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British Voice Association Study Day 2007

The British Voice Association's AGM and Study Day took place on Sunday, 1st July at the Royal Academy of Music in London


British Voice Association event report – by Kiereen Lock

The BVA is a respected, reliable, intelligent friend to those of us working in voice. Like all the good friends we may be slightly apprehensive when introducing them to someone new. We want the newcomer to enjoy the introduction and to benefit immediately from the warmth and wisdom of what we know to be so good.

I attended the Study day and AGM with a colleague who is hoping to work in voice. I need not have worried. The welcome she received and the variety and interest that she was offered exceeded my expectations.

What an excellent day. We were invited to attend three practical workshops from a choice of twelve highly experienced practitioners in five different disciplines. Meredydd Harries and John Rubin gave us the benefit of their considerable laryngol-ogical experience. There was a timely plea from Meredydd for us to seek out and encourage the laryngologists of the future. There are still far too few excellent specialist voice clinics in the UK.

Jacob Liebermann's manual therapy workshops are always justifiably oversubscribed. Carlene Perris and Moira Little ably demonstrated the remedial work of the SLT, Mary Hill and Linnhe Robertson gave us a taste of the role of a vocal coach, and Anne-Marie Speed and Mel Churcher reminded us how important is is to work with text. Graham Godfrey, Dinah Harris and Linda Hutchison gave us the benefit of their expertise in teaching singing. A wealth of experience, intelligent professionalism and wit. It was informative and great fun.

It would not be fair to single out any individual workshop for specific praise. I was only able to attend three. The complimentary comments and excited buzz that was generated during the breaks were testament to their success. I would all have liked attend all twelve….Congratulations to those who worked so hard on our behalf and please may we have more of the same when you have recovered!

The central part of the day was the Gunnar Rugheimer.Lecture. Janice Chapman gave an affectionate tribute to the man without whom there would have been no BVA. "The professor" as he was nicknamed would have been delighted to see so many of us benefiting from the academic excellence of Professor Bill Hardcastle (Director of the Speech Science Research Centre at Queen Margaret's University Edinburgh) who had been invited to speak on "Imaging the tongue and other articulators in Normal and disordered speech" Prof Hardcastle gave us an expertly accessible view of his research to establish an objective record of what the tongue is really doing during vocalization. He commented that the closest analogy in the animal world would be an elephant's trunk which gave us all food for thought! Professor Hardcastle arrived safely in spite of the terrorist scare in Glasgow. He apologised that because of airport restrictions he was unable to bring the demonstration model of the electropalatogram which would have taken some explaining had he tried to take it past the scanner at the airport.

Ingrid Rugheimer thanked Professor Hardcastle for "pitching it perfectly". She paid a moving tribute to Gunnar who was always so generous in recognizing and thanking all who worked with him. Ian Rugheimer (Gunnar's son) then gave a vote of thanks. His father's legacy is the BVA and he would have been so proud to see the " synergy of all disciplines related to voice".

The day belonged to the Rugheimer family and to the outgoing President Janice Chapman who cannot be thanked enough for all her hard work and achievements during what has been a difficult year for her and we were all delighted hear that she is now in recovery after treatment for cancer.

So, thank you to the education working party and to the BVA Council. It is heartening to see our friend the BVA in such good shape. Good luck to the newly elected members of council and particularly to the new president Linda Hutchison and….more workshops please!


British Voice Association event report – by Sarah Leonard

As the study day was entitled "What do all the others do? I stayed away from familiar workshops about the singing teacher and vocal coach, and headed for specialist areas I knew little about.

Jacob Lieberman's workshop was a revelation to me. He is an osteopath and psychotherapist and is concerned with the bio-mechanics of the vocal mechanism and the relevance of posture in voice problems.

He looks at four areas when assessing a new patient: posture and its clinical relevance, breathing mechanism, muscle tone and movement of the larynx, and any relevant emotional factors. He feels that the importance put on good posture has been overemphasized in the past, and that normal variations in head and neck positions have very little effect on the voice, as the vocal tract is so flexible. This was a surprise to many of us. Where he suspects postural problems are affecting vocal function he looks at the interaction between areas such as the legs, pelvis, ribs or spine. An unaligned larynx can be caused by spinal scoliosis or a torso rotation such as a distorted rib cage. We saw slides of some badly aligned people. We also saw a film of him manipulating a man's larynx, (not for the squeamish) working on specific muscles to reverse the rigidity of this particular larynx. I was very impressed that Lieberman is able to bring the skills of an osteopath and psychotherapist to help people with vocal problems.

Moira Little, a SPT and the Clinical Voice Specialist at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, showed us in her workshop the principles of voice therapy, and some of the direct therapeutic approaches she uses in her work. She is a Voice Care Network tutor and runs voice care workshops. She has had training in the Estill and Accent methods so I felt that I might have things in common with her. Interestingly she said that twice as many women as men are referred to her clinic by ENT specialists. She sees people who don't need surgery but some form of vocal rehabilitation after nodules, cysts or polyps, also aphonic (no voice) and dysphonic people. Typical disorders are boys' voices that have not broken into adulthood, poor vocal sound quality, and poor flexibility such as stammering. Her work overlaps with that of a singing teacher in that she looks for respiratory function, laryngeal function and vocal tract function and any neurological of psychological problems that might affect vocal health. Many of her therapeutic approaches are similar to those of a singing teacher. She encourages patients to have a vocal care plan – hydration, no shouting or clearing the throat - and to keep a voice diary. Her direct strategies include relaxation to prevent constriction, and here she uses many Estill exercises. Moira said that the patients who did the best were the ones who did their homework. She saw voice rehabilitation as a partnership. I think all singing teachers would agree with that.

The third workshop I attended was give by Meredydd Harries, an ENT consultant and laryngologist. He is a general ENT surgeon and specializes in voice surgery. He gave us a brief account of the ways in which people find him, ie through GP referral, ENT consultants, self-referral, speech therapists, singing teachers, or directly from music colleges. On a typical visit patients fill in a vocal history questionnaire, and he inspects the larynx with a stroboscope. He emphasized the importance of stroboscopy in voice assessment and treatment, and to record the vocal function before and after surgery. He showed us pictures of a healthy larynx and vocal folds and unhealthy vocal folds which had been damaged by an anaesthetist in past surgery. This singer had had the outer layers of one fold sawn off and it was like a "lump of wood" in that it could not vibrate. In fact I have a pupil that this happened to, and armed with knowledge and subsequent exercises from a speech therapist she is able to improve the movement of her vocal folds. Harries said that he learnt much from the speech therapists and the singing teacher who works in his team at the Royal Sussex County Hospital. He emphasized the importance of teamwork in vocal rehabilitation and felt his training as an ENT surgeon was not enough. He wanted to know more about posture and breathing.

The day was of great value to me as a singer and teacher. I feel I am much better equipped to identify the right person to help if I, or my pupils, get into vocal difficulties.



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