Interview: Dialect coach

    Medium US
    Business Spotlight Audio 3/2024
    headshot of Caitlin Stegemoller
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    Von Melita Cameron-Wood

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    There are plenty of uniqueeinzigartigunique jobs out there. This time, we hear from Caitlin Stegemoller, a dialect coach from the United States, who lives and works in London. Many of her clients are actors, but she also offers voice coaching and accent softening for people who don’t work in show business. Business Spotlight correspondent Melita Cameron-Wood found out more in the following interview.

    Melita Cameron-Wood: When did it become clear to you that you wanted to work as a voice and dialect coach?

    Caitlin Stegemoller: I started off as a performerDarsteller(in), Schauspieler(in)performer. I had voice and dialect in my training. I, funny enough, did not love it. I thought it was strange. I didn’t really understand what the purpose of voice work was. As I was performing, especially at university, I did a lot of dialect work, like I was performing in a lot of dialect, and I found it fine. But it was when I moved to Los Angeles, and I started working at an outdoorhier: Freiluftoutdoor repertory theaterRepertoiretheaterrepertory theater in the hills of Southern California, which is as nice as it sounds, and the demands of that space required us to go back to voice work and take voice classes. And I had a teacher who inspired me, essentially, as most of these stories start. She actually delivered voice work in a way that really made sense to me.

    It was, it turn outsich herausstellenturns out, exactly what I was missing as a performer, and it was one of those moments where I thought: “Oh, wow. I wish I would have thought about this in a different way when I was a student.” And I’d always liked teaching, so I kind of was gravitate towards sth.zu etw. tendierengravitating towards teaching anyway, and I then realized kind of in that moment that I wanted to specialize in teaching voice because I wanted to deliver it in a way where performers felt that same amount of usefulness and connection. The other amazing (ifml.)toll, fantastischamazing thing about voice is that it’s not just about performance, it is about who you are, you know? Your voice reveal oneselfsich verratenreveals yourself. And as my career has gone on, I started to work with not just actors, just anybody who’s looking to work on their voice. I find that really rewardinglohnenswertrewarding.

    Melita: And did you come to London for work reasons? Was it because of the West End?

    Caitlin: I came for my master’s degreeMasterabschlussmaster’s degree. So, my undergraduateBachelor(abschluss)undergraduate was in musical theater, and then I came to London because they’ve got an amazing voice studies program, a master’s in voice studies teaching and coaching at The Royal Central School of Speech and dramaSchauspielDrama, which sounded very fancy (ifml.)schickfancy. And, yes, I came here for my master’s, and I thought that I would go back to the States and work in work in academiawissenschaftlich tätig seinacademia, but ultimatelyletztendlichultimately, I did not. There is a lot of work and need in London, so living in London is great, and yeah, the TV industry, the West End, all of that.

    Melita: Do you mainly work with UK native speakers who want to do a better American accent?

    Caitlin: Yeah, I would say a majority of my clients are British and want to sound American for either a specific project, or they just want to get their skills up, because there’s such a huge demand for having an authentic American accent. I do have some European clients as well, which is always really interesting when you’re working with English as a second language and being able to identify what sounds in specific languages don’t exist in English.

    So, you’re kind of working almost double, trying to, you know, morph sth. into sth.sich in etw. verwandelnmorph language into different sounds. You have to just look at where the root accent is. But there’s so many different influences that come in to make sth. upetw. ausmachenmake up your accent, right? There’s like a huge ingredient list, and what we hear and what we absorb comes into play. So, I’m always starting from that. Where are we starting? What sounds are you familiar with? A lot of people will have watched a lot of American television or heard American sounds, so that is kind of living in them. It’s about then moving from their ingredientZutatingredient list and going here’s [a] kind of really general washhier: Tönungwash of how you can change your sound to sound like you grew up in a different place. From when you’re born, you start copying the sounds that you hear. And so, it’s kind of going all the way back to that.

    America has a million accents, but we have, I mean, as an industry, there is a sort of general American sound. And there are really specific things that you can change, like for example an “r” sound if you’re moving from a British accent, which usually, not all of them, but some of them do not have an “rrr” rhoticrhotischrhotic sound. An American would have heard and would have had their tongue moving in that way from a very, very young age as they were learning language. So, let’s think about how that movement happens. Also, as you start reading things, as you see that letter, you have to get used to making that sound. And then, we do that with a couple of other kinds of basic sounds. A term that we use in the industry now is “so-called general American” because there really isn’t a general American sound. And this is really broadhier: grobbroad strokeStrich; hier: Strukturstrokes, unless I’m working with an actor who is having to do something really, really specific, like an actual human being, where then we can really sit down and study every single sound there is.


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