To You and Your Students’ Good Health: Q & A Column 2023

Compliments of the CMS Committee on Musicians’ Health

The Musicians’ Health Committee, comprised of medical professionals and music faculty, all strong advocates for musicians’ health, is happy to bring you a Q & A column for this month's CMS Newsletter. If you like this idea, please send us your musicians’ health-related questions which we will direct to our committee members, or other professionals with whom we have contact, to be answered in future newsletters. Linda Cockey and, Heather Malyuk Committee Co-Chairs.

Q:“What is World Voice Day and how can teachers get students involved so they can be educated on the benefits of maintaining good heath?”
Answered by Rachael Gates, DMA, Singing Health Specialist and Sri Nandamudi, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, FNAP

Soprano, Opera Director and Singing Health Specialist, Dr. Rachael Gates has sung in Germany, Russia, Italy and throughout the United States. She has taught at Northwestern University, The Hartt School of Music, Yale University, Michigan State University, and currently teaches Voice and Pedagogy at Grand Valley State University. She is the voice specialist for the College Music Society Committee on Musicians' Health and is published in the NATS Journal of Singing. Her book, The Owner’s Manual to the Voice (Oxford) is available on Amazon and at The Metropolitan Opera Shop. Srihimaja Nandamudi, is Assistant Professor in Speech-Language Pathology in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the College of Health Professions, Grand Valley State University, and specializes in voice, upper airways, and swallowing disorders. She is an ASHA certified speech-language pathologist (CCC-SLP). She completed her PhD in Communication Sciences and Disorders with a specialty area in voice and speech science at Bowling Green State University. Her dissertation focused on acoustics and aerodynamics of vocal vibrato in Western classical singing. She has over 8 years of clinical-pedagogical experience working and collaborating with vocal performers on interprofessional voice intervention.

World Voice Day is a global annual event which occurs on April 16th to acknowledge and celebrate the phenomenon of voice. The goal is to create awareness, prevent voice problems, seek help and training, and support research on voice. Singers, actors, voice instructors, speech-language pathologists, laryngologists, audiologists, psychologists, acousticians, body mapping technicians, biomechanical engineers, pulmonologists, neurologists, and oncologists come together all over the World to share talents, concerns, and disseminate information.

A group of Brazilian voice teachers, scientists, and medical professionals with a shared interest in growing the public’s awareness of voice issues and research celebrated the first “Brazilian National Voice Day” on April 16, 1999. Professional voice users and clinicians in other countries quickly followed suit and April 16 became “International Voice Day”. Then, in 2002, the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery officially recognized the growing initiative and renamed the event “World Voice Day”. Now, every April 16, free interdisciplinary vocal events are scheduled and offered through voice clinics, universities, conservatories, and other venues. A WVD program may include a Shakespeare soliloquy and traditional Indian singing, followed by a free hearing check. Another might feature video footage of vocal adduction captured in real time with high-speed imaging, or healthy techniques for Public Speaking, Broadway Belting, Country Twang and Opera Coloratura. Many even offer a complimentary scope of the larynx (voice box) to those who attend.  

As professors of applied voice and speech-language pathology at Grand Valley State University in Western Michigan, we collaborated on our first annual virtual conference on Friday, April 17, 2020. About 142 learners from seven healthcare disciplines and the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance attended several 1-hour virtual interactive lectures and performances offered by professionals in acting, audiology, singing health, music, and speech-language pathology. The topics focused on interprofessional approach while working with vocal performers and occupational voice users through integrating training approaches and rehabilitation using evidence-based practice. Over 90% of the post-survey respondents agreed that the content helped them to learn one or more core competencies of interprofessional education and collaboration. This project was supported by a “teaching innovation grant” sponsored by GVSU’s Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center.

Additional participants attended from different regions of the country and a few live streamed internationally. For our 2021 and 2022 virtual conferences, we collaborated and invited speakers from otolaryngology, exercise physiology, as well as a Professional Broadway Singer and a Professional Opera Singer. Participation in WVD contributed significantly to our students’ understanding the role of an interdisciplinary voice team, the demand of a variety of vocal arts and livelihoods, the prevention of voice disorders, and importance of patient-centered voice habilitation/rehabilitation.

As professors, we regret that WVD does not fall in autumn. The day arrives too late for many who would benefit most. April 16 is the busiest time of the U.S. academic year. Students and professors reach peak-stress as finals, clinical practicums, juries’ approach, and degree recitals fill up every venue and available time slot until little resources are left to take advantage of this learning opportunity. Additionally, opera companies are in the throes of final dress rehearsals and teachers are already experiencing vocal wear and tear from illness and their heavy vocal load all school year.

Even so, as a professional singer and professor of singing who devoted three years to study with a voice surgeon and speech-language pathologists, I am grateful for this unique opportunity to unite people across all voice-related disciplines.

Each year the Voice Committee of the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery focuses on a WVD motto such as “Educate your voice” (2014), “Share your voice” (2017) and more recently, “Lift your voice” (2022). This year’s theme will be:


Visit the links below to find WVD events happening near you! (scroll down for calendar) (list of events)

PEVOC - Pan-European Voice Conference - Host Site