Green Shirt Studio

Teacher Profile: Ann Marie White

Ann Marie White

Ann Marie White, who teaches voice classes at Green Shirt Studio, is one of those multi-hyphenates who can’t be locked into one category — and that’s just how she likes it. A classically trained singer who also acts and choreographs and directs and teaches, she relishes the chance to take on a wide variety of creative projects.

A graduate of George Mason University, White received her master’s in vocal performance at Texas Tech, and her performance credits range from song-and-dance roles in musical theater to singing-intensive parts in operettas as well as straight dramatic and comedic roles in theaters around Chicago. Some of her most memorable roles include playing Pamina in The Magic Flute at Chicago Opera Theatre, Perdita in A Winter’s Tale at First Folio Theatre in Oak Brook and singing in the opera The Lost Childhood at the National Philharmonic.

Her secret weapon, though, may be her early training as a competitive gymnast. So don’t be surprised if you see White in the studio doing a headstand or backspring. Incorporating those acrobatic movements into her daily life, she says, helps her feel balanced.

White has two classes that are about to start at Green Shirt Studio — a Linklater Progression voice class staring April 20 and a Meisner for Singers class starting April 24 — so we thought it was a perfect time to sit down with her and talk more about what she likes about teaching voice.

Green Shirt: How have those years of gymnastics informed your work today?

White: Tenacity is something all artists have to learn in some way or another, so I’m lucky that became ingrained at a young age. All things worth doing require ongoing education and take a lot of time and dedication. Training as a gymnast also taught me my learning style is highly kinesthetic—I understand most things through movement and am deeply connected to my body. My singing training made a huge turn when I realized that my voice had been severely disconnected from my body. As a result, my own practice and my work with students tend to be extremely explorative. I look for ways every part of the body—from fingertips and toes to the top of the skull—can be involved in the experience.

Green Shirt: With such an extremely varied skill set, how do you answer when someone asks you, “What do you do?”

White: That always takes a bit of thought! With people in the industry, calling myself an actor immediately establishes that I can do lots of different things. As actors, we are called to live at the core of the human experience which, to me, has to include singing and dancing and cartwheeling and improvising and so much more. At the heart of what I do, regardless of the job title, is to strive to be fully present with my whole self, offering all of my intelligences and my most natural voice to those around me and to invite and encourage others to do the same. I think my strengths as a teacher come from my willingness to fully listen to my students so that they can learn from themselves regardless of the subject, which absolutely stems from my performance experience. In the academic arena, I do use that fancy word “interdisciplinarian,” but other times it’s easiest to say I’m a voice teacher. Or a stage director. Or an opera singer. Or whatever I happen to be doing that day!

Q: You’ll be co-teaching the Meisner for Singers class with Andrew Gallant starting April 24. What would you like potential students to know about the class?

White: That if I weren’t teaching it I would be taking it! Because of the way we co-teach and the way we introduce material, Andrew and I can speak in a language that feeds both actors who are looking to feel more comfortable with their singing, and singers who are looking to feel more comfortable with their acting. We create an atmosphere that’s welcoming while still bringing a great amount of challenge, regardless of your experience with music or theater. Often, singing classes are about technique and vocal production, which can pull you away from living truthfully while performing. With this class, refinement and integration are put to work at the same time, which is unique.

Green Shirt: You’re also teaching Freeing the Voice: The Linklater Progression. Tell us about that class.

White: The Linklater approach is transformative voice work that I think parallels Meisner technique beautifully. This class focuses primarily on freeing the body and breath from tension and reconnecting to the innate ability to speak on impulse. If you are currently enrolled in Meisner classes, this work allows you to repeat more freely and with more emotional connection.

Green Shirt: How have these techniques helped you personally as a performer?

White: Meisner transformed the way I communicate in all aspects of life, and singing is one of the extremes of that experience. For me, a combination of Meisner and Linklater re-introduced me to my classical, operatic literature. I sing coloratura repertoire—those arias that have really high notes and a lot of flowery trills. For a long time, those upper-register “Ah!” moments were just beautiful vocalizations that I attached an external meaning to. Now, they come from a deep need to express a strong emotion.

Green Shirt: What do you like best about teaching?

White: I enjoy the idea of giving permission, whether it’s a singing student who’s finding things easier and needs permission for it to not be hard, or an acting student who needs to know that unlocking their jaw might be scary, but they’re safe and they have permission to let go. There is nothing more beautiful than telling someone that they are enough without their filters and walls and areas of tension, then watching them give themselves permission to truly hear it.

Green Shirt: Have you had any memorable roles that allowed you to integrate all your different talents?

White: A few years ago, in Texas, I had the privilege of playing the title role in Maria de Buenos Aires, which is a tango opera by Astor Piazzola. I got to choreograph the production, so I was plunging into the world of Argentina and tango and this extremely mysterious and difficult material. Tango is based on improvisation, so even though our dances were choreographed, they felt very spontaneous. The language required me to be in a very open, earnest place, which pulled me into an intense connection with my scene partner and fed my need to speak. The music asked for every single pitch in my vocal range—from the depths of desire to the hysteria of madness—which fed my need to sing. It’s rare to work on something that calls so fully on all of your intelligences and all three physical areas: singing, acting and movement. It was such an exciting time.

Interested in taking either the Linklater Progression voice class or Meisner for Singers? Sign up today!