Josephine Antoinette Vadala was born on 25 April 1921 in Donora, Pennsylvania, USA.
She sang professionally on the radio between 1939 & 1947 & after marrying Thomas Estill in 1953, she embarked upon a lieder concert tour around Europe. Estill then had 13 years of performance as a soloist until she studied for & gained a BA in Liberal Arts from Colorado College, Colorado Springs in 1969. Throughout her early career Jo was never satisfied with her own singing in spite of great reviews and success. She felt that all the teaching she had received had never explained to her how she should use her voice or how her voice worked.
Jo then went on to gain an MA in Music Education from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio in 1971. During her studies at Case Western Reserve University, Estill took 30 hours of speech and hearing elective classes, marking her introduction to voice science.
From 1972–1979, Estill was appointed Instructor in Voice in the Department of Otolaryngology, at the Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, New York. It was here that Estill worked under Dr. Ray Colton, and Dr. David Brewer, two of the top voice researchers in the United States and began her pioneering research on her six voice qualities: speech, falsetto, sob, twang, opera, and belt.
Colton, Brewer and Estill presented many papers on their research to the 'Care of the Professional Voice' conferences of the Voice Foundation. During the 1980s the system continued to develop and the results were The Compulsory Figures and Six Voice Qualities. Today these have become Level One: Figures for Voice™ and Level Two: Figure Combinations for Six Voice Qualities™.
Between 1980 and 1984, Jo enrolled in the City University of New York PhD graduate programme in Speech and Hearing. She completed all of her PhD course work and withdrew without submitting her dissertation.
Estill's interests and voice research led to the development of Estill Voice Training and in 1991 Estill founded the company 'Estill Voice Training Systems' to protect the work and begin uniform certification of instructors.
Estill Voice Training has continued to evolve and be revised as new research results have become available. In 2004 the Figures were reorganised, new teaching material was developed and amongst other things a computer program for spectrographic voice analysis released.
In the spring of 2004, Jo Estill began to consider retiring and she passed the control and development of the Estill Voice Model and Estill Voice Training to three Certified Course Instructors who had trained directly with her. These three Certified Course Instructors, Kerrie Obert, Mary McKlimek and Kim Steinhauer, set up the company Vocal Innovations, LLC and through this company they continue the work of Jo Estill.
On 10 September 2004, Estill was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters (LittD), from the University of East Anglia.
Sadly, Jo Estill died in Santa Rosa, California on 9 December 2010.