Laryngitis. A word that is spoken in hushed tones amongst singers and administrators alike. During my undergraduate years in college, my friends and I used “laryngitis on both your houses” as a retort to teasing. That’s how serious laryngitis is…enough so to be compared to the plague. Unfortunately, there was laryngitis here in this house this past week. After a 10 day bout of the stomach flu, which I had to rehearse and perform a fiendishly difficult role through, exhaustion and the high pollen count got the best of me and I caught a sinus infection and then the dreaded laryngitis. Luckily, I made it through the final performance just 1 day before laryngitis took over– stealing all phonation for about 2 days and my singing voice for about 9 days or so. Singers, whose primary profession and sometimes perceived worth is directly connected to vocal communication, feel a bit useless when we can’t even squeak out a cursory thank you to the pharmacist. It’s times like this when I start to seriously question my chosen career path. If I were a “normal” person with a “normal” 8-hour day job, I would have been back to work after only 2 sick days. But, here I am, a week later, babying my vocal cords with home remedies, homeopathic tricks, aloe vera juice, and a slew of other health products just so that I can practice again sometime in the near future.
So, why am I a singer? I am asked this question more times than I’d like to recount. I think the greatest answer is that I cannot fathom NOT singing. These past 9 days I have literally had singing withdrawals. I’ve still been teaching my students with my nasal speaking voice (a great impression of Fran Drescher) and I surprised myself by thinking “they’re so lucky. They get to sing right now. I WANT TO SING TOO!” I was literally jealous that they were able to communicate in melody while I was barely communicating in speech. I keep catching myself attempting pitifully to sing through the vocal warm-ups with my students and to sing along with the radio. When I am not singing, it is as if a piece of myself is missing.
I know that my voice will return to full health in a few days or so, but this bout of laryngitis was a bit of a wake-up call. Sometimes it takes getting sick to realize how much you appreciate the things you are able to do when you are healthy… hopefully I will never again take my voice for granted. Why do I sing? Because I can’t live without it.