April 11, 2023

Vanderbilt Voice Center’s Professional Voice Conference brings medical professionals and vocal athletes together

A Vanderbilt Voice Center conference will focus on wellness, readiness and resilience for vocal professionals and will touch on topics such as vocal hygiene, recovery after injury, allergies, surgery, respiration, life on the road, and more.

In celebration of World Voice Day, Vanderbilt Voice Center presents the Professional Voice Conference April 17-18 at the Belcourt Theatre.

Focused on wellness, readiness and resilience for vocal professionals, the two-day course covers vocal hygiene, recovery after injury, allergies, surgery, respiration, life on the road, and more.

“Singers are extreme athletes,” says Jennifer Muckala, MA, CCC-SLP, course director, speech pathologist and vocal specialist. “They need to be able to turn their voices on and sing for 90-120 minutes almost continuously in a variety of environments, with sound systems of variable quality, through a broad pitch range — and do so for up to three or four nights in a row.”

Off-stage, vocal professionals have vocal demands before and after their performances, like media interviews and meetings with their team, management, fans and vendors. On the road, vocalists are often up late and sleep and eat when they can — all of which impact their voices.

Rachel Beauregard

Like so many other aspects of health, everything is fine until it’s not.

“Disaster management is where we first encounter many of our singers in the Vanderbilt Voice Center, when the Titanic has hit the iceberg, and there is so much at stake,” Muckala says.

Presented in collaboration with Porter’s Call, MusiCares, Vanderbilt Dayani Center and Gibson Gives, the Professional Voice Conferences gives everyone — otolaryngologists, singers, songwriters, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and music industry professionals — the opportunity to be in the same room and have 360-degree conversations live, outside an emotional moment.

Keynote speakers include Michael Johns, III, MD, from Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California; Mary Sandage, PhD, CCC-SLP, from the Auburn University; Al Andrews, founder and executive director of Porter’s Call, a support agency for artists; and “Mama Jan” Smith of Jan Smith Studios.

Featured artists include Luke Smallbone, Dave Barnes, Keri Alkema and Rachel Beauregard, background vocalist for Maren Morris, Lauren Daigle and Hozier, who worked with Vanderbilt Voice Center on a vocal cord callous.

“Once I realized how fragile my little vocal cords are, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so sad I treated them that way,’” Beauregard said. “The physical part is important, but the work we did on the mental piece of vocal injury was a huge factor in my recovery. I had trigger-y fear and anxiety about having voice problems again. Once I was able to reestablish confidence in my voice, they guided me through understanding the mechanics of it and its limitations.”

Now, when Beauregard hears artists talk about the athleticism of the voice, she knows they’ve walked a similar path of vocal trauma and physical and mental rehabilitation.

“I know they’ve probably had to go on vocal rest, been scared they’ve ruined their voice, had help and been reminded that, just like a hockey player needs to do a significant warmup before going out on the ice, vocalists need to make sure their vocal muscles are warm,” she said.

“This conference is important for every aspect of the music business: If you’re making money from a voice or artist, you need to understand what’s required to help them perform at their best.”

For more information and registration, visit vumc.org/ent/professional-voice-conference.