Vocal Coach Sophie Cooper
founded Voice Alchemy to support embodied healing and transformation by empowering individuals and groups with the tools of voice and sound.
about Sophie Cooper:
I am a song carrier, songwriter, ceremonialist, artist, and life-long learner of personal healing and collective transformation. As a voice coach, I bring together more than 10 years of dedication to the ceremonial path, the tools I’ve gathered from my numerous sound and voice teachers, and over 8 years of experience as a Qigong practitioner.
While I have always loved singing, reclaiming my voice has been a journey. In 2016, I completed the Yoga of the Voice certificate program with Silvia Nakkach at the Vox Mundi Mystery School of Music in Emeryville, California. I sing often in ceremonial contexts and released my first album of original music entitled Rewilding in 2016. In my ongoing inquiry into personal transformation, I am currently studying the Hakomi Method of Somatic Psychotherapy.
I founded Voice Alchemy as part of my commitment to creating safe spaces where vibration and sound are placed in service of healing, transformation and liberation. It is my intention to simply share the tools I have gathered along my journey to those who feel the call.
While music is my central passion, my path has always found me engaging creativity toward the wellbeing of the collective. I began documentary filmmaking while working as a volunteer in post-war Kosovo in 1999. I then went on to complete film school at FAMU in Prague, Czech Republic and received my undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley in Art and Social Change. I have directed documentary films addressing immigration and racial justice (Undivided, 2011; The Tanton Network 2010) and the recovery of indigenous traditions in South America (Seeds of Gold, 2014). I also spent many years developing and teaching arts education programs for underprivileged youth with the organization Youth in Arts.
I live in Berkeley, California with my beloved husband Adrian Klaphaak and daughter Keeva Star, who was born in December of 2018.
Curious to know more about starting voice lessons? Want to join an upcoming event? Or dreaming up a possible collaboration? I’d love to talk with you!
More about my journey :
For some of us, life is a journey of transformation. We may turn to the healing path in a moment of crisis or personal turmoil. Yet, what we find (if we’re lucky) is a path of becoming stretched out before us that extends far beyond our own lifetime. We then become simple, curious travelers along the road. No longer attempting to conquer any mountaintop, we simply walk - attentive to the details along the way: The texture of the rocks, the vibrancy of an ancient tree, the warmth of a fellow traveler’s smile, the sensation of our feet lifting and resting from the soft earth.
I am a simple traveler on this path.
Along the way, I have gathered a few tools in my travel sack. And to me, they are precious treasures, for they are are a testament to the journey I have walked.
I have always loved singing. As a child, I would often sing quietly to myself and my younger brothers and sisters. I was very shy about singing for others, something about it felt so vulnerable. But sometimes I would build up the courage and try. All it took were a few experiences of being exposed and humiliated (a very harsh choir teacher and a few auditions-gone-wrong) for me to decide that exposing myself in this way was too risky. By the time I was 16, my precious voice went into a kind of hiding.
I dove into my young life as an artist, filmmaker, ecological activist, and youth educator. Every now and then, a would feel a call from deep within me. There was a yearning for song, accompanied by an equally intense fear of being truly seen and heard.
In my mid-twenties I decided to follow the call and it led me to the rainforests of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru where I began learning from Indigenous elders and ancient ceremonial traditions. Over the next years, as I witnessed and experienced first-hand the healing power of song within these traditions, something awoke within me.
I began to see that my buried inner longing to sing was linked to a deep need to claim, embody and express my true nature.
Along with this insight came questions. Where has my true nature been all this time? What has been keeping me from myself? Why this intense fear of vulnerability?
Much of this is social conditioning. The dominant culture we live in values efficiency and productivity over vulnerability and wildly unpredictable mystery. Where is the space for our true nature in that? This culture also has a frightening track record of violently severing a people from their roots, their inherent connection to the earth and all sense of belonging. This violence was enacted onto the Indigenous peoples of the Americas by the European immigrants. And, earlier in history, it was enacted by the Europeans to the Europeans. And it has been enacted in lands throughout the world. Digesting all this, I made prayers about ancestral healing, I sang about ancestral healing.
My ancestors are Irish, Jewish (from Ukraine), French, British and German. My ancestors have been on both sides of the equation, many times over.
The violence our ancestors experienced and enacted is not just something theoretical to be dismissed. It shows up in our communities and in our lives. It was not long before I realized that the prayer for ancestral healing had led me right back to myself. If I was serious about this prayer, and if I wanted to recover my true nature (and her voice), I was going to have to address my own very real wound of physical and psychological abuse as a child.
Healing is hard work. It’s not linear. It’s hard to document and it is ongoing. Singing was not only a catalyst for my healing journey, it became an essential part of the healing journey. Singing as a powerful tool to help us reawaken dormant parts of ourselves and connect to the world around us.
Looking back now, I can say there were four primary components that made up this healing journey and inform my work: Ceremony, Voice Craft, Somatics and Community.
I have been blessed to work with amazing ceremonial teachers and elders in North and South America. I have deep gratitude to the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the world who have worked hard and sacrificed deeply to keep these ways alive. And, within them, a vital relationship between humans and the living earth; between humans and the unseen world. It is in these relationships that I have found wholeness, health and hope for my life and the future generations.
While these ways have touched my life beyond words, I want to make it clear that in no way do I consider myself a teacher of Indigenous Wisdom. I am simply a person who was helped to remembered that I belong to the earth. And that the relationship to each living being in our family of creation can be nourished to bear fruits.
From 2012 – 2016, I apprenticed with renowned voice teacher Silvia Nakkach and completed the Yoga of the Voice certificate program. Working with Silvia immersed me in the joyful and liberating world of sound, giving me an opportunity to safely explore and discover the possibilities of my own voice while equipping me with a very practical toolbox for developing and refining the craft. While I had learned many songs from South America from my travels, the program introduced me to the vocal traditions of Tibet, North India, Brazil and parts of Africa.
I am grateful to Silvia Nakkach and a number of additional teachers who have supported me through ongoing learning and musical discovery.
The body is the instrument of the voice. An essential part of my journey has been cultivating a deep relationship to the inherent wisdom of the body. Since 2010, I have been a practitioner of the Laughing Dragon Qigong form with teachers Chris Fernie and Kristina Forester at the Institute for Internal Transformation. Qigong involves an incredibly useful set of practices to help release unnecessary tension from the body and activate the body’s natural circulations of vital life force. In doing so, the subtle body becomes active and a wider range of experience and perception becomes possible. This opens up many worlds of potential, for singing or just about anything you want to do!
The encouragement, inspiration and support of those I have met along my journey have made all the difference in the world! I learned so much by watching others take brave steps toward embodying their true nature and sharing their powerful voices with the world! I have been blessed to walk alongside some amazing songstresses on this path, including: Madi Sato (Praising Earth), Alejandra Ortiz (Lulacruza/Minük), Claudia Cuentas, Karisha Longaker & Sarah Nutting (Mamuse), and Magdalena Anderle. Along with many, many profound beings who are fully embodying their life’s work in their own unique way and taking the risks to show up fully. May our work lift each other up.
Bringing It All Together
In 2016, I released my first album of original music entitled Rewilding. This album is a direct prayer from my heart to my human family in the form of songs. Also in 2016, I started holding Singing Circles with women every full moon. From these circles, Voice Alchemy was born.