"Diane Gaary is a compassionate and patient teacher. Her warmth and genuine care for her students are truly inspirational."
~Daisy Nystul, Chair Theatre Arts Department, University of Central Oklahoma, Lessac Voice and Movement Certified Trainer
"With Diane, I not only felt free and comfortable to explore new ways of using my voice as an instrument in my acting and my body as an emotional gauge but felt fully supported by her along each step of my learning process."
~Olivia Lanz, actress/ educator
I have always loved acting and singing. My family highly valued learning. And as a teenager, I enjoyed assisting my physician father in the operating room and in his pain clinic as he helped patients feel better. Little did I suspect that these interests would be the perfect foundation for a career that is based on teaching others how to work with themselves and improve their lives.
Throughout high school and college, I performed and studied acting and classical singing. I went on to be one of the founders of the Children's Theater of Massachusetts and to perform in regional theater and in New York City. During a career counseling class in New York, I realized I wanted to teach, so I studied for my Masters of Fine Arts in acting at the University of Virginia. It was there that I realized that classes in speaking voice helped my acting more than anything else. I also received comments that my voice sometimes became “strident” and that I “thought too much and tried too hard” when I performed. But no one could tell me what to do about that.
In response to this feedback, I determined to help both myself and my future students, by overcoming my vocal difficulties. I studied with Arthur Lessac, took speech pathology to understand voice physiology and disorders, and studied the Alexander Technique. It was then that I discovered that Alexander Technique teachers knew all about trying too hard and they knew how to teach me to work with less effort and better results.
My multi-year training with Arthur Lessac was also inspiring. He was one of the most caring, joyful, engaging, and inspiring teachers I have met. His work centered on using physical sensations and inner ‘body wisdom' to improve the functioning of the voice and body. Arthur’s text work was fun and creative, and it taught me to love the expressive possibilities of language. I am also very grateful to the Lessac Master teacher, Sue Ann Park (recipient of the 2006 American Theatre in Higher Education lifetime achievement award) who taught me to identify and expand upon the basic principles of the Lessac System. Under the tutelage of Arthur and Sue Ann, my speaking voice grew strong, resonant, and enjoyable to use.
After my training, I started to teach voice and speech, acting, and the Alexander Technique privately and in colleges. After a few years of teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, I realized that it would be useful to have a method that could help people who learn differently and who enjoy a more unconscious learning style. That is how I came to the Feldenkrais Method®.
The Feldenkrais Method® was unlike anything I had studied previously. It allowed me to learn at my own rate, and focus on cause and effect. As I explored comparisons of a variety of movement options, I grew curious about how one body part moves in relation to another. I was learning about myself and discovering how to work with myself and others in a creative and scientific manner.
Estill ™ Voice Training has provided me with scientifically based understanding and reliable kinesthetic access to the workings of the vocal mechanism – in other words, now when I speak or sing, I know what I’m doing with my mouth and throat that’s making that sound – Estill™ training has made me far more confident and versatile as a vocal performer and as a vocal coach, because I can accurately feel what is physiologically going on in my own voice, and I can knowledgeably hear what others are doing to produce their singing and speech sounds. I am confident because I know what I am doing when I make different vocal choices, and I can teach others so they too can healthily access different vocal co-ordinations that produce a variety of sounds in different styles.
Currently, I teach classes at Temple University, Arcadia University, and Westminster College of the Arts (formerly, Westminster Choir College). I maintain studios for private students in Princeton, NJ and in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA, and I teach workshops nationally and internationally. When I teach, I have many tools to help people. My studies have made me more process-oriented. I am less interested in getting something right. I am more interested in how something is being done, in choices, and in cause and effect. Since each of us is unique and works differently, when I work with a student I’m looking for what causes them difficulty, what makes the activity easier, and what is the access point to their individual learning style. I enjoy helping people as they understand their difficulties and learn how to work with themselves with increasing ease. I enjoy solving problems and learning with my students to discover something new about how the body and voice function. And I feel very lucky because I am helping people do what they love, move towards a pain-free life, and express themselves more fully, honestly, and joyously.
Like most performers, I pursued acting and singing because I had something that needed to be expressed. In teaching I found something worth expressing – Whatever you are capable of today, it’s not the end of your story – you can learn how to help yourself to better your tomorrow.