April 2012 Singer’s Spotlight

We’re thrilled to introduce a new feature: our monthly Student Spotlight.

We thought it would be fun to share individual student stories as a way of making connections and sharing the amazing work our students are doing.

To inaugurate this new feature, we’d like to introduce you to singer and upcoming voice teacher Dawn Lewis.

April 2012 Singer’s Spotlight: Dawn Lewis

Dawn Lewis’ songwriting takes many forms, including traditional, indie, folk and especially electronic. She plays drums and guitar, is currently working on her grade 7 piano, and has completed her grade 8 conservatory voice.

She is a member of the internationally recognized band Repair, which has been a mainstay for her for more than a decade.

Music producers and sound engineers Matt and Mark Thibideau point to Dawn as a major factor in the success that has led them to music festivals in Canada, Germany and Spain, with as much as 3,000 strong audiences. The band’s work has been featured on compilations by well known record labels like Rough Trade, and tracks have been remixed by prominent German techno producers such as Richard Davis and the Modernist. You can view Dawn’s video here or purchase the Repair album here.

Discovering Vocal Strength

As Dawn continues to study voice with our Director, she feels that “his approach has freed and refined my sound. He has shown me the depth of my chest voice and taught me to sing with great strength (something I always wanted to do) and still maintain my wide range, accurate pitch and beautiful tone.

In the past I found live shows were very stressful. There were always feedback issues due to my breathiness and ‘light chest.’ Now with a new-found consistent volume, those problems are easily overcome.”

Overcoming Challenges

Dawn says her major vocal challenges have been “Volume and pitch, and for me they are related. When I would try to sing loud my pitch was always unpredictable.

I think I also shied away from singing loud because in my head it sounded too harsh or nasal or something. I always wanted to sound “pretty” which for me was breathy. I think that might be why a lot of women are light chest singers…

Finding my chest voice was the initial ‘ah-ha’, but it’s an ongoing process. Every lesson has an ‘ah-ha’ – it might be some tweak to a vowel that he will suggest and suddenly the note just finds its place.


I have a wide range of musical influences. Growing up I listened to a combination of old country and pop. Linda Ronstadt, Patsy Cline, Olivia Newton John and Pat Benatar just to name a few. Later, I listened to artists like Kate Bush and the Cocteau Twins, even getting into Motown, like Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin. I also like more current indie stuff like Feist and Metric. I’m all over the map!”

With such an eclectic musical palate, she’s always looking to the future with an open mind. Her goal, she says, is “to have vast musical knowledge and boundless creativity and to attract inspiring collaborators that nurture this”.

Her ultimate dream however seems much more humble. It would be to “pay the bills by making music and teaching. I think that’s pretty realistic. I also would love the opportunity to do more traveling. If I could travel AND make music AND pay the bills, well that would be incredible!”

Helping Others

Dawn hopes to share her inspiration and passion for the vocal technique she has learned. She has a wealth of experience in teaching due to her early years as an instructor of Fashion Design at Fanshawe College.

She would like to see us all get on to our fulfilling and lucrative lives as uninhibited artists—pouring celebratory drinks for ourselves instead of others.

Photography by Margaret Kelly.