The impact of vocal load on the vocal function of professional music theatre singers

2017-03-02T01:32:22Z (GMT) by Phyland, Debra Jean
Working singers rely on a vocal mechanism that can meet performance demands and be so-called ‘‘performance-fit.’’ Professional singers must be vocal athletes to meet the rigors of performance requirements. Typically, performances require extreme vocal loads in terms of measures of vocal function (intensity, frequency, and duration) and may be repeated four to eight times per week often under less than ideal conditions. Although the singer population has not been well studied, anecdotal reports suggest that it is a normal occurrence for performance-fit singers to experience positive and negative variabilities in vocal function across time and performances and significant fatigue effects after heavy vocal load. Whether these experiences are transient or whether, if sustained or cumulative, they can become symptomatic of vocal impairment and thereby threaten short- or long-term vocal health is not known. There is an obvious need to measure these vocal status shifts to determine vocal load thresholds and to establish normative data for working singers. Furthermore, prediction and management of vocal injury among singers is predicated on assumptions as to what constitutes normal. Vocal function among working professional singers had not hitherto been systematically measured using reliable and valid tools. This thesis (including three published papers) introduces EASE, a self-report tool designed to measure singers’ perceptions of the physical state of the singing voice. The psychometric properties of EASE are evaluated and differences in EASE performance according to demographic and voice-use characteristics among professional music theatre singers are explored. The format of the dissertation is ‘Thesis by Publication’ and comprises three published studies. (A fourth study not included in this dissertation will be prepared for publication and represents a continuation and extension of the research described herein).