Healing Voices

Healing Voices (1)By Leda Scearce, MM, MS, CCC-SLP author of Manual of Singing Voice Rehabilitation: A Practical Approach to Vocal Health and Wellness

Singing is a part of virtually every culture and is fundamental to our human experience. In the United States, singing is enormously popular, as evidenced by the vast number of people engaged in all kinds of singing activities. Over 30 million Americans participate in choral singing alone (Chorus America, 2009). Shows such as The Voice, America’s Got Talent, and American Idol illustrate how passionate we are about singing. From the amateur recreational singer to the elite celebrity, we sing as soloists and in ensembles, with instruments and a cappella, in classical and contemporary styles, on stage, in concert, and in the shower.

Every person’s voice is unique and identifiable, and our voices can be a big part of our identity and how we see ourselves in the world. This is especially true for singers, for whom the voice is not only intricately tied to self-image and self-esteem but also may be a source of income and livelihood, creative expression, spiritual engagement, and quality of life. For a singer, a voice injury represents a crisis. Because of the specialized needs of singers, it takes a team—including a laryngologist, speech-language pathologist, and singing voice rehabilitation specialist—to get a singer back on track following an injury or voice disorder. Singing voice rehabilitation is a hybrid profession, requiring in-depth clinical and scientific knowledge married with excellence in teaching singing.

Voice problems are rarely isolated in etiology—usually multiple factors converge to create an injury. These factors may include poor vocal hygiene, inadequate vocal technique, an imbalance in vocal load and medical problems (allergies and reflux are common in singers, but thyroid, pulmonary, neurologic, and rheumatologic conditions are among the illnesses that may affect the voice). The singing voice rehabilitation process must encompass all elements that may be contributing to the problem: medical factors, vocal hygiene, vocal coordination and conditioning, vocal pacing, and emotional factors. Continue reading

Ground-Breaking Book on the Mind-Body Link in Singers

Mind-Body Awareness for Singers by Karen Leigh-Post

Mind-Body Awareness for Singers by Karen Leigh-Post

Mind-Body Awareness for Singers: Unleashing Optimal Performance provides a fundamental understanding of functional anatomy and cognitive neuroscience to guide singers and teachers of singing to unlocking the mystery of the mind-body link involved in the complex audio-motor behavior that is singing.

New theories and concepts, rooted in both the wisdom of masters in the field and current scientific research, are introduced from the unique perspective of the performer. Practical application exercises train the singer to work with, rather than against, the systems of singing to integrate the cognitive and conscious with the unconscious sensory and motor processes of our nervous system. Continue reading

Brand New Practical Resource for Voice Coaches

Body and Voice: Somatic Re-education by Marina Gilman

Body and Voice: Somatic Re-education by Marina Gilman

Body and Voice: Somatic Re-education by Marina Gilman, MM, MA, CCC-SLP, is an excellent resource for teachers of singing, voice coaches, and speech-language pathologists who work with singers and other voice professionals. It provides a new paradigm for working with singers in a way that allows for improved kinesthetic awareness needed to work with their body rather than against it. The text contains a series of lessons designed to train singing teachers, coaches, and voice therapists to recognize in their students the patterns of use and posture that interfere with respiration, phonation, and/or resonance. In addition, it provides tools for the teacher to guide the student to a level of self-awareness of habituated patterns along with strategies to implement change from the inside out. Continue reading

Invaluable Resources for Anyone Who Uses or Trains the Singing Voice

The Vocal Athlete

The Vocal Athlete by Wendy LeBorgne and Marci Rosenberg

The Vocal Athlete and the companion workbook The Vocal Athlete: Application and Technique for the Hybrid Singer are written and designed to bridge the gap between the art of contemporary commercial music (CCM) singing and the science behind voice production in this ever-growing popular vocal style. These books are a must have for the speech pathologist, singing voice specialist, and vocal pedagogue. Continue reading

A Tribute to Plural Author Garyth Nair, MA

A TRIBUTE TO PLURAL AUTHOR GARYTH NAIR, MD

Garyth NairPlural has lost a dear friend and author. Dr. Garyth Nair passed away on August 10th, 2013 following a stroke. He was 69 years old and is survived by his wife Angelika Nair, a mezzo-soprano and his brother Ron Nair.

Dr. Nair began his vocal and conducting studies at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ where he was appointed Assistant Conductor of the famed Westminster Choir- the first student in the College’s history to be so honored. He later studied at Tanglewood with the late Sir Adrian Boult and completed an MA in Musicology at New York University. He was the former Conductor/Music Director of the Chamber Symphony of New Jersey and former Assistant Conductor of the New Jersey Symphony and the senior division of the Lakeland Youth Symphony.

At the time of his death, he was Professor of Music at Drew University in Madison, NJ where he conducted the Chorale, the Orchestra and was also Director of Vocal Activities. His love of music drove him to teach and research the human singing voice for over 25 years. In addition to his work at Drew University, Dr. Nair was also a well known conductor for one New Jersey’s premiere choruses, the Summit Chorale.

The Craft of Singing

Plural’s CEO and co-founder, Angie Singh says of Garyth Nair: “His manuscript was one
of the first we received at our home even before we decided to start a publishing company in 2004. He believed in us so much.” We were honored to call him part of our Plural family and have him among our roster of authors. Our most heartfelt condolences go out to his wife Angelika and brother Ron. He will be missed not only by his family and friends, but also by his colleagues and students.

Dr. Nair’s obituary published yesterday in the New York Times, as well as on The Voice Foundation’s website.  His funeral will be held tomorrow morning in his hometown of Chatman, NJ. Donations in his honor can be contributed to The Voice Foundation here.

Featured Article- Choral Pedagogy, Third Edition


CHORAL PEDAGOGY, 3RD edition

Brenda Smith, DMA and Robert T. Sataloff, MD, DMA

Choral Pedagogy 3rd

Singing is known to every culture around the world.   For most of us, singing skill is learned collaboratively in choirs.  To participate in a choir throughout a lifetime, we must adjust our vocal expectations and maintain a dynamic sense of readiness for the changes that occur from year to year.  The choral conductor must work nimbly to accommodate the vocal needs of each age group, including all singers at all times in assignments appropriate to the contributions they are able to make.  There are many challenges, but choral pedagogy, voice science and medical resources are equipped to assist the choral conductor in the creation of a dynamic rehearsal and performance plan.

Lifelong Singing

For the training of vocal skill, trained and amateur singers of any age benefit from the personal attention of a voice builder or choral conductor.  Each voice presents with a specific complement of unique set of vocal, aural, rhythmic and interpretative gifts.  Because singers perceive their voices differently the way they are perceived by their listeners, singers at any age rely on constructive feedback generated by the trusted ears and eyes of a qualified person.

choirChanges in range are a natural part of the aging process and are due to the loss of muscle bulk and alterations in connective tissue in the vocal fold, as well as to respiratory changes, blood flow and alterations in body muscle nerve condition, and other alterations.  Another factor is the ossification of laryngeal cartilages.  The degree of aging changes varies from singer to singer.  People who love to sing wish to be included in choral activities as long as possible.  Choral singing can be particularly beneficial for the preservation of vocal skill and for delaying the inevitable losses of range, control and agility.

 

Medical Aspects

While choral conductors are not expected to have the medical knowledge of physicians, they should have sufficient familiarity with vocal health problems to recognize at least obvious voice dysfunction and suggest that afflicted singers seek medical attention.  Medical voice care has advanced markedly over the last few decades.  Voice is now an established subspecialty of otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat), and expert care for singers is available much more widely than it used to be.

Good medical diagnosis in all fields often depends on asking the right questions and then listening carefully to the answers. This process is known as “taking a history.” Recently, medical care for voice problems has utilized a markedly expanded, comprehensive history, recognizing that there is more to the voice than simply the vocal folds. Virtually any body system may be responsible for voice complaints. In fact, problems outside the larynx often cause voice dysfunction in people whose vocal folds appear fairly normal and who would have received no effective medical care a few years ago.

Physical examination of a patient with voice complaints involves a complete ear, nose, and throat assessment and examination of other body systems as appropriate. In the last few years, subjective examination has been supplemented by technological aids that improve the ability to “see” the vocal mechanism and allow quantification of aspects of its function. With phonation at middle C, the vocal folds come together and separate approximately 250 times per second. Strobovideolaryngoscopy uses a laryngeal microphone to trigger a stroboscope that illuminates the vocal folds, allowing the examiner to assess them in “slow motion”. This technology allows visualization of small masses, and other abnormalities that are simply missed in vocal folds that looked “normal” under continuous light. The instruments contained in a well-equipped clinical voice laboratory assess six categories of vocal function: vibratory, aerodynamic, phonatory, acoustic, electromyographic, and psychoacoustic. State-of-the-art analysis of vocal function is extremely helpful in the diagnosis, therapy, and evaluation of progress during the treatment of voice disorders.

Following a thorough history, physical examination, and clinical voice laboratory analysis, it is usually possible to arrive at an accurate explanation for voice dysfunction. Of course, treatment depends on the etiology (cause). Fortunately, as technology has improved voice medicine, the need for laryngeal surgery has diminished. When the underlying problem is corrected properly, the voice usually improves, but collaborative treatment by a team of specialists is most desirable to ensure general and vocal health and optimize voice function. The choir director should be part of that team.  Details of medical problems associated with voice disorders may be found in other literature. 1-4

The Basics of Singing

Warm ups and cools downs are necessary for any singer.  Warm up and cool down exercises adjust the vocal instrument from speech to singing and from singing back to speech.  Warm ups and cool downs involve four elements: relaxation, posture, breathing and resonance.  Relaxation before and after singing contributes to vocal health.  The vocal mechanism and the extremities need to be stretched and warmed.  Good posture, both standing and seated, must be established in order to achieve a full breath.  Conductors should be mindful that singing in a seated position is not an easy task.  All singers should maintain an erect posture that allows maximum muscular freedom, flexibility and safety.   A buoyant, flexible approach to breath support during exhalation follows.  The final step to vocal readiness involves uniting the breath with the vocal sound.  Exercises that evoke resonant sounds, such as humming, trilling with the lips or sighing set the stage for a focused vocal tone.  In the process of cool down, singers return the voice to the speaking range by sighing, chanting or humming through the mid and lower registers.

singer

The role singing plays in the daily life of each singer is diverse and unique.  The rhythm and discipline of music learning sharpens mental acumen and memory. For choir members who maintain interests in acting and public speaking, singing can be a means of maintaining vocal strength and stamina.  For many, singing in a choir makes life worth living.  The overall musical results of a choir rehearsal may be of less importance than the good experience of being together for the task of singing.  Singers want to continue singing as long as they can and as well as they can.  Choral pedagogy is advancing to accommodate the special needs of singers of all ages.  By establishing good singing habits, remaining physically fit, setting reasonable goals, and attending to vocal health, choral singers can “stay in the game” for many decades.

References

  1. Sataloff, R.TProfessional Voice: The Science and Art of Clinical Care, Third Edition.  San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing, Inc.; 2005.
  2. Rubin, J., Sataloff, R.T. and Korovin, G Diagnosis and Treatment of Voice Disorders, Fourth Edition.  San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing, Inc.; 2013, in press
  3. Heman-Ackah, Y.D., Sataloff, R.T. and Hawkshaw, M.J.  Protecting the Vocal Instrument.  Narberth, PA: Science and Medicine; 2013.
  4. Smith, B. and Sataloff, R.T.  Choral Pedagogy and the Older Singer.  San Diego, CA: Plural Publishing, Inc.; 2012.