Former opera singer Peter Sicilian presented a seminar on public speaking Wednesday on campus, stressing the importance of strong vocal communication.
The seminar, titled “Speaking for Success: Improving Speech Quality and Voice Effectiveness,” was held to help prepare attendees for presenting to an audience of any size.
Sicilian’s course was influenced by and derived from the work of Dr. Morton Cooper, a licensed speech pathologist and former Director of the Voice and Speech Clinic at UCLA Medical Center and author of books, CD’s and DVD’s about attaining a powerful voice.
He said he developed the course because it is important to teach students how to deliver information successfully.
“A lot of why I developed this course was, is your message being heard when you’re talking, or is it being obscured by either your style or mannerisms?” Sicilian said. “People can have the most amazing message, but nobody can hear it, and that’s sad.”
Sicilian sang for the Tri-Cities Opera between 1985 and 1995. During this time he taught a Binghamton University graduate class on singing. He said he noticed his students, despite being talented singers, would speak improperly and was moved to begin developing his course.
“Some people talk too low, some people talk too high,” Sicilian said. “Sometimes that’s a product of our parents, how we’re brought up.”
Sicilian’s hands-on approach for his course included requiring attendees to participate by reading and doing breathing and voice exercises, such as tongue trilling. Sicilian also gave advice on how to position oneself while speaking in order to produce the most commanding voice possible.
“The only thing that kind of stands in your way of better projecting your voice is the tension in your body,” Sicilian said. “Another thing to be aware of is the alignment of your body.”
Kathryn Perry, an adaptive technology specialist at BU, attended the course to work on using a clear and honest voice during staff meetings.
“The seminar was helpful,” Perry said. “It was informative, educational and raised awareness on the simple things that can be done to improve speech effectiveness.”
Perry suggested extending the seminar beyond its sole session to increase its helpfulness.
“Of course a one-time session won’t work magic, so I also recommend the course be offered in multiple parts so that follow up work can be done and successful changes can continue to be built upon,” Perry said.