VOICE Education Training Day - February 2020

They buzzed, they stretched, they shook, they massaged, they jumped, they laughed.

These were just some of the behaviours exhibited as participants explored the field of vocology during the VOICE Education Training Day at the Irish Institute of Music (IIMS).

Vocology is the science of vocal training and touches upon voice pathology, voice pedagogy, laryngology and speech therapy.

A group of keen singers, choir directors, and students attended the morning trainings. Amongst the ranks were singers from Fingal Youth Choir and Cór Fingal, two home-grown ensembles from Fingal Academy of Music (FAM).

From 9am-1:30pm on Saturday 1 February, the training took place in Malahide Parish Pastoral Centre. We started by sharing a coffee or tea upon arrival. Director of IIMS Dónal Kearney started by leading an active non-verbal warm-up, encouraging participants to energise their minds, bodies and voices on this wintery weekend morning.

The training itself involved three interactive sessions; an initial session delivered by Michelle O’Rourke introducing participants to the five key elements of the human voice; a second session with doctoral candidate Michael T. Dawson, and a final interactive session run by Michelle.

Michelle is Head of Vocal Studies at FAM. She is a highly sought-after theatre collaborator - in drama and dance - with a special expertise in contemporary classical song. Her presentations explored the ABCs of singing; how to use the voice. The 40-minute session was entitled “How a body sings: Some fundamentals of vocal anatomy and physiology”. It focused on building an understanding of the singing body and how it functions. This presentation offered a 'primary colour' introduction to vocal anatomy for singers, learners, listeners, teachers and choral directors. Michelle examined some simple diagrams and audiovisual materials and discussed a selection of valuable web resources and suggested sources for further reading.

Michael T. Dawson is a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate at Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California. His presentation detailed the effect of ageing on the voice and was titled: "Managing older voices - tips and tricks to help maximise the potential of older voices”. This included the role of Botox surgery on speech therapy, while another showed endoscopic footage of vocal folds in the act of phonating. This is where we squirmed!

After each presentation, the team had scheduled a lengthy discussion session for everyone to tease out questions and eradicate confusion. Healthy debate was encouraged and there was indeed a current of inspiration in the room.

The VOICE Education Training Day was brimming with questions, ideas, anecdotes, helpful metaphors, and silly exercises. It made all who participated feel more confident in their knowledge of their own voices, and more committed to teaching others the benefits of singing and looking after our voices in general.



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