Photos of Monica by Eliot Holtzman Photography

Monica Norcia was born in Rome, Italy, into a family of opera singers and actors. A Bay Area voice teacher, singing performer, pianist and music director since 1997, she received her bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from California State University-Hayward.

As a singer fluent in Italian, she enjoys specializing in the performance of the Italian/Neapolitan repertoire. After a 3-year training, she was certified in 2002 by the Alexander Technique Institute in San Francisco.

She is a Level 2 Reiki practitioner, certified in shamanic healing from HCH in Lafayette and is an avid yoga practitioner and meditator. She teaches voice at JB Piano in San Rafael, California.


Photo by Martha Swope/ ©The New York Public Library

Choreographer George Balanchine, with Mikhail Baryshnikov, is the embodiment of the graceful, free movement that is experienced during Alexander Technique lessons.
Photo by Martha Swope/©The New York Public Library

My husband Larry Ball in a 1979 lesson with master Alexander teacher Marjorie Barstow, the first graduate of F.M. Alexander’s first teacher training.

We all want to sing, speak and move with ease. However, we often have habitual patterns of being or holding that get in the way of a healthy head-spine relationship. These patterns can lead to poor alignment and balance, neck, back and knee pain, joint immobility and encumbered breathing. Lessons in the Alexander Technique teach us how to rebalance ourselves so we return to the easy, flexible relationship to gravity that we had as children. Using my hands, I gently teach a student, who is either lying on the table, sitting or standing, to become aware of these psychophysical patterns and how to undo them.


Student Mark Kupke, a bass-baritone, likes to cross over from opera to Bocelli-style pop repertoire.

I’m a “technique-ophile”! I love to figure out what is going on in the body to make this or that sound. I have boundless curiosity and, many say, patience. In classical singing, the goal is for a seamless, ringing sound. But every singing style is different. For instance, the Broadway “belt” is a different use of the vocal cords and support from, let’s say, bluegrass or Sinatra tunes. My students explore vocal range, ease and balance through the registers, agility, resonance, voice “size” and use of the whole body in singing. They are also encouraged to explore repertoire that best interests and suits their voice. A speech student, in learning about the use of the breath, resonance and flexibility, may even do some singing to experience that “bigger body” activation.


Photo by Bernie Kepke

Student Karen Wilhoyte on the table, an excellent tool for “undoing” tension, exploring breathing and making sound.

In our ambitious, “doing” culture, sometimes we forget that the Divine is always with us – God, the Universe, whatever we want to call the truth that sees us out of time and place. I believe our soul’s needs are always taken care of, even if we don’t know what those needs are. Reiki, which originated in Japan and is translated as Universal Life Energy, heals on all levels of our being. It is passed along either through laying on of hands or from a distance. One never forces Reiki on anyone: It is offered and accepted or declined. Common outcomes of Reiki are deep relaxation and calm. I may use Reiki during my hands-on work to help a student become more centered and peaceful before we do our vocal practice.


I have a long history of stage fright. As a cellist in high school, I remember performing the first movement of Boccherini’s “Concerto in B-flat” and shaking so hard I could barely control the notes. And, in the wings before going on stage as Amor in the opera “L’Egisto,” with my heart beating a mile a minute, I recall thinking: “I wish I were home watching “Star Trek.” Now, even though I still feel the butterflies and all the stuff adrenaline does to our bodies, I can do my work on stage. For me, learning to be present in my body, feeling solid in my vocal technique and being super-prepared are key to handling the nerves. Stage-Fright curtainBut everyone is different. I encourage students who have a desire to perform to do so as much as possible and to use the stage as a laboratory for the psyche in performance.