Did you know that at the voice conferences there is a pecking order?
The MDs are at the top, the voice scientists are right there at the top, too, depending on whether the conference is medical or scientific, but if it is both, it could be either profession who is “King of the Road”. This is followed by the Speech Language Pathologists, especially those who do research, then by the teachers of classical singing, then by the teachers of professional speech for actors, then by the performers, then, maybe, by various students. Teachers of CCM might be in there somewhere, too, but maybe not.
The MDs don’t often appear at the voice conferences (NATS/NYSTA) and hardly ever sit through a singing teacher’s presentation of terms that singing teachers or performers use as part of the “professional jargon”. They may or may not understand professional criteria in terms of expectations for any given style or why one singing teacher might be very different than another, assuming that both are competent. The MDs who mostly treat professional voice users know much more about all this than their counterparts, but they are absolutely in the minority, and even they don’t know all that much about the other disciplines’ worlds.
One of the most important interdisciplinary voice conferences has a “pre-conference” tutorial for those not familiar with voice science or medicine, to help participants understand the presentations that are to follow. I thought it would be nice if the singing teachers were allowed to present what the doctors and scientists need to know about Broadway, recordings, club dates, rock bands, jazz clubs, etc. just in terms of the language used and the professional parameters that the singers must meet. I thought that would put all the professions on equal footing, stating, by example, that the MDs should take in some information from the teachers of singing and that the scientists should do the same. Didn’t happen. Not surprised.
Singing teachers are still learning from scientists like Dr. Ingo Titze and Dr. Robert Sataloff, both of whom write regular columns for the Journal of Singing. I wonder, though, how many singing teachers write articles for medical journals or the scientific publications like the Journal of Acoustics (probably none is a good guess). So, if we are “equal” to the other professions, it is often so that the actual behavior of the other disciplines does not back that up. It’s changing, and I think it is getting better, but teachers of singing could help their own cause by making a little bit more noise in the direction of MDs and SLPs, urging them to participate in our conferences and events.
When everyone presents equally in any of the disciplines at any of the conferences and when all of us are familiar with the basics of the other professions, then we will really be professional equals. We aren’t there yet.