Read the Episode 87, with Beth Duhon - Vocal Health

Introduction

Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast – Episode 87. Hello, everyone, we’re going to continue our series about music teacher wellbeing. This next one is a big one; it’s about vocal fatigue. I think there’s very little I need to say before we get into our chat with Beth Duhon. All I really need to do is remind you that our voice is our livelihood. So, let’s see what Beth has to say about looking after our voice.

This podcast is being recorded on the lands of the Turrbal people. I acknowledge them as the traditional owners of the land and pay my respects to elder’s past, present and emerging. They were the first music makers on this land.

About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes, we would rather skim visually than listen to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too!
The transcript of episode 087 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.


Debbie
Welcome to the Crescendo Music Education Podcast I have Beth Duhon joining me again, she’s feeling like an old friend now. Hi Beth.


Beth Duhon
Hi Debbie.


Debbie
I would like to get a little bit more into some of the ideas in your book, Happier Music Teacher and how we as music educators could look after ourselves a little better.


Beth Duhon
So well said.


Debbie
I think the next section, it’s something I think I’d almost say every music teacher I know has had, at some point, some sort of vocal issues. I’ve been very lucky lately, though sometimes it doesn’t sound quite right. But it’s fairly tough these days. But certainly, maybe 20 years ago, I found myself at a speech therapist and my hard glottal attacks. And you know, I had some not nodules, but they found rough edges in my vocal folds. I mean, I think we’ve all been there because it’s what our job is like, isn’t it.


Beth Duhon
I don’t think I shared this with you, Debbie, but this is recent history for me and I’m still a little tender about it. So I wrote the book about vocal care. And I feel like I take good care of myself vocally, I follow the tips in the book and the traditional wisdom. Well, long story short, this fall, I was diagnosed with vocal nodes, and went to the voice therapist, and was on vocal rest for about two and a half weeks straight. And I was also at a new campus, it was really not cute.


Debbie
Did you take time off completely? Or did you try to keep teaching?


Beth Duhon
So it was a little crazy, I went ahead and kept teaching. Luckily, because of the long term music two substitute we combine classes. So she was my voice and my discipline, and more videos than I would have normally taught on and also open a Word doc, and just furiously type into it. And lots of nonverbals and all those things. Surprisingly, it was kind of okay. I mean, I had a program coming up, I didn’t have days to just take weeks off for that reason, the vocal therapist is amazing. I actually see her in a few days for a recheck. But it is a very real situation.


Debbie
And is your voice all right now?


Beth Duhon
I don’t know.


Debbie
It sounds good.


Beth Duhon
Thank you. I can tell. So she assigned me exercises. So I want to get back on them over break. I can also tell when I’m physically tired, or after we get off of here that I’ll be pretty done vocally. But I think it really was kind of a perfect storm. I had come off of a year of not teaching. So I think I probably wasn’t as strong vocally as I would have been, you know, and exhausted, although I was trying to sleep and do all the things and I had been ill. It was really one of those perfect storms where it just all collided into a voice problem. So I did not want to be like a walking living object lesson on vocal care. But there I was.


Using Gesture as a Substitute for Vocal Instructions

Debbie
Oh, okay. Yes. So you’ve just illustrated our point really, I think we’ve all been there to some extent. And I remember my speech therapist telling me that one of the worst things you can do is to switch from singing to speaking constantly, going Oh, okay. And then actually, I made a choice. Well, obviously, I used my voice less, I use gesture a lot more and little aural cues may be played or gestured. You know I won’t say make a circle. I will just gesture with my arms and they get up and do it. So there’s lots of little tricks like that and I was heading somewhere and I’ve forgotten where I’m going but I was heading somewhere.


Beth Duhon
Well I’ll jump in at the non verbals and give you a chance to get it back.


Debbie
Yes, please.


Beth Duhon
I think those non verbals are powerful. Even before I was having vocal problems, I would have the the occasional vocal trouble but not major like I did this fall and students hear this steady stream of teacher talk all day long. So when you do something that breaks it up, it’s actually amazingly effective, when you’re doing your stand up or sit down symbol or your make a circle symbol instead of telling them and much better if they break a rule to just silently point to the rule, raise an eyebrow, and it gives them more dignity too because you’re not calling out their name. You’re not raising your voice at them. I was never big on that anyway, but it just gives everybody a little bit more dignity and also saves your voice.


Sing For, Don’t Sing With Your Students

Debbie
Yes, I love that. Yes. And also, I did remember where I was going is to not keep switching from singing to speaking. So if you need to just give a quick instruction, sometimes singing it is actually better if you’re going from song to song, which is a bit counterintuitive, because you think, oh, it’s the singing that’s hurting. But apparently when you’re switching all the time, it can hurt but I think singing less the other thing that I advise people, and I’m sure that you would agree, is to sing for not with your students.


Beth Duhon
Absolutely.


Debbie
I mean, I am still so guilty. Because if I’m with my grade twos in a circle, holding hands, playing a game and singing a song, I’m singing with them because I’m having fun and I’m part of their circle, part of it and I just am so bad at this. I’m telling myself constantly. Stop singing. I’m still part of it, I’m still doing what they’re doing, but they’re singing without me quite well. They do not need me. Stop singing Debbie, I tell myself all the time. Obviously I have to sing to teach them and sing when they’re getting to know the game. But once they know it, for goodness sakes stop singing Debbie.


Beth Duhon
You know it’s so tempting to do and I’ve just finally decided you know what? I’m not your personal jukebox. So I put it real friendly. No singing. No game. If they’re not singing I’m not singing, No game. Oh, that’s a bummer. I sure hope you sing so we have a game.


Debbie
I love that. Yes. Okay, I might borrow that one. No singing, No game. Yes. Because it’s so tempting, isn’t it to sing with them.


Lip-Sync Instead of Singing with Students

Beth Duhon
We love to sing. And we’re in the moment and we think it’s gonna go off the rails if we don’t lead every little part with our voice. The other thing is lip syncing. A lot of times if it looks like I want them to see the words on my face, but I don’t necessarily have to have any sound coming out. I will become an expert level lip syncer with them?


Debbie
Yes. Yeah. I hadn’t sort of thought about that in the classroom setting. That’s a good idea. I have been known occasionally to do it in the choral setting. When my choir have not quite got the beginning words of that third verse, then I’m good at mouthing. I love that. Okay, any other advice around vocal fatigue and looking after your voice.


Beth Duhon
It feels like I have majored in this fall and it is personal and it’s emotional and it’s tough. You get one voice. So some of the people in my music at Mount Rushmore have had vocal trouble too. So it’s not even necessarily that you are doing something bad. It is just the sheer volume of use that you’re doing. But make every effort to take care of it because it’s your one voice and you don’t get another one.

Hydration is Key

Debbie
Yeah, I love that. We’ve got to remind ourselves of that. Hydration is important too, isn’t it?


Beth Duhon
Sure is.


Debbie
Constant sips. I’ll just have one right now.


Beth Duhon
Sounds great.


Debbie
It really is important to just keep drinking water isn’t it?


Beth Duhon
Yes ma’am.


Debbie
Beth, thank you again for speaking with us about the importance of your voice and looking after your vocal health. We will talk again soon. Bye.

Sign-Off

Thank you for joining me for this podcast. Don’t forget, you’ll find the show notes and transcript and all sorts of information on crescendo.com.au. If you’ve enjoyed the podcast or found it valuable, you might like to rate it on your podcast player and leave a review. I’d really appreciate it if you did. All I can be as the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you. Until next time, bye.


Just for Laughs

As we know laughter relieve stress. Don’t lose sight of the funny side of life.

Yesterday I accidentally swallowed some food colouring.

The doctor says I’m okay but I feel like I’ve dyed a little inside.


Links Mentioned in the Episode:

📕 Happier Music Teacher by Beth Duhon

🎙️ Ep 83: Introduction to The Wellbeing Series with Beth Duhon

🎙️ Ep 84: The Wellbeing Series: Rest and Recharge

🎙️ Ep 85: The Wellbeing Series: The Commute

🎙️ Ep 86: The Wellbeing Series: Fuel Your Body

Where to find me:

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