As a little girl growing up in Brisbane, the capital city of Queensland in Australia, Brett Manning Associate Estelle Poots walked and danced through miles of dreams on her grandmother’s farm by the ocean.
The journey from the land down under to the studios of Brett Manning has been a passionate pursuit of engaging, enhancing, and extending the gift of singing – not just her voice but the voice of those she teaches.
A Daunting Debut
But thinking back to her first memory of singing, things did not get off to a good start.
“My most vivid memory is my first performance singing a solo in church,” she said. “I was so nervous I nearly fell off the stage due to my wobbling legs. The performance ended with my voice just stopping- nothing came out. So I promptly walked off the stage crying!”
From Deep Roots To First Fruits
Estelle turned that painful experience from a time of devastation to a season of digging down deep within where she began sowing, planting, growing, harvesting, and sharing the fruits of her labor of love for singing.
“Although I vowed to never sing again, I think it gave me this massive determination to overcome whatever it was that caused me to fail,” she said. “I knew I truly loved to sing, and it wasn’t long after that I began writing and performing regularly. Ever since then, I have been on this quest to work out the mysteries of singing, to be consistent, and to engage an audience.”
That turnaround began at age 14, and it wasn’t long before Estelle began to reap the rewards of shaking up, unwrapping, and opening her gift for singing. She recorded her first album when she was just 17 years old. Yet there were several personal and professional plot points in her life story that have served to shape her vision as a teacher and performer.
“Between 1997 and 2000, I studied Visual Art and Education at University,” she said. “At the same time I recorded two albums and toured the east coast of Australia. I began teaching singing from home when I was 16 and continued learning from a variety of techniques and teachers to assist my teaching.”
Wedding Bells + Manning Magic
She married fellow BMA coach Mark Poots and began a career as an art teacher, but continued to stir the fires of her soul’s passion as she continued teaching singing from her home. She also kept her vocal chops primed and engaged, and successfully auditioned for Australian Idol.
“After making it to the top 48 in Australian Idol in 2006, I became really determined to find a technique that was going to give me the consistency and level of skill I realized was required to make it in the industry,” she said. “Ever since then, Mark and I have invested everything in this journey of finding answers. This involved studying with the teachers to the stars, recording with an LA producer; and finally, studying with Brett-and we haven’t looked back! This is the first time I have had the confidence to leave the security of permanent employment, to exclusively depend on teaching as a self-employed singing coach.”
The passion she shares with her husband, Mark, has already produced many positive results.
“We love writing, recording and performing together,” she said. “But in reality it has been challenging to blend two solo artists into a new sound and identity. It has definitely helped us grow stronger and closer though, and we wouldn’t have it any other way now. We are expecting our first child in November, so after listening to me vocalizing for nine months, I’m sure they will come out ready to join the family tradition.”
We recently asked Estelle to share her perspective on training to be a Brett Manning Associate and the impact that it has had on her teaching.
SSO: How did you first hear about Brett and his programs? What was your initial response or feeling before diving in?
Estelle: Our knowledge of Brett was always in terms of him being a vocal genius! This piqued our interest and Mark subscribed to Singing Success Online. I could immediately see that Brett answered some fundamental questions I had. I was impressed by how generous he was with his knowledge, and I was so grateful to find someone who I knew would give us the best chance of success in such a difficult industry. He dealt directly with those things where I knew I was lacking. It just felt like finally I had found the knowledge that would help my students and I reach our true potential as vocalists and artists.
SSO: What tools as a teacher and performer have been enhanced, adjusted, or even dismissed by your BMA training?
Estelle: I felt liberated in my teaching, and so much more confident that I could deal with whatever voice I was confronted with. It is a complete picture of the voice that I intimately relate to and continue to grow in my understanding of. My concept of connection has changed from being able to simply mix throughout your bridges to being what Brett calls “truly connected.” That means connected through every note, coordination and volume throughout the entire range. It’s a challenging, expansive and liberating view of the voice. The ability to achieve balance in my own voice and my students’ voices has been really exciting.
SSO: What are the biggest changes in your voice that have come from training with Brett and his associates?
Estelle: I was able to access a lot more power and range very quickly. Their understanding of compression and pharyngeal resonance really freed up my voice. It was the first time I explicitly sought balance and consistency of cord closure, compression, airflow and resonance, which I now know is the key to doing whatever you want with your voice.
SSO: What impact has the training had on your confidence, song selection, warming up, rehearsal, and discipline as a performer?
Estelle: For the first time, I feel that I have all the tools available to me to perform with absolute confidence. This is a combination of mastering my voice, knowing how to create a show, knowing how to engage an audience, knowing what it takes to create a great song, and knowing that I have the support of some of the best people in the industry.
SSO: How has it changed your approach to teaching, and what are the biggest differences?
Estelle: The biggest difference is in the results I have been getting. Students that I have worked with for years, made more progress in the first three lessons since I studied with Brett, than in all the years I have taught them combined. It was really exciting and surprising to me. This immediately gave me more confidence as a teacher. My perception of what is possible with the voice is now only limited by the students will and desire to learn. I am definitely more aggressive now in getting the results I know are possible.
SSO: What else has been changed by your training and working with Brett and his associates at Brett Manning Studios?
Estelle: It is difficult to express how profoundly the time in Nashville changed my life personally and professionally. I really feel that it gave me a balanced view of the industry. It put my dreams into perspective, in the way that I now understand what it takes to achieve them. It gave me a renewed zeal for teaching and a commitment to bringing the best technique in the world back to Australia, where I know it will change so many people’s lives.
SSO: Do you have a favorite exercise or tip that has come from the BMA training?
Estelle: Yes–nasality! Knowing how to access the pharyngeal resonator is the secret to making your voice the same from the top to the bottom. It takes away all the discomfort of the breaks where you are trying to adjust from a thick cord to a thin cord. And–it gives you the power of chest voice with the freedom of head voice. It is truly magical!
SSO: What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed in your students?
Estelle: For a start they have all extended their ranges by a minimum of two octaves. It is also the first time I have had students access their whistle voices. More importantly, they are able to mix more powerfully as their head and chest voices have been strengthened. The resonance stays consistent, making the voice smooth and even.
SSO: How have the number, degree, and speed of changes differed from before your training as a Brett Manning Associate?
Estelle: The difference for me has been extraordinary. As I said earlier, I have received better results in three lessons then in all my years of teaching them. I have also taken on new students who had no cord closure and who couldn’t sing in tune that within 10 lessons have been able to successfully vocalize over 3 1/2 octaves. This would have taken me years previously, if I thought it possible at all!
SSO: Do you have a couple student success stories to share that have come as a result of engaging what you’ve learned from Brett and his associates?
Estelle: Every student is a success story for me now! From the elderly lady who had always wanted to sing, but had only been taught to “raise her eyebrows” to hit the notes, to my autistic student who only started speaking a few years ago and who I am now songwriting with. From the 11 year old boy who can vocalize over six octaves to the countless young girls whose eyes show their shock and delayed realization that they just mixed for the first time and that huge sound actually did come from them! That’s so gratifying.
SSO: What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges faced by beginners that your training addresses quickly and effectively?
Estelle: First of all, the biggest challenge is gaining an understanding that those limitations that feel so real to them actually don’t exist at all. Young boys and girls often need cord closure and compression, which is immediately dealt with. They often progress to mixing, using the pharyngeal resonator quite quickly. Then it’s just a matter of building strength and developing the ability of the cords to resist more air.
SSO: What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges faced by seasoned performers that your training addresses quickly and effectively?
Estelle: My mature students who have had previous training often have more bad habits to undo, and have more established patterns in their speaking and singing that need to be dealt with. For these students it is all about balancing each coordination with the appropriate resonator, with consistent compression and airflow. The most effective approach is to get them to access their nasality and to sit in that pocket throughout their range. Once this is consistent, they can add the other resonators without compromising their ability to mix through every coordination. The biggest challenge for seasoned performers is to trust the new techniques they have learned. It is very tempting to go back to what you know “works,” even if it does mean yelling that note!
Going For The Goals
SSO: And finally, what are your key goals as a Brett Manning Associate?
Estelle: One of my key goals is to introduce this technique together with the other Australian associates to Australia. I also want to literally change peoples lives by giving them this gift of singing. To help them fulfill their destiny as artists and performers, by giving them every tool that is available to us as singers, songwriters and performers. And I want to create the music that is in my blood. To write and sing and perform powerful and beautiful songs which allow an audience to experience special and memorable moments.
SSO: Do you have any interest in production or management?
Estelle: Of course, this will only come though when we have done the hard yards in terms of songwriting and our own artist development. I feel like I am starting all over again after everything I have learned in Nashville. I’m very realistic about these things now! It’s exciting though.”
Estelle understands the challenges faced by singers from the nerves and fears to the doubts and discouragements all artists wrestle with. Her experience as a performer opens areas of understanding and opportunities for support that make her a powerful resource for developing the total package of the performer.
Estelle teaches from her home studio in Ayr North Queensland Australia. She offers Skype lessons for all out of town students. For those interested in booking a lesson with Estelle, send her an email at [email protected].
You can also call (615) 866-1030 or (888) 269-7758 for more information on bookings.