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Theatre professor recognized for outstanding vocal scholarship

Professor Shannon Vickers receives Dudley Knight Award for Indigenous accent research

Professor Shannon Vickers

Professor Shannon Vickers. Photo supplied.

Professor Shannon Vickers has been recognized with a Dudley Knight Award for Outstanding Vocal Scholarship for her recently published paper Accent and Language Training for the Indigenous Performer: Results of Four Focus Groups.

This award is named in memory of Dudley Knight, a former Voice and Speech Review (VSR) editor and distinguished Voice and Speech Trainers Association (VASTA) member. It is the highest honour for peer-reviewed research in her field.

Relationships offer the foundation for this work to be possible.

Professor Shannon Vickers

“I am honoured to receive this award,” said Vickers. “It is especially meaningful to me because I had the opportunity to get to know and train with Dudley in the early stages of my career; including in the weeks prior to his passing in the summer of 2012. He was a wonderfully skilled and kind educator, and his approach continues to inform my pedagogy, research, and creative work.”

The article Vickers is being recognized for highlights the experience of Indigenous performers in Canada. It is the culmination of a three-year SSHRC Insight Development Grant-funded project, Best Practices in Indigenous Accents

Language toolkit supports Indigenous storytelling

Along with co-authors Eric Armstrong, Katie German, and Elan Marchinko, Vickers recommends ways to better serve Indigenous actors-in-training, create appropriate and effective accent and language resources, and improve how professional Indigenous artists are supported in roles requiring Indigenous language and/or accents.

The research team reviewed the outcomes of four focus group discussions with Indigenous performers around the topic of accent and language training and their use in performance. 

“Researchers and coaches must develop relationships with Indigenous artists, educators, and researchers to ensure the stewardship of resource creation is led by Indigenous artists and that subsequent resources are safeguarded and returned to the communities they intend to serve,” said the paper’s authors.

Vickers is thankful to the many members of the UWinnipeg community who contributed knowledge, time, and energy to the project; including her excellent Research Assistant, UW student Cameron Adams—recipient of the 2019 Young Humanitarian of the Year Award. 

Wii Chiiwaakanak Learning Centre and the Aboriginal Student Services Centre generously offered the project support with space, administration, and care; making Cameron’s fieldwork possible. Vickers is grateful for the generosity of Elders and staff that supported the project. 

Vickers says that relationships, built through time, repeated interactions, and trust building, are the cornerstone of coaching Indigenous accents.

“Relationships offer the foundation for this work to be possible,” said Vickers. “For settlers, (re)educating oneself in an awareness and knowledge of a country’s colonial history is necessary to support building relationships in one’s community; and relationships are what allow for collaboration and creativity to flourish.”

Vickers hopes the publication will encourage more research, resource-creation and support for Indigenous storytelling in performance contexts worldwide.

Vickers is a Professor in UWinnipeg’s Department of Theatre and Film. She has served as a voice, speech, and/or text coach on over 30 professional theatre productions in Canada, and is the author of the recently published Online Theatre Voice Pedagogy: A Literature Review.

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