Stephanie Ciccarelli: It all Starts with Words

I'll have the confidence to be myself.

Stephanie Ciccarelli is the Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer at Voices.com. For over 25 years, Stephanie has used her voice to communicate what is most important to her through the spoken word, written word, and song. Possessing a great love for imparting knowledge and empowering others, Stephanie has also been a contributor to The Huffington Post, Backstage Magazine and the Voices.com blog. She is also an accomplished book author, popular public speaker and mentor, as well as the host of Sound Stories, a podcast series for creative professionals. 

My earliest memories have strong connections to music, language and words. The world around me was full of talking, and as an extrovert, this was an ideal environment for me to grow up. Surrounded by singing, piano playing, recitation and constant conversation. My mom stayed home with my brother and I until we went to school full-time. In those day, there was kindergarten every day, half days. Between home, school and regular visits with grandparents, the seed was sown to not only be someone who thrived in a world of relationships but also the world of performance. 

Memorizing lyrics came second nature to me, with some of my favourites including songs from Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Disney sing-a-longs were particularly engaging, following the bouncing ball as it jumped from word to word. How else could a child learn to say supercalifragilisiticexpialidocious? One of the first brand names I learned how to spell was Novacks (good call whoever wrote that jingle!).

My mom was intentional with reading books to us every night and teaching us nursery rhymes. The Secret Garden left a great impression on me as it was one of the most beautiful books we owned and the story opened new doors in my imagination. The Speak and Spell computer was a constant friend, serving as an education tool and also as one of my first practical experiences with voice overs. 

My maternal grandmother inspired me to become a student of music and to sing. Under her wing, the first musicals I studied were the Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables with my first recording studio performing the young Cossette's solo "Castle on a Cloud." She also made sure that her Irish ditties made their way into my repertoire, with no shortage of books in the piano bench ranging from Broadway musicals to Christmas carols to her well worn pre-Vatican 2 Catholic Book of Worship hymnal.

My paternal grandmother helped me memorize songs they taught in Sunday School and shared the words that lead to life. Having a basic knowledge of American Sign Language, she taught me truths that I could sing and sign. It was then that I discovered that words had a certain power, and in may cases, could be universally understood regardless of language. Her influence also imparted wisdom to me through memory verses, Bible stories and the kind way that she spoke. If my grandmother was ever angry, she wasn't very angry, she was cross!

For some people, languages come easily. Growing up, music was my language and voice was its expression. The more I studied music, the more languages I learned to sing in. One activity I loved in vocal class or choir was going through a score and breaking each sentence down word by word, line by line. Knowing why something in a text mattered and how it affected the singer, their performance and the audience was (and still is) exciting for me. 

In university, my education included not only singing in different languages but also diction coaching and and entire course on diction featuring the International Phonetic Alphabet. This legend of sorts unlocked how to sing or speak in different languages and linguistic insights that I still use today for how to pronounce names, places and phrases. The Music Library played host to a wide variety of foreign language dictionaries that helped me dissect, understand and enrich vocal performances in French, German, Italian and more. 

Being a student of music means interpreting a piece, knowing your audience and expressing that content in a way all your own. Additionally, being a student of voice requires that an emotional connection be created with those listening through the audible expression of the printed words. What you're doing is communicating. I find that the same knowledge and skills translate well to my chosen career as co-founder and chief brand officer at Voices.com in voice over world. In the end, this life is about relationships, what you say and how you say it matters because people matter. Breathing life into the words on the page, be it reading aloud to your child recording a voice over or delivering a speech can only be done well when your voice is in the service of the words.

Whether through spoken word, written word or song, imparting knowledge and empowering others, starts with words. 

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