There are two kinds of people for whom their voice is their career. There are professional voice users, like teachers, telephone operators, and public speakers. And then there are elite voice users, like singers; people for whom a reduction in voice quality can alter the course of their career. Voice loss gets in the way of auditions and forces the singer to call out of their performances. So how many shows are they missing?
Drew Gehling (yes THAT Drew Gehling… like from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and Jersey Boys, and Waitress, and just finished playing the titular role in Dave at Arena Stage) co-authored a paper, Backstage at Broadway: a Demographic Study, with a team at the NYU Voice Center using data from the casts of 7 different Broadway shows. He not only examined key voice hygiene habits but he also looked at how often singers are missing shows due to voice injury. On average, these singers miss 2.3 shows per year. The number of days missed did differ by gender and by the size of the role. Principal women reported missing 4.7 days per year due to voice issues as compared with 2.3 days for ensemble women. Principal men, on the other hand, missed 2.5 days per year as compared with 1.7 for male ensemble members. I also want to point out, however, that even though leading ladies are missing more shows because of their voice, they also reported the lowest prevalence of voice disorder, with only 18.2% of these performers saying they had ever had a diagnosis of voice disorder. On the other hand, 31.8% of male leads did, 30.2% of female ensemble did, and 22.4% of male ensemble did. You have to wonder… maybe admitting that doing a show is too much is what keeps voice issues from getting worse than they are. My point is, when you’re losing your voice, take it seriously. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Have you ever called out of a show because of your voice? How did you know it was time?
Gehling, D., Sridharan, S., Fritz, M., Friedmann, D.R., Fang, Y., Amin, M.R., Branski, R.C. (2014). Backstage at Broadway: a demographic study. Journal of Voice 28, pp 311-5.