Ms. Monk herself has taken voice lessons for more than 20 years with Jeannette LoVetri, who, Ms. Monk said, has given her "a strong technical basis." Ms. Monk is as interested as any singer in promoting vocal health; she wants to be able to go on singing for as long as possible. She isn't about to shred her voice. But she does want to push the envelope.
"Sometimes in the classical tradition there's a small parameter of what's possible," Ms. Monk said, adding that teachers can "transmit fear to people: 'If you do this, you'll ruin your voice.' Of course, you don't do an extended technique 19 times. You just do it once."
But Ms. Monk's aesthetic does run against conventional wisdom in that she is not interested in who can make the most beautiful sound. She is looking for other qualities. "The best singers aren't always the best performers," she said. For some of the singers at the workshop, even those with extensive backgrounds in contemporary music, this concept took a lot of getting used to.
Of course, my favorite interpreter of Ms. Monk's music (other than the composer herself) is Theo Bleckmann.