Photo Featuring: Drew Gehling, Kurt Crowley, Paul Kwak, Elizabeth Stanley, Ryan Branski
“Hi, Fit for Broadway family! Hello, vocal athletes! Yes, YOU – VOCAL ATHLETES!
We are so excited to launch this initiative, and most specifically, this series of blog posts, with our great colleague, Jane Jourdan, founder of Fit for Broadway. We value our partnership with Fit for Broadway, not least because of the ways it prompts us all to think about fitness. Typically, when people hear the word “fitness,” they think of the ways we use the body to become more healthy. Whether through strength training, cardiovascular exercise, high-intensity intervals, calisthenics, or any of the enormous number of fitness activities that have arisen in recent years, our culture has seen the evolution of incredible diversity in the ways we train our bodies. In addition, as we learn and perceive more about the connections between mind and body – meditation, yoga, and other practices to train the mind and increase awareness have become increasingly popular and vital to our society that is so frenetically busy and focused on work and achievement.
Somehow, we tend to fail at carrying over these principles about training the mind and body into the way we think about the voice. The larynx (voicebox) is simply a collection of muscles, ligaments, cartilages, bones, and mucous membranes just like every other organ and structure in our body is. The voice requires an extraordinary – even magical – coordination of breath (lungs), oscillation and movement of the vocal folds (larynx), and resonating structures (face/throat) to create sound to communicate with others. Helping a patient with his or her voice lies in optimizing both anatomy and mechanics – structure and function.
But you aren’t just any voice users. We believe above all that singers are vocal athletes – and this series of blog posts is designed to help you think in those terms and to believe it. Most of us enjoy some form of physical activity – running, boxing, weight-lifting – but only a select few decide to make careers as athletes in sports. Similarly, everyone uses their voices every day – but only a select few – YOU! – decide to make a career in vocal athletics, aka singing and vocal performance. Just the same way sports athletes run drills, lift weights, condition their muscles – you, too, practice scales, diction, learn to coordinate breath to condition your instruments – your bodies!
We are here to talk about the fact that athletes get injured. No one thinks twice when a runningback tears his ACL, or when a major-league pitcher needs surgery on his shoulder. But it breaks our hearts when singers come into our offices and tell us they feel they can’t tell their teachers, coaches, managers, or production companies about limitations in the voice. Can you imagine if a hockey player broke his nose on the rink, and was then ashamed to see a doctor? Why should this be the case for vocal athletes?
We are here, in this initiative, to empower singers to see yourselves as vocal athletes. We are here to tackle the stigma and even shame that singers experience when they have an injury, or simply symptoms of overuse due to impossible vocal demands and schedules. I will write in the coming weeks about the physiology of voice use during high-impact vocal performance, but as a preview and introduction, consider what it would be like for Tom Brady to play 8 football games a week. Now think about the fact that Broadway shows run 8 times a week! I think the comparisons and analogies you start to draw in your own mind might point you toward some insight about athleticism, endurance, injury, and recovery; but we will have the opportunity in the coming weeks to explore this, together.
Indeed, over the next several days and weeks, on our Instagram and Facebook accounts, you will see some of our favorite colleagues – opera and Broadway stars you know and love – proudly wearing our “I’m on Vocal Rest” limited edition t-shirt, in solidarity with our mission to empower vocal athletes, and to facilitate dialogue in an energetic, empathetic, and fun way, about what it means and what it takes to be a great — and healthy! – vocal performer. We look forward to your questions and comments, and most of all, we look forward to working with you in the coming weeks and years to change our culture, so that we all collectively embrace and celebrate the athleticism that underlies the beauty and artistry of what vocal performers do each and every day.”
Contributed by Paul E. Kwak, MD
Photos Featuring: Kurt Crowley, Jane Jourdan, Paul Kwak, Ryan Branski, and Drew Gehling
Join the conversation below in our comments section. Part 4 of our series will be a Q&A with Dr. Paul so please don’t be afraid to ask questions below!
“I’m on Vocal Rest” is an original Fit for Broadway Apparel design. We are so grateful for to be a part of this mission with NYU Voice Center and believe this message is worth spreading in our global community!