• Emily Ott

Happy World Voice Day! Sing Out!

Updated: Nov 19, 2018

Yesterday I went to an amazing seminar on caring for the performer’s voice hosted by the Actor’s Equity Association. The day consisted of informative lectures given by expert doctors from the Sean Parker Institute of Voice. Visit their website to increase your knowledge about vocal health, voice disorders, treatments, and the research behind it all. https://voice.weill.cornell.edu/ Furthermore, if you are having any vocal issues, they are the folks to go to! A huge number of NYC performers have visited them for vocal treatment. In fact, a whole wall in their medical office is dedicated to headshots signed by patients!

At the seminar, I was shocked by some of the voice fables I’ve believed without ever doing the research or asking a specialized doctor. How many times has a fellow cast member feared that nodules or a cyst on the vocal cords was the end of their career? How many people have warned you about the devilish nature of dairy products and peanut butter before you sing? How many people have recommended drinking a shot of apple cider vinegar for the voice? I have been that person! Needless to say, the World Voice Day Seminar helped me negate a lot of my previous notions.

I learned that the majority of vocal injuries are totally treatable with rest or sometimes with surgery. If treatment is necessary, I don’t think it is something to be ashamed of because it turns out it is not always a result of our technique, but sometimes a byproduct of sheer biology! Did you know that women are actually more likely to get nodules due to the frequency of the cords rubbing together? Crazy, right?! We are talking about pitch here, not always poor singing practice. Maybe we need to take a step back and acknowledge that waking up at the crack of dawn to sing for auditions or performing eight shows a week can be taxing on those two little cords. It makes sense that injury can happen when we use any part of our bodies consistently. I think it’s time actors and singers stop blaming themselves for vocal issues and instead seek out the help and resources that are very available, especially here in New York!

Another major takeaway from the seminar is how diet doesn’t really make a huge difference on our vocal health. Of course, if certain foods don’t agree with you then maybe don’t eat them before a performance, but there isn’t really research to support a do and don’t grocery list for performers. Many people have told me to avoid dairy products before singing because it creates more mucus. Oddly, I never have experienced this and again there isn’t extensive research regarding the thought. The one thing that the team at the Sean Parker Institute did warn against was taking shots of apple cider vinegar. It is such an acidic liquid that it can actually cause damage to the throat. This makes sense when you think about it and made me feel silly for taking shots of apple cider vinegar under the impression I was helping my voice. Apple Cider Vinegar fixes everything these days, right? I’ve heard arguments about it helping your complexion, your digestion, your metabolism, your immune system, etc. I couldn’t tell you about all those proclaimed benefits, but I now know not to drink it to help my voice.

As the weather continues to be fickle, it is important to keep those vocal cords healthy by drinking lots of water, using a humidifier especially if your living space is particularly dry, and being aware of how much you are using your voice on a daily basis. Do those warm-ups everyday and remember that taking lessons with a good voice teacher is a life-long practice. I hope this post helped my fellow performers out who weren’t able to be at the World Voice Day Seminar! Keep singing your heart out and speaking your mind, friends!!!

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