We had the good fortune of connecting with Natalie Andrews and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natalie, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
Wow, this question may take us down some interesting paths! The short answer to why I started Heartspark Voice is that I wanted to merge my passion for helping people embody and explore the potential of their voice with something that could support me financially and give me the freedom to continue performing as an actor and singer, although it has supported me in many other ways. I have always enjoyed learning about a wide variety of subjects, and owning my own business has definitely kept me growing and picking up new skills.
The longer answer is probably more of a memoir in length, but in essence has to do with my own journey and challenges with my voice. I think that as a society we often encourage kids to be obedient, color inside the lines, and not make waves over expressing themselves authentically. Growing up, this mentality gave me a lot of anxiety, people pleasing tendencies, and big feelings around my identity and my voice, and I learned to shy away from speaking up and standing confidently in my truth.
Luckily, I found an outlet in music and theatre, and from middle school on, I started singing in weekly voice lessons with some wonderfully supportive teachers and was constantly rehearsing and performing in plays, operas, and musicals. Wearing the mask of a character, I felt like I could connect to what was going on inside of me, share my thoughts and emotions, and connect with people more easily.
Cut forward to my sophomore year in college, I discovered my passion for all things voice in a Voice and Speech class taught by an incredible professor and thinker, Rena Cook. Although I had taken private singing lessons for years, I had never worked this deeply with my voice. Through our work over the next several years I was able to uncover how my habits and early conditioning were contributing to me not feeling fulfilled or satisfied in how I was performing, and also how I was making myself small in my interactions with people in my everyday life. It was a truly transformational time, and planted the seed for me seeing the potential for voicework to benefit everyone.
I started the first iteration of my business, Songbird Studios, in 2013, mainly providing voice training for actors and singers, but I kept getting requests from speakers and professionals from other industries that wanted to expand how they were showing up with their voices. Then in the course of the pandemic, some circumstances arose that forced me to change my business name. I rebranded as Heartspark Voice in 2020, and officially created a track of coaching for people wanting to explore their speaking voice. At the time, I felt that it must be the absolute worst time to relaunch a voice coaching business. Why would anyone hire a voice coach at a time when in-person meetings and performances were basically obsolete?
But I stuck with it and amidst the upending change that Covid times brought us, I started noticing something interesting. People started to realize how they had been doing things and using their voices was out of alignment with how they wanted to be in the world. People started to dream bigger, or at least differently. Video content, Zoom meetings, and webinars became new frontiers for presenting and sharing, which brought along with them many new obstacles and anxieties. Some people had to get comfortable speaking on-camera overnight while navigating new technology and platforms. And in-person interactions became even more important and precious, while simultaneously being loaded with new parameters.
It’s a challenging time to be alive, let along run a business, and a great time to have a voice coach on your team, although I am a little biased. I’ve become a bit of an advocate for voicework in general, and encourage anyone who is curious to give it a shot.
What should our readers know about your business?
My business is called Heartspark Voice and I provide voice coaching classes, services, and resources that help people find more joy, curiosity, and agency in their self-expression and communication. Most of my clients come to me with a particular obstacle they are encountering with their voice: they’re experiencing vocal strain and fatigue, feeling overwhelmed by nerves when attention is on them or not confident speaking up in meetings, or they’re unhappy with how their voice feels or sounds in general. Through education on voice mechanics, exploration of practical exercises and techniques, lots of empowerment and cheerleading, and opportunities to practice new habits, I help people embody the version of their voice that feels most aligned to reaching their goals and staying true to themselves.
What I am most excited about recently is the addition of group classes to my schedule. I work with people from all over the world and from all walks of life and something that I care deeply about is that voice education is accessible and affordable, as the voices that typically need the most support may not have the privilege of paying for one-on-one coaching sessions.
I think what sets me apart from others is the adaptability of my voice curriculum structure to many different formats, goals, and professions. Although I began my career with a performance-focused outlook on the voice, I’ve come to realize that the voice responds best when we consider it holistically, so that is something I constantly consider when I work with people. Historically, a lot of voice coaching and pedagogy has been about trying to fit people into a standard box, like there is one right way for all of us to speak, express, and communicate. But in my experience, excessive rules and techniques about how we “should or shouldn’t” speak up and express ourselves are exactly why people need help with their voices. And the voice is such a personal thing that it can feel disempowering to reach out about something so deeply connected to our sense of self. It can feel like giving your power away. My teaching style acknowledges that you are the boss of your own voice and without your mutual guidance and feedback, my work is not possible.
What is a challenge in my work is encouraging people to stick with the process, that working with the voice helps us shift how we show up in the world gradually, and it will take time to see tangible results. I believe in working slowly to get ahead and that the pace of our modern society and the feeling that we have to rush through our days is actually limiting us, especially when it comes to our voices.
The other thing that has been challenging is being a one-woman show. Especially when it comes to the administrative tasks, I have sometimes struggled to keep up with the speed of things, especially during the phases where my business has grown quickly. I am also neurodivergent and have an autoimmune disorder, which can both limit the amount of work I am able to complete on any given day. Eventually I plan to hire some staff to help with this, but getting organized and creating a structured routine for business administration has been integral to making it to this point.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my best friend were visiting, I would definitely carve out time for some day hikes around the city, as the desert landscape is one of my favorite things to show off to people. My regular spot is Piestewa Park, so that would be on the list, but I would make sure we take a longer hike in the Superstitions or South Mountain Park. I would also take them to the Desert Botanical Gardens–I am a member and try to hang out there on a semi-regular basis.
The Musical Instrument Museum is my favorite place in the whole valley, and spending a day there exploring the world through music and perhaps attending a show to experience the incredible acoustics of their concert venue–that could be a perfect day in my book.
If time allows, a drive up to Flagstaff would be in order. We would stop along the way to visit Montezuma’s Castle and get a taste of the history of the land and the people who lived here. We’d stroll through downtown Flag, stop at Martanne’s Burrito Place or The Toasted Owl, and maybe check out the Lowell Observatory. We would take the long way home, taking the 89A through Oak Creek and stopping at Indian Gardens for a late lunch. More potential stops along the way: a short walk through Sedona and maybe a drink on a mountainside balcony in Jerome, exploring Tuzigoot, and then making one final stop at Mortimer Farms to get some local jams and pickles.
Some local restaurants that I always take out-of-town friends to: Wild Thaiger, The Coronado, Jewel’s Bakery, La Barquita, and Hash.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are at least a dozen individuals I could recognize as vital to my story, and the one that rises to the top is Rena Cook and her company Vocal Authority. At a time when I was beginning to doubt my direction and feeling pretty negative about what I had to offer in general, Rena gave me clarity, guidance, and some much-needed perspective. Her dedication to helping people with their voices is inspiring and she always leads with generosity and open-mindedness.