singer

Maintaining Your Vocal health

 

As a singer and performer, your voice is your instrument. If your instrument breaks, you cannot go out and buy a new one so it is incredibly important to protect your voice. In order to give the correct information, I have attended voice health works shops, done my own personal research and also conducted an interview with a professional opera singer (Missie) who had vocal polyps. We will also discuss the most common types of vocal issues, how to prevent this, but also what to do if you happen to have any of these. First of all, how do our voices work?  Above our trachea (the windpipe), we have a fleshy structure known as the vocal folds, sometimes also referred to as vocal cords, except these really aren’t “cords” at all.

Photo by janulla/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by janulla/iStock / Getty Images

The vocal folds vibrate together to create sound. They can vibrate up to 1000 times per second which is what creates the sound we hear when we sing. If we misuse our voice, we can run into to some dehibilitating issues with our voices. There are three common vocal fold injuries that can occur by the simple things we do in our daily life: Polyps, nodes, and hemorrhaging.

The most common causes for these injuries are:

·         Singing/talking way too much

·         Coughing/ sneezing

·         Tension in the voice

·         Stress

·         Yelling

·         Acid reflux

 

HOW TO NOTICE IF YOU MAY HAVE ANY OF THESE ISSUES AND WHEN TO GET CHECKED OUT

·         If you have been hoarse for two weeks or more, it is time to get checked out by a voice specialized laryngologist. If they are certified to work with singers, they will be able to help you regain you voice the CORRECT way. It is important to not leave this untreated. Missie left this untreated from May to October and they did not know if she would ever be able to sing again.

·         If there is a SUDDEN voice change

·         If notes that were once easy for you are either not there, sounding squeaky, or hoarse.

·         If your voice consistantly feel tired.

·         Can’t talk as loud as usual

·         Neck or throat discomfort

The surgeries are often very invasive and can result in the removal of part of your vocal folds. Finding the right physician is the most important part in regaining your voice because not all surgery stories end happily. Missie, after recovery, built her range back up and now floats high B’s and C’s. Broadway’s own Julie Andrews (who had vocal nodes) lost her beautiful voice because of an error made in surgery in 1999. One of the most prestigious vocal heath centers in the country is Emory Vocal Heath Center in Georgia. Most of their staff are also singers and they work primarily with singers.

I know it is such a scary thought to lose your voice, so I am going to give you tips and tricks to protect yourself.

·         Hydration is key! Drink primarily water. You need to drink so much water that your pee is either clear or a pale yellow. (TMI, I know) Because the vocal folds are made up of mucous, this is the only way they stay hydrated.

·         Get enough sleep. If you’re tired, you won’t be able to produce a good sound therefore putting unneeded tension on your throat.

·         If you are in a situation where you are talking constantly to a large room like at work, buy a small microphone set so you can project your voice WITHOUT being fatigued. You can buy these for approximately $30 on Amazon.

·         If you HAVE to shout and project, learn to do them right. Use your diaphragm muscles. Breathe from your stomach instead of from you chest. Imagine your stomach is expanding all the way around even into your lower back. You shouls NEVER  yell from the throat.

·         Avoid unnecessary throat clearing.

·         Do a few vocal warm ups as soon as you wake up. These can be light and simple as you are getting dressed. Just something to wake up your voice.

 

Small Warm Ups To Begin Your Day

·         Lip trills

·         Any five note scale on the vowel “Ya”. Keep your jaw nice and loose and sing lightly. Let your jaw drop. Don’t tighten your jaw because that causes tension.

·         Vocal slides—starting at the bottom of your range and slowly and smoothly going up in pitch. Then, try starting from the top and sliding to the bottom of your range.

 

 

No Excuses: How a Teacher's Dedication Changed My Life

Jamie Pavlofsky, originally published on The Mighty on January 24th, 2018

Three weeks after my 10th birthday, I had an experience that would be the beginning of a change in the way I see myself. I walked into the Dayton Jewish Center multipurpose room, hit a button on a CD player, sang my best “Colors of the Wind,” and went home. There was no way I’d get to hear the word yes. No way the kid who looked like me would get a shot. Two days later I got the phone call, informing me that I had been cast into the ensemble of a production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” The seemingly impossible had happened: I was being told yes. After what seemed like a lifetime of being told I couldn’t, I was being given a shot. That was when the theatre bug bit — hard and fast.

My name is Jamie. I’m 29, I live in Ohio, and I have spastic hemiplegic cerebral palsy on my left side. I am a daughter, sister, friend… but perhaps most importantly, I’m a singer and actress with a fierce passion for musical theatre, mostly because I was given the opportunity to feel equal onstage instead of constantly feeling “other”-ed and stigmatized. My whole life — my family life, my personal life, my interactions with people in the healthcare world — up to that point had been defined by what the CP prohibited me from doing or made complicated. But I walked into that first rehearsal at 10 years old and instead of being “the girl with the arm,” I was just Jamie.

Suddenly I mattered. Suddenly I wasn’t able to use the CP as an excuse. Suddenly there was an adult in my life who saw right past it. How refreshing that was! My limits — what I thought I could do — were pushed progressively further with each passing year, but they were taken to a whole new level my final year in the theatre program, which was eighth grade. It was the year of “Oliver,” and it brought about another big change. That show had a set that was anchored by two large platforms, each of which were about eight feet high. Our set designer for the show was also our music director for three previous shows, including that first production of “Fiddler,” so I knew him. But I was afraid of heights.

Unfortunately for me, however, spending the whole show on the ground was not an option. I approached the set designer and said something to the effect of, “I can’t go up there, there’s nothing for me to hold onto. I’m going to fall.” There was no bar on the back of the platforms. He looked me directly in the face and said something I will never forget. “Jamie, don’t tell me you can’t. You were told four years ago that you do not get to make excuses. I will not let you fall. Now go. Put your microphone in your hair like we showed you and go. And I better hear you sing!”

The set designer and previous music director was a guy named Richard. He was about 25 when I met him. He came back into my life in June 2016 when we were both cast in another local production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” He played my father.

Since that show, he has taken me under his wing and developed me as an artist in ways that no one ever has. As of this writing, I have assistant directed two of his productions, and I am getting ready to stage manage a production for him in the spring of 2018. He is also my best friend. He pushes me to my limit and then a little further, just because he taught me that I do not get to make excuses. I am not defined by my disability in his eyes. He sees me as a full, complete, talented, beautiful person and just by being in my life, he reminds me that I am loved.

Richard and I,  Fiddler on the Roof, taken October 2016.

Richard and I, Fiddler on the Roof, taken October 2016.

Jamie Pavlofsky- Midwesterner - receptionist by day, actor/teaching artist by night. Passionate about music, theatre, performing, anything Broadway!