Knowledge, experience, and anxieties of young classical singers in training

Paul E Kwak, C Richard Stasney, Jeremy Hathway, Charles G Minard, Julina Ongkasuwan
Journal of Voice 2014, 28 (2): 191-5

OBJECTIVE/HYPOTHESIS: Young classical singers in training have a wide variety of knowledge about the anatomy and physiology of the voice and vocal pathology and harbor anxiety about treatment of vocal fold disorders. This study aimed to examine differences in knowledge, experience, and anxiety across levels of training at elite conservatories and young artist programs in the United States.

STUDY DESIGN: Prospective cohort questionnaire.

METHODS: Undergraduate (50), master's (35), and doctoral/young artist (25) singers (n = 110) were given an 80-point questionnaire assessing experience with vocal pathology, otolaryngologists, speech pathologists, and participation in choir or teaching. Participants were asked questions to test their medical knowledge in vocal anatomy, physiology, and care. They were also asked questions about their anxiety about medical visits and vocal pathology and about their habits in the care of their own voices.

RESULTS: There was no statistically significant difference in test scores for vocal knowledge across the three levels of training (P = 0.47). Mean scores were just above 50% with standard deviations around 12-13 points. The lowest score was 26% and the highest score was 84%. Doctoral/young artist-level participants were more anxious regarding general office visits to an otolaryngologist compared with undergraduate and master's level participants. There were no other significant differences by level of training regarding anxiety about vocal pathology, scope examinations, or visits to a speech pathologist. There were no significant differences in self-reported levels of knowledge. All groups of young singers expressed marked interest in expanding their knowledge of anatomy and physiology, speech pathology, care of the vocal mechanism, and vocal disorders.

CONCLUSIONS: More advanced singers do not have significantly greater knowledge of vocal form and function and are more anxious about visits to otolaryngologists and vocal pathology; a clear majority of singers indicate interest in knowing more. There is thus ample opportunity for innovation in the development of medical curricula in the instruction of young singers and clear interest in more knowledge on their part.

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