by Adam Griffiths
Brian Manternach, Assistant Professor (Clinical) in the U of U Department of Theatre, is a man of many hats. Like most voice teachers, he has an extensive performance career, but what makes him stand out are his numerous achievements in vocal science and pedagogy research. Brian is the chapter head of the local division of NATS (National Association for Teachers of Singing), an organization which meets regularly to discuss how to improve vocal pedagogy in the voice studio. Additionally he serves as Associate Editor, and regularly authors and co-authors articles in the NATS periodical The Journal of Singing. He also writes regularly in a book review column, “The Singer’s Library,” for the Classical Singer magazine.
Brian uses his love of vocal science to directly affect those he teaches. Last year he gave a talk at TEDxSaltLakeCity about why singing is an activity people should all be able to benefit from and enjoy. In that talk, he cited studies that indicate how singing can lead to increased physical and psychological well being. By the end of the talk, he had the entire audience singing “You Are My Sunshine” with him.
He says, “What draws me to singing the most is the opportunity to collaborate with others and to build relationships through the shared human experience of singing together. In the same way, the research projects in which I’m most interested do not involve one person hidden away in a lab somewhere. For me, it’s all about like-minded people who are enthusiastic about a topic sharing what they have to contribute in order to hopefully learn something new. And when we do find something new, it’s exciting to be able to share that through presentations, publications, and in our teaching.”
Coming from the performance and teaching world, Brian says that he doesn’t have the research background to do a lot of work on his own. He states, “I rely on others who have a much greater understanding of research methods and acoustic analysis techniques to help carry out the studies we do. I’m particularly indebted to the U’s National Center for Voice and Speech and their associate director, Dr. Lynn Maxfield — a brilliant voice scientist who is truly committed to bringing vocal science and art together.” This past June, Brian and Dr. Maxfield presented research in Philadelphia at the Voice Foundation’s Annual Symposium: Care of the Professional Voice. “For that study we played audio clips of professional and student singers for professional casting directors to see how the casting directors would evaluate their sound.” That research has recently been published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Voice, which is “widely regarded as the world’s premiere journal for voice and medicine and [voice] research.”
This month Brian presented at the Pan American Vocology Association (PAVA) Symposium in Toronto, in collaboration with Dr. Maxfield and Dr. Jeremy Manternach (his brother), an Assistant Professor of Music Education at the University of Iowa. He will also present at the NATS Conference in Las Vegas next summer. Regardless of how busy he gets, he will always prioritize his work as a teacher. “I have had wonderful, inspiring, patient teachers throughout my life and I’m really passionate about doing my best to fill that role for others.”