Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Everett McCorvey


This research endeavors to stretch the boundaries of vocal training, a field defined by its century-old techniques and teachings, to include the cultivation of a relationship with the breath, body, and Self. The paper reviews the contributions of Ilse Middendorf and Carl Stough’s work with the breath and body and outlines a new method, Unlock Your Breath (UYB) – Performance Breathwork, which integrates the greatest strengths of those methods. UYB Performance Breathwork teaches the singer’s breath as a way towards deeper embodiment of Self (mind-body-voice relationship), while creating a stronger breath-body-voice connection with minimum effort and maximum efficiency. This research demonstrates the efficacy of the UYB method through a workshop delivered in a university setting to study participants consisting of thirty-six vocal performance degree-pursuing students and three voice faculty members at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. The study used both quantitative and qualitative research methods consisting of a pre- and post-workshop questionnaire completed by each study participant and interviews with voice faculty.

Results of the study demonstrate three major obstacles that keep singers from connecting to their breath and body, and discovering their authentic voice: (1) absence of relationship with Self; (2) lack of self-worth; and (3) fear of vulnerability. The data also show that participation in the workshop significantly improved participants’ self-confidence, self-awareness, body and breathing knowledge, and self-rating of vocal skill, while decreasing participants’ concerns around others’ perceptions of them. The data support an understanding of the breath as the connecting force between the body, mind, and voice, and concludes that the voice is merely a reflection and manifestation of our current state-of-being, meaning our present relationship with the breath, body, and mind. These results suggest that the UYB Performance Breathwork method may be used to expand teaching of artistic human voice production. Using a breathing method that is grounded in somatic awareness resulted in student attainment of a much deeper intrapersonal relationship, while allowing for discovery of an authentic understanding of how the individual’s breath and body works in coordination with their voice.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)