Job title: Professional singer; speech language pathologist; co-founder of FEMME vocal quartet.
Why she’s a 2019 Top 40 Under 40: She uses her voice to help others find theirs.
Sable Chan remembers the sound of a man’s voice — that had been silent for decades — slowly evolve from a gravelly hum into syllables, short words and, eventually, full sentences. He told Chan, a speech language pathologist with her own voice therapy business, that he’d never expected to hear his voice again.
“I remember thinking: How long have you been living silent, bypassed because people couldn’t hear you?” says Chan. A person’s voice, she explains, is often tied to identity and a sense of self.
Chan’s identity is especially linked to her voice, as she’s sung professionally for nearly a decade with organizations including Pro Coro Canada, Edmonton Opera Chorus and Canadian Chamber Choir. While she loves performing, it’s the collaborative work and the ways she can use her voice to help others that most excites her. “I’m not so much interested in sitting in a practice room by myself, but I like … creating something bigger than myself.”
Two years ago, after undergoing professional training, Chan started helping transgender individuals develop their voices to better suit their new identities. “I definitely don’t see my role as: This is what you should sound like. It’s like: ‘Hey, how does this feel? What about this?’ There is no right voice at the end.”
Last year, she co-founded FEMME Vocal Ensemble, offering chances for women to perform and create choral music with roles that go beyond that of a wife, ingénue or jealous witch. Through her The Choir Girl blog — which this year celebrated its 10th anniversary — she highlights the work of those in the Canadian choral scene. She’s determined to be part of a community that fosters support; it’s something that she believes is very much needed, especially for women.
“I’d rather be doing something to create more opportunities than just gripe about not being cast in something because there are only so many roles to go around.”