Who the Folk?! Ariella Forstein

Welcome to “Who the Folk?!” Every week on Monday we feature a new member of our Jewish community. Know someone we should feature? Nominate them by sending an email to [email protected].

Last week week we got to know Alex Kohnstamm. This week meet Ariella Forstein! Ariella is a vocal empowerment coach. She has her own vocal coaching business, the Ariella Approach, where she teaches people how to feel better about themselves through better use of their voice. If that sounds a bit too abstract, read on for more about what she’s doing and why.

TC Jewfolk: Are you from the Twin Cities?

Ariella: Technically I was born in Ohio, but I grew up here. I went to Ohio State for college, then I was in Los Angeles for nine years.

TCJ: Doing what in Los Angeles?

Ariella: Performing, mostly. What brought me there was the Jewish Campus Service Corps Fellowship at Hillel–which no longer exists. But I stayed there performing and starting my coaching practice for the rest of those nine years.

TCJ: What do you perform?

Ariella: I’ve been singing since I had a voice, basically. My mother tells this story about how we were driving in the car, and I was in the back in a carseat. My grandmother would hum something, and I would hum it back verbatim. I would also wake up in the middle of the night and start signing in the crib, and my (other) grandmother would say, “Club Ariella is open.” So I’ve always been signing. It’s always felt so natural and good, and I’ve had wonderful teachers who fostered my vocal growth. That enabled me to realize that’s what I wanted to do with my life. So over the past ten years I created a life of both performing and coaching others to have an empowered voice.

TCJ: So what brought you back here?

Ariella: It’s hard to say exactly, but I kind of wanted a “simpler” life. I wanted more nature readily available to me. And it wasn’t the main reason, but it is really nice to be near my family again.

TCJ: Can you say a little more about the voice coaching you’re doing?

Ariella: I call it “vocal empowerment coaching.” I learned early on when I started voice coaching that the voice is very tied to the emotions. When people would start to sing, they would open their mouth and start to cry. So I felt like I was life coaching as well as voice coaching. Eventually I took that and ran with it, and all of that evolved into vocal empowerment coaching. It’s about helping somebody find their most authentic voice, whether it’s for singing, speaking, or communicating.

TCJ: So it’s not necessarily somebody coming to you wanting to learn how to sing, it’s someone who wants to learn how to use their voice better?

Ariella: Yeah, I have a range of clients. I’ve worked with television news broadcasters, to people auditioning for The Voice, to–right now I’m working with an auctioneer. All to empower their voices for their intended occupational and life goals.

TCJ: Can you go a little more into how you discovered the need for this?

Ariella: I’m very sensitive and empathic. I have this ability, as somebody is making sound (singing or speaking), to kind of almost feel what’s going on in their mind, while it’s happening–whether it’s nervousness or anxiety or self-judgement. So without even realizing it was a skill of mine, I started to respond to their thoughts, and we would have these breakthroughs where not only did they sound better but they felt better about themselves.

TCJ: And how did you transition into this particular type of coaching? 

Ariella: Once I realized I had this skill I had to figure out how to market it, because there weren’t many people doing it. I took some marketing and business classes, and over the years have just honed the skill. I know it’s kind of abstract what I’m explaining–but that’s what it is; it’s very abstract and each person is very different.

I’m a person that knows how to create a safe space for somebody to explore whatever it is they feel stuck about their voice on. Because even though we use our voice every day, it’s a very personal thing, and a lot of people are scared to speak loudly, or sing, or express their true feelings. So I guess I just found my niche because I’m sensitive to people’s experience.

TCJ: And are you still performing as well?

Ariella: I am. I haven’t been performing as much because I’ve been building my business, but I’m just starting to perform more. Actually, on April 15th at 8pm at the University of St. Thomas, there’s this Middle Eastern ensemble from Los Angeles coming to town, Yuval Ron Ensemble, and I will be their featured vocalist. It’s an Arabic/Hebrew/Ladino-focused group.

TCJ: Switching gears, what’s your favorite Jewish food?

Ariella: I love all food, so this is challenging! But I’d have to say tabouli. It’s not Jewish, but it’s Middle Eastern.

TCJ: Do you have Middle Eastern roots?

Ariella: No, it’s just something that I really like. Our family is Eastern European.

TCJ: OK, because you said you’re the featured vocalist for that Middle Eastern band, and tabouli…

Ariella: I really just latched onto Ladino music and fell in love with it.

TCJ: Have you been to Israel?

Ariella: Yes. Twice.

TCJ: Do you think that helped inspire your love and passion for tabouli and Middle Eastern music?

Ariella: Not really! I have to be honest–in 1998, I went with BBYO to Bulgaria, and we did a Passover seder for the Bulgarian Jews there. They knew they were Jewish, but due to living through Communism, they didn’t have recollection of many of the Jewish customs. And I bought some Bulgarian music, and that opened my eyes (and ears) to music outside of Western music. That’s actually the thing that started it.

TCJ: Crazy! Along those lines, do you have a particular favorite Israel memory that sticks out?

Ariella: On a different BBYO trip I went to Israel, and was on the excursion with Israelis, Bulgarians, and other Eastern Europeans. And honestly, just being with Jewish kids from all over the world was my favorite part. We experienced it all together, and still could sing all the same Hebrew songs. That was really cool.

TCJ: Finally, give us one more reason why you’re folking awesome! 

Ariella: As often as possible, I’m unapologetically, fully me (and I enjoy being me), which enables people around me to take off their day-to-day masks, and let their true natures shine!

Click here to nominate your favorite TC Jew to be featured on our weekly Who the Folk?! series!