Jon Hensley is a man of many creative talents. He’s an actor, singer, and songwriter. He’s also a Brett Manning protoge. He currently studies with Brett Manning Associate Deborah “Zuke” Smith in New York and via Skype with Jesse Nemitz, based at Brett Manning Studios in Nashville.
The Pennsylvania native is winding up a 20-year stint as Holden Snyder on the classic CBS daytime drama, As The World Turns. The role has garnered three EmmyÂ® nominations. The show will end it’s 50+ years run in September of 2010.
Multi-Talent + Versatility
The versatile performer has been featured in several television movies, and has notched guest appearances on several prime time series, including Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place and Almost Perfect. In addition he is veteran stage actor and musical performer, and is currently working on finishing his first solo debut album which he hopes to release in the spring of 2010.
He’s also the father of three children, Sophie, 10, Spencer, 8 and Georgia, 2. For 13 years he’s married to ASTW costar Kelley Menighan, who currently plays Emily Stewart.
To say that his rigorous schedule and role of family man requires patience, energy, commitment would be an understatement. Hensley recently took time away from his hectic schedule to answer a few questions about his experience with Brett Manning’s vocal coaches, techniques, and programs.
The Q + A
SSO: How did you first hear of Brett Manning? What prompted the search that led to working with Jesse Nemitz and now Zuke?
HENSLEY: I actually heard about Brett from a teacher I was working with. She told me he had this “mixed voice” approach, which she couldn’t teach, and encouraged me to try a few lessons with him. I was really struggling to find a tone in my voice that I liked, so I checked out his website and that’s where I listened to Jesse’s demo. He sounded great and I thought, whatever he is doing, maybe he can teach it to me. So, I called the next day and booked a Skype lesson with him. I hooked up with Zuke a few weeks later, since she teaches in NJ where I am. I haven’t worked with Brett yet, but when I find the time I’d like to come down to Nashville and do that!
SSO: How has your voice changed from when you first worked with the techniques they teach?
HENSLEY: It was a tough transition for me initially, because I had so much weight in my voice and also a lot of tension. Plus, it was all about getting use to using the pharyngeal and doing a lot exercises for better cord closure. Now, I’m at a point where I can really focus on mix concepts and how to use them! It’s a good place to be!
SSO: Is there a specific breakthrough or “a-ha moment” you’ve experienced in the process so far that you can tell us about?
HENSLEY: For two weeks I did exercises with my thumbs on my chin, trying to let go of the digrastic muscle. It’s a very gradual process. I used to do the exact opposite and create tension for effect. Eliminating that tension is key. When you do that, you then begin to find freedom and power in your vocals.
SSO: What impact does the vocal training have on your work as an actor?
HENSLEY: Well, it has definitely cleaned up my tone, I’ve always had a very grainy, breathy speaking voice and now there is more purity to it. And I can see how the training is also great for musical theatre, but that’s never been my thing! I’m more drawn to film and television. Maybe one day, you never know!
SSO: Talk about your experience with Jesse via Skype and with Zuke? What are their strengths? What are the pro’s and con’s of the Skype experience?
HENSLEY: Jesse’s kind of a gear geek like me. Its always fun to talk to him about all that stuff, but once we get into our lesson, he really takes charge. He really focuses on what you need and is relentless in the pursuit to get it. I remember in the beginning, if I was not getting something, he would ride me until I did. He can be tough, but I like that! As far as the skype thing, it works for me, but I don’t love the experience. I’d rather be in a room which is why I hooked up with Zuke. I see her a couple times a month and she will help me take the stuff I’ve worked on with jesse to another level. I’m always emailing her questions about the voice, she always gets back to me with great advice and insight!
SSO: What is your favorite tip, exercise, or lesson learned from working with Zuke and Jesse?
HENSLEY: I love doing the edge exercises! I just finished listening to the entire mastering mix program, and there is a whole lesson on edge which is great! I think this whole program is great, from Sibnging Success to Mastering Mix! If you truly put in the work, you will see quick and amazing results.
Here’s one more fascinating fact about Hensley that completely floored me and anyone I’ve told. He has never had a single cavaity in his entire life-not one! It’s clearly a sign that he’s committed to do whatever it takes to achievement perfection.
That same level of commitment applies to his role as father, husband, actor, singer, songwriter, and follower of Brett Manning’s techniques to achieving full vocal potential. We wouldn’t be at all surprised if his solo debut project becomes the first of many platinum ventures to follow.