When the reed of a clarinet is damaged, it can be
replaced. When the vocal cords are damaged, you live with them for the rest of your life! We only get one set of vocal cords.
Improper care of the voice can lead to permanent damage, and the damage can come in varying degrees. After abuse, many
times the voice is still usable, but the quality is very raspy and the notes are difficult to produce.
This was brought home to me very early in my singing
career. I was traveling over the southeast with a gospel group. We had booked two and three performances a week for
a year in advance. About six months into this heavy performance season, I became so hoarse that I could not speak. The Florida
Gospel Music Awards were coming up in two weeks and I was worried. I went to the throat specialist and the news I received
from him was life-altering. He told me that my voice was so badly abused, if I continued in the same routine that I
would not have a speaking voice in two years or less! Singing was my life! I had been singing since I was three years old.
I couldn’t imagine life without singing. I have had a very powerful voice since an early age. With that kind of
power, over-singing was the norm. I made God a promise that day. I told him I would never abuse my voice again and I
never have. Incidentally, I won second place in the Florida Gospel Music Awards for Female Solo that year! From that point,
I decided to go back to college to learn how to use this instrument God gave me more efficiently. I had to labor to sing softly.
It did not come easy. I had to labor to allow my natural vibrato come through. I had barreled through it for so long, it was
In the circles where I grew up, the theme was, “give
‘em all you got, all the time!” And I did! After assorted music classes, vocal instruction with Ms. Rebecca Lancaster
at Snead State Jr. College and then with Rachel Mathes (international opera singer), I gained much wisdom and understanding
about this beautiful instrument with which I have been entrusted. From this instruction, my range went from one and
a half octaves to three and one half octaves. It was so wonderful to go into any church and sing whatever they asked
me to sing without having to change the key! I loved it because I always had to transpose songs to fit my range. A most
wonderful understanding that I gained was that when I learned to sing properly, not only did not lose my very strong mid range,
but with diligent practice, my upper range now has the same power that I once only had in just over an octave. After
earning my degree, I opened up my own Private Voice Studio. I have had girls come to me with such a desire to sing,
but because they were cheerleaders, every voice lesson was unprofitable because of the hoarseness. Ultimately they would
have to stop taking lessons. I have known of mothers who were constantly hoarse because they yelled at their children
every day! I have had many students come to me who were in large productions and were instructed to sing at the top of their
chest voice range for long periods of time. They couldn’t seem to get their natural voice back. They were
Please, let me encourage you, if you are ever hoarse
from over-singing, you are putting your vocal cords at risk. Since I made that promise 30 years ago, I have not been
hoarse from over-singing one time. A by-product of a cold or flu is sometimes hoarseness. This is different.
If it is not from abuse, the vocal bands will heal. I had a very good friend who was in an elite choir with me. She
was young and thought she was invincible. She really abused her voice one semester. After visiting the laryngologist
she found that she had nodules on her vocal cords. They tried to mend her problem with medication, but to no avail.
They then removed the nodules by surgery and her voice was never the same.
It is also very dangerous to use throat spray or
lozenges that will deaden the pain. When there is pain, that is your body telling you that you are entering a danger zone.
To deaden that pain is to completely ignore the body’s warnings and this could render you a major problem. There are
many other suggestions for safe voice practices which include medications, body stages, food and drink, temperatures, breathing,
etc. Again, I repeat, if you are ever hoarse from over-singing, that means you have over-used your voice or not used
it correctly! Don’t walk in the danger zone. Happy Singing!
Rita Young Allen Teaching Credentials.....
Master of Science in Management Leadership (Healthcare Administration)
Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (Counseling, Emergency Management, Public Administration)
Executive Director & Marketing Director for two National Healthcare Corporations
Bachelor of Science in Sociology, Minor in Music Education
Associate of Arts in Vocal Performance
Music School Owner for 24 years
Performed at Carnegie Hall with Private Choirs, 6 years
Church Music Minister, 30+ years
Published Author, "The Sheaf Dreamer"
Columnist, 20+ years
President of Alabama National Speakers Association, 3 years
Public & Private School Teacher, 10 years (Choral & Drama)
Pageantry, Top Ten, National Competition of Ms. Senior America & Alabama State Director
Rita Young Allen, Keynote Speaking Professional / Concert Soloist / Published Author / Emcee
Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (Concentration in Counseling) from Jacksonville State University.
Master of Science in Management Leadership (Healthcare Administration) from Troy University.
Bachelor of Science in Sociology, Minor in Music, from Jacksonville State University.
Associate of Science in Music Education, Vocal Performance
Snead State College, Gadsden State College, and Wallace State College.
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