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It has been a busy month since I was writing the last blog post. Concerts, lectures, conferences, teaching, massage, rehabilitation, research…

Through all my interactions with colleagues, clients and singing friends, a key theme that runs deeply through all our experiences is the need to be heard.

The need to be seen.

The need to be valued.

Whether someone is experiencing a physical feeling of being voiceless, a psychological feeling of voicelessness or whether the frustration, loneliness and sadness of that experience comes from feeling socially voiceless, this can (and often does) have a profound effect on people’s lives, not just on their singing self. Recent research has shown that professional musicians find their sense of self to be more acutely connected to their work than do people in other professions. In my experience, this is also experienced a great deal by non-professional singers who experience, for whatever reason, a limitation in their ability to vocalise. If we consider how tightly bound to our sense of identity our voices are, then we can begin to understand the significance and impact of a loss of vocal function and/or opportunity to use our voice and be heard. Feeling unheard, whether tied to literal or symbolic factors can have an incredibly detrimental effect on one’s wellbeing.

One example that stands out is the experience of people with changing voices, whether adolescents or adults. I have recently had the privilege of being educated by members of the trans community on the impact of feeling unheard and losing one’s sense of vocal identity. What was poignant for me, was that alongside physical changes and the challenges brought by those changes for the singing voice, was that the social impact of being unheard and undervalued was just as, if not more significant in its relation to their person’s performing. Even when physical vocal health was restored and new patterns of voicing had been navigated privately and within vocal rehabilitation and lessons, may people in this community still found it hard to use their voice in the way they wanted to because of societies failings to support, listen and value their voices.   

This is just one example of how the importance of voice is about more than the ability to produce physical sound.

As a community of vocal pedagogues, clinicians and researchers, we need to be better at recognising that our students’ and clients’ voices matter. And they matter for many reasons; clinical outcomes and performance measures may in fact be the least important consideration in someone’s recovery and development.

There are people out there who care enough to want to make a difference. Who want to help you find your voice and reconnect with it. I am proud to be part of a community of educators who are making real social progress towards understanding and valuing all voice users.

I have been humbled by witnessing the astonishing talent of colleagues whose mission is to empower singers and actors in their voice use. From the voice scientists who experiment with the latest technology to find answers to the causes of vocal dysfunction and aim to perfect treatments and interventions, to the vocal coaches and singing teachers who are encouraging their students to reach their full vocal potential and use their voices to share joy and hope with audiences. And to those who use their platforms and their voices to support social justice.

There is truly a wealth of wonderful work out there.

At the most recent conference I attended, the Body, Mind and Voice Symposium (Austrian Society for Music and Medicine), all of these people and this work was in evidence. However, a talk by Professor Marcus Gugatschka, encouraged me to reflect on what was missing from our evidence base. In his keynote lecture, ‘Evidence-based vs Eminence-based in the field of singer health: or do we need both?’, he spoke engagingly about how we need more evidence, more funding for research and clinical trials, and whilst I don’t disagree, I feel that the emphasis missed recognition of the need for better listening.

Your voice matters.

It matters to our researchers, clinicians and it matters to your teacher.

It matters to me.

The take home message from all the learning at this conference is that we need to listen. The multidiscipline voice teams need to listen to each other. We need to respect that we all have varied, but important skills and we need to come together as a team to share this knowledge in the best interests of our patients, clients and students. However, all of this listening and knowledge sharing will be limited if we do not also listen to voice users as experts.

Experts in their story.   

Experts in their experience.

Experts in their voice.

You are the expert in your voice and we will listen.

If Bristol Voice Care can contribute anything to the singing community, I hope that it is more than sharing knowledge. I hope that it is also a place where a safe space can be held for students and clients to be listened to. To share. To be supported. To be heard. And most of importantly, to be respected.