I fell into voice teaching after years of a career as an actor and director. Growing up in New York, I was blessed with the opportunity of seeing the original Broadway productions of SOUND OF MUSIC, OLIVER, MY FAIR LADY, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, CARNIVAL and more. I memorized the entire scores from records I’d borrowed from the public library. Yes, they had records then; and libraries. At fifteen, my grandfather decided I should audition for voice lessons with his friend Emil Renan, a renowned compromario baritone. Emil heard me sing and promptly declared that though I had a lovely voice, he wouldn't teach me until my voice was fully developed . . . at sixteen. The following year I began my formal studies. I took the Long Island Rail Road to Manhattan from Great Neck twice a week for a half hour lesson, where I started singing the musical theatre repertoire I was familiar with and then moved into the thrilling world of opera.


By the time I was ready to choose a college I was torn – music or theatre? I’d always loved acting, been a High School Thespian, and a “ham” from birth. So I decided on the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where I got a BA in Speech and managed to perform in over thirty shows, including Menotti’s THE MEDIUM, GEORGE M!, three Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and ON ACCOUNT OF SID SHRYCOCK, an original musical that believe it or not went on to have a life in Chicago at the Kingston Mines Theatre, original home of GREASE. I was fortunate to be taken on as a “secret” private student of Elizabeth Mosher, a brilliant voice teacher, who took me to the next level and really enjoyed having a “Broadway Baby” in her strictly classical studio.

When I was a senior in college I took a road trip to audition for a new summer stock theatre in Flint, Michigan. Out of hundreds of young people, three of us were chosen to join the professional chorus of the Kenley Summer Theatre. So, I received my Equity Card and performed with some of the greats; Anne Miller, Carole Lawrence, Jan Pierce, and the inimitable Andy Devine. If you don’t know who they are, Google them!


Equity card in my hot little hand, I came back to New York and began searching for work. I found myself supporting my audition habit by office temping, waitressing and . . . hold your hats. . . Go Go Dancing! My voice teacher at the time was Cynthia Hoffmann, who later went on to have a brilliant career as the Head of the Voice Department at the Manhattan School of Music.

My first performing jobs were with the famous Prince Street Players in ALADDIN, ALICE IN WONDERLAND and CINDERELLA. I then went on to sing and act in Summer Stock, Dinner Theatres, Off Off Broadway, and Regional Theatres all over the country.

Broadway next . . . In July of 1977 I was cast as Fermina/Moorish Dancer and Understudy to Aldonza in the revival of MAN OF LA MANCHA, starring Richard Kiley. I “played the Palace” (Theatre, that is). Funny thing though . . .the best thing about being on Broadway for me was being able to live at home in Manhattan Plaza and walk to work.


For the next few years I continued to work on and off, but was getting frustrated with the state of “the business,” as I saw that trained singers were being replaced more and more by dancer/actors or rock singers. I stopped studying singing. “What was the point?” I thought. As luck would have it, I was cast as Pitti Sing in THE MIKADO at the Clarence Brown Theatre in Knoxville TN. There I met the man who was to become my husband and I took on the role of wife and stepmother. I left New York, moved to Knoxville to be with my new family and pursued a career as a director and teacher.

Knoxville wasn’t quite the place for work in music or theatre, so we packed up our lives and moved to Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, a place where there was an abundance of teaching, directing and performing venues and we both had the promise of jobs. I began by directing High School, College, and Community Theatre. Some of the shows I directed included BYE BYE BIRDIE, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, MAN OF LA MANCHA, FAME, THE BOYFRIEND, and BABY.


The Lehigh Valley proved a fruitful place to establish myself as a director . . . and teacher. I began with Musical Theatre Performance workshops at all the local colleges and coaching the “acting” part of the voice lessons my husband was giving. I would occasionally substitute as a voice teacher and enjoyed it so much that I began seriously researching “the voice” and vocal pedagogy. The opportunity arose to become Adjunct Professor of Theatre at Cedar Crest College for Women. I jumped at the chance and taught Acting, Directing, Oral Interpretation, Shakespeare and Musical Theatre for four years.

Working “on the other side of the table” was livened up with appearances as Equity Guest Artist at Muhlenberg Summer Theatre and a joyous, exciting career with the Minnesota New Music Theatre Ensemble (now called Nautilus Theatre) where I met my mentor H. Wesley Balk. I also wrote and performed many specialty shows for cabarets, clubs, and both Musikfest and Mayfair and even sang in a Wedding Band. Didn’t want to lose my chops!


I was getting homesick for the big city, so, I returned to New York . . . on a trial basis. Within weeks I was cast in the Raul Julia revival of MAN OF LA MANCHA (playing the same role I had 15 years earlier and making me the only person to have played Aldonza opposite both Richard Kiley and Raul Julia). Following LA MANCHA came the original Broadway productions of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I decided to once again make my home in New York. The move put a strain on my marriage and I soon found myself alone but eager to explore my new life.

And thus it was, (in 1994) that I officially opened my own Voice Studio in New York, in my tiny one bedroom sublet. Since then I’ve managed to perform on Broadway in BIG, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, A CHRISTMAS CAROL (7 out of 10 years), KING DAVID, and FOLLIES. I’ve made recordings for Disney soundtracks and many other films and CD’s. I’ve done my own Cabaret Act at Danny’s . . . and never stopped teaching. Many of my most joyful moments have been in my Voice Studio; moments of discovery and accomplishment, “Ah Hah,” transformations and shared laughter and tears. And now I am lucky enough to be sharing my studio (and life) with NORM GOLDEN, a brilliant acting coach/director with whom I frequently co-teach. I welcome new students, whether highly trained or beginner. We have much to teach each other.


Education/Teaching Experience

• BA/Theatre/University of Michigan
• Phi Beta Kappa
• Five years teaching at Cedar Crest College, Allentown PA (acting, oral interpretation, directing, musical theatre performance).
• Ten years teaching voice, musical theatre performance at private studio in Lehigh Valley, PA (Students peformed yearly at Musikfest). Directed over thirty musicals at local colleges, high schools and community theatres.
• Workshops in Performing Power (Musical Theatre Performance) at Muhlenberg, Lehigh, Allentown, and Lafayette Colleges.
• Fourteen years teaching voice and musical theatre performance at private studio in New York City. Member of NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing).


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Would you like to know more?
Contact Joan at joan@joanbarberstudio.com