Throat Specialists Who Don’t Know

I make a lot of noise on this blog about ignorant singing teachers but we all need to address the throat specialists who don’t know what good singing teachers do, as this is a serious problem, too.

Wrong Assumptions About Teachers of Singing

Most older MDs who specialized in otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) had no motive to understand singing as a factor in vocal health but a few, like Drs. Brodnitz, Grabscheidt, and Gould, worked with very elite singers and helped them survive the rigors of professional singing by keeping their vocal health as good as possible. We have quite a few MDs here in New York who treat stars and pros but only some of them trust singing teachers to work with their patients. This is partially because there is no uniform training for teachers of singing to deal with vocal health unless the individual teacher goes to school to get a degree in Speech Language Pathology. Recently NYSTA has initiated a training program (the PDP course, www.nyst.org), and there are a few other places that offer courses in Vocology, (http://www.ncvs.org) which includes voice science but not necessarily voice medicine. My courses, all of them, include the participation of a throat specialist (ENT) to teach singing teachers what healthy voices sound like and how they work. If, however, a teacher of singing spends the time and money to get educated about vocal health there is still no guarantee that the MDs will refer patients who need retraining specifically to them before they return to singing professionally. To these doctors, all singing teachers know the same thing, based upon where they teach. Wrong assumption.

Many medical doctors rely upon sending students to teachers at prestigious conservatories as a kind of “guarantee” that the student is getting good vocal training. Many don’t know what vocal training actually is, except that it is aimed at classical singing. Sadly, some teachers at high-level conservatories don’t know about vocal health because they don’t have to. That the doctors do not realize that such training may not only be poor, it could be useless or even harmful, is unfortunate, but that is certainly true. If the patient is a rock vocalist in a metal band and the teacher has experience only in opera (or other classical repertoire) the teacher may be absolutely clueless about what the vocalist needs in order to return to his or her normal mode of singing.

If You Know An ENT In This Category, Please Share This Blog

This situation sits in both the medical and vocal professions like the proverbial 800 pound gorilla, not really addressed by either. We don’t need more throat specialists who don’t know, so please help fix that situation.

Conferences like the upcoming “Multidisciplinary Rehabilitation of the Performance Voice” in Michigan at the University of Michigan Medical School in October seek to remedy this situation. It puts the three professions together (including Speech Language Pathogists) so we can educate each other about what we do and how we can help each other to help our patients/clients/students.

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