Singing Voice Specialist
The singing voice specialist is a singing teacher with special training equipping him or her to practice in a medical environment with patients who have sustained vocal injury. Most singing voice specialists have a degree in voice performance or pedagogy. Some have extensive performing and teaching experience, but without a formal academic degree. Nearly all have professional performance experience, as well as extra training in laryngeal anatomy and physiology of phonation, training in the rehabilitation of injured voices, and other special education.
Requirements to Be Part of Voice Team
The singing voice specialist must acquire knowledge of anatomy and physiology of the normal and disordered voice, a basic understanding of the principles of laryngology and medications, and a fundamental knowledge of the principles and practices of speech-language pathology. This information is not part of the traditional training of singing teachers.
Training of Voice Team Singing Voice Specialist
Currently, there are no formal training or fellowship programs that assist singing teachers in becoming a singing voice specialist. Training is usually acquired by apprenticeship and observation. Many take courses in speech-language pathology programs, but usually not as part of a formal degree or certification program since there is no official certification of singing voice specialists.
A few of the best singing voice specialists are also certified, licensed speech-language pathologists. This combination is optimal, provided the speech-language pathologist has sufficient experience and training not only as a performing artist, but also as a teacher of singing. In patients with vocal injuries or problems, the fundamental approach to training the singing voice is different in important ways from that usually used with healthy students in a singing studio. Hence, even an excellent and experienced voice teacher may harm an injured voice if he or she is not familiar with the special considerations for this population. In addition, most voice teachers do not feel comfortable working with a singer who has had a vocal injury or surgery.
Perspective on Practice
Virtually all singing voice specialists are affiliated with voice care teams. Most are members of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) or the equivalent organization in another country, and of the Voice Foundation. In many cases, their practices are limited to work with injured voices. They work not only with singers, but also with other patients with voice disorders. As a member of the voice treatment team working with non-singers, they help teach speakers the “athletic” techniques utilized by singers for voice production. Singing is to speaking as running is to walking. When rehabilitating someone who has difficulty walking, if the person can be helped to jog or run, leg strength and endurance improve and walking rehabilitation is expedited. The singing voice specialist helps apply similar principles to voice rehabilitation, in collaboration with the speech-language pathologist and other voice care team members.
Acting Voice Specialist
Acting voice specialists are also called voice coaches, drama voice teachers, and voice consultants. Traditionally, these professionals have been associated closely with the theater. Their skills have been utilized as part of a medical voice team only since the mid-1990’s. Consequently, there are few acting-voice trainers with medical experience, but their contributions have proven invaluable.
Scope of Work
Acting voice trainers use a variety of behavior modification techniques that have been designed to enhance vocal communication, quality, projection, and endurance in theatrical settings. They train actors to speak or scream through eight shows a week without tiring or causing injury to their voices, and/or theatrical runs that may last years. Acting voice specialists also teach techniques for adding emotional expression to vocal delivery, and they work with body language and posture to optimize vocal delivery and communication of information.
Role in the Voice Team
Acting voice specialists are great assets to the voice team in teaching people how to apply the many skills learned through the speech-language pathologist and singing voice specialist to their everyday life. Acting voice specialists are especially valuable for people who speak professionally such as teachers, lecturers, politicians, clergy, sales personnel, and others concerned with effective vocal delivery and with vocal endurance.
Education and Training Track
There are no formal programs that prepare voice coaches to work in a medical milieu. Those who do receive training generally do so through apprenticeships and in collaboration with medical voice care teams, under the direction of a laryngologist.
Professional Societies for Acting Voice Specialists
Acting voice specialists interested in working with voice patients are generally members of the Voice and Speech Trainers Association (VASTA) and the Voice Foundation.