On Tuesday, February 26, Parker’s Upper School Choir Director Emma Castaldi invited Dr. H. Steven Sims to give a presentation on vocal health, “Laryngology 101: How to Diagnose a Voice Problem and Then What to Do About It.” Dr. Sims is the director of the Chicago Institute for Voice Care at the UIC Medical Center in Chicago and has worked with opera soloists and cast members of Wicked, Hamilton, Jersey Boys and Book of Mormon, as well as Chicago’s very own Oscar-winning Dreamgirl, Jennifer Hudson!
Dr. Sims spoke to an audience of Special Chorus and New Chorale members, as well as interested faculty members looking for advice on how to maintain a healthy speaking and singing voice. He began by explaining that his first job is to diagnose the problem by listening and working with the patient to gain the complete story of their situation. Sometimes this means they have to work together to find the patient’s “true voice.” From there, Dr. Sims focused on the biology of the voice, showing photos and walking the audience through a normal adult larynx or vocal folds (more commonly referred to as cords) and vocal “nodules” and explained about the larynx’s role in hormone circulation.
Armed with this basic information, Dr. Sims discussed some common maladies and problems associated with this area of the body, like allergic rhinitis and laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR or “silent” reflux). However, for Dr. Sims, highlighting these sicknesses was not enough; he also provided some solutions to avoid and/or manage these issues if they come up.
Dr. Sims wrapped up his presentation with some “virtually irreproachable advice” for the audience. Things like “get plenty of rest,” “limit exposure to strong chemicals” and “for every hour of speaking, take five to ten minutes to completely rest your voice” all rang especially true after his presentation.
In reflecting on this experience Castaldi shared, “The most common reaction I heard from this presentation was ‘I had no idea that’s how the voice works.’ This is information I wish I had known as a high school student! The human voice is the only instrument we carry with us all day long. I’m so glad both students and teachers now have a better understanding of their voice and how to keep healthy.”
All in attendance left with a better understanding of their own voices and felt better prepared to handle any issues that might arise.