Mizzar (Margaret Laughlin Riddleberger), as she was called by her students, had a voice studio in New York City and Washington, D.C., taught singing voice for her Montgomery County in adult Ed. for many years, and was a guest consultant at the Tomatis Institute teaching them how to accomplish physically what Dr. Tomatis accomplished with his listening improvement technology.
She was quite a fabulous woman! Having been taught to sing from a Washington, D.C. socialite/metaphysician who taught folks at the Metropolitan Opera In NYC for many years. She had been recommended to ‘Teach’ by a protoge of her orginal voice teacher, Clegg.
With Teach she was trained in a very physical or body centered approach to singing that had to do with body length, elasticity, and flexibility, not compression of flexion (shortening). This was the Bel Canto approach from Italy; the branch that taught speak-singing rather then just beautiful tone where words were sometimes difficult to understand in this approach and emotions were not a true either. True emotions come through human expression, from the heart which is the actual ‘thinking’ mind.
But Mizzar found the Opera world stuffy and left the Metropolitan Opera, having had roles like milkmaids and chorus work because her voice was so ‘thin’ as she called it (though perfectly placed). Her real passion was theater! She brought the physiological Bel Canto singing voice technique to actors (and other performers) and here she thrived. Mizzar worked 7 days a week at times, teaching private voice lessons in her home voice-studio, as well as teaching evening Adult Education classes for Montgomery County and private workshops, going to see her students perform regularly (sometimes all over the country), was a mother with two daughters and a grandmother of two girls, and had many friends from all over the world. She was a brilliant teacher, and like all of us, human as well.
I was always able to ‘par and slice’, as she would say, around our personal relationship and our work together.
I began taking singing lessons from her in 1979; by 1982 we were already building an anatomical language that would help clarify the physical vocal instrument and Voicercise™ came about. This name has since been trademarked by someone else, as Mizzar was not strong at practical matters like deadlines for copyrights and so on. And it lapsed and someone who had been waiting, got that name. But not the knowledge base.
I was fine with this because it has taken me 20 years to get to where I need to be to introduce my understanding that her approach began for me. I have always known that I had to find a way to earn a living while I continued to develop this work to pass to many others because it is a science and an art being taught simultaneously. And without science, we move far too slowly, and without art we are tied to technique. In the art, we can let go of technique based in physics, and fly naturally and instinctively, the highest all human experiences.