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Grand Rapids business helps trans, non-binary people find their true voice

The Modulation Institute works with people on vocal feminization, vocal masculinization, and non-binary vocal expressions.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — 13 ON YOUR SIDE continues to celebrate PRIDE month by highlighting local, LGBTQ+ owned businesses right here in West Michigan.

In Grand Rapids, a virtual business is helping transgender and non-binary people find their voices during their transition journey.

"Speaking is such a vulnerable part of our identity," said Alison Bieber, Voice Coach and Founder of the Modulation Institute. "It's how we express ourselves, how we communicate, and basically how we show the world who we are."

Bieber has been a classically-trained voice coach for years, but is now using her skills in a whole new way once she saw a need in the community.

"Working with trans and non-binary people using the knowledge I have to help them in singing or even in speech is really rewarding," she said.

About a year ago, Bieber created the Modulation Institute, and in January of 2022 they officially started taking clients. It's a place they describe as a safe space for people to have one-on-one private vocal training. 

"A lot of people are starting from the beginning," Bieber explained, "like maybe they haven't even come out yet, and they're just looking to feminize their voice or lower their voice."

The Modulation Institute has clients from all over the country, taking lessons at their own pace, learning the fundamentals of what their voice is. 

"We talk about breath and body, and just kind of understanding where the larynx is, how high up the lungs actually go, that kind of stuff," said Bieber, "there's a lot of body mapping involved."

"It would be like just going to the gym and lifting weights," she added. "That's also what we're doing with the vocal folds because it's the same thing, we're working with muscles."

Bieber, and her other vocal coach, Ash Zvonar, work with people on vocal feminization, vocal masculinization, and non-binary vocal expression.

"When we're working on voice, one of the things we want to get to is the very core of someone's sound," Zvonar explained, "and my goal generally is to help people get rid of all the tensions around their throat."

Zvonar said it's all about speech, tone, inflection, and resonance, and what sound someone feels most comfortable with. 

"Part of the exercise is getting people to be comfortable with pitch, where their voice is sitting, and if they aware of where their voice does sit," Zvonar explained.

And for the Modulation Institute, their main goal is to let people know they are there to help, no matter where someone may be in their journey.

"Our voice is one of the most fundamental means we have of expressing anything," Zvonar said. "How you look is going to change over time, but your voice is yours."

The Modulation Institute is having specials during the month of June, and is also actively taking donations towards a scholarship program. You can learn more about the Modulation Institute or help donate by clicking here.

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