Vocal Coach Sophie Cooper
founded Voice Alchemy to support embodied healing and transformation with the tools of voice and sound.
about Sophie Cooper:
I am a song carrier, songwriter, ceremonialist, artist, and life-long student of personal healing and collective transformation. As a voice coach, I bring together more than 10 years of dedication to a ceremonial path, the tools I’ve gathered from my numerous sound and voice teachers, and over 8 years experience as a Qigong practitioner.
While I have always loved singing, reclaiming my voice has been a journey. You can read more details on this journey down below. 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. If any of the tools I have gathered along my journey can be useful to others, I want to share them in the most supportive and empowering way I can.
As an artist, I have always looked to engage creativity toward the wellbeing of the collective. I began documentary filmmaking while volunteering in post-war Kosovo in 1999 (Crossing Bridges Films). I then went on to complete film school at FAMU in Prague, Czech Republic and received my undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley in Interdisciplinary Studies: Art, Film 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 a number of years developing and teaching arts education programs for underprivileged youth with the organization Youth in Arts.
I live in what is now called Berkeley, California, on Ohlone Land. I live 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:
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, I would feel a deep yearning for song — accompanied by an equally intense fear of being truly seen and heard.
In my mid-twenties I decided to follow a call to the rainforests and mountains 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 had my true nature been all this time? What was keeping me from myself? Why such an intense fear of vulnerability?
My experience of our culture is that it values efficiency and productivity over vulnerability and mystery. Because of this, I struggled for a long time to find and feel the room for my true, wild nature. I also see that our culture 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. It has been enacted in lands throughout the world. Digesting all this, I started making prayers about ancestral healing.
My ancestors are Irish, Ukrainian Jewish, French, British and German. My ancestors have been on both sides of the equation, many times over.
The violence my ancestors experienced and enacted was not just something theoretical that I could choose to dismiss. I began to realize that it lived in my body. 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’s ongoing.
While there is much I could say about this, I want to focus here on articulating what I now see as the four primary components that made up this healing journey and that shape the way I now offer this work. Those four components are: Ceremony, Voice Craft, Somatics and Community.
To me, ceremony is a tool of remembrance: A way of coming into relationship with the living earth and the beings that make up our family of creation. I have experienced how these relationships can be nourished to bear fruits.
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 the ancient ways alive. These ways have helped me find wholeness, health and come into my own relationship with the sacred.
It is this relationship with the sacred that I seek to carry with me into everything I do, from the altar of my home to my creative projects and my offerings with the voice. And while the teachings I have received are embedded into my being, I want to make it clear that I do not consider myself a teacher of Indigenous Wisdom.
Singing was not only a catalyst for my healing journey, it became an essential part of the healing itself. The voice, once we can access it, is incredible capacity to awaken, enliven and connect.
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.
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 have earned 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 song carriers on this path, including: Madi Sato (Praising Earth), Alejandra Ortiz (Lulacruza/Minük), Claudia Cuentas (Alma), Karisha Longaker & Sarah Nutting (Mamuse), and Magdalena Anderle (Wild at Heart). 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 started holding Singing Circles with every full moon. A form began to emerge that brought together all the tools I had been gathering, first in the group setting and then with one-on-one sessions. Voice Alchemy was born. Also In 2016, I released my first album of original music entitled Rewilding. This is an album of original music shared with the voice of my heart.