Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Music from CT Mom, My Voice Problems

I have to share this great video from my blogger friend CT Mom. She lives up near Hartford, but always drives down for the meetups organized by Kevin of Always Home and Uncool. She was part of a flash mob that sang “Hallelujuh” from The Messiah at her local mall.

I have to admit I had a good cry while watching this. I used to be able to sing like this before some devastating voice problems seven years ago. (Geez, was it that long?) I know the word “devastating” is strong, but every activity I loved- except reading and writing- was taken away. I had been singing in the Greenwich Choral Society, a glorious chorus of one hundred, and I loved it. Suddenly my voice completely gave out after a series of Christmas concerts, and I found myself unable to not just sing, but teach, talk at even slightly noisy restaurants, and read a book to my nephews. It was the worst time of my life as my painful speaking voice continued with no resolution. Can you imagine trying to teach without being able to talk? It was a nightmare. I would call my family on the phone, and ask them to talk while I just listened, because every word I spoke hurt.

I saw doctors, had procedures- sinus surgery, endoscopy, cameras put in my throat, a tiny capsule shoved into my esophagus to test for reflux- and nothing helped. The only thing that helped was voice therapy, and I am now only able to teach with a high powered microphone. That mic is the only reason I can live a normal life now. Even with the microphone, my voice still gets tired if I talk as much as I want, and I’ve had to restructure my teaching to protect my voice.

Before I realized I needed the high powered mic system, I tried to make do with a dinky one I bought at Radio Shack, and it wasn’t enough. Teaching was still extremely difficult. It was stressful and depressing to be struggling through the work day, then have to be silent in the evenings to save my voice for another painful day at work. I ended up taking a year off of teaching, and that’s the year I started Stamford Talk. That’s the one good thing that came out of my voice problems. I learned so much about Stamford, met so many great locals, and had fabulous Stamford Talk adventures.

I try not to think about what I still can’t do- sing, go to loud events, talk as much as I want. After the benefit thrown by Stamford Notes, it took 6 weeks to recover from the vocal strain that I should have recognized was happening, but I wanted so badly to enjoy the company. I take that experience as a reminder that if I want to do my job and still be able to read to and sing with my kid, I can’t go to happy hours. It’s a bummer. I skipped my staff holiday party this year because I was afraid I’d strain my voice. It’s still a fact of my life that I have to carefully choose when and where I talk, but I owe it to my family and my students to keep my voice healthy. That sucks, because I really, really love socializing, and I've had to give a lot of that up. Thank God I have writing as an outlet for my bounty of opinions.

CT Mom's video reminded me of how much I loved making music with other people. I don't think I'll ever be able to sing again in a chorus while I'm teaching. (I did sing with the Stamford Chorale during the year I took off. It went pretty well.) I’m busy with the kid now, and happy teaching, so I feel OK about not singing. I satisfy my singing urges with the amazing Music Together class taught by Christine in Greenwich. I'm completely addicted to it.

This article points out that 10 percent of teachers leave the field because of voice problems. When I was struggling, I didn’t know about all of the high tech options that would have literally changed my life. If you know any teacher with these problems, please tell them to ask their school for a mic system. Redcat system is pretty good. My school is currently trying out a few Redcats. The Vocalight system I use is better, but it's harder to install, and I believe it's a bit more expensive.

No comments: