goals for the lesson gives me something to constantly circle back to. Then I warm up my voice with some vocalizes. I believe efficiency is key, so I spend about 5 mins on vocalizes that cover my entire range.
Then I go down my to do list of techniques and repertoire I need to practice and get into my body. I am a strong believer in shorter high-energy focus practice sessions than longer ones which could lead to vocal fatigue. I teach this to my students by having them break up their practice session into three/four blocks of time. Each block of time focussing on different concepts and techniques such as breath, articulation, body mapping, pitch.
Why do you teach?
My goal is to help students love their voice. Because singing has given me so much joy, I love sharing that joy with my students and I consider it an honor to embark on the experience together.
What is your favorite teaching tool?
Mirrors! A mirror tells us so many things about what our body is doing during singing and speaking. I also love using imagery to find creative ways to connect to the voice. The image of an anchor or roots of a tree can help to ground you, the feeling of pulling taffy helps develop smooth vocal lines, and my personal favorite is pretending to sit on a magic carpet to help with buoyancy and connectivity in the breath.
What do you do in a first lesson with a student?
The first lesson is very much about getting to know the student, their voice and their voice history. It helps me shape lessons to fit their needs, set goals for my students and plan out the best way to help guide them to achieving it. I also have the student set big overarching and smaller goals for their musical or transitional journey. We then get to work picking repertoire, singing and/ or working on some One Weird Trick exercises.
How do you describe your lessons?
A lot of fun, filled with laughter and encouraging students to push themselves. I also like to use imagery like the 'anchor'/ 'roots of a tree' to help with grounding oneself, 'pulling taffy' for smooth and fluidity in singing long lines, and my favorite is the 'sitting on a flying carpet' like a character from Alladin which covers concept of singing on the breath. All of these imagery introduce/ secure techniques and work a lot on raising awareness in one’s voice and body. The aim of this is so that students can better execute singing a particular phrase or even a whole song with healthy technique all still while keeping things fun!