Here’s something that has been bugging me for many years – in fact, it’s the reason I undertook to do a PhD on the subject of a theory of the voice.
Given that most people have no idea how much their voices contribute to how they feel about themselves, and how they are perceived by others, where do we start to get ‘the word’ out there, and change this situation?
Should we start in kindergarten, getting small children to play with sound creatively, and safely, in much the same way that they are encouraged to explore their developing bodies in the playground, and in sporting activities? That would require teachers who know how to do it.
So do we start by educating teachers – not just kindergarten, or play school attendants, but primary and secondary teachers – to understand how the voice functions, what is good healthy vocal practice and what is to be avoided? Because it is no use just getting small children to think about their voices, it has to be consistently reinforced throughout their school lives. But who would train the trainers? How would we persuade those who set the syllabus for training teachers that this is a necessary thing to do?
Or, to follow another track, should we start with babies, and that means with parents? But how to get the parents to realise that they should be paying attention to their babies’ vocal health, as well as other aspects of their physical lives?
I suspect that parents who were educated from an early age (say, kindergarden) to respect their voices, to own them as the very sound of themselves, to use them creatively and yet healthily, would indeed be inclined to care about what their children were doing with their voices. There would be much more attention paid to kids screaming if their parents and teachers knew how many screamers would develop vocal nodules, and therefore limit their vocal power, range and flexibility before they even hit their teens.
One of my students will be travelling to South America in a few months to spend some time volunteering her services as an extra pair of hands in an orphanage. It fills me with joy, not only to think of the phenomenal experience she will have, but also because we are now exploring how she can pass on what she is learning about her voice to a bunch of kids on the other side of the world. This means giving them a voice, not in a metaphorical sense, but in the very real sense of empowering them to speak for themselves creatively and healthily.
I can’t get into the heads of the politicians and the bureaucrats who think that training teachers to care for their own vocal health is a waste of time (and there have been many instances of programs to do just that being cut back and eliminated). I am hoping that by writing this PhD I will get the word out to one or two academics who might be in a position to spread the word further.
In the meantime, it’s one student at a time.
And it’s one step at a time, as I continue this week with the Walk In Her Shoes Challenge, to raise money for women and young girls in poverty who spend so much time walking just to survive that they cannot enjoy an education, or develop their communities. You can support the cause by donating here, or just cheer me on!