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The Child Performer
5th & 6th October 2007
British Voice Association event report – by Lindsay Bamfield-Gee (SLT)
Was this course for me, a speech and language therapist working mostly with adults and seeing only about 10 children a year? The programme looked so interesting and with the dearth of courses on paediatric voice 1 decided to sign up. Excellent decision!
Lesley Cavalli, Specialist SLT in paediatric voice at Great Ormond Street set the standard with her first informative presentation on the normal development of the larynx from birth to 18 years. Jenevora Williams, Singing Teacher then presented two equally interesting guides to adolescent voice and its changes in both girls and boys. Sound recordings helped us to identify some of the subtle changes in the development of boys' voices through puberty.
After lunch with plenty of opportunity to network, the next session offered an informal approach with three speakers from different disciplines all considering the voice in trouble. Frith Trezevant - Singing Teacher, Yvonne Morley - Voice Coach and Kiereen Lock - Specialist SLT all discussed their management of voice problems. This neatly lead to a presentation by Ben Hartley, Paediatric Otolaryngologist at Great Ormond Street, giving us a good insight to some of the medical conditions affecting the child's larynx from allergies to asthma and how medications can help but may also exacerbate problems if overused.
The day was rounded off with a master class from Yvonne Morley working with a nine year old boy on his speaking voice, focusing on his posture and working on use of pitch. There was plenty of time for questions and discussion as it was acknowledged that not only were our speakers all highly expert in their fields, the delegates also came with a vast amount of knowledge and expertise which was freely exchanged.
The second day focused on practical issues, and Lesley Cavalli opened with a talk on vocal care and environmental factors affecting the voice. Nutrition and hydration was considered along with medication as well as the school and home environment. Annie Elias, Specialist SLT then discussed psychosocial factors that may affect vocal performance in all children and child performers in particular who may be working under considerable pressure. She focused on useful questions to elicit plenty of relevant information about the children we work with.
Lesley's next session helped us to develop our skills in helping children appreciate the concepts of voice such as loudness, pitch, breath control and muscle tension so they develop their understanding and knowledge of their voice in a useful practical way. We then divided into groups consisting of different professions to discuss practical methods and ideas. Each group focused on two concepts and we presented our ideas to the rest of the audience. We all found that we could learn a lot from each other's approaches.
The final session was a master class with Frith and Jenevora each working with two singers, from 10 years old through to 17. We all enjoyed the performances and could hear the improvement in their technique in one brief class.
The different profession's approaches may be different but we all have a common aim: healthy voices. The two days were packed with interesting, useful information much of it practical, which will certainly enhance our work with children's voices. For myself, after almost thirty years of NHS working this conference gave me a new enthusiasm to carry back to my clinic. Several delegates asked if this course would be repeated. It certainly warrants repetition and if you work with children I can't recommend it highly enough. Many thanks to Philippa Moll who organised the conference.
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