Ms. Kelley agrees. A big occupational hazard of performers, especially singers, is the widely erratic schedule many of us have that interferes with intelligent meal consumption, she said.
Explore This IssueMay 2007
For Ms. Kelley, one of the biggest problems she deals with in her students, which has a major influence on their voice development and quality, is psychological. The mental attitude that I have had the most problem with in students, and some colleagues, is a certain drive to overachieve, she said. Not only does it cause a ‘hyperfunctioning’ of the singing mechanism, but these singers are intensely judgmental about themselves…[and this] causes them so much emotional pain while singing that their progress, if any, is excruciatingly slow.
Emphasizing the huge role that psychological and emotional factors play on vocal health, Charlotte Surkin, MA, a professional singer, voice teacher, and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Westminster Choir College, who has completed a number of internships in vocology, explained that emotions can cause the constrictor, neck, and glossus muscles to tighten, which creates a pressured airflow and a constricted sound.
All agree that an understanding and recognition of the environmental stressors, along with the psychological and emotional pressures that make a person prone to voice problems, are critical to providing good prevention and treatment advice.
Preventing the Failed Note: Voice Maintenance
The best preventive care for voice users is training, said Dr. Sataloff. Along with voice lessons, proper aerobic exercise, and exercise of the abdominal and back muscles for voice support, training includes the proper care of the body by giving it sufficient water, nutrition, and sleep. He also advises singers and actors to get a baseline laryngological evaluation with strobovideolaryngoscopy when they are healthy, saying that a high percentage of people will have abnormalities already present that have been asymptomatic for years. Singers and actors should know their own personal anatomy and physiology, he emphasized, adding that they also should learn about vocal health to help them avoid activities that may lead to injury and to allow them to discern whether medical advice, if needed, is reasonable.
Dr. Sataloff also recommends embracing the many psychological and emotional stresses that accompany performance and to use them to enhance performance. For incapacitating performance anxiety he recommends psychotherapy, but dissuades use of self-medicating substances such as alcohol, diazepam, or beta-blockers.
Taking care of the body, getting to know one’s body, and learning to manage the physical and psychological stressors on the body all seem to be the foundation on which good preventive care lies. Always listen to your body, and listen to your voice, said Dr. Jahn, who is also the Medical Director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York and has written a number of articles on maintaining good vocal health (www.operadoctor.com/article.html ). Don’t ask it to do anything it doesn’t want to do. If it hurts to sing, you’re doing something wrong.