Lately, professional singers have been more open with the public in discussing their vocal injuries and problems. This is a welcome change to me as a singing teacher. In the past, it was considered shameful for a professional singer to have any sort of disorder or injury. Somehow, football players could get away with sitting out half the season with a bum knee, but a singer couldn’t cancel a performance for laryngitis without being accused of “singing wrong”. Finally, the truth is coming to light. Singing, especially high-powered sounds like rock, Broadway and opera, is an athletic activity. Like any athlete, even singers with good technique can have problems from time to time.
The problem in terms of using these stories as teachable moments for your children who love to sing is the fact that historically pop and rock singers have in fact resisted vocal training. There are many more professional and would-be professional singers out there performing with inadequate athletic skill than there are football players. Imagine any other sports star trying to justify that training would somehow spoil the “naturalness” of their game. That would be absurd. It is equally absurd for singers. Fortunately, that is changing as well.
So, how can parents use these stories for help their children learn about singing voice care without frightening them into silence? Below are are few tips to get you started:
- Mention stories that you hear about singers who are recovering from an illness or injury talk about what the artist said about it and wish them well in their recovery. Maybe even make a card and send it to the singer’s management company.
- Ask your kids about their voices when they engage in screaming behaviors or yell themselves hoarse. Many kids don’t even realize the voice can be injured.
- Help your children make the connection between the training that other athletes (such as soccer and baseball players) have to do and the training that is required to have a strong and flexible voice
- If you child is particularly interested in singing as a hobby, enroll them in private technical singing training to ensure that they start off with efficient vocal patterns.
Recently, the list of professional singers who are openly talking about their voice disorders and recovery has been getting longer. Examples I can think of are: Ashlee Simpson, Adele, Simon LeBon, Paul Stanley, Steven Tyler, and Lauren Alaina. A Boston Globe article was just published today (link) that reinforces the importance of athletic vocal training for singers. Speaking to your kids using examples of popular singers struggles to stay healthy can be a good first step in helping them to learn to respect and care for their instrument in the best way they can.