More Positive News for the Trans Community!
Toronto Women’s College Hospital is getting ready to become the second place in Canada to offer gender affirmation surgery, a move that comes amid growing demand from trans people across the country. Women’s College already performs some gender-confirming day surgeries (mastectomies, hysterectomies, orchiectomies), but this will hopefully alleviate some of the backlog at the private Montreal clinic that is currently the only place in the country offering “bottom surgeries” (vaginoplasties and phalloplasties).
You can read the CBC article here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/gender-confirming-surgery-toronto-1.4181547
You can read the Globe and Mail article here: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/toronto-hospital-to-become-second-in-canada-offering-genital-reconstruction-surgery/article35441753/
And ICYMI, Ontario expanded access to referrals for medically necessary sex reassignment surgery (also known as gender affirming or previously gender confirming surgery) as of March 2016. The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) has changed the funding criteria, and some procedures are now covered by OHIP, including:
- Reproductive and external genital surgery, including clitoral release, glansplasty, metoidioplasty, penectomy, penile implant, phalloplasty, scrotoplasty, testicular implants, urethroplasty, vaginectomy, vaginoplasty, salpingo-oophorectomy, hysterectomy, orchidectomy
- Augmentation mammoplasty for the purpose of sex reassignment surgery is also insured for individuals with no breast enlargement following 12 continuous months of hormone therapy
Read more here: http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/srs/
The Starving Artist Vocal Workshop with Ryan Luchuck
I love working with Ryan Luchuck. I love working with anyone whose #voicegeek comes out as much as his does when we get together. I also love how much he wants to share his passion for voice with everyone. So the two of us cooked up a workshop for artists who are dying to tap into resources to take their voices to the next level, but might not be able to afford the conventional pathways to professional support and development.
The beauty of this workshop, beyond the joy in being able to share what we love with fellow artists who wouldn’t otherwise be able to join us, was that we were also able to help out our friends at Regent Park School of Music. This is a phenomenal resource for kids in Toronto who wouldn’t otherwise get to experience the life-changing joy that is the privilege of being able to grow as a musician with a teacher who inspires. We donated 100% of the proceeds from this workshop to our friends at Regent Park so they can continue to offer high quality musical instruction to kids in need, and we’re so proud to be able to give back to our community in this way.
If you missed this awesome workshop, you have three options: 1) Go take lessons with Ryan. You’ll be blown away at what your voice can really do. 2) Check your insurance plan and find out how much coverage you have for speech therapy and come see me; I’ll tell you everything I can for the insurance dollars you have to use. 3) Keep your ear to the ground; Ryan and I do workshops from time to time, and if we get enough requests, we just might be able to do a reprise of some kind. 🙂
Hype Night with Mel and Dale!
On May 17, I was the guest on the fabulous live Facebook tv show “Hype Night with Mel and Dale“, where we talked about voice, Disney, Canada’s Wonderland, Legally Blonde, tequila, Vibrant Voice, Karma Chameleon, my laugh, and a heap of other interesting things. It was a blast!
If you haven’t checked out Hype Night yet, you really ought to. Here’s the “about”:
Join Melissa D’Agostino and Dale Boyer as they groove to some open source music, and hype amazing women on Facebook Live! It’s a celebration of rad women who make the world. Check out the show live on Facebook, and get in on the hype! All compliments. All the time. All accomplishments accepted.
While you watch live, you can throw in your own hype for the guest of the evening, and you can watch as other viewers pop in and out, throwing down their own hype for the special guest. Sponsors gift the talent the guest’s drink of choice, and the banter is wild and witty. Can’t watch live? Watch after the fact with a drink of your own! Dale and Melissa are two brilliant actors and comedians; they are fabulous women themselves, and I am so flattered to have been invited to be a guest. You really should have a listen. I’m honoured to be in the midst of such awesome women and artists. I’m pretty lucky.
Legally Blonde the Musical
I’m often asked “so, you’re a singer? Where are you singing?”
Well, here’s a snapshot!
I just wrapped a production of Legally Blonde with the loveliest cast; it was an absolute joy to get back to my own craft. And what a fun show! Yes, it’s a little dated. The references? A little “early 2000s”. But it’s a great romp, and a whole heap of fun for both the cast and the audience, and I’m so thrilled to have been a part of it.
Also, my sweet little two year old girl now says “oh my GOD mama, oh my GODDDD!” having been subjected to hours of me singing and dancing in preparation in our living room. Nothing could be more joyful than my baby girl watching her mama get back to her own joy, and that makes me the best version of me, and the best version of mama I can be.
I’m going to try and share more about the voice work I’ve been up to lately with you as well, because I think a voice therapist who’s also a voice user is a pretty passionate combination, and I’m a pretty furiously passionate person about my craft. About all of them. 🙂
Straws Will Save Your Voice!
Do you believe in magic? It doesn’t matter! Because straws are all science! Although admittedly, it feels a little like magic when your voice snaps back from fatigue this quickly after a long rehearsal or a day of non-stop talking. Much has been made ado lately about the magic and science of straw phonation, and while I could tell you all kinds of things about how great they are and why, I’m going to let the master do it instead. So check out this video offering from my friend and colleague, Chris Johnson, a super hot voice teacher in the UK who creates this fabulous podcast called the Naked Vocalist. He has a couple of smashing videos on the subject; I think you should totally check them out to see what all the buzz is about!
From The Naked Vocalist:
Thanks to Dr. Ingo Titze for his recent research to back up the brilliance of straw phonation. He’s the best. Along with lots of other contributors, he has opened up the wide scale use of this technique, and now it really is a singers essential.
What’s the Buzz? Vibrant Voice Technique!
This article in the Toronto Star describes the hottest new technique available to singers in titillating detail! I am so lucky to have discovered what David Ley and Elissa Weinzimmer have created! This is just the thing muscle tension dysphonia fears the most. It’s a perfect combination of what we already do in speech pathology/voice therapy – circumlaryngeal massage and resonant voice training, amped up to the max!
When I first did the training course, I will admit I was interested in anything that would help free up stubborn tension around the larynx. What I didn’t expect was the out-of-body experience I had singing while doing it! Since then, I’ve been integrating VVT into my voice care practice and I’m routinely thrilled at what singers report during – and after – a session.
There are very few of us in Toronto who are trained and experienced with this technique. Not only have I done the training, but I am blessed to call Elissa a friend and colleague, and she has been instrumental in helping me make the most of this technique in my practice. I have brought this technique with me backstage, on set, in rehearsal, on location, and while traveling, helping singers free up their tired voices. (Full confession: I even do it on myself!)
I can’t get enough of this great companion technique to the voice therapy work I was already doing. If you already like voice massage but want to take it to the next level, if you have vocal fatigue or are having trouble negotiating a particular song or riff, or if you just want to experience an out-of-body singing experience for yourself, come give it a whirl.
And while you’re at it, take a look at all the amazing things Elissa Weinzimmer is up to now that she’s moved on from her Managing Director role at VVT (although she’ll always be the Founding Official Instructor!). If you want to learn even more about your voice, check out what she’s doing at Voice Body Connection. You’ll be glad you let her into your stratosphere. I know I am.
Not The Doctor
So here’s a thing that’s come up in conversation (again) today. A patient referred to my graduate student clinician as “almost a doctor!” I had to clarify that she isn’t becoming a doctor, she’s becoming a speech pathologist. The patient asked, “but aren’t you doctors? Don’t you work in hospitals?” We had an enlightening conversation – I *do* work in a hospital, Toronto Rehab to be exact, but that doesn’t automatically make me a doctor. If it did, I bet the fine folks who work at Druxy’s in the lobby would be thrilled!
But no, despite the occasional need for a lab coat and my penchant for House MD, I’m not a doctor. Speech pathologists actually can’t call themselves “doctor”, even if they have a doctorate! Our College doesn’t want you to be confused and think maybe we are THAT kind of doctor, so we just can’t use the term. Like, ever. If you say, “What’s up, doc?” all Bugs Bunny styles, I’m going to have to hold up a sign that says *NOT AN ACTUAL DOCTOR. If I say “let me just doctor up this worksheet for you”, I’ll probably immediately play a bad informercial voiceover that says NOT A DOCTOR just to make sure it doesn’t get back to the College that I said “doctor”.
So if you’re looking for a voice “doctor”, what you’re looking for is an ENT (an ear, nose and throat doc) or even better, a laryngologist, which is basically the “T” (for throat) of ENTs. They are a great member of your voice care team and an actual doctor! They can write prescriptions and everything. So just know that if my agent gets me a gig as “Celebrity Voice Doctor” on Murdoch Mysteries or “Dr Voice” on one of the Law & Order franchises (hey, a girl can dream!), I’m not a doctor. At least not in real life. 😉
How To Practice Effectively
This fabulous (short and snappy!) video made by Annie Bosler and Don Greene really hits home something I talk a lot about in voice sessions. To establish a new habit, or improve a new skill, the way you practice is one of the keys to success.
The sports coaching page Teach PE talks about the four kinds of practice which can all be used in different situations. The one that will work best for you depends on the skill being learned:
- Fixed practice – These are sometimes also known as drills and involves repeatedly practising a whole skill in order to strengthen the motor programme. This type of practice is best with discrete, closed skills
- Massed practice – This is a continuous form of practice which is best for simple skills. An example would be a rally in badminton where the learner must repeatedly perform drop shots. This causes fatigue and therefore simulates the late stages of a game
- Variable practice – This is used best for open skills and involves repeating a skill in varying situations. For example shooting practice in football, where the coach may set up drills and alter the starting position and involvement of defenders. This helps to build up schema to use in game situations
- Distributed practice – Attempts at the skill are divided up with intervals in between to allow for rest and mental rehearsal. This is best used in difficult, dangerous or fatiguing skills and with young or lowly motivated individuals
If you’re trying to change something about the way you use your voice, you’re also trying to carve out a new habit, and that takes time and effective practice. Consider how you could be working more efficiently towards your goal by discussing the best practice routine for your goals in your voice therapy sessions!
And now, back to the piano…
INTRODUCING…. Melanie Tapson at the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada!
I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve joined forces with the inimitable team of Marshall Chasin and Dr John Chong at the downtown Toronto office of the Musicians’ Clinics of Canada! I currently see voice clients, including singers, actors, voice-over actors, and other voice professionals as well as wind instrument players with velopharyngeal insufficiency (leaking air through the nose while playing) and instrumentalists with embouchure, posture, or breathing issues that affect their playing. I have a great relationship with the Artists’ Health Centre at Toronto Western Hospital, where Nurse Practitioner Suzanna McGeachy calls me when she has a voice- or wind-instrument-related conundrum they don’t have a pro on staff to help with.
So if you’d like to come and see me at the Musicians’ Clinic at College and Spadina, you can fire me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to tell you what I have available! Email now; spaces book up incredibly quickly!
For more on the Musicians’ Clinics, click here: http://www.musiciansclinics.com/
STOP: PAMA time!
So another association I love is the Performing Arts Medicine Association. Imagine: a room full of artists and scientists, performers and health care professionals, all speaking the same language. It’s so crazy – and it works! If you’d like to rub elbows with the health care professionals who are caring for you as an artist, or if you’re someone who would like to learn more about where art and medicine meet, you should join us!
This year’s PAMA Toronto Regional meeting is coming up fast, and I’d love to see you there. The theme this year is “Fake It Until You Can’t Make It“, exploring all the ways artists feel pressured to work when they’re broken, whether it’s body or mind, and the toll it takes on the artist. We’ll hear stories from Phil Dwyer, world famous sax giant, talking about his battle with mental health and addiction issues, Steven Page (formerly of Barenaked Ladies) about his own struggles and the impact on his art, and Lol Tolhurst of the Cure and the demons that ultimately led to the demise of the band. You’ll get to attend workshops on topics related to keeping artists’ body and mind in synchrony under the pressures they face, and you’ll get to network with fellow artists and health care practitioners who are all focused on the health and well being of artists. I’ll be giving a workshop on breath support for mind and body; if you’ve ever wondered what “breathe from your diaphragm” REALLY means, come check out my session! It promises to be an amazing conference!
Here are the details:
PAMA Toronto Regional Meeting
February 11 – 12, 2017
University of Toronto Faculty of Music
Register here: http://www.artsmed.org/toronto-ontario-canada
Looking forward to seeing you there! Make sure you come say hi!
I am thrilled to be a member of Vocology in Practice, a “global network of elite voice professionals at the forefront of vocal training for today’s contemporary singer”. As you know, there’s nothing I love as much as a good voice geek-out with other like-minded #voicegeeks, so I’m just delighted to be in their company as one of the resident speech pathologists (and also a singer and a voice teacher!). Click here for my ViP profile page: Melanie Tapson, SLP (ViP)
I’m also really excited to be giving an online workshop for my good friends at ViP on December 28 at 10am EST (that’s Toronto time). It will be a Q&A about working with singers who are transgender, with a chance to ask all the questions you’ve been mulling over about the challenges (and rewards!) of working with the trans singer. For more information on the webinar (for ViP members only!), click here: Melanie Tapson, Transgender Voice Webinar for Vocology in Practice
Here’s a little about ViP from their website:
VIP is a global network of elite voice professionals, including singing teachers, vocal coaches, songwriters, producers, music industry professionals, speech and language practitioners, ENT’s and laryngologists. We exist as a community committed to continuous professional development, education and networking via in person training, one on one mentorship, research, educational events, seminars, webinars and articles. Our aim is to be at the forefront of vocal health, science and pedagogy in order to provide the best vocal training and 360 degree care for today’s contemporary vocalist.
The structure of the ViP network enables progress and keeping up with the science, knowledge and variety of techniques and styles in singing. With the best professionals on board and singing specialists of all genres we keep our network well informed and share through weekly articles and webinars and events. We keep the structure dynamic by allowing board members to take part for 2 years at a time and by voting together every year for a chairman to lead us forward.
- Vocology is a name for voice science first introduced by Dr. Ingo Titze.
- We stand by the principles of Vocology for vocal balance and health to allow smooth registration and maximum results for any voice.
- We also keep check of the latest technologies, therapy techniques and research for the highest standards.
- Some of the research is also done by ViP member professionals who we have the privilege to work with.
If you are interested in learning more about ViP, attending one of their upcoming workshops, taking advantage of their incredible teacher training, or just want to geek out with the rest of us who love voice, check out their website at Vocology In Practice. Hope to see you at an upcoming event!
Nose or Mouth: How Should I Breathe To Sing?
Shawna Caspi: Dear voicegeek, I have a quick question for you.. I was at a conference recently and had one of those quick mentoring session things that music conferences have. Me and my mentor were talking about singing, technique, etc. and she suggested that I should breathe through my nose when singing, since it “moisturizes the vocal chords”. I couldn’t think of any singing teacher who’d even told me that and I realized I always took breaths with my mouth when singing. Tried the nose thing and it DOES feel different…is this legit?
Me: Super great question!! Ok, here’s the deets. Yes, breathing through your nose is much less drying; the little hairs in your nose (cilia) help to capture allergens and dust and stuff so it doesn’t wind up on your vocal folds (vocal cords) or in your lungs, so that’s a good thing. It also moisturizes and warms the air, also good things! But here’s the catch: you can take a much much bigger and faster breath through a much much bigger opening, like your mouth… so while breathing through your nose is optimal, sometimes you just gotta get that air in!
I wouldn’t want to worry so much about only nose-breathing to the point where you develop weird breath issues from tension or compensating, but if you’re mouth breathing when you sleep, for sure we want to get that under control.
Shawna: Yah…that’s what it seems. If I don’t have a long lead up to breathe, I can’t do the nose thing.
Me: Exactly. So nose-breathe when possible, but don’t stress about it when it doesn’t happen. You’re killing it. Would you mind if I shared this in a blog post? It’s a super great question!
Shawna: Cool, thanks! I was so surprised that nobody have ever told me to do that before – seemed so simple and made sense! Ya, feel free to share! Use my name or not, whatever you’d like.
(Obviously I’m sharing with permission because I also want to give Shawna the props she deserves; I’ve had the pleasure of being on the same bill as this talented lady and I wouldn’t hesitate to give her the floor!)
How To Hip-Sing or Why All Indie Singers Sound Like That
I confess, this came across my desk and I just *had* to share. It’s so fun.
This girl Madeline Tallman made a video breaking down why all hipster indie singers sound weirdly like they live in the UK but fancy living in Brooklyn and live on a diet of mostly expensive lattes and remind you of a toddler trying to get you to give in. It’s only about 3 minutes long; check it out:
So basically her breakdown is this: you have to have terrible vocal hygiene, use a slightly breathy, thin folds (Estill) sound, diphthong-ize literally everything, instead of an /h/, do a cry (or ignore it completely), voice all the voiceless consonants, add glottal stops for no reason in weird places (right before vowels is ideal), extend words with a glottal and then add an extra vocalization of any kind afterwards. Not gonna lie, this is a terrible description of a really great breakdown of this weird new fad. I’m actually weirdly super impressed at her ear, if not her ability to describe what she hears.
If you’re a voice geek and you’ve been dying to figure out what the heck is going on with this indie sound, this is a pretty solid demo with a terribly basic description, but I give her A+ for effort, because she really nails it!
And those are my thoughts on hipster indie singing.
First Rule of Blogging: WRITE SOMETHING For Crying Out Loud!
Ok! It’s finally happening! I have tons of content ideas I’ve been brewing, but I just haven’t had the time between teaching (at U of T in the SLP department), presenting (at the Ultimate Day of Voice alongside Dr Ingo Titze… swoon!), and preparing (a transgender voice webinar for Vocology in Practice happening December 28 in my jams from Grand Bend, ON!). So I’m going to just get this ball rolling by sharing the article we put together for the Vox Cura website about a recent presentation I gave, because let’s face it, getting started is the hardest part. 🙂
So without further ado, here’s the article! Click the title to go back to the source. I promise, more content is coming soon. Hang tight.
We are excited to announce that on Sunday November 13th, Vox Cura’s Melanie Tapson will be sharing the stage with well-known Toronto voice teacher Ryan Luchuck at The Ultimate Day of Voice — a day of voice education.
The event, which will be held at the Winchester Theatre here in Toronto, will also feature 2.5 hour sessions with esteemed voice coach Dave Stroud and legendary voice scientist and author, Dr. Ingo Titze.
These two heavyweight speakers need no introduction, of course. Dave Stroud has coached stars such as Michael Jackson, Kelly Clarkson, Demi Levato, and Natasha Bedingfield. Dr. Titze, an award-winning voice scientist and author, is known for developing the straw phonation technique, which is currently so popular with voice teachers and therapists. He is also executive director of the National Center for Voice and Speech, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology/Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
Melanie will be sharing her own expertise as a Speech Language Pathologist alongside other special guest speakers Dr. Taryn Davids (Toronto Laryngologist at St. Michael’s Hospital), Ayanna Sealey (Performance Coach and NET Practitioner), Lucas Marchand (member of Juno-nominated vocal group, Cadence), Brandon Brophy (Toronto Voice Coach at Singer’s Edge), and of course, Ryan Luchuck (Luchuck Voice & Artist Development), who is celebrating his tenth anniversary as a voice coach in Toronto.
Tickets, which cost less than a single hour with any of the speakers on the roster, can be purchased here.
We hope to see you on November 13th for the Ultimate Day of Voice!
The Ultimate Day of Voice
When: November 13, 2016, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: The Winchester Theatre, 80 Winchester St, Toronto, ON M4X 1B2.