World Voice Day 2016
- Trevor Davies, Alexander Teacher and author
From the Ground Up: the voice in context
- Tom Harris, ENT consultant
Professional voice problems: what can we do about them? Addressing the medical voice care issues that contribute to vocal problems in professional voice users. How to recognise them, when to refer on and how they can be addressed medically in the voice clinic.
- Sara Harris, Speech & Language Therapist,
Professional voice users: who are they and what vocal challenges do they face? Sara will look at the vocal challenges facing people who rely on vocal communication for their living, including technical, environmental and emotional issues.
- Barbara Houseman, Voice teacher and author
The Effective Voice: a practical workshop on how to develop a healthy, confident, expressive voice for effective communication.
- There was an opportunity for group work, led by Dr Margaret McAliskey, to discuss current thinking and to share and refresh practice in working with voice-dependent professions, exploring the challenges they face.
VCN has always prioritised work to help a range of professions take care of their voices and to communicate more effectively. This key study day took place on World Voice Day 2016 – 16th April – and was the first in a series around the working voice, of interest to anyone with an interest in the challenges faced by occupational voice users.
Issues around vocal health, stamina and the day to day demands that can be placed on the voice are significant for a range of professions including teachers, lecturers, public speakers, politicians, preachers, presenters, call-centre workers, actors, singers, and voice artists.
This initial event took a broad perspective and appealed to Speech and Language Therapists, Voice teachers, Singing teachers, Coaches, Alexander Teachers, Physiotherapists, Surgeons and Performers. Like all our events, it was also open to any individuals who are occupational voice users and who are either impacted by vocal issues in their work, or who simply want to learn more.
The Working Voice
Saturday’s session on The Working Voice, held on World Voice Day (16 April 2016), began by putting the voice in context within the body. Alexander teacher and author, Trevor Davies, told us that we sit on – and stand up from – chairs between 150 and 200 times a day, often adopting poor habits in doing so. Using practical demonstration, he reminded us that the biggest enemy of the body and voice is fear and that Alexander Technique, in which the head leads and the body follows, enables us to achieve ease and balance.
A session on the challenges facing professional voice users by eminent SLT and ENT consultants, Sara and Tom Harris, followed. Using slides that were not for the squeamish among us, advice was given on how these can be addressed medically.
This was especially useful for those who were not SLTs while, after lunch, SLTs were introduced to someone very familiar to voice practitioners – the force of nature that is Barbara Houseman. An inspired voice teacher, director and author, she gave a practical workshop aimed at achieving effective communication. Using exercises for releasing the body, engaging the breath and developing the voice, voice users are encouraged to listen, develop confidence and expressiveness and to connect with their audience, using pauses to good effect.
The day ended with shared practice in small groups. Introduced by VCN trustee and voice coach, Dr Margaret McAliskey, we addressed how we would work with specific types of professional users, from burgeoning transgender politicians to teachers presenting with vocal issues.
For me, the day demonstrated how collaborative working between voice practitioners and SLTs can be very fruitful. Above all, it encapsulated Christina Shewell’s views on ‘vocal function and the nature of voice work’ as being on a continuum: ‘from so-called normal to abnormal voice, and from aesthetic to therapeutic voice work.’
Roula Konzotis, Voice and Presentation Coach
Sara Harris & Tom Harris
We were very fortunate to be joined by renowned Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) Sara Harris and ENT Consultant Tom Harris on the day. Sara provided us with an interesting overview of the SLT working with people who have dysphonia. This encouraged us all think about what actually constitutes a ‘professional voice user’; and that the label could be used more broadly than just to singers, actors & teachers. Sara provided us with practical tips on how to support a person with dysphonia such as environmental considerations. She also touched upon how in general, people feel obligued to comment on an unusal voice but may be more reluctant to share their opinions on other disabilities e.g. loss of limbs. This was an important concept to focus on, as the psychological impact of having a voice disorder can be enormous for some people and we should raise more awareness of this.
Tom then gave us a whistle stop tour of vocal anatomy and factors that are likely to cause dysphonia. Tom represented the voice clinic setting through the use of an image from the Mad Hatter’s tea party; safe to say we all could resonate with that analogy! We were lucky enough to be able to view some highly sophisticated stroboscopy pictures giving us an very detailed view of the vocal cords. Other vocal cord images with abnormal pathology were also shown, but I think everyone was fascinated by these rather than shocked!
Many thanks from all of us for providing entertaining and inspiring talks.