Meet Lisa Perks
For me, singing has always been everything.
Some of my earliest memories are of spending Saturday mornings playing dress-ups and parading around our London apartment singing into my skipping rope microphone, already dreaming of being on stage.
At 12, I landed my first professional role in musical theatre, which started my love for performing. Around the same time I started learning jazz piano and was encouraged by my teacher to start singing in bands, it wasn’t long before I found myself gigging most weekends across London, covering musical styles from jazz to soul to rock to pop. I enjoyed the variety of settings and styles – it kept me on my toes musically, and I learned a great deal about performing craft and musicality.
I went on to study performing arts and complete an Honors degree in Music Performance, all the while continuing to perform regularly. My professional life consisted of recording, touring, and having lots of fun. I was living my dream! And the culmination of it all was my first album release in 2002, collaborating with a band comprised of some of the UK’s most noted jazz musicians. The album got me into the finals of the Perrier Young Jazz Musician of the Year awards.
In 2000, I was invited to teach at Colchester Institute, where I ended up spending five years and helping to develop Colchester’s Singer/Songwriter program. I discovered that I loved teaching – it was inspiring, challenging and extremely rewarding to watch my students grow in skill and confidence.
But around that time – I was about 23 – I began developing problems with my voice. I also developed severe chronic pain in my neck and upper body. The pain responded to regular treatment, but my voice continued on a downward spiral, which took a heavy toll on my confidence, and the once joyous experience of singing live was replaced by fear and pain. I felt very alone.
In late 2004, a fellow singer told me about Speech Level Singing, a technique developed by “voice instructor to the stars” Seth Riggs. Seth was based in Los Angeles, but by chance was hosting some workshops at the Royal Academy in London. I was desperate and willing to try anything, so I went to one of the workshops.
What I heard and learned there changed my life.
Shortly afterwards, I went to San Francisco and Los Angeles to work with Seth Riggs and his associate Dave Stroud, and at the end of that trip, I signed on to be a teacher of the technique.
In 2005, I moved to Melbourne and spent ten years sharing the Speech Level Singing technique with hundreds of singers and teachers. In 2015, I left the organization feeling the need to find some answers of my own.
My years of poor posture and compensatory behavior with my voice had caused a small nodule to develop on my vocal folds. For many years I had worked my technique around the issue, and had gotten to the stage where my voice functioned very well despite the injury, largely thanks to the Speech Level Singing technique. But in pursuit of recovering my full vocal function, I made the difficult decision to have the nodule removed in 2013.
In post-operative rehabilitation, I already knew that my recovery was not as it should be. After insisting on being scoped again – a procedure that involves a camera inserted down the throat to observe the vocal folds – I got the devastating news: I had irreversible scar tissue damage, meaning my voice quality was permanently affected.
The bottom fell out of my world. Singing and teaching was my entire life, and I had no idea how I was ever going to do either again.
Through the love and encouragement of friends, family, colleagues and students, I gradually returned to teaching. Doing it without having full use of my own voice was not easy at first, and caused me a lot of emotional pain. But with the help of my psychologist, doctor and physiotherapist as well as my own voice training techniques, I eventually was able to reconcile myself with my circumstances.
In fact, in a weird but totally wonderful way, I came to a place where I fully accept and love my voice the way it is. Now, I am discovering new ways to keep my teaching fresh and up to date by attending conferences and workshops, developing workshops of my own, and feeding my growing interests in psychology and coaching and how those relate to the voice and performance. I regard singing as a holistic activity, which engages not only the body but also the mind and spirit. Singing is our opportunity to connect to ourselves and the world at our deepest level.
In my teaching, I bring to the table all of my experiences – both good and bad – in a professional but nurturing way. My love for the voice and for people is what has kept me hanging on through the rough times, and I hope I can be there for you!
If my story resonates with you in any way, please reach out. I am most happy to answer emails, or you can call me for a chat.