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I train people to use the voice and the body in more compelling and authentic ways. I did start life as a singer, actor, dancer and I thought that’s what I wanted to be. And I was that for several years. And I did all of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. I was Laurey in Oklahoma, I was Eliza in My Fair Lady, Gigi in Gigi. I could have gone that way.

I just found that teaching and training was infinitely more rewarding. Performing is like, oh, all about me And, not only that but what did you think of my performance? And when I was teaching, it was all about us and not just all about me.

And so, I was in my 20s, my early 20s, when I made that deliberate transition from a focus on performing to a focus on teaching. I was at OU for 15 years. Boomer Sooner. And I taught voice, speech, dialects, voiceover, occasionally acting, occasionally directing, and then I directed shows there as well.

Well, I was training actors and I had been training actors all my life, and I realized that what I was strongest at in training actors was helping them be grounded, centered, confident and authentic, in addition to being expressive and easy with voice and body.

I started to see the application to what I call real people. You know, non-theater people, they could use those skills. And so, I just slowly started looking around to see if there was interest. And then when I decided to leave OU, I wanted to try this other career as a corporate voice, speech, presentation coach, to see if there was a need for that.

The techniques are essentially the same, but there are some things that I did in actor training that I don’t do with corporate people. You know, actors can roll on the floor and do all kinds of improvisational release exercises that most corporate people don’t really want to do.

Tongue-speak is an exercise that looks ridiculous and tongue-speak is just sticking out your tongue and talking around your tongue hanging right there out. And when you put your tongue back, the voice is more relaxed, and I can hear it and I can feel it in my own voice. So, I’ve kind of left those off. I do in-the-body exercises that are quick, accessible, tangible, that people can immediately feel, oh, I get that. When I do that, my voice is stronger.

2 1/2 years ago, when I started on my book, Empower Your Voice For Women in Business and Politics, I didn’t know that 2018 was going to be the year of the woman. I think it was really fortuitous that it’s a perfect timing for a book for women about releasing their physical voice. There are a lot of books that we can read that inspire our minds and our hearts to issue forth. But if our bodies have not ever embraced an open and free sound, then the body only can do what it’s been doing. So, even if my brain and my heart are empowered, if my voice and body are not, I still sound the same.

I have created a process that a woman can work through to free her voice and engage her body in authentic and compelling and expressive ways. I think this book is actually perfectly-timed for the movement and the energy of women in this country.

I had a group, one day, that asked me to perform for them, so I whipped out Amazing Grace. You know, I didn’t know what was going to come out of my mouth and I just opened it and there it was. And so, it felt like the old days, but it’s not something, performing in that way is not something that I burn to do. But speaking about my work, about empowerment of voice, freeing the body, becoming more grounded and centered and authentic, that I burn to share.


Rena Cook

Rena Cook is Professor Emerita at the University of Oklahoma. She is a TEDx speaker, author, voice, speech, confidence, and presentation coach. She is the founder of Vocal Authority, a training consultancy serving attorneys who want to use their voice in more commanding and authentic ways. She has authored several books, including Her Voice in Law, which she co-wrote with Laurie Koller. The book provides additional advice on the above topics and more, and is available at

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