Achieving Optimal Vocal Health for Musical Theater Auditions

Achieving Optimal Vocal Health for Musical Theater Auditions

The Squad You Need to Keep Your Voice in Tip-Top Shape

As a musical theater performer, your voice is your most precious asset. It’s the tool that allows you to captivate audiences, land coveted roles, and bring beloved characters to life. But maintaining optimal vocal health amidst the rigors of rehearsals, performances, and auditions can be a daunting task. That’s why I’m here to share with you the squad you need to keep your voice in tip-top shape.

You see, I’ve been there. I remember the night I submitted my Common App for NYU Early Decision, practically jumping with excitement to show the Tisch School of the Arts Drama department what I could bring to their creative community. But before I could even think about walking the stage, I had to nail my audition for the New Studio on Broadway (NSB) – the only studio within Tisch Drama that centers its curriculum on musical theater.

As a self-proclaimed musical theater fanatic, I knew the importance of having a team of experts in my corner. That’s why I made it a priority to assemble my very own “squad” – a group of professionals who could help me navigate the ups and downs of this industry and keep my voice in peak condition.

Just like how I had my go-to yoga instructor, meditation teacher, and headshot photographer, I made sure to surround myself with a voice teacher, laryngologist, voice therapist, and various coaches to ensure my vocal health was in the best of hands. And let me tell you, this squad was a game-changer.

You see, as Dr. Paul Kwak, an ENT at the NYU Voice Center, explains, Broadway schedules are arguably the most grueling of all performing schedules. “8 shows a week is essentially un-physiologic and unnatural for the voice within the context of the human experience,” he says.

Think about it – your vocal folds are colliding a million times during a single performance. Add in the extra rehearsals, auditions, and even casual conversations, and you’ve got the vocal equivalent of playing a football game 8 times a week. That’s why it’s essential for vocal performers to have a team of experts who can help them navigate this demanding schedule.

Establishing Your Vocal Health Baseline

One of the most important members of your squad, according to Dr. Kwak, is the laryngologist. This specialist in the care of the professional voice can provide you with a baseline exam of your larynx, which is crucial for understanding the unique characteristics of your individual instrument.

“A performer who is performing well may have any number of these the irregularities and normal variations of your individual anatomy simply contribute to the way that you produce sound,” explains Dr. Kwak. “A baseline exam establishes your vocal home base and eliminates the guesswork when a problem arises.”

Think about it this way – if you saw your skin for the first time, you’d probably mistake healthy, normal freckles or pigment variations for problems. But since we see our skin every day in the mirror, we can confidently say, “This blemish was definitely not on my nose yesterday.”

The same principle applies to your vocal folds. By establishing a baseline exam, your laryngologist can get to know the unique intricacies of your voice, allowing them to better detect any changes or issues that may arise down the line. And trust me, as a performer, you want someone who can recognize those subtle shifts before they become a full-blown crisis.

At the Musical Theater Center, we believe in the power of this proactive approach to vocal health. That’s why we encourage all of our students to schedule an annual scope exam with a laryngologist, even if they’re not experiencing any problems. After all, the definition of a healthy voice is one that enables you to meet all of your vocal demands without restriction over a long period of time. And who better to help you achieve that than a specialist who knows your voice inside and out?

Navigating the Challenges of Vocal Illness

But what happens when, despite your best efforts, you find yourself facing a vocal challenge – like a cold or sore throat – right before a big audition? Well, my friends, that’s where the rest of your squad comes into play.

You see, I’ve been there too. Just like the student who went into an audition with congestion and a sore throat, I know the panic and frustration that can come with trying to perform at your best when your voice isn’t cooperating.

But as CoachC, a certified speech pathologist with a specialty in medical voice care, wisely advises, the key is to not make excuses. “Never say, ‘Sorry if I sound bad, I’m sick,'” they explain. “The reasoning is if you do that, then you can’t give your audience an objective performance.”

Instead, CoachC suggests being honest if the evaluators ask about your condition, but to avoid over-playing or under-playing it. “They will admire your perseverance,” they say.

And when it comes to managing the symptoms, CoachC has some excellent tips. Slippery elm lozenges, throat coat tea, and a homemade ginger-honey-lemon concoction can work wonders to soothe a sore throat. Steaming your voice can also help break up congestion. Just be sure to avoid menthol, as it can be drying and irritating to the vocal folds.

Most importantly, listen to your body and resist the urge to power through. As CoachC emphasizes, “No talking and that includes whispering, which is surprisingly harsher on the chords than talking.”

Remember, your voice is your signature, your identity. Protecting it is paramount, even if it means making some tough choices in the moment. And with your squad of experts in your corner, you’ll be better equipped to navigate those challenges and come out on top.

The Long-Term Approach to Vocal Health

Of course, the ultimate goal is to avoid vocal crises altogether. And that’s where the true power of your squad comes into play.

As Dr. Kwak explains, the best care of a vocal performer arises from a collaboration between coaches, therapists, teachers, and physicians. Each member of your squad brings a unique perspective and set of tools to help you maintain optimal vocal health over the long haul.

Your voice teacher, for instance, can work with you on proper technique and vocal hygiene, ensuring that you’re not inadvertently damaging your instrument through poor habits. Your voice therapist, meanwhile, can help address any underlying issues or imbalances, providing specialized exercises and strategies to keep your voice in peak condition.

And don’t forget about your coaches – the diction, breath, and movement experts who can help you finesse the technical aspects of your performance, ultimately reducing the strain on your voice.

Together, this squad of professionals can help you develop a proactive, holistic approach to vocal health – one that goes beyond just treating problems when they arise. They can work with you to establish sustainable habits, identify potential issues before they become serious, and provide the support and guidance you need to navigate the ups and downs of a musical theater career.

Because let’s be real – as a performer, you’re a vocal athlete. And just like any elite athlete, you need a dedicated team in your corner to keep you at the top of your game.

So, as you embark on your journey towards your Broadway dreams, remember the power of your squad. Surround yourself with the experts who can help you unlock the full potential of your unique voice. Because when you take care of your instrument, the sky’s the limit.

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