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Dot Todman advocates empowerment through acceptance and self-love


“Singing will force you to love the parts of yourself that you want to hide from the world.”

—Dot Todman

Like many Los Angeles expatriates, Dorothy “Dot” Todman’s path to success had its own wayward twists and turns. A renowned voice coach and teacher whose students have performed with chart-busting artists and prime time television shows, she provides a glimpse at the arduous path she endured to establish her lucrative studio in Culver City.

While her biological heritage is Jamaican, she was adopted by a mixed-race couple as a toddler, then raised from the age of five in the Canadian town of Barrie, Ontario, just 90 miles north of Toronto. When they divorced, at 11 years old she was raised in a predominantly White bastion.

“There was no context, there was no YouTube,” she recalls.

Her ethnic touchstones were old reruns of American television, such as “The Facts of Life ‘’ (with Kim Fields), and especially “Diff’rent Strokes,” featuring Gary Coleman. His character in the sitcom was adopted by a White family, mirroring her real life situation. Her first real crush, she dreamed of marrying the diminutive child actor and squeezing his chubby cheeks at the altar.

“I thought he was adorable,” she confesses.

Cultural isolation

“Since I was the only Black kid I thought somehow, maybe they figured I had talent because I was different. I didn’t really have much of a relationship with my voice or myself yet...but for me, singing was my therapy growing up. It allowed me to express how I felt and feel heard - even when no one was listening.”

—Dot Todman

Growing up in “the Great White North (a common nickname for Canada)” brought with it a unique set of challenges for a “colored girl” whose physical appearance screamed tropical isle. Isolation meant the absence of ethnocentric cosmetics and hair products, obtainable only via the two-hour drive to the relatively cosmopolitan oasis of Toronto. This isolation became an asset of sorts later, as she was oblivious to racial slurs and social slights. In some respects, ignorance is bliss.

Alas, she still suffered from the nagging pains of self-doubt and insecurity.

A saving grace came due to her mother’s position on the staff at Georgian College in Barrie, meaning that Dot was dragged along to a series of musical rehearsals, recitals, and performances. She observed as her mother freelanced by performing singing telegrams, the service wherein they personally delivered messages to the recipient’s homes and sang them to the lucky party.

Further validation came with winning a songwriting competition, and being pegged to lead a 90 kid choir at the age of 13, where she discovered her “natural ear,” and found she could hear the different tones as she directed her peers in musical performances through middle and high school. Scores of kids grow up dreaming of a singing career, very few have the tenacity to follow these dreams into adulthood, but for Dot circumstance had a hand in determining her life path.

Music served as an emotional lifeline for her, as the only girl of color in the desert of wintry conformity that is Canada, although her tastes were decidedly different from the stereotypical listening choices of a “normal” Black teenager. Her play list was composed largely of “New Wave” selections, including the music of people like Robert Smith, vocalist for the Cure, Depeche Mode, Freddie Mercury, and English rockers Duran Duran.

In her late teens, an acquaintance encouraged her to fill her spiritual void by exploring Mormonism, a pursuit that would consume her into adulthood. Her religious commitment, along with her scholastic dedication garnered an academic scholarship to Brigham Young University in the early 1990s. Preliminary research revealed that the total populace of Canada equaled the amount of Black folks in America. This relation led her to view it as a “promised land” of sorts, which led her to embrace this opportunity.

In short order, she accumulated three degrees, along with practical experience via teaching in Washington, D.C. (a racial culture shock), and church missionary work in Florida. Her church association afforded an avenue into the boulevard of dreams with an invitation to stay with a Mormon family in Norco, 50 miles east of Los Angeles in 2000.

Pursuing her passion meant staying afloat via a series of “day jobs,” including teaching at the Sylvan Learning Center on the westside Culver City (and actually meeting her idol Gary Coleman!).

“I also went on to moonlight and tutor kids of all ages in math, English, history – you name it,” she said.

The show biz routine of networking and building relationships was a learning process in itself, along with facing up to her personal issues.

Around this time her body rebelled, leading to her dual diagnosis of endometriosis (a condition involving growth of the tissues of the uterus) and hyperthyroidism (the overproduction of hormones).

“The next struggle was in 2007, doctors nicked my bowel by accident while performing a laparoscopy to see what was going on with my severely distended stomach, due to endometriosis.”

Her medical issues were not over, as efforts to correct existing issues produced additional complications.

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped series of muscles and connective tissue that enable breathing, speech, and singing.

“I actually lost my voice in 2018 after another abdominal surgery (excision) which completely healed me from the endometriosis but left me completely disconnected from my diaphragm.”

These ailments and her subsequent hospitalization to correct them were a blessing in disguise, as her surgery and physical recovery brought with it relief from her bottled up trauma of childhood pain, resentment and unresolved issues. Her convalescence proved to be a physical and spiritual rebirth.

Her confidence boosted, she formulated a system of self-mastery, using the lessons from her own difficulties and emotional baggage to devise a new curriculum to assist aspiring professional vocalists, people pursuing dissimilar professions, and even the deaf in how to vocalize effectively. She trademarked it as “CORE Vocal Power®,” an integrative system to balance the mind, soul, and body.

Perception versus reality

“Ninety percent of the people that come in here are not objective-what do I mean by that? They do not have an accurate perception of how they sing. They either think they’re way worse than they really are, and that’s most of the time, or very rarely they think they’re better...”

—Dot Todman

Her confidence now fortified, Dot felt secure enough to “hang out her shingle” and start her own business. Most commercial enterprises go through the growing pains of surviving challenges of securing customers and reaching that elusive plateau of financial stability, but Dot’s Voice Studios has achieved liquidity from the start, as her mantra of self-discovery cultivated an ever expanding clientele.

“My business blew up faster than I could have imagined,” she says.

“Clients were having breakthroughs with their voices and it felt very rewarding.”

She took joy in teaching “...people who were just starting their careers and are now famous, so suddenly I was a celebrity vocal coach and featured on (American) Idol.”

A key to this success was her embracing a holistic approach of considering the totality of each individual client, i.e. the merging of scientific principles and lifestyle practices. One of them is Chrissy Metz, singer, actress, and star of the television drama “This Is Us.” On top of the everyday phobias and insecurities that plague us all, she suffered from self-esteem issues revolving around her obesity. Dot employed a tactic more in keeping with psychology than vocal exercise by urging her to sing in front of her mirror at home naked.

This unorthodox technique was actually a step towards empowerment, as it forced Metz to confront her fears. It enabled her to become comfortable in her own skin and become a more confident performer.

“It’s just accepting you’re not your body. It’s the vessel that your spirit occupies,” Metz revealed later in an interview on “The Jenny McCarthy Show” on Sirius XM Radio.

Her past/present patrons include Emmy Award–winning journalist, comedian, and musician Charlie Berens, actress Medalion Rahimi (“NCIS: Los Angeles,””Still Star-Crossed”), and actress/singer Victoria Justice (“The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” “Penguins of Madagascar”).

Her system has also benefited “laymen” such as doctors, lawyers, and businessmen.

More recently, Dot Todman is seeking to showcase her own personal agenda (check out her live performance with four-octave singing virtuoso Bobby McFerrin at watch?v=3CaC92XzJFI).

After orchestrating the success of so many, Dot Todman is stepping into the limelight to showcase her own talents with the listening public. And so she aims:

“…to be brave enough to sing and unapologetically share my life as an Empowering Artist.”

For more samplings of her auditory offerings, go to:

1. Dot on stage with Bobby Mcferrin

2. Dot’s recent music video Howard Jones/Rihanna mashup new song/stay

3. Original Song - You are The Dance in My Heart - Now on all streaming platforms. (Video to be released this year)

Dot’s artist website:

Dot’s teaching website:

Tags: Black Music Month, Dot Todman, Kim Fields, Voice Studios