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April 10, 1994 — Business of Santa Fe Section — Page 14

Voice coach says you are what you sound like

Helps people to 'get
what they want'



The New Mexican

"It is not of so much consequence what you say, as how you say it."


                          — Alexander Smith
                        Essayist (1830-1867)

                      ⊕   ⊕   ⊕

   Sandra McKnight knows how the power of voice can change your life.
   The Santa Fe voice coach left her native Pittsburgh after college to become an actress in New York. After her first off-Broadway audition the director told her that he felt she had talent but if she didn't "lose the nasal" she would only play "hillbillies."
   Like most people, McKnight didn't know what she sounded like. The kindly, but direct, director told the stunned actress to go to Juilliard. So she did. For two years McKnight studied privately with a voice coach there.
   The short story: She lost the nasal, moved to Los Angeles, played commercials and soaps.
   Eight years ago — finding fewer and fewer roles for women — McKnight began to consider career alternatives. On the advice of an industry photographer, she started a voice class for actors and discovered she was good at it.
   More classes followed and eventually she got a contract to train telemarketeers. That was her first foray into the business world — and not her last. More business accounts followed, a few that brought her to New Mexico.
   Two years ago she moved to Santa Fe.
   Now McKnight runs a business — Voice Power — out of a small

Sandra McKnight Voice Coach
office on Galisteo. Her goal, she says, is empowerment. "I want people to get what they want out of life. When I was nasal no one paid attention."
   McKnight believes business professionals can be more successful by training their voices to project confidence, self-assurance and credibility. Just looking at her client list you can see many businesses agree with her. Since arriving in Santa Fe, McKnight has worked with First National Bank of Santa Fe, Santa Fe Properties, New Mexico Association of Counties, Packards and the state's Taxation and Revenue Department, to name a few.
   McKnight discovered that she wasn't just teaching voice, she was teaching communication skills.
   When it comes to success in sales, 55 percent is determined by posture, 35 percent is voice and 10 percent words, McKnight said. And we all know the adage, "It's not what you say — it's how you say it."
   "There are a lot of negative voice patterns, that turn someone on or off," McKnight said, ticking off a list of them — mumblers, talking at people, monotone. "I ask salespeople if they would buy from one of these people." And the answer is always no.
   The idea, McKnight said, is to have a personal relationship with everyone. To some, this might
seem like training in phoniness. But to McKnight, it is a way that people can learn not to get in their own way. "The voice is the megaphone of the soul," she said. "The way you sound at any given time is who people think you are. If you mumble you can be seen as insecure, passive, maybe even manipulative."
   McKnight credits much of her approach in teaching voice to her show business background. For example, "When Lena Horne turns on that voice she grabs a hold of your ears. Energy makes your voice alive and when you have a voice that's alive you turn other people on."
   "I use my acting skills to help people change attitude."
   McKnight maintains a busy schedule. She has a radio show on KSFR (90.7) Your Voice is Power; in addition to private coaching lessons she teaches a course at the Santa Fe Community College, Change Your Voice, Change Your Life. And she hasn't given up acting. McKnight is currently at work developing a one-woman show.
   But she has found tremendous satisfaction in helping people. "If you have control of your voice you have control over what you project out into life. You have choices, therefore you get more of what you want," said McKnight.
   "The body and the voice never lie. You really know who people are if you listen and if you watch."