This is one of those interviews that I wish I could share with sound effects. At various times in our conversation, vocal coach Letitia Lindeque wowed me with the capabilities of the human voice, pausing to explain a point with an impressively projected note or a climbing scale of “ahhhs.” When you work with Letitia, it’s clear you learn a lot more than how to improve your singing. She wants to help you find and understand your voice, and that has a far greater impact than just the way you sing a song.
Letitia has lived in Gizzy for two years, but she just recently returned to vocal coaching full-time, after working at the hospital in business administration. Music has always been a strong calling, and “once you’ve done something you love, you don’t get the same satisfaction from anything else.” She recently opened a cosy studio on Russell Street and is now taking clients at all stages on their musical journey, from professional singers to children just starting out. “I tell people I teach from ages 7-70!”
Hailing from South Africa, Letitia emigrated to New Zealand in 2011, and has lived in many places, including Auckland, Taranaki, and Dunedin. Growing up in a musical family, with a father who played guitar in a band and a mother who played the organ, she developed a musical ear early. She was choir leader and sang choir in high school and later performed with cover bands playing at restaurants and weddings. Letitia describes her voice as a naturally high soprano, but her dream was always to be able to belt like Whitney Houston.
When she met her husband in her late 30s, he encouraged her to record an album she had written, and in that process, she worked with a lot of different vocal coaches and singing teachers. Her experiences were wildly varied, and often downright bad, including a teacher who taught a technique that made her hoarse, and one who insisted on stepping on her stomach. “Nobody could teach me what I wanted - to sing the powerful belts like Whitney - but from them I at least learned how not to teach.”
Then about 13 years ago, she found a Bel Canto Opera teacher in South Africa who finally helped her to understand her voice, and inspired and encouraged her to become a vocal teacher. She gave Letitia the opportunity to study all her old singing books, some dating back to the 1960s, and Letitia was an eager student. “I continued studying the voice and will do so until I die as there is always more to learn. I am a perfectionist.” She keeps up to date with vocal pedagogy from teachers such as David Jones (Italian/Swedish Opera school of singing) and Karyn O’Connor (Contemporary Vocal Technique Instructor) and has adapted her studies into a contemporary vocal programme suitable for all voices.
Letitia describes herself as both a vocal coach and a vocal technique instructor. A vocal coach typically helps singers master their song-work for a short-term goal like an audition or performance. A vocal technique instructor focuses on vocal pedagogy, helping singers work through vocal problems to develop and improve the voice. Often singers that come to vocal coaching to master a song or singing style experience other issues which manifest in their singing and take time to be addressed. New techniques require repetition until they become "the normal way you sing." She also teaches healthy techniques to help strengthen and protect your vocals, much like a personal trainer for your voice.
Letitia emphasizes that singing is something anyone can learn, but it becomes easier once you understand how the voice works. “It’s like learning how to talk, you’re not born knowing how. Singing is something you can learn.” And it involves a lot more than just the sound of your voice. A lesson with Letitia could also include breathing, posture, and muscle memory instruction, which all have a huge impact on how a person sounds. You may be as shocked as I was to learn that everyone can sing like Whitney Houston. Letitia laughs, “you may not sound the same, and it may take years, but with proper training absolutely everyone can sing with the same skill level as her.”
She likens singing to baking a chocolate cake. There are numerous ingredients, and if there is too much of any one thing, or it’s not blended well, then that flavor will dominate and the cake won’t taste right. “9 times out of 10, if you’re unhappy with your voice, there’s just something out of balance, and that’s an easy fix.”
Letitia describes her approach as logical and analytical, but she also recognizes that the work involves emotional and psychological aspects too. Often her students are overcoming past trauma or struggling with a lack of confidence.
It can be more difficult when students have been traumatized by past criticism. As many times as Letitia has heard such stories, they still make her emotional. Her eyes tear up as she thinks about it. “People just stop singing because they think they can’t. But that is absolutely not true. I will teach you how to sing. ”
Indeed, her favorite part of coaching is surprising a student who comes in proclaiming ‘I can’t sing.’ “We’ll work together and then I’ll play a recording of their voice and say, ‘do you realize you just sang that?’ Seeing their surprise and showing them what they’re capable of, that’s what I really enjoy.”
Letitia reckons that what really sets her apart as a vocal coach is her ability to hear the potential in each voice. “It doesn’t happen in the first lesson, but once I work with someone, and hear their qualities, I can hear what their voice is capable of. Then the challenge is convincing them of it!”
Whether you just want to sing around the campfire or belt a ballad, centre stage, Letitia is eager to support you on your singing journey. She offers all new clients a free introductory 30-min session to meet her and discuss goals.
To find more information and book your session, go to Letitia’s website: https://www.letitialindequevocalcoach.com/
Story by Victoria Williams Photographs by Tom Teutenberg