The Music Therapist Who Lost Her Voice

I came down with laryngitis for the first time as an 11-year-old in the 6th grade.  Little did I know that it would be the first of many, many cases that would disrupt auditions, performances, competitions, and eventually, work responsibilities.

As someone who makes her living as a music therapist, studio teacher, and occasional performer, my voice is my livelihood.  I’m a one-woman show, and I don’t have a substitute therapist or teacher I can call in when my voice goes MIA.  Needless to say, that old phrase “the show must go on” resonates deeply with me.

Take this afternoon, for instance.  I’m scheduled to lead an early childhood music class that is open to the public; not everyone who might attend is on the email list.  So I have no choice but to show up and do the best I can to provide an enriching musical experience for those families.

I’ve done it many times before, both in this setting and in others, and there are a few techniques I rely on to avoid a total FAIL of a class or music therapy session.

  • Many of my students love to perform for each other, and this is the perfect time to let them have an impromptu talent show.
  • Lead movement-based activities that rely on imitation rather than verbal instruction.
  • Sign along to meaningful recorded music and have students follow.
  • Let students take turns leading musical activities or interventions.
  • Pass out percussion instruments and have a drum circle.
  • Use color-coded lyric sheets to lead handbell playing.
  • Student-facilitated songwriting and lyric analysis.  They talk, I write and/or play.

And the one big no-no: DO NOT FORCE YOUR VOICE.  That sentence deserves capital letters.  I used to do it all the time despite warnings from my doctor, but I know now that it’s just not worth it in the long run.  Besides, there are lots of different ways to make music beyond singing.  What can you add to my list?

(A final note — as much as I love MacGyver-ing my way through life as a music therapist with laryngitis, I really like to sing and would very much appreciate good vibes sent my way for a speedy recovery!)