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Mandy reclaims her voice

Mandy Lupton had a wonderful musical career until a night in 1993 turned her world upside down. 

by Arcadia Love

Growing up in Bega NSW, Mandy developed a love of music early with her classical-singing father, and Broadway-loving mother. Through high school, she learned flute, taught herself guitar, and studied music.

At 16, Mandy met her future husband, Mark. He was a piano player, and they both loved jazz. After graduating, Mandy moved to Canberra to study for a Bachelor of Music Education majoring in classical flute. They married in Mandy’s first year of university and after a couple of years, she switched studies to jazz vocal.

“I joined the first cohort of the famous Gery Scott, a jazz and cabaret entertainer and teacher, whose performing career spanned twenty-six countries. Under her amazing tutelage, we formed a jazz vocal ensemble that supported acts such as James Morrison and Tom Jones.

“I also started a group ‘Lady Blue’ as lead singer, providing sophisticated dinner music for bars, restaurants, weddings, and corporate events. After graduating, I became a full-time high school music teacher and continued performing on weekends.”

In 1993, aged 30, Mandy’s life changed forever. She and Mark were driving to their bush block in the Bega Valley when she swerved to miss a wombat, lost control of the car, and rolled down an embankment.

“Mark was okay, but I broke my C2 vertebrae, known as a ‘hangman’s fracture.’ Many don’t walk away from such an injury. I was in a traction brace for six weeks, then came the shock of realising my voice, this instrument I knew so well had changed, dramatically.

“Before the accident, I could teach all day and sing all night, now I was hoarse after speaking for half an hour. I went to specialists, vocal teachers, and alternative therapists. Nothing worked. 

“The fine muscles that support the vocal structure were damaged and I couldn’t relax them. It was an emotional time. I had this image of myself as a teacher and singer. I believed there was nothing else I could do with my life, but I wasn’t ready to give up.”

Mandy found her vocal quality and range weren’t affected, just the length of time she could sing. She quit the gigs where previously she would sing for hours and started singing with a 20-piece community big band, limiting herself to just two songs each set. Eventually, Mandy ended her teaching career, and sadly her marriage failed.

“Never considering myself academically minded, I retrained as a librarian, and to my surprise was awarded Dux of the course. I continued studying, attained my MA and PhD, and moved to Brisbane to work at Griffith University. I discovered a new voice as a lecturer, researcher, and academic writer. I don't think I would have if I hadn't 'lost' my voice.”

Then another blow came when Mandy was diagnosed with an autoimmune connective tissue disease with medication that further affected her voice.

“It felt like another nail in the coffin. At that point, I gave up on music altogether. In 2019 I semi-retired, moved to Maleny, and later started working at Maleny Library. 

“I hadn’t sung for 20 years. When I tried, my voice wasn’t stable, and I couldn’t rely on getting a good tone. Yet I felt a strong desire to reconnect with my voice so I looked for a choir where I could sing with the support of others.”

Mouth Orchestra is a performance group run by conductor and singing teacher of 30 years, Brian Martin. To Mandy, it seemed the perfect fit. She recalls walking into the room thinking “These are my people”. Brian remembers Mandy explaining her situation.

“I realised it took a lot of bravery for Mandy to come along and dare to hope she could find a way back to a voice that could be her friend again. The biggest thing I admired was she knew it was a risk, but she was willing to try anyway. Over the years her voice resonance and durability have strengthened, and I’m so thrilled she’s succeeded.”

Mandy said she couldn’t help but be swept up by Brian’s enthusiasm.

“Singing had become a struggle, but Mouth Orchestra turned it into a joy. I worked with Brian in many ways, from private lessons to intensive week-long singing workshops, and practicing at home. 

“For decades I never considered I would sing again. It’s taken time, but I can once again be confident of the sound coming out. I couldn’t have done this without Brian.

“I recently splurged on a treat - an Ibanez jazz guitar - so I can accompany myself. I have a huge feeling of accomplishment and pride and am reclaiming my identity as a performer.”



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