Imagine that you had your whole life planned to major in music and commit to a career in vocal performance. You’re a great singer, they said, and you figured it was only a natural progression. Imagine you had a scholarship to the college of your choice for that vocal education. Now, imagine you had something very wrong with your voice as college was drawing very near, and you just couldn’t stay on pitch. Your brain knew the pitch you needed to sing, but your voice would just not maintain it. You’re freaking out, right?
Imagine that you got an expert opinion, and he recommended surgical excision of the vocal lesion you ended up having, and voice rehabilitation before and after surgery. Would your voice therapist know anything about singing? Would the surgery be a success? Had you done this to yourself? Were you destined to never enjoy the soul soothing and life calming act of singing again?
My name is Kristie Knickerbocker, and I am a Speech-Language Pathologist who specializes specifically in the rehabilitation of voice. We like to call that, a Vocologist. I also am a classically trained singer, with training and experience in helping injured singers. I would not be driven to provide specialized voice care, had I not been the scared young singer earlier in the story. It would be two years after surgery, of painfully humbling voice lessons and repertoire choices, learning about myself, and forgiveness before I was finally able to sing with the ease that I felt prior to the issue. I can think of no more perfect of a career choice than helping others in the same situation as myself. I knew that I wanted to be the voice of, “I’ve been there, and I’ve been scared.” I wanted to learn as much as I could about prevention of vocal issues, to help others sift through all the crap out there of vocal myths and wives tales. Had my coaches and voice teachers I studied with prior to my issue presented the information about all voice techniques, anatomy and voice production physiology, I think it would have been easier for me to be sure I wasn’t harming my mechanism with choir and musical theatre roles. As a coach, I feel it is my duty to have the most up-to-date information about vocal health and I owe this to all my patients.
We cannot each know everything, but together we can aim for a better communication between voice instruction and rehabilitation, as we shouldn’t wait for a problem to occur before we begin to teach prevention. It is vital, in my opinion, to constantly strive to bridge the gap between pedagogy and science, as our bodies are the instruments and we can have a much better understanding and ability to produce efficient and safe sound if we have access to visual representations of our vocal mechanisms.
Kristie Knickerbocker, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and singing voice specialist in Fort Worth, Texas. She rehabilitates voice and swallowing at her private practice, a tempo Voice Center, and lectures on vocal health to area choirs and students. She also owns and runs a mobile videostroboscopy and FEES company, Voice Diagnostix. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 3, Voice and Voice Disorders, and a member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and the Pan-American Vocology Association. Knickerbocker blogs on her website at www.atempovoicecenter.com. She has developed a line of voice therapy materials specifically for children as well as adults on TPT or her website. Follow her on Pinterest, on Twitter and Instagram or like her on Facebook.