Dr. Karen Wicklund, Soprano and Singer's Wellness Specialist
Of Special Note, Inc., Chicago Center for Professional Voice

Heidi Vogley, M.S., CCC-SLP

All new vocal music students to WMU are encouraged to schedule a voice baseline screening, at the University Speech and Hearing Clinic, which includes laryngeal imaging. This is necessary to comprehensively assess laryngeal structures and functions at the onset of vocal training. This baseline information will be helpful for comparison purposes should future vocal problems present. Upon suspicion of vocal concerns, the student vocalist is encouraged to seek appropriate intervention through his/her vocal music teacher, a certified speech-language pathologist experienced in working with the needs of singers, and/or an otolaryngologist. Referrals are typically coordinated between the Schools of Fine Arts and Health and Human Services, through direct contact between the vocal music teacher and speech-language pathologist/voice laboratory. An appropriate consultation is then arranged, based on communication between the student vocalist, music teacher, physician and the speech and hearing clinic.

After a diagnosis is made, voice teacher, speech pathologist and physician carry out a collaborative treatment plan. The voice teacher assesses the current abilities of the student’s injured voice. The voice teacher’s assessment of the student should include but is not limited to technical exercises emphasizing middle range, reduced intensity levels, messa di voce and vowel equalization; evaluation of upper and lower range quality and technique, and student-provided feedback regarding proprioception while vocalizing. Student also demonstrates two songs (one which student performs well, and another in which problems are observed). The vocal teacher should then suggest strategies for rehabilitation, which proceed from the assessment exercises, which, in collaboration with speech pathology sessions and medical intervention aid in restoring the voice. Weekly or biweekly speech pathology sessions emphasize breathing and tension-releasing techniques, resonance balancing and vocal hygiene documentation. Medical intervention can include pharmaceutical treatment, further laryngeal imaging, EMG assessments if paresis is suspected, and surgery, when necessary.

Therapeutic protocols 2

The process of voice rehabilitation can take from as little as four weeks to several months or longer. The university music department cooperates in this process by allowing the injured student to follow an alternate plan of vocal study during the semester of injury. This plan of study allows the student to use the vocalizes and technical exercises, as well as songs with reduced ranges as part of his/her required repertoire for the semester, as long as all regularly required repertoire is learned and performed upon the singer’s return to vocal health. This presentation will contain information on how to modify repertoire requirements of a typical undergraduate semester applied voice program of study for injured singers, and will be presented by a speech-language pathologist, and voice teacher with a speech-language pathology degree.

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