Dr Helen Mitchell

Senior Lecturer

C41 - Sydney Conservatorium of Music
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9351 1250

Biographical details

Helen Mitchell has a multidisciplinary background in music, as a singer, music scholar and music performance researcher and her research is situated at the intersection between music practice and scientific discovery. She graduated in music from the University of Oxford in 2000 and moved to Sydney to undertake doctoral studies at the Conservatorium of Music in 2001. From 2004-5, she was Dean of Students at The Women’s College within the University of Sydney.

Listeners’ perception of sound quality is central to Helen's music performance research. Her PhD research defined and examined a major pedagogic singing technique, the “open throat”, by matching expert pedagogues’ descriptions and perceptions of sound quality to established acoustic measures of voices. A series of studies confirmed that listeners were the most effective and reliable assessors of sound quality but also suggested that current acoustic methods were limited in defining vocal quality.

From 2005, Helen was Australian Postdoctoral Fellow in an ARC funded study and conducted a longitudinal study of music training, tracking singers through the duration of a tertiary degree and mapped perceptual and acoustic changes in their vocal quality to their acquisition of technical mastery.

Her current work investigates how listeners recognise and describe individual performers’ sound identities. She first examined the impact of verbal overshadowing on listeners’ perception of performers. Two studies confirmed that the act of verbal description, or putting a sound “into words”, is not only essentially uninformative, but actually distorts listeners’ memory and subsequent recall of the original performer (Mitchell & MacDonald 2011; 2012). Results also indicated that listeners are surprising unreliable at recognising individual performers by sound alone. She is now investigating how listeners ‘hear’ music performers to see to what extent audiences integrate audio and visual information to identify individual performers (Mitchell & MacDonald in press; in review).

At SCM, Helen convenes Postgraduate and Honours Research Methods courses and takes graduate seminars in empirical music studies and research ethics. She is Performance Honours Coordinator and also supervises Honours, Masters, DMA and PhD students in their research projects in music performance.

Selected grants

2014

  • Redefining tacit knowledge in music performance valuation: preparing perceptually-aware music leaders; Mitchell H, Latukefu L; Office of Learning and Teaching, Australian Government/OLT Grants Research - Seed Projects.

2013

  • Sound identities of music performers: performing research in music performance; Mitchell H, MacDonald R; Office of Global Engagement/IPDF Grant.

2005

  • Enhancing Quality in Western Classical Singing and Pedagogy; Kenny D, Mitchell H, Cabrera D, Halliwell M; Australian Research Council (ARC)/Discovery Projects (DP).

Selected publications & creative works

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Book Chapters

  • Mitchell, H. (2014). Perception, Evaluation and Communication of Singing Voices. In Scott D Harrison, Jessica OBryan (Eds.), Teaching Singing in the 21st Century, (pp. 187-200). Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media. [More Information]

Journals

  • Mitchell, H., Benedict, R. (2017). The moot audition: Preparing music performers as expert listeners. Research Studies in Music Education, 39(2), 195-208. [More Information]
  • Mitchell, H., MacDonald, R. (2016). What you see is what you hear: The importance of visual priming in music performer identification. Psychology of Music, 44(6), 1361-1371. [More Information]
  • Mitchell, H., MacDonald, R. (2014). Listeners as spectators? Audio-visual integration improves music performer identification. Psychology of Music, 42(1), 112-127. [More Information]
  • Ferguson, S., Kenny, D., Mitchell, H., Ryan, M., Cabrera, D. (2013). Change in Messa di Voce Characteristics During 3 Years of Classical Singing Training at the Tertiary Level. Journal of Voice, 27(4), 523.e35-523.e48. [More Information]
  • Southcott, I., Mitchell, H. (2013). How singers hear themselves: using recordings in the singing studio. Australian Voice, 15, 20-28.
  • Mitchell, H., MacDonald, R. (2012). Recognition and description of singing voices: the impact of verbal overshadowing. Musicae Scientiae, 16(3), 307-316. [More Information]
  • Mitchell, H., MacDonald, R. (2011). Remembering, recognizing and describing singers' sound identities. Journal of New Music Research, 40(1), 75-80. [More Information]
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2010). Change in vibrato rate and extent during tertiary training in classical singing students. Journal of Voice, 24(4), 427-434. [More Information]
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D., Ryan, M. (2010). Perceived improvement in vocal performance following tertiary-level classical vocal training: do listeners hear systematic progress? Musicae Scientiae, 14(1), 73-93.
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2008). Open Throat: Acoustic and Perceptual Support for Pedagogical Practice. Journal of Singing, 64(4), 429-441.
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2008). The Tertiary Singing Audition: Perceptual and Acoustic Differences between Successful and Unsuccessful Candidates. Journal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies, 2(1-2), 95-110.
  • Kenny, D., Mitchell, H. (2006). Acoustic and Perceptual Appraisal of Vocal Gestures in the Female Classical Voice. Journal of Voice, 20(1), 55-70. [More Information]
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2006). Can experts identify "open throat" technique as a perceptual phenomenon? Musicae Scientiae, 10(1. Spring), 33-58.
  • Callinan-Robertson, J., Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2006). Effect of Pedagogical Imagery of 'Halo' on Vocal Quality in Young Classical Female Singers. Australian Voice, 12, 39-52.
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2004). The effects of open throat technique on long term average spectra (LTAS) of female classical voices. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, 29(3), 99-118. [More Information]
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2004). The impact of "open throat" technique on vibrato rate, extent and onset in classical singing. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, 29(4), 171-182. [More Information]
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D., Ryan, M., Davis, P. (2003). Defining 'open throat' through content analysis of experts' pedagogical practices. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, 28(4), 167-180. [More Information]

Conferences

  • Rowley, J., Mitchell, H. (2010). Building social inclusion through cultural diversity and community engagement. CDIME10: Tenth International Conference on Cultural Diversity in Music Education, Sydney: Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
  • Rowley, J., Mitchell, H. (2010). Making Sound Connections: Broadening access, participation and progress of social inclusion in music education in Australia. 29th World Conference of the International Society for Music Education (ISME) 2010, Perth, Australia: International Society of Music Education (ISME).
  • Mitchell, H., MacDonald, R. (2009). Linguistic limitations of describing sound: Is talking about music like dancing about architecture? 2nd International Symposium on Performance Science ISPS 2009, Utrecht: Association EuropĂ©enne des Conservatoires.
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2007). Can acoustic characteristics identify adjudicator preferences in vocal auditions? Inaugural International Conference on Music Communication Science ICoMCS 2007, Australia: ARC Research Network in Human Communication Science (HCSNet).
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2007). Open throat technique: Acoustic and perceptual suppport for pedagogical practice. 3rd Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology (CIM07), Austria: University of Graz.
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2007). The vocal audition process: do you hear what i hear? 3rd Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology (CIM07), Austria: University of Graz.
  • Kenny, D., Mitchell, H. (2007). Vocal quality in female classical singers: the role of accoustics, perception and pedagogy. 3rd Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology (CIM07), Austria: University of Graz.
  • Kenny, D., Mitchell, H. (2005). Acoustic and perceptual appraisal of vocal gestures in the female classical voice. 28th National Conference of the Musicological Society of Australia. Musicological Society of Australia.
  • Kenny, D., Mitchell, H. (2004). Appraising vocal beauty by ear and eye: Can we believe our senses? ICMPC8 The 8th International Conference on Music Perception & Cognition. The Japanese Society for Music Perception and Cognition.
  • Kenny, D., Mitchell, H. (2004). Visual and auditory perception of vocal beauty: conflict or concurrence? ICMPC8 The 8th International Conference on Music Perception & Cognition. The Japanese Society for Music Perception and Cognition.
  • Kenny, D., Mitchell, H. (2003). Acoustic properties of vibrato using open throat in classical singing. Music and Gesture.

Web Site / Exhibition

  • Mitchell, H., Latukefu, L., Benedict, R., Taylor, J. (2016). MusicListening: Preparing listeners for music performance evaluation, Australia: Wordpress.

2017

  • Mitchell, H., Benedict, R. (2017). The moot audition: Preparing music performers as expert listeners. Research Studies in Music Education, 39(2), 195-208. [More Information]

2016

  • Mitchell, H., Latukefu, L., Benedict, R., Taylor, J. (2016). MusicListening: Preparing listeners for music performance evaluation, Australia: Wordpress.
  • Mitchell, H., MacDonald, R. (2016). What you see is what you hear: The importance of visual priming in music performer identification. Psychology of Music, 44(6), 1361-1371. [More Information]

2014

  • Mitchell, H., MacDonald, R. (2014). Listeners as spectators? Audio-visual integration improves music performer identification. Psychology of Music, 42(1), 112-127. [More Information]
  • Mitchell, H. (2014). Perception, Evaluation and Communication of Singing Voices. In Scott D Harrison, Jessica OBryan (Eds.), Teaching Singing in the 21st Century, (pp. 187-200). Dordrecht: Springer Science+Business Media. [More Information]

2013

  • Ferguson, S., Kenny, D., Mitchell, H., Ryan, M., Cabrera, D. (2013). Change in Messa di Voce Characteristics During 3 Years of Classical Singing Training at the Tertiary Level. Journal of Voice, 27(4), 523.e35-523.e48. [More Information]
  • Southcott, I., Mitchell, H. (2013). How singers hear themselves: using recordings in the singing studio. Australian Voice, 15, 20-28.

2012

  • Mitchell, H., MacDonald, R. (2012). Recognition and description of singing voices: the impact of verbal overshadowing. Musicae Scientiae, 16(3), 307-316. [More Information]

2011

  • Mitchell, H., MacDonald, R. (2011). Remembering, recognizing and describing singers' sound identities. Journal of New Music Research, 40(1), 75-80. [More Information]

2010

  • Rowley, J., Mitchell, H. (2010). Building social inclusion through cultural diversity and community engagement. CDIME10: Tenth International Conference on Cultural Diversity in Music Education, Sydney: Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2010). Change in vibrato rate and extent during tertiary training in classical singing students. Journal of Voice, 24(4), 427-434. [More Information]
  • Rowley, J., Mitchell, H. (2010). Making Sound Connections: Broadening access, participation and progress of social inclusion in music education in Australia. 29th World Conference of the International Society for Music Education (ISME) 2010, Perth, Australia: International Society of Music Education (ISME).
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D., Ryan, M. (2010). Perceived improvement in vocal performance following tertiary-level classical vocal training: do listeners hear systematic progress? Musicae Scientiae, 14(1), 73-93.

2009

  • Mitchell, H., MacDonald, R. (2009). Linguistic limitations of describing sound: Is talking about music like dancing about architecture? 2nd International Symposium on Performance Science ISPS 2009, Utrecht: Association EuropĂ©enne des Conservatoires.

2008

  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2008). Open Throat: Acoustic and Perceptual Support for Pedagogical Practice. Journal of Singing, 64(4), 429-441.
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2008). The Tertiary Singing Audition: Perceptual and Acoustic Differences between Successful and Unsuccessful Candidates. Journal of Interdisciplinary Music Studies, 2(1-2), 95-110.

2007

  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2007). Can acoustic characteristics identify adjudicator preferences in vocal auditions? Inaugural International Conference on Music Communication Science ICoMCS 2007, Australia: ARC Research Network in Human Communication Science (HCSNet).
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2007). Open throat technique: Acoustic and perceptual suppport for pedagogical practice. 3rd Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology (CIM07), Austria: University of Graz.
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2007). The vocal audition process: do you hear what i hear? 3rd Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology (CIM07), Austria: University of Graz.
  • Kenny, D., Mitchell, H. (2007). Vocal quality in female classical singers: the role of accoustics, perception and pedagogy. 3rd Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology (CIM07), Austria: University of Graz.

2006

  • Kenny, D., Mitchell, H. (2006). Acoustic and Perceptual Appraisal of Vocal Gestures in the Female Classical Voice. Journal of Voice, 20(1), 55-70. [More Information]
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2006). Can experts identify "open throat" technique as a perceptual phenomenon? Musicae Scientiae, 10(1. Spring), 33-58.
  • Callinan-Robertson, J., Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2006). Effect of Pedagogical Imagery of 'Halo' on Vocal Quality in Young Classical Female Singers. Australian Voice, 12, 39-52.

2005

  • Kenny, D., Mitchell, H. (2005). Acoustic and perceptual appraisal of vocal gestures in the female classical voice. 28th National Conference of the Musicological Society of Australia. Musicological Society of Australia.

2004

  • Kenny, D., Mitchell, H. (2004). Appraising vocal beauty by ear and eye: Can we believe our senses? ICMPC8 The 8th International Conference on Music Perception & Cognition. The Japanese Society for Music Perception and Cognition.
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2004). The effects of open throat technique on long term average spectra (LTAS) of female classical voices. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, 29(3), 99-118. [More Information]
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D. (2004). The impact of "open throat" technique on vibrato rate, extent and onset in classical singing. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, 29(4), 171-182. [More Information]
  • Kenny, D., Mitchell, H. (2004). Visual and auditory perception of vocal beauty: conflict or concurrence? ICMPC8 The 8th International Conference on Music Perception & Cognition. The Japanese Society for Music Perception and Cognition.

2003

  • Kenny, D., Mitchell, H. (2003). Acoustic properties of vibrato using open throat in classical singing. Music and Gesture.
  • Mitchell, H., Kenny, D., Ryan, M., Davis, P. (2003). Defining 'open throat' through content analysis of experts' pedagogical practices. Logopedics Phoniatrics Vocology, 28(4), 167-180. [More Information]

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