USC Study Focuses on Female Vocal Quality
Faculty from the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the USC Thornton School of Music are embarking on the first-ever study focused on improving the consistency of the female voice during monthly hormonal variations.
Beginning in the fall, USC Thornton associate professor of vocal arts Cynthia Munzer and Keck School clinical professor Uttam Sinha, chief and program director of the Keck School’s Department of Otolaryngology, will research the effects of vocal therapy on vocal quality in 25 female singers ranging in age from 20 to postmenopausal. The purpose is to determine therapeutic methods for female vocalists to achieve consistent vocal quality.
“Research has shown that monthly hormone fluctuations and menopause affect the range and quality of the female voice, which can be problematic for professional voice users,” Sinha said. “We collaborators are trying to determine if the professional female voice can be stabilized or enriched with voice therapy during these times, which would improve vocal performance.”
Munzer, a mezzo-soprano with more than 220 performances in more than 20 roles with the Metropolitan Opera, knows something about vocal quality and the demands on a professional singer’s voice, mind and body. As she explained in a recent profile in Classical Singer magazine, “Communication is one of a singer’s biggest goals, so the body should work seamlessly and allow one to be free to communicate.
“The opportunity to learn more about the delicate variances of the voice and present suitable noninvasive therapies in order to produce consistently strong and healthy tones during monthly hormonal changes is certainly one of our goals,” she explained.
The expected long-term benefits of the study include establishing remedies for vocal challenges caused by menstruation and menopause, introducing vocal therapy exercises into the vocal arts studios, and fostering a closer relationship between the Keck School and USC Thornton.
“I am very excited about the groundbreaking work being done on the voice,” said Robert Cuttieta, dean of USC Thornton. “The intricate marriage of physiology and artistry that every vocalist has to foster makes this type of research both practical and important. I hope this is the beginning of many partnerships between the Thornton School and the Keck School of Medicine. This collaboration has the potential to foster many new avenues of research while also having an immediate practical application for female singers.”
The research findings are expected not only to help female vocalists but also to establish teaching methods that vocal pedagogues can use in the classroom to further enhance performances.
“I am pleased that Dr. Sinha is collaborating with colleagues at the USC Thornton School of Music,” said Carmen A. Puliafito, dean of the Keck School. “This study could lead to solutions for problems that have long plagued female singers. It is another example of collaboration between schools at USC, collaboration across our two campuses that will yield tremendous results. This partnership holds great promise for discovering new voice therapy methods that will improve the vocal quality of the voices of female singers.”