Singers Celebrate the Human Voice and the UM Experts Who Take Care of It

Students celebrate the finest musical instrument ever made during World Voice Day.

By Maya Bell
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (April 21, 2014) — Lilting and lush, powerful and exuberant, their dulcet tones wafted over the University’s lakeside patio, compelling even harried passersby to pause for a moment to listen to the finest musical instrument ever made: the human voice.

But the theatre arts students who sang the tunes they recently performed for their senior showcase in New York City were showing off more than their considerable talents on April 16, which was World Voice Day. They were joining forces with the University’s multidisciplinary Miami Voice team to draw attention to the importance of taking care of one’s voice, an elemental human function most people take for granted.

But not performers. As NDavid Williams, head of musical theatre in the College of Arts and Sciences said, “You can always buy another piano or cello, but you cannot buy a new voice. You must take care of it.’’

Fortunately for UM’s Department of Theatre Arts and the Frost School of Music, whose students also performed last Wednesday, the Miami Voice Program’s team of ear, nose, and throat specialists, allergists, singing voice specialists, and speech pathologists can address any voice, swallowing or airway problem. But they have a unique understanding of the challenges faced by singers, actors and other performers, which is owed in large measure to their long experience and the interests and expertise of the head of the program, David E. Rosow.

An assistant professor of otolaryngology at the Miller School of Medicine, Rosow was a violinist with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra for nine years and realized while on his ENT—ear, nose and throat—rotation at Harvard Medical School that he could combine his love of music with his love of medicine.

At Harvard, Rosow trained under Steven E. Zeitels, one of the world’s leading voice specialists and innovators whose patients have included Adele, Julie Andrews, and Roger Daltrey. After learning the delicate techniques of repairing the voice damaged by nodules, cysts, polyps, cancer or other vocal cord disorders from the master who invented many of them, Rosow joined the Miller School faculty in 2011. There he teamed up with speech pathologist Donna Lundy, who has long been revered at the Frost School, and by singers across South Florida, for her skill at teaching people who overuse or misuse their voices how to protect them.

From left, David E. Rosow, Julia Gerhard and Stephen Di Benedetto, chair of theatre arts, celebrate World Voice Day.

Last year, they were joined by Julia Gerhard, an opera singer, doctor of musical arts and speech pathologist, who with Rosow now holds a secondary appointment in the Frost School’s department of musical performance, where they are strengthening collaborations between the medical school and the Coral Gables campus and building Miami Voice into a premier medical center for singers and performers.

All three were on the patio for last week’s World Voice Day celebration, giving tips on voice care, answering questions and enjoying the mix of hypnotic melodies emanating from the stage.

“What we have at the University of Miami is really unique in South Florida, and to the state of Florida­—but it’s really rare in the entire country,” Rosow said. “We take care of anyone who is a voice user, which could mean a lawyer or a teacher, or someone who is taking care of four screaming children at home. But we have that special emphasis on the musician and the performer because we know performers have a unique set of challenges and they need to be cared for by people who understand those challenges.”

Leaving the stage after singing a beautiful rendition of “A Little Bit in Love,” Maggie Weston, a senior in theatre arts, said it’s wonderful to have a day that reminds people “how integral the voice is to our bodies, and our health.”

“Our voice is one of those things that makes us human, and we all need to celebrate it, and take good care of it,” she said.

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From left, musical theatre students Mona Pirnot, Brandon Beaver, Kristin Devine, and Amadina Altomare perform during World Voice Day.

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