Leah Cotterell

Introducing ‘The Performer’s Toolkit’: a tool for reflection on the underlying processes of performance

The literature suggests that singing performance may offer both performers and audiences immersive experiences of elevated moods and altered perceptions. However, unlike optimal performance experiences the inverse effect, a generalised fear of failure, can have chilling effects on the singer's ability to manage these powerfully arousing experiences. This interactive presentation will focus on the work of the 'soloist' singer, whose performances draw on multileveled skills to facilitate personal and communal effects, in particular by connecting the singer’s internal states to an external representation of their identity. In this presentation, singing voice teachers and students will be introduced to ‘The Performer’s Toolkit’ - a guide for reflection across seven identifiable domains of underlying processes. This presentation is informed by my own Doctoral research hypotheses and study, my extensive performance career and by observations that a meaningful 'performance exchange' is reliant on a range of capacities, including some to which we may have limited conscious access. The ‘Performer’s Toolkit’ aims to practically assist teachers and students to identify detailed and specific opportunities to strengthen their performance practice through increased self-awareness and insight.

In a thirty-year performance career in Australia, singer Leah Cotterell has performed jazz, folk and popular repertoires in extremely diverse theatrical, concert and educational contexts. As identified in media reviews her performance strengths are relaxed, soulful delivery, unique phrasing and warm timbre. Cotterell has also produced commissioned performance projects for other talented singers attracting substantial public funding and touring nationally. Turning to research in her recent career, in her 2015 Master’s project she explored the underlying mechanisms of emotion induction and empathy in vocal performance, culminating in her presentation, ‘The Pleasure of Sad Songs’. In 2018 her Doctoral project will be concentrated on outputs including thematic analysis of survey data, development of Master classes based on ‘The Performer’s Toolkit’ and the creation of a new work, The Singer’s Anatomy’.