Vocal Health and Wellness for Musical Theater Artists

Vocal Health and Wellness for Musical Theater Artists

As a performer, I know firsthand the unique demands that come with the territory. We’re not just athletes – we’re vocal athletes, pushing our voices to the limit eight shows a week. And let me tell you, it’s no easy feat keeping that signature sound in tip-top shape!

That’s why I’m thrilled to share with you the wealth of knowledge and resources available at the Musical Theater Center. This place is a one-stop-shop for all things vocal health and wellness, and I’m excited to dive in and explore it with you.

Assembling Your Squad

Now, I know what you’re thinking – “Another thing to add to my plate? I’m already stretched thin as it is!” But hear me out, because having the right team in your corner can make all the difference.

Think of it like this: you’re a vocal athlete, and just like any other athlete, you need a squad to keep you performing at your best. We’re talking a voice teacher, a laryngologist, a voice therapist, and various coaches – diction, breath, movement, you name it.

As the School of Music, Theatre & Dance at the University of Michigan puts it, “Professional musicians are athletes. That’s not just a metaphor – at least not for the speech pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, laryngologists, vocal coaches, and other providers who care for them.”

It may seem like a lot to juggle, but trust me, it’s worth it. When your squad knows you, your voice, and your unique needs, they can address problems quickly and efficiently. No more last-minute panicked visits to the doctor before a big show. Instead, you’ve got a team that’s got your back, guiding you towards a long, healthy, and fulfilling career.

The Power of the Baseline Exam

So, what’s the first step in building your squad? Well, in my experience, it all starts with a baseline exam of your larynx. I know, I know – the idea of getting “scoped” might sound a little intimidating, but hear me out.

As Dr. Paul Kwak, an ENT and laryngologist at the NYU Voice Center, explains, “The definition of a healthy voice is very simple: it is a voice that enables you to meet all of your vocal demands without restriction over a long period of time.”

In other words, just because your voice is functioning well doesn’t mean there aren’t some underlying issues lurking beneath the surface. Think about it – we’re constantly scrutinizing our skin for any changes, but we often neglect to do the same for our vocal folds. That’s why a baseline exam is so crucial.

At the Penn State Musical Theatre Wellness Center, they’ve made it a priority to provide yearly vocal cord imaging for their first-year students. This allows them to establish a “normal” baseline and quickly identify any changes or issues that may arise down the line.

It’s kind of like having a roadmap for your voice. Sure, you might not need it today, but when that big audition or performance rolls around, you’ll be grateful to have that information at your fingertips. And let’s be honest, as performers, we’re no strangers to the occasional vocal hiccup. Having that baseline exam can make all the difference in getting back on track.

Vocal Health Superstars

Now that we’ve got the foundation in place, let’s dive into some of the incredible experts and resources available at the Musical Theater Center.

First up, we’ve got the dynamic duo of Dr. John Paul Gniady, a laryngologist specializing in the care of singers, and Marci Daniels Rosenberg, a speech-language pathologist and clinical Singing Voice Specialist. Together, they’re the dynamic duo behind the Center’s Vocal Health program.

Dr. Gniady is known for his expertise in treating everything from vocal cord paralysis to spasmodic dysphonia. And Marci? Well, she’s a singer herself, so she knows exactly what it takes to rehabilitate injured vocalists and keep them performing at their best.

But the Musical Theater Center doesn’t stop there. They’ve also got a team of physical therapists, sports medicine physicians, and mental health professionals ready to tackle any and all challenges that come with the territory.

Take Aliza Rudavsky, for example – she’s a physical therapist with a PhD and specialized training in vocal unloading. In other words, she knows how to treat that pesky “maladaptive voice cycle” that can plague singers and performers. And let’s not forget about Dr. Kiyomi Goto, the family medicine and sports medicine physician who’s dedicated to keeping our student-artists healthy, pain-free, and on the road to recovery.

Oh, and let’s not forget the mental health superstars! Dr. Leann Diederich and her team of psychologists and counselors are there to provide confidential support and guidance for everything from anxiety and depression to identity exploration and relationship struggles. Because let’s be real, the life of a performer can be as mentally taxing as it is physically demanding.

Fueling the Vocal Machine

But the Musical Theater Center knows that vocal health isn’t just about what’s happening in the larynx. It’s about fueling the whole machine, from head to toe.

That’s where the brilliant mind of Dr. Kris Clark, the center’s resident nutrition expert, comes into play. With her 26 years of experience as the Director of Sports Nutrition for Penn State Athletics, she knows a thing or two about keeping elite performers in tip-top shape.

Her secret weapon? The “Fueling Station” – a collection of nutrient-dense foods available to students throughout the day. It’s all about optimizing energy levels, maximizing recovery, and ensuring that these vocal athletes can bring their A-game to every rehearsal and performance.

And let’s not forget the importance of good old-fashioned hydration. The Musical Theater Center has a dedicated Hydration and Recovery Room to make sure these singers and dancers are keeping their bodies (and their voices) properly fueled.

It’s all about taking a holistic approach to vocal health, and the Musical Theater Center is leading the way.

Unlocking the Mind-Body Connection

But the Musical Theater Center knows that vocal health isn’t just about the physical. It’s about the mental and emotional well-being, too.

That’s why they’ve got a team of mental health professionals, like Dr. Leann Diederich and Alissa Yamasaki, ready to support these student-artists in navigating the unique challenges of the performing arts.

As the center’s psychologist, Dr. Diederich knows that “performing arts students are also going through many of the typical experiences of college students, navigating independence, exploring identities, and forging new relationships and social connections.” And she’s there to provide a safe, confidential space for them to explore and address those struggles.

But it’s not just about individual therapy. The Musical Theater Center also offers group workshops and classes, like the “Mind-Body Balance Series,” to help students develop the tools they need to manage stress, anxiety, and burnout.

And let’s not forget the power of the mind-body connection. That’s where experts like Alexander Technique teacher Michelle Obrecht come in, helping students understand how their anatomy, thought processes, and movement coordination all work together to enhance their artistic expression.

It’s all about empowering these performers to take charge of their own well-being, both on and off the stage. Because let’s be real, the life of a musical theater artist is no easy feat. But with the right support system in place, the sky’s the limit.

A Holistic Approach to Vocal Wellness

At the end of the day, the Musical Theater Center is all about taking a comprehensive, holistic approach to vocal health and wellness. It’s not just about treating the symptoms – it’s about addressing the root causes, building a strong foundation, and empowering these performers to thrive.

From the baseline laryngeal exams to the world-class medical team, the state-of-the-art nutrition program, and the mind-body wellness initiatives, this place has got it all. And let me tell you, as a performer myself, I wish I had access to a resource like this when I was first starting out.

But you know what they say, “better late than never!” And I’m thrilled to see that the next generation of musical theater artists have this incredible hub of support and expertise at their fingertips.

So, if you’re a student, faculty member, or even a seasoned pro looking to take your vocal health to the next level, I highly encourage you to check out the Musical Theater Center. Trust me, your voice (and your entire well-being) will thank you.

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