I’m a speech pathologist, singer-songwriter, and educator working at the intersections of art and science, creativity and accountability. In addition to working with individual singers, actors, and others with voice concerns, I mentor other professionals and I write and lecture about philosophical and pedagogical issues related to vocal wellness.
I moved to Santa Cruz, CA in 2022 from Los Angeles, where from 2001-2020 I was a senior therapist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Outpatient Voice Clinic, treating vocal artists of every genre and level of fame as well as non-performers whose medical conditions disrupted their voice, throat, or airway.
I’ve been also had a private practice in voice work, licensed in speech pathology since 1994 and combining that formal skill-set with my longer experience as a singer-musician and teacher. One of my voice therapy sessions with Backstreet Boys singer Brian Litrell appears in the band’s 2014 documentary “Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of.”
Joanna has been instrumental in getting my voice back into shape. Not only was she efficient in every aspect of my rehab, but she was personally a joy to be around and learn from. I am very pleased with my results.patient feedback
I’ve presented at national and international conferences of both voice medicine and arts education, and my book Everyday Voice Care: The Lifestyle Guide (Hal Leonard) is widely used in arts training programs. I’ve taught in speech therapy programs at several California State University campuses, and for 30 years I was co-director of Los Angeles’s Sholem Community Chorus.
Some of my other adventures include national tours as a singer-songwriter in the feminist-folk circuits of 1970s-80s, six self-produced solo albums plus an ensemble CD with Pete Seeger and others; an MFA in Theatre from CalArts and certification in actor-oriented Fitzmaurice Voicework; and varied training in somatics (including Esalen Massage and specific massage techniques for the voice box area), meditation, counseling, and intuitive arts including ThetaHealing and Reiki.
Joanna has a unique ability to marry the clinical and spiritual aspects of voice. I recommend her for voice/body exploration, education, and healing.Andrea Odinov Fuller, Loyola Marymount University & Lee Strasberg Institute
I continue to offer private voice therapy and training, write for academic and popular outlets, and mentor voice teachers and clinicians across the US and UK. Throughout my work, I emphasize the inherently interdisciplinary nature of voice care, the “soft skills” of training and therapy as supported by cognitive science, and the ongoing need for preventive wellness education and advocacy for performing artists as a chronically underserved population.
Warm, funny, engaging, and passionate… Joanna can take highly technical information and make it accessible to any vocal artist.—Mary Ellen Wessels, M.Ed.
I grew up in New England, with summers in the Woodstock area of New York, but bonded to California on a family trip, went to college in Seattle, and have stayed mostly west-coast-faithful since then. My hobbies include gym workouts, yoga, sewing and crocheting, photography and photoshop, and continuing to get to know the natural beauty of California’s Central Coast. My partner Scott Wilkinson (a native Californian and graduate of UC Santa Cruz) plays multiple brass and wind instruments, and we get creative in a variety of music ensembles.
My experience with Joanna was life-changing. I’m overwhelmed by my progress as well as by her professionalism. This work was a total blessing.patient comments
2012 Everyday Voice Care: The Lifestyle Guide for Singers and Talkers, Hal Leonard Books. Reviewed in Journal of Singing, International Musician, Voice and Speech Review.
2022 “Revising Authenticity: Case Studies of Media Actors in Voice Therapy.” Voice and Speech Review Published online 21June
2017 “Stalking the calm buzz: how the polyvagal theory links stage presence, mammal evolution, and the root of the vocal nerve.” Voice and Speech Review *recipient of Dudley Knight Award for Outstanding Scholarship, Voice and Speech Trainers Association 2018
2017 “Screaming for Attention: The Vocal Demands of Actors in Violent Interactive Games.” Guest Editorial, Journal of Voice
2012 “Tips to Avoid a Hoarse Voice During the Holidays” (interview), MakingMusic Magazine.
2010 “Voice Check: 10 tips for Healthy Singing.” Group interview, American Theatre
2007 “Studio Solutions for Physically Disabled Musicians.” Electronic Musician, v23 #5
2003 “Dionysus, Demi Moore, and the Cult of the Distressed Voice” Voice and Speech Review, v3, p 243-246. Published online 22 July 2013.
1993 “Vocal Acoustics for Recording Engineers” Electronic Musician magazine
Presentations (selected, national/international)
2021“New Methods for Older Singers: Rebuilding Strength, Stability, and Stamina.” Natural Voice Network, UK; and to Voice and Speech Trainers Association (VASTA), 2020.
2021 “The Nature of Empathy and its Relevance for Voice Work.” MA program in Vocal Pedagogy, Trinity College UK; and to Fitzmaurice Institute Conference, New York City, 2020.
2017 “Brain, Mind, and Voice Therapy: Cognitive Science for Voice Practitioners.” American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA) national convention, Los Angeles.
2015 “Breath-Related Interventions for Spasmodic Dysphonia.” National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association Annual Symposium, San Francisco CA
2010 “Care of the Artistic Voice: Essential Principles for Everyday Life.” Centro de Estudios para del Uso de la Voz (CEUVOZ) joint conference with VASTA, Mexico City.
2009 “Vocal Art versus Vocal Science: Terminology, Culture, & Collaboration.” Association for Theater in Higher Education (ATHE), New York City.
2004 “Speaking the Body’s Language: Metaphor and Physicality in the Transmission of Vocal Technique.” National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) national convention, New Orleans.