I wanted to thank you all for your support and generosity whilst I raised money for Music Therapy Works in May. By remaining silent for just longer than a weekend, I raised £90 for the charity. I hope this money will benefit those who really need music in their life.
A personal lament over my voice loss:
Losing my voice felt totally crippling. It was such an acute and terrifying lesson in how dehabilitating it is to be unable to use my voice. You may recall that I stopped speaking because I was suffering from laryngitis – I used the opportunity of total silence to raise money, so that I didn’t feel completely lost in the eerie silence.
The inability to use my voice meant I could not speak on the phone at all. Face-to-face I tried to gesticulate wildly but found it far easier to write to people using an ever-present notebook and pen. Walking the dog was kept almost sane by a series of claps and clicks (and – let’s be honest – a bit of running to catch up when the poor girl had no idea what I was clip clacking at!) but the inability to sing was excruciating: Opera rehearsals were silent and I sat dejectedly on stage whilst my (super awesome and supportive) colleagues sang in my lines. My personal regular practice was non-existent for 3 weeks. Even singing whilst cooking was rudely brought to a halt and the inability to sing along to anything at all was SO tricky.
Whilst unable to sing, I used a different and surprisingly effective way of teaching young learners: rather than rote learning and call and repeat, I worked on clapping rhythms, asking students to speak the song text in the correct rhythm and then played the tune on the piano for the student to copy and sing back. It was a much slower learning process, but the benefit was that the student felt much a greater sense of achievement as they were, in essence, able to work out the music for themselves.
Another benefit was that the students in question were not copying or trying to mimic my voice; they found their own voice. As you may know already from my other posts, I believe that it is so important as a voice teacher to elicit the unique sound of each individual rather than insisting on churning out singers who all sound the same. I do focus on this a lot during lesson with all ages, but this was a particularly effective way to ensure that none of the young singers were trying to copy my… shall we call it “more mature” sound? (Or weird husky whisper in this case!?)
I enjoyed working with students in this way whilst I let my voice rest and since recovery, I have continued to practice this, amongst my other teaching ways too. In this sense, the silent lessons turned out to be quite rewarding for everyone. If you were one of the vocalists subjected to a silent teacher during May, thanks for bearing with me whilst I explained everything using the music, the iPad or the posters – you’re all terrific!
Overall, this difficult silence made me realise how utterly devastating it is for people who lose their voice long term. I lost my voice for the short term and when it returned and felt healthy again, I have never been so grateful for my voice. I’ve always been an advocate for healthy voice use, but now I believe in maintaining excellent vocal health more than ever. In a later post, I will share some of the remedies that really boosted my recovery.
In the meantime, please learn form my initial mistake, and if you’re losing your voice – don’t try and push it. Give yourself time for rest and look after yourself. If you try to sing through these kind of problems, you could cause long term damage. Even short term damage was painful and upsetting so please consider yourself first, always.
If you need help, contact a qualified voice professional, a speech therapist or a doctor who can refer you to a specialist. There is also plenty of voice care information listed here: BVA
You may also be pleased to hear that I did recover just in time for all of my recent performances and I attribute the full recovery, in particular, to these days of complete silence that you sponsored. Thank you so very much for supporting me through an immensely emotional time by donating your hard-earned cash to the charity Music Therapy Works. I think you’re all amazing.