National Voice Meeting 2018 – Presenter Series #2

The Australian Voice Association

By Cecilia Pemberton

I am very much looking forward to returning to Adelaide to present at the 2018 Australian Voice Association’s National Voice Meeting: Voice on! The Road to Recovery.

It is interesting to reflect how far the AVA has come, since the Inaugural Voice Symposium was held in Adelaide in May 1991 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. I was on the organising committee for that symposium along with Alison Russell, Jan Baker, David Close and Alison Bagnall.

The Keynote speaker was Dr Robert Bastian, then Professor of Otolaryngology at Loyola University School of Medicine, Washington. He is the Founder and President of the Bastian Voice Institute. Professor Bastian’s interests in the field of laryngology encompassed both voice and swallowing with a special interest in the needs of professional voice users. What a wonderful choice of speaker he was, so generous in his knowledge and time. He had an infectious enthusiasm for the idea of collaboration of all the professionals interested in voice.

As a committee we were impecunious, but Professor Bastian generously agreed to present with no remuneration. We were indeed very fortunate. He was so encouraging of our endeavours not only for the symposium but also to build an association to foster collaboration.  We did of course have some anxious moments, especially as we were spending money we didn’t actually have and weren’t sure anyone would attend! We were soon rewarded when registration opened, the response was overwhelming. We quickly broke even and had soon made a profit.  200 delegates attended that inaugural symposium; speech pathologists, ENTs, teachers of singing and voice coaches.

The success of the symposium was the impetus for the formation of the AVA. By the end of 1991, Alison Russell, Jan Baker and I had established the AVA with a charter to foster collaboration between all voice professionals in the education, research and care of voice users.

The financial success of the inaugural symposium meant that, from then on, seeding funds were available for future AVA organising committees.

So it is, many successful symposia later, that the current AVA committee have put together a very exciting, diverse programme which will encompass care and rehabilitation of the singing and spoken voice in both the adult and paediatric fields.

We are so fortunate to have Leda Scearce as the keynote speaker. I recently watched an interview that Liz Johnson Schafer did of Leda as part of “Interviews on Voice Matters”. Leda talks about her background as a professional singer before retraining as a speech pathologist and also her philosophy for the rehabilitation of the singing voice. I highly recommend watching the video https//you.be/0bpwU-Fjr50 .

I also saw a webinar of Leda presenting as part of the 2018 Performance Voice Conference at The University of Utah, Voice Disorders Centre. Leda ran a very successful master class. It was so interesting to see her at work with some young singers. I’m sure she will be a treat to have at the 2018 AVA National Voice Meeting.

Also on the programme this year is Nicole Free. For those of you who don’t know Nicole, check out her 3-minute thesis: https://youtu.be/3ebmlZbJgcQ. She is now through to the Asia Pacific finals.

I look forward to seeing you in Adelaide.

Also on the programme this year is Nicole Free. For those of you who don’t know Nicole, check out her 3-minute thesis: https://youtu.be/3ebmlZbJgcQ. She is now through to the Asia Pacific finals.


Cecilia Pemberton is a speech pathologist in her private practice, Voice Care

Australia and at the Voice Assessment Centre at St Vincent’s Clinic, Sydney. In 1991, she co-founded the Australian Voice Association after the Inaugural Australian Voice Symposium in Adelaide.
Her research has covered the normative data for endoscopic examination of the larynx, changes in speaking fundamental frequency in women’s voice with age and intergenerational and most recently the effectiveness of prevention and early intervention programmes for voice problems in teachers. Cecilia is co-author of Voice Care for Teachers DVD.

In 2009 she was awarded Fellowship by Speech Pathology Australia for her contribution to the profession. Her voice care programme for teachers with the Catholic Education Diocese of Wollongong has been a finalist in both the NSW Safe Work Awards (2009) and the Australian Human Resources Institute, Martin Seligman Award for Health and Wellbeing (2015). In 2014 she won the British Voice Association Van Lawrence Prize for her paper “Efficiently and Cost Effectively Managing Teachers’ Voice Problems”.

To register for the AVA National Voice Meeting and AGM 2018 click here:


“Unless stated otherwise, this article represents only the views of the author and not the views of the AVA”

World Voice Day Interview with Meagan Rudd

Meagan Rudd

Spreading The Music with Key Word Sign.

Since its inception in 2014, the Nordoff-Robbins Key Word Sign Choir, under the guidance of Meagan Rudd, has become a regular feature at a variety of events throughout Sydney. The AVA had the opportunity sit down with Meagan on the lead up to their upcoming World Voice Day performance to learn more about the choir.

Can you tell us a bit more about how and why the Key Word Sign Choir began?

I’ve always been fascinated by all forms of sign communication and have studied them for many years. I work in Special Education in a high school setting, so many of the students have used or been exposed to Key Word Sign as a means of communication since early intervention. For me, the idea of forming a Key Word Sign choir began as a way to enhance the students’ communication skills by increasing their “sign” vocabulary in a fun way. From the outset the students loved it, I loved it and their sign vocabulary improved noticeably.

How long has the Key Word Sign Choir been up and running for?

After offering Key Word Sign choir as an extra-curricular activity for many years at school, a parent of a graduating student who particularly loved Sign Choir asked me if I knew of any similar choirs her daughter could join in the community. After some research I wasn’t able to find anything I could refer her to, so the idea of forming a Key Word Sign choir for young adults in the community started to take shape. As I’d been associated with Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia for many years, the inception of their Community Music Program was the perfect opportunity to pitch the idea of including a sign choir in the program and in 2014 it became a reality and has been going strong ever since.

How has the relationship between Key Word Sign within music and popular culture developed over the years?

The concept of using Key Word signs to perform song lyrics is not a new one but has mainly been confined to preschool & early intervention settings using songs suitable for preschoolers. What I wanted to offer was the opportunity for young adults to learn to sign the lyrics of songs that were age appropriate for them. We currently have a repertoire of more than 80 songs by artists such as Katy Perry, Pink, Sheppard, One Direction, Ed Sheeran, Miley Cyrus & Bruno Mars as well as some classics by ABBA, the Beatles & Queen, (& songs from nearly every Disney musical ever made). The songs we choose to learn are very much driven by the choir members themselves.

Are there any other choirs like this around Australia and the world?

There are quite a few choirs in Australia & around the world using the sign language of the Deaf community of their country (AUSLAN is the language of the Australian Deaf community). Some schools & preschools teach individual songs in Key Word Sign but I don’t know of any other Key Word Sign choirs in Sydney or NSW that are open to people of any age or ability.

Can you share any favourite moments or memories of your time with the Key Word Sign Choir?

Being part of the Key Word Sign choir gives these young adults the opportunity to showcase their unique skills by performing at mainstream events which otherwise might not be available to them. My favourite moments are watching them blossom when they perform and seeing them bask in the audiences’ applause. It never fails to bring a smile to my face (and a tear to my eye). Among the choir’s most memorable moments are performances at various events with well known Australian artists Melinda Schneider & David Taylor. The choir had the privilege of being on stage with them, signing the song with the artist as they sang.

How did you get involved with World Voice Day and where and when can we catch the Key Word Sign Choir performing?

The choir first became involved with World Voice Day in 2015 through our affiliation with Nordoff-Robbins music therapy Australia, who is one of the sponsors of the annual event. The choir also performs regularly at a variety of other events throughout the year such as eisteddfods, festivals, fairs, Carols nights & events celebrating International Day for People with Disabilities.

What inspires you to continue working with the Key Word Sign Choir?

My inspiration to continue working with the Key Word Sign choir is, quite simply, the joy the choir members give me every time we meet. They’re enthusiastic, talented, funny, cheeky and great to be around. It’s my favourite time of the week and seeing each choir members’ confidence and self-esteem grow never fails to make my day.

Thanks to Meagan and each of the members of the Key Word Sign Choir for their time and sharing their talent with Australia.

The Nordoff-Robbins Key Word Sign Choir is performing at the World Voice Day event in Penrith, “Voices in the Valley”, at the Joan Sutherland Performing Art Centre on Saturday 7th April 2018 7:30 pm. Tickets can be purchased here: http://thejoan.com.au/whats-on/voices-valley-world-voice-day-2018/


“Unless stated otherwise, this article represents only the views of the author and not the views of the AVA”

 

 

World Voice Day Interview with Louise Bale

Louise Bale

In the lead up to this year’s World Voice Day, the Australian Voice Association sat down with Louise Bale to find out what is in store for 2018 and how her own journey with dysphonia has influenced her life.

How and why did World Voice Day start?

WVD began in Brazil in 1999. It was the brainchild of a group of scientists who believed the voice was an amazing, yet under-recognised aspect of the human existence…and that it needed and deserved a day of recognition.

Since it’s inception, WVD has expanded well beyond the scientific community, to become a global celebration of the role our voices play in every aspect of daily life.

What is your role with World Voice Day and what got you interested in the event?

I have been the National Coordinator of WVD in Australia since 2013.

In my ‘real’ world, I work as a Health Promotion professional. While most aspects of health and wellbeing fascinate me – I had never really given much thought to the voice, until I lost mine.  In 2006 I developed a neurological voice disorder called spasmodic dysphonia, and life as I knew it has never been the same.

When I first became aware of WVD I embraced the idea of getting involved and raising awareness of the voice and celebrating its uniqueness, magic and beauty.

Over the years the event’s focus has broadened to include voice care initiatives for teachers, performers and the general population; voice screening clinics for vocal performers, professional development events for voice health practitioners and vocal variety concerts. Since the establishment of the Australian Dysphonia Network in 2016, the various concerts have also been used to draw closer attention to dysphonia and raise funds for research.

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey with spasmodic dysphonia (SD)?

It’s been a very strange experience.  Like so many others, my story began as a mysterious hiccup in an otherwise fairly unremarkable period of my life…that was twelve years ago.

After noticing some voice breaks and feeling like my voice was letting me down, I made a quick trip to see an Ear Nose and Throat Doctor, who ruled out anything like nodules.  It was then off to the speech pathologist to look for bad habits / poor vocal technique.  But, after a few months of correcting the minor technical problems came the crunch, “you have spasmodic dysphonia”.

I was happy to have a diagnosis and thought “OK – Let’s just fix it and get on with life”. But, as we all know, nothing is ever simple.

The ‘gold standard treatment’ is Botox injections into the muscles that control the vocal folds. But I resisted Botox for about a year, trying all things alternate instead. You know the stuff, hypnotherapy, nutritional medicine, acupuncture, massage, mindfulness, kinesiology. etc etc etc. I FELT fantastic, but my voice remained an issue.

After about a year, I finally ‘succumbed’ to Botox and found my voice. A slightly different voice, but smooth, sultry and without spasms, I was in heaven…initially.

Since then the results of Botox have been mixed for me. It’s been a rollercoaster while my brain has adapted, adapted and adapted again (almost saying… ‘bring it on… I will NOT be silenced’). We’ve stopped the Botox, pumped up the vocal folds, restarted the Botox, retrained my brain, and I’ve even been to vocal boot camp.

My diagnosis has changed…from adductor SD to abductor SD…to “is this really SD?” and then back to abductor SD…I started to wonder ‘what’s in a name?’ (Funny really, after having been so keen to have one back at the beginning.)

What led you to seek treatment?

At first, I noticed that my voice was dropping out, kind of like a bad mobile phone signal really. Bits were missing, and it felt like my voice was tripping over itself in otherwise easy and robust conversations. Of course, I imagined that it was all in my head until people started to complain about the “poor mobile reception” (when I was on a landline – now that was a hint).

I had been asked to be MC at a 2-day conference, and needed to do something fast – the rest (and the conference) as they say…”is history”

Has it influenced your day-to-day life and professional life?

Absolutely! I was born to talk, and for many years I had been the public face of my workplace in Health Promotion. The conference facilitator, the presenter and the media spokesperson for all things sex, drugs…. interesting and fun.

BUT that all changed.

I became withdrawn and felt that I was no longer useful. My ability to speak up at meetings, contribute to decision-making discussions, join in lunchtime conversations with the team or even answer phones…had gone. I felt like people thought I was unintelligent because I couldn’t speak up and contribute opinions…I wanted to quit.  But I am fortunate to have a very supportive Director and team who were willing to accommodate whatever I needed.

I saw a psychologist to help me grieve the life I had lost and to regain a sense of self-worth. Since then I have been able to change the way I do my work – carve out new ways of doing old tasks, and also take on some new and exciting roles using social media and web-based technology – I have a unique role in the same workplace and have again found my passion for the work I do.

At home, there are many daily challenges too. A simple thing like going out to dinner is problematic because restaurants and bars are such noisy places. Talking to friends or my husband in the car is extremely hard work. TV or any background noise just creates a wall between others and me in the room BUT…thank goodness for text messaging because the telephone is IMPOSSIBLE for most of us who live with dysphonia.

One of my biggest losses is the ability for natural and spontaneous conversation…the stuff of easy relationships, where conversations just flow.

What are some of your favourite World Voice Day memories from years gone by?

From the outset, I was keen to ensure that the focus was not ONLY on professional/performing voice users but that EVERYBODY’S voice was seen as valued and important. As a result, our annual concerts have seen acclaimed celebrities sharing the stage with members of the community from all walks of life.

Without a doubt, the sentimental favourites have been: the Sydney Street Choir; an inspiring group of homeless and disadvantaged people from our community who embrace the pure joy of singing…the Nordoff Robbins Children’s Signing Choir who express their own unique voice through key-word sign language…and the Newcastle Stroke Choir who demonstrate such determination and tenacity while they celebrate the ability to perform and be heard.

In 2017 the Australian Dysphonia Network team joined forces with a similar organization in the United States to host a 6-day long online symposium which focused on all aspects of dysphonia management. It was an enormous feat bringing together over 3,500 people across the globe; something we hope will become a bi-annual event into the future.

None of the activities or events of the past 5 years would have been possible without the amazing generosity of people who share a passion for giving a voice to EVERYONE. I have also been enormously grateful for the ongoing trust and financial support from the Australian Voice Association, both as an organization and the individuals who represent the AVA.

How is World Voice Day different this year and what are some of the upcoming events you are most excited about?

This year we have decided to extend the opportunity to get involved by expanding from a single day of celebration to an entire month of raising awareness and events.

April this year will become Voice Awareness Month – with the tagline “Value your Voice – Love your Larynx – Be alert for changes”. This will allow people in clinical settings like hospitals and private practices to get involved by utilizing promotional material, organizing events, offering screening clinics, and taking advantage of local internal/external media opportunities…or just getting the platform to TALK about the importance of voice with colleagues and clients.

A master class “Care of the Performing Voice” will be held for tutors, teachers and senior students of the Conservatorium of Performing Arts – Penrith.  This is a first and signifies the beginning of a partnership with the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre which we hope will continue to grow.

We will have the support of celebrity ambassadors: singer/songwriter Melinda Schneider, comedian Anthony Ackroyd, and country music artist Drew McAllister. These amazing people have loaned their voices to our cause and will perform at 2 fundraising events on behalf of dysphonia research.

What would be your advice to someone wanting to get involved this year and/or put on an event for World Voice Day?

Don’t be scared – have fun, be creative and do what feels good. It does not need to be huge to make a difference and raise awareness. Remember (almost) everyone has a voice so it makes it easy to talk about!

If appropriate, you can consider using your event/activity as a charity fundraising opportunity. The Australian Dysphonia Network is currently fundraising for a number of exciting voice initiatives. For further details on how to donate you can find us here.

Feel free to also email me with details of your event, or for ideas at loubale@gmail.com

Where can we find information on events?

Thanks so much to Louise Bale for her time and dedication.


“Unless stated otherwise, this article represents only the views of the author and not the views of the AVA”

Lou Bale is the National World Voice Day Coordinator, President of the Australian Dysphonia Network and is recognised by her work and contribution to the field of Health Promotion with NSW Health for the past 28 years.