A Singer Diagnosed With Benign Essential Tremor, One Case

 

Teresa is a vital voice teacher and singer with a full private voice studio in Pennsylvania. At age 60, she restarted her own voice lessons after not studying singing since college, although she had coached and worked with many  musicians during that time.

Throughout menopause, creativity can bloom and demands new energy outlets. Teresa wanted to earn recognition as a performer of classical and musical theater music in her community and felt she had not been able to do that because of her vocal condition.

Her speaking was absolutely fine, even with teaching for hours. But her singing was characterized by a wobble/shaking of pitch throughout a limited range,  breaks throughout the lower passaggio and great pitch instability. Her body was affected by a hip issue and she walked with a minor limp. She and I talked about healing, spirituality and singing as a foundational attitude for the journey we were about to take together.

We began working with a combination of exercises and approaches informed by voice therapy for Parkinson’s patients and advanced use of Somatic VoiceWork tm: The Lovetri Method as a rehabilitation method.  I also used many Somatic Reeducation* exercises over time to stimulate her respiratory system and core, which had weak function because the muscles of the throat were not functioning well–not the other way around as many teachers and therapists believe. 

It is also effective work to take advantage of the neuroplasticity of the brain. Essential tremor is a central nervous system dysfunction that starts with brain impulses, so slowly groving new patterns in the brain itself is a large key to healing the dysfunction.

I chose not to start with standard SLP rehabilitation tools other than identification of some life style habits to change. She started practicing yoga and renewed her commitment to physical therapy and massage for her hip.

Our hips are the ‘seat’ for the pelvic diaphragm and a source for grounded energy to come through our bodies.

The only SOVT exercises that were helpful were variations on “ung,” closing to the “ng” and sliding 1-3-1 or 1-5-1. She could not slide 1-2-1 without actually staying on the same pitch, so the larger intervals were necessary at first. I did not say “you are flat, sing that second pitch higher,” because she literally could not. It was a functional problem, not a problem with her ear.

Within 6 months she could sing a slurred 5-tone scale without wobble and on pitch, on certain vowels. She began to establish some vocal flexibility. She developed some integrated head voice function that she could use to illustrate while teaching, and students and her conductor encouraged her improvements.  Her soft palate had begun to activate, although it could not stay activated and her body response would shut down. And this is why…

…she received a diagnosis of benign essential tremor after Lovetri noted that she might have an essential tremor. And the interesting thing is, the diagnosis did not change the type of work we were doing, not because I am pig-headed but because it was the most effective work in the first place. However, it did give her enormous peace of mind that she wasn’t doing something “wrong” or was a bad singer.  It was something she could share with students and directors and let them know that she was aware and working towards improvement.

She is contemplating recommended Botox injections. This can be very effective, but the injections wear off and need to be repeated. My belief is that there are deeper levels of healing to be found, which can be supplemented with effective medical therapies. It is her belief, too.

After one year of work based on the Parkinson’s voice therapy and Lovetri’s research, I added some of the exercises for essential tremor found in Leda Scearce’s fantastic  book Manual of Singing Voice Rehabilitation.  It just goes to show how important working with the person in front of you is, and that a set of specific exercises rolled out by rote can not possibly serve each pathology patient who is a singer.

Teresa’s is also an interesting case illustrating that time is needed to allow inner psychololgical changes of Self when we are older. Teresa thought she was a soprano based on her college self of 40 years ago, and was singing alto in her small church choir due to her limited range. All this time, in spite of not studying, she has been evolving into a possibly true contralto of a substantial size. I would say that from the time I first mentioned this possibility, to fully embracing what her voice is becoming, was almost two and a half years! She has been excited and full of wonder, processing this change in self-identification.

This year, Teresa successfully performed the role of Jack’s Mother in Into the Woods, acted in a  production of Steel Magnolias, has stabilized her alto choral singing and has started to prepare for a community concert, singing Brahms’ Two Songs for Alto, Viola and Piano!

Life isn’t about inventing yourself. It is about releasing yourself. And menopause is the time to do this with courage, humor and tenacious grit. And with a voice teacher/SVRS who takes you seriously and helps you accomplish small goals, one step at a time.

If you found this post helpful, please like, share or comment. Each post takes hours to write, I want to know that others found it valuable! Thank you.

*Two books to help introduce you to somatic reeducation concepts are

Body and Voice by Gilman

Singing With Your Whole Self: The Feldenkreis Method by Nelson and Blades-Zeller

 

 

 

Broadway Christmas Songs

This year I have an unusual number of wonderful dancer/singers in my private studio who’ve graduated from college and are making their way in the world.  They’ve asked for help finding repertoire from musicals for the holidays for Christmas gigs.

My first inclination is to say “do your research.” But then I thought that I’d like to know for myself what’s out there, other than the handful of songs I recalled off the top of my head. I tried to include easy tunes that singers can learn quickly but also threw in some things that need more time to put together. Some items have karaoke accompaniments available and some would do better with a live accompanist playing an original arrangement.

Plus, I just found a used CD for 50 cents at a recent joy ride through a Used Book Store and used it as the basis for this list. The producer was Bruce Kimmel and it came out in the 1990’s.

New Deal for Christmas from Annie (Strouse, Charnin) Music starts about :45

Be a Santa from Subways Are for Sleeping  (Styne, Comden, Green)

Christmas Eve from She Loves Me (Bock, Harnick)

Pine Cones and Holly Berries from Here’s Love (Wilson) Paired with It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Also from this musical, That Man Over There

Turkey Lurkey Time from Promises, Promises (Bacharach, David)

Christmas Gifts from A Wonderful Life (Raposo, Harnick)

Hard Candy Christmas from Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Hall)

I Don’t Remember Christmas from Starting Here, Starting Now (Shire, Maltby, Jr.)

We Need a Little Christmas from Mame (Herman) –

Lovers on Christmas Eve from I Love My Wife (Coleman, Stewart)

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas from Meet Me in St. Louis (Martin, Blane)

At Christmas Time and Toys Medley from Song of Norway (Wright, Forrest) This one will need some arranging, but keep it in mind, especially if you are looking for an early legit musical with hymn-like part writing.

Surabaya Santa and Christmas Lullaby from Songs for a New World (Brown)

Please add your suggestions in the comments list.

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Vocal Pedagogy and Creativity, Part II

Part I in this series was well-received and lays out the groundwork for Part II–

Introduction

In this post, I’ve gone academic on you–just to have a framework to discuss broad topics.  I’ve highlighted three elements that are part of a larger concept that psychologist Benjamin Bloom identified for his learning model widely known as Bloom’s Taxology.

Anyone who wants to teach or to transform information into a useful body of personal wisdom would find his work very interesting. However, you certainly don’t need to consciously know this stuff to have the same outcome. I have operated in the following “mode” most of my life and didn’t know any of this.

Our culture does not allow for the following kinds of developmental learning, starting as early as age 5. Yet, we are all capable of it!

Bloom identified three “areas” of Learning as:

I.   Cognitive Learning (Mental skills and Knowledge)

II.  Affective (Growth in Feelings and Emotional Areas)

III. Psychomotor (Manual or Physical Skills)

According to Bloom, collecting information and remembering data are considered the beginning, or bottom rung, of Cognitive Learning.

And Creating is the top rung.

And here’s what the Cognitive Domain looks like in Bloom’s pyramid:

bloom-taxonomy

Some teachers teach from the place of collecting and remembering information, and then maybe have stepped up onto the level of Understanding what it means to them. This is a good start.

But as an exceptional teacher, you need to  eventually get to the top 1-3 parts of the pyramid.

There is obviously some overlap of all three domains because we each are unique individuals who find our own ways.

For the purposes of this article, I would like to highlight THREE aspects of learning, one from each domain, for you to consider.

Cognitive Domain

1. “Divergent Thinking” means generating multiple ways of taking information and finding new ways to address a topic or find solutions to a problem. This kind of thinking has become a hot topic for the study of brain function in creativity.

Divergent thinking occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing, ‘non-linear’ manner. It does not move from ‘a’ to ‘b’ to ‘c.’

It prefers to zig when everyone else is zagging. It thrives in solitude, uncertainty and the imagination. It makes useful connections among unrelated pieces of information. The manner in which divergent thinking takes place is unique to everyone and everyone has to discover their own ways to develop and allow it.

“Convergent thinking”, on the other hand, is the ability to apply rules to arrive at a single ‘correct’ solution to a problem, such as an answer to an IQ test question. This process is systematic and linear.  Both styles of thinking are important and are meant to work together.

Psychomotor Domain

1. Somatic Re-Education of the Body and establishing the realization that your body carries its own wisdom!

This connection has been severed in our culture, but has revived among singers, dancers, actors, athletes, healers and physical therapists because our art is the stuff of which this connection is made.  The reason I place such fundamental importance on learning through somatic re-education is that western culture is still imbued with the notion that all worthy learning takes place in the brain and “higher realms.”

Oh my goodness, no. no no no! The physical body learns and holds information too, and is an equal with the brain and heart center. Sometimes the heart needs to heal before the body can heal. Sometimes the body needs to heal before the brain can work well. Somatic Education helps us reestablish how our bodies and minds are meant to function together, and is especially important as we age.

Alexander Technique, Feldenkreis, Yoga, Rolfing, Nutrition etc., and other modalities are all methods of somatic re-education.  But the effect it has on you is directly related to the kind of teaching you receive.

Affective Learning

1. Development of Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence can be a natural gift which seems to be more hard-wired in women that in men.  But it can be developed in anyone. It is the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically. E.I. is now being taught in business schools like Wharton and Case Western Reserve as a necessary tool in what is called “Resonant Leadership.”

Other ways of developing this part of Affective Learning are through counseling and modeling behavior of other emotionally intelligent people.  Time Magazine published a recent article which, at the end of an article on drugs and depression, lists drug-free ways that have all been scientifically proven to have transformative effects on emotions and in handling interpersonal relationships well: Exercise, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Behavioral-Activation Therapy, Mindfulness Training and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

(I totally understand the need for the right drugs in the right doses, monitored by a health care professional.)

Conclusion to a long blog post…

These aspects  of turning information into something useful are true for anyone in any field.  Many life-long learners and some of your favorite teachers are using these steps to teach, even though they may not be consciously aware that Learning Theory has names for the processes.

Are there any Vocal Pedagogy graduate programs out there including Bloom’s theories in the coursework? The steps can be cultivated and are incredibly rewarding. Those EUREKA moments and connections are the stuff of ecstasy!

Life is about experiencing ALL the aspects of learning, not just running around devouring and acquiring new information and others’ ideas. And don’t panic. You have Time to realize learning is life long and no one is ever finished.  I started teaching music when I was 13 years old, had my first paid singing gig at 18, and am now 61. It sure did not happen all at once and is on-going.

Please like, comment or share this post if you found it useful. Thank you for being here!

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Also check out this video by Sir Ken Robinson

 

Vocal Pedagogy and Creativity, Part I

I once had 4 voice lessons with an expensive and well-known singer who had sung opera many years in Europe. After returning to the States, she developed a method of voice teaching based on 15 years of her personal research into voice science.

I sought her help after seeing an ENT (supposedly he worked with singers) who completely missed the fact that I was developing bi-lateral vocal fold paralysis. (!) Neither the teacher or the ENT helped me at all and both sets of information were actually harmful both physically and psychologically. GRRRRRR

So here were two learned professionals, WHO COULD NOT SEE or HEAR THE PERSON IN FRONT OF THEM. Did they need more information so they could have helped me? NO. What they both needed was to get outside of the information they had collected and turn it into something useful.

One of the main differences between intelligence and creativity is that the creative person has the ability to draw connections among bits of information and imagine various paths and outcomes. And this is the missing ingredient with many voice teachers who run around collecting information, certifications and degrees by the boat-load.

Read How to Make Connections Like a Creative Genius.

These are all valid ways to learn and perhaps start to assimilate experience, but one vital thing we are not taught in our school systems, academia and general culture is how to turn information and book learning into something useful. Has it occurred to you that the information presented in the learning environment is just an INTRODUCTION to understanding? Just the tip of the iceberg?

Information, by itself, is not the stuff that enables you to be effective.

Chances are good that you are getting information from someone who is also consuming information without turning it into their own Experience. When you teach, you are teaching who you are as well as whatever it is you teach. So inability to turn information into something useful is passed on in your manner of working. Rather a vicious circle.

The transformative and alchemical process to turn information into a creative experience requires time, self-acceptance, effort, and in many cases, more money. And this inner process is different for everyone.  It has its own time-table to follow and does not give a hoot about you being productive, “an expert,” and a reliable cog in society.

A personal note from my own voice studio: I work with voice teachers who are certified in 2 or 3  methods of vocal pedagogy. They are good teachers and wonderful human beings who at some level, feel that a few lessons going over the exercises that they learned in the certifications will turn them into the singers they want to be or help them with their students. So when they have not reached where they want to go after 4-6 lessons, or even 6 months, they stop. I understand. It is expensive and time-consuming. And who has the time to practice, experiment, observe, and at the same time learn how to ALLOW the process of the slow change of muscle fibers and neurological connections? And do this year after year after year? After year?

Yet, that is exactly the kind of creative process necessary, whether you do it yourself or reach out for guidance, to transform learning into useful experience.

Information continually changes, BUT SO DO OUR BODIES and EMOTIONS. Especially for women because of our life cycles and hormonal effects on the voice. But it is true for men, too, and for anyone who has survived physical or mental health crisis. If you are coping with a chronic issue that doctors can not solve, it is doubly true. It is a constant creative act to experience, assimilate and present information to others.  What you learned as a 21-year-old will no longer serve you at 25, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70+

Guess what. Life is continually about transformation into something new until it is time to transform again.

THIS IS THE SECRET THAT NO ONE TALKS ABOUT. We are taught that having a magic degree or certification or studying with that Broadway star can lead to wisdom and effectiveness.  While learning is a wonderful experience, having a personal value system that allows you to assimilate the new process is something that I have observed many teachers do not have.

Finding your own creative path is never easy in a culture that says it values creativity but does not value the time, solitude and continuous experimentation to develop a creative thing or thought and turn it into experience. As far as singing and teaching singing goes, you are more apt to do this if your personal values match up with these commitments.

I just finished watching the tv series “Genius” about the life and work of Albert Einstein, produced by Ron Howard. I recommend this series as a way to illustrate my point.

And here’s the KICKER–our personal values are shaped by our culture, religious traditions and the hive mind. What is required to live creatively and turn information into a body of deep personal experience?

I am not talking about work experience. I am talking about a deeper knowing that often comes from our deepest, most vulnerable places.

In Part II, I’ll outline some of the counter-culture elements that are needed to walk this particular path.  A good book to read, in the meantime, is The Courage to Teach, by Parker Palmer.

Please comment, like, share or subscribe if this post interests you!

“Transformation” abstract study by Cate Frazier-Neely

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Quilted Treasures and Loving Measures

This Voicing the Craft post was inspired by a fantastic crazy quilt designed and made by my long-time friend, Katherine Pinard.  It hangs in the music studio’s waiting room. Dozens of odd shapes symbolize the ways we have become fragmented as a society and as individuals, but in piecing them together skillfully, she made them come together to make something whole. Katherine is working some powerful magic through imagination and skill.

Katherine'squilt

About 4 years ago I commissioned Mindy Carlson to create a series of 4 quilted pieces representing the four seasons, specifically to hang inside our front entry and up the stairs to our home’s second floor.  This wall stayed bare for the first 16 years we were in the house. I didn’t want the usual family photos lining the stairs, so after I got to know Mindy and her work, I asked her if she wanted to try this commission.  Each panel is pieced together masterfully to create a whole panel-of-fabric look.

mindy'squilts

But these quilts point to a larger set of values, one that permeates the history and genealogy of many women around the world throughout time.  Women’s stories are told through crafting useful items, through creative journaling about feelings and the events of the day, through sharing stories of children’s ages and stages as well as life’s hormonal changes.  It is all the passing on of women’s wisdom through stories and art.

My father (1928-2003) loved family genealogy and research, but he collected history in much different ways than I do. He connected through the “begets of begets,” the ownership of land, immigrant ship logs, purchasing slips, birth, marriage and death records and other ledger lines of history.  When Dad was researching in the 1960’s through 1990’s, it was mostly in the days before the Internet, and he had to go to other cities and wade through volumes of records of hand-written and typed accounts. He wrote to countless county offices, libraries, college historians, blueprint offices, military archives, distant relatives and such to collect information.  He collated, labeled and stored photos, packed everything away in boxes and neat notebooks and organized extended family reunions of people who would meet once and never see each other again.  He tracked down a family Bible that had somehow left the family and found it in Florida. The owner graciously mailed it to him, and he began trying to collect funds from family to have it restored and rebound. I think he and mom ended up absorbing over $1,000 in the early 1990’s to restore the family Bible to the Frazier Line. It was money they did not have, but such were his values and he felt a great responsibility to pass on what he knew. He spoke of family names and places to his children and grandchildren with increasing fervor as he got older, wanting someone to carry on the information and take care of what he had discovered.  One brother and I have it all now, and I must admit, as I get older I wonder what will happen to everything if our children and their cousins are not interested in preserving it.

While the first two blog photos were of recent quilt purchases, they also happen to have been made by two very close friends.  I also have dozens of quilted, sewn, knit, cross-stitched and crocheted items from great-aunts on both sides of the family, my grandmother, mother, mother-and sister-in-law, and friends. Here are a few baby blankets that I used with my children, two from my husband’s Aunt Betsy and one from my friend, Kate Huntress-Reeve:

GreatAuntBetsyandKateHR

This next photo is of a crazy quilt that was made for me by women who lived outside of Morgantown, West Virginia, nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. I worked one college summer, 1975, at a mission station in those beautiful mountains with of a team of other college-aged men and women. We looked after dozens of children with learning disabilities and cleft palettes who were the result of inbreeding among families. On Sunday mornings I played the out-of-tune piano in the small mountain church, leading hymns, playing preludes and postludes and teaching some of the kids how to play folk tunes after services. (I also had my one and only stint playing guitar and singing in a blue grass band.) At the end of the summer, the families presented me with this awesome quilt, made from knit and wool scraps:

AppalachianCrazyQuilt

After my paternal grandmother passed, my grandfather remarried.  Helene was always very nice to me and we shared the rather odd trait of having studied Latin for four years in high school, she about 1911-1915 and me from 1970-1974. When she passed away, she willed me this woven tapestry quilt, which had been in her family since about 1870.  It was created on a loom and sewn in two pieces.

Helene'sJacobeanQuilt

And the last quilt I’ll post, was a project I designed one day to keep three 5-year old boys (my son and two of his friends) busy when I was caring for them and my 1 year old daughter. Their part of the project lasted about 30 minutes, and mine took several hours….They drew with crayons on muslin squares which I heat-set, then pieced together to form a quilt. Their signatures appear in the bottom right. Originally, this quilt was sent to a young boy who had leukemia, but when he passed, his mother returned it with a photo of it wrapped around him.  The feet and hands in this photo belong to my husband….

Boys'Quilt

Boys'SignatureQuilt

Many of the quilts and hand-made items are stored in the cedar chest that was my maternal grandmother’s. The photo above the chest is one of mine, enlarged and framed.

Grandma'sCedarChest

Many times I have been able to combine my love of crafts, art and women’s history with creating musical programs for the Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington, DC. One such program I wrote and conducted, called “Wrapping Home Around Me,” featured music from the musical Quilters, poems and writings from indigenous crafters and songs about weaving and quilting.

FullSizeRenderFullSizeRenderq

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How do you treasure and pass on family genealogies? I’d love to hear how others are doing this!

(If you found value in this post, please comment, like or share. Thanks for being here!)

Featured image is “Roots,” by Cate Frazier-Neely, acrylic and ink on paper

A Singer With Muscle Tension Dysphonia (MTD)–One Case

This is my first blog post as a singing voice rehabilitation specialist.

It is important to state that I do not work in a clinical setting, but privately, on referral from Speech-Language Pathologists and other Singing Voice Rehabilitation Specialists. This is one case, one approach. For every singer recovering from MTD, there will be different needs, different reasons for the condition, and different exercises.

If you’d like a good article on MTD and solutions, read “Collaboration and Conquest: MTD as Viewed by a Singing Voice Specialist and a SLP,” by Goffi-Fynn and Carroll. (PubMed) Communicating in a unified medical language can be important, so that the team of an otolaryngologist, speech-language pathologist and voice teacher can communicate about their patient-student.

However, translating my quick-as-lightening intuition to speaking quantifiable medical language with others is my weak suit and, even after almost 10 years as a SVS, I am constantly trying to learn how to do it. Different parts of the brain are responsible for speech and for language processing. Evidently my Broca’s Area is not as strong as my Wernicke’s….So, what follows is an accurate, but unclinical, account of working with Roz.

Roz is in her late 20’s and has already experienced more than her share of vocal pathology and vocal issues. She holds a BM degree in vocal performance and is a professional chorister with excellent musicianship and a beautiful voice. She loves to sing early Western choral music and was employed at a large cathedral as a soprano in their octet. She is an event photographer as her day job.

She recently left her church job to seek medical help when her voice started skipping pitches. She also was not able to phonate the beginnings of phrases that started with vowels. Then her singing became breathy and cut out at about C-5. Her speaking voice seemed ok but she was afraid that would start to be a problem, too.

Roz’ SLP  forwarded me her diagnosis and history, which included treatment for reflux, pre-nodules, partial paresis of the left vocal fold, vocal fold scarring and a non-vocal surgery. This history had left her ultra-aware of when to seek help.

Right now, the suggested standard medical protocol for a singer with vocal fold dysfunction is to first see a qualified otolaryngologist who truly understands a singers’ needs. This is still a rare thing.

Many otolaryngologists and ENT’s do not have this sub-specialty, and even those who say they work with singers often are inexperienced and just making guesses or don’t use the right equipment to view vocal fold behavior. Then a speech-language pathologist, usually associated with the voice clinic, sees the patient for “voice rehabilitation.” Some speech-language pathologists are singing voice specialists, and many are not. (Just like some voice teachers are singing voice specialists and many are not.)

I had been teaching singing for about 27 years before I began to move in this direction, and it became a way to turn lemons into lemonade after I was diagnosed with bi-lateral vocal fold paralysis in early 2013. My singing voice specialist is Jeanie Lovetri, founder of Somatic Voicework tm: The Lovetri Method and The Voice Workshop in New York City.

Roz’ SLP saw her for one session, during which Roz was shown how to do neck massages  to begin to unwinding her tension responses. After this session, she began her work with me and I took the work deeper: I introduced her to Vibrant Voice Technique and the use of a vibrator to help make the manual massages more effective. We studied neck muscle anatomy so she could become knowledgable about how to apply the massage and began to understand her own throat. The wise use of a vibrator helps relax muscles that do not belong in the singing process, and allows “the right” muscles to begin to work before strengthening them.  In pathology patients, it is not an instant fix but improvement is seen and felt almost right away. After her session with me, the SLP felt she had improved enough to discharge her.

MTD’s pathology is not life-threatening and can be solved, but is insufficient to explain the degree of dysphonia is causes. There are many reasons why someone can develop this frustrating condition. In Roz’s initial consultation with me, she shared that she had been singing in an abusive situation. She knew that she was reacting to, and recoiling from, the abysmal choral conducting and not-so-subtle emotional abuses of the church organist who was also the choral conductor at the cathedral where she sang.

Singers who have not had an opportunity to learn how to deflect this kind of negativity will have it reflect in their bodies and throats. In her case, over time, her effective vocal technique became unable able to respond to the glorious music, collaboration with other singers and the conductor. She also was stiffening and collapsing muscles in her throat to create the stylized “no vibrato” sound and was anxious because she could not follow the director’s waving and stabbing of his fingers in the air as he played the organ. And she was cowing under his constant criticism of the sopranos, of which she was one of two. While it is possible to sing in the musical style she loves with minimum vibrato, it becomes impossible under this kind of conductor unless you can focus solely on what you need to do and block out everything else that does not serve your goals.

“Learned vocalization for speech and song is developed by auditory input of one’s environment but not in the mammalian system.  In many people these two systems are often disassociated.”  (Christy Ludow, Communication Sciences and Disorders, James Madison University.)  I based all of Roz’s initial vocal exercises on sounds that come from our limbic system. (involuntary sounds made when we have not been severed from the spontaneous expressions of anger, fear, desire, surprise, etc.)

In Roz’s case, her muscles were in hyper-function, but this masked hypo-function. Her voice stopped speaking somewhere along the line so she kept forcing vocal fold closure in order to get sound, which eventually led to the dysphonia.

In her case, the exercises were kept very short, often on whatever pitch came out as opposed to specific pitches, using the syllables “thack” or (thae.) Roz had a great deal of anger and disappointment left over from her experience, so all the exercises were preceded with physical expression of those emotions by punching a pillow for a minute, or punching the air, etc, followed by one sound of emotional expression on that specific syllable.

A week later we removed the “th” and went through a similar procedure. Every single time, she phonated on a vowel when she allowed it to come from her emotional motor system! (limbic part of the brain.)

Pacing of the lesson was important to ensure she didn’t get tired or discouraged and she used the vibrator off and on all through the lessons. After about two lessons she was able to phonate short pitch patterns, moving up and down the scale, stopping for frequent short breaks. She could sing certain vowels over short intervals, which enabled her to really feel her progress.

After 3-4 lessons, the tongue attachments to the hyoid bone and  were sufficiently released that we could add tiny squeaks and squeals to help activate the cryco-thyroid muscles. This had to be done slowly, with her using the vibrator and me manually massaging the back neck muscles to watch for a return to hyper-function of the neck muscles, but she progressed. Then we moved from one tiny squeak down an interval of a third. Then we moved to exercises involving more than one syllable like “ihi-(eehee)-ihi-ihi-ihi” on one pitch or a pattern, coordinating with conscious use of transverse abdominals to get things going.  She had no trouble accessing and isolating various abdominal muscles, which was a testimony to her former technique.

From there we moved to a sustained (i) over short traditional vocalize patterns. When the voice skipped, she’d rest, repeat all the patterns in sequence. and take off again. She is almost ready to move into the standard voice therapy exercises (Stempler, semi-occluded variations, straw bubbling in water, etc.) We absolutely could not start with those.

Slowly her beautiful voice is reemerging, and she realizes she will sing again before the year is out. But now she will look for a choral situation that is what she knows the experience can be!

If you liked this post, please comment, like or share. This helps me know that others found it useful or fun, and encourages me to post more like it! Thanks for being here!

 

Collage Anatomy: The Making of “Hot Air Balloon Ride”

Here at the rebranded CateFNStudios Blog, you’ll find Crafting the Voice (Articles from work in Vocal PedagogyFunctional Voice Training and Somatic Education) and Voicing the Craft (Photoblog of steps taken for play in collage, abstract art and design.) 

Here’s the process for my most recent collage, “Hot Air Balloon Ride.” Enjoy!

It started with doodling and coloring on a recent US cross-country flight:FullSizeRender (61)

On the return flight I decided to turn the doodle into a larger work when I got home, which eventually became the 18″ x 24″ paint and collage on canvas, “Hot Air Balloon Ride.” First, I just expanded the doodle onto larger pieces of paper.

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Then I drew several prototypes on sheets of cardboard because I wanted to use a medium-sized canvas. Here I am using plates and wine glasses to create geometric circles as opposed to organic, hand-drawn circles.

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Egg shapes were drawn free hand until they seemed symmetrical. The use of tracing paper for patterns to cut out collaged papers reminded me of my sewing days.

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Then I began making gelli prints for collage papers to fit the design. Gelli prints are made by putting paint on a flexible gelatin slab, rolling the paint out on the slab with a brayer, adding marks, and then pressing paper over top. The paper is then pulled off the slab. This has been all the rage in crafting and collage circles for awhile now, with limitless possibilities for design, color and use. You can find tons of “how to’s” online.

I chose to make simple marks with the gelli print designs. Here are some of the tissue paper shapes, lined up with the gelli prints they’ll be cut out of.

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And part of the fun was rooting through my collage paper stash to find what might work:

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I absolutely ADORE combining handmade collage papers, speciality papers and acrylic paint. Here are some of the specialty papers in my stash. They are handmade out of various kinds of tree bark and reeds in an array of colors and textures.  I get them from Mulberry Paper. And let me tell you, every time I look at their site or feel these sheets, I have a visceral experience….I wish I could roll around on them!!

FullSizeRender (62)Then I start putting things together like a puzzle, referring to the original in-flight doodle to retain the initial inspiration.

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I stop along the way to make more subtle gelli prints when my collage paper stash doesn’t have the “right” color.

FullSizeRender (63)The white paper on the right of this next photo is actually a painter’s palate. It is coated with a substance that makes it possible to mix colors and various mediums before applying paint to your substrate. (substrate is the paper, canvas or whatever on which you are painting.)

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When the work seemed finished, I turned it over and placed it on a self-healing cutting mat. This is an ingenious quilter’s tool which lets you to cut into it with a rotary cutter or Exacto knife and it magically ‘self-heals.’  Here, I am using an Exacto knife to cut the excess paper off the four sides. Then I painted the four blank sides of the canvas sky blue.

After the sides dried, I turned the canvas over and danced to “Up Up and Away” by the Fifth Dimension to get out of “drafting” mode. (Note: no photos of this step…) This was to get out of drafting mode and move into spontaneously adding some unexpected elements. I used a thingie in my ‘thingie box,’ and mixed sky blue with ecru, then stamped circles on the canvas. I added some blotches here and there. Then, the whole thing got a covering of clear acrylic medium to protect the papers and give a final glue-down.

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Finished!

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By the way, three of my vocal pedagogy colleagues told me they saw a larynx, the anatomical structure in our throats that houses the vocal folds. That’s the nature of contemporary art. The viewer sees what they see!

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