Voice makes right pitch for a great show

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Careerone -

DEB­BIE Phy­land, as a speech pathol­o­gist, has been able to mix a love of per­for­mance and the science of lan­guage. Phy­land, con­tracted to work with the Melbourne Theatre Com­pany for the past six years, helps ac­tors and singers use their voice in the right way, min­imis­ing the chances of dam­ag­ing their vo­cal chords.

While the worst cases in such a job could in­volve voice re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion af­ter surgery, Phy­land says in her work at the MTC she is com­monly called on to ad­vise whether some­one with a cold or flu is fit to per­form.

A ma­jor­ity of prob­lems are from overuse, and Phy­land says the most com­monly sug­gested rem­edy is com­plete voice rest for a day. Pre­ven­ta­tive ac­tion at the MTC has paid

lead­ing off — no shows have been can­celled be­cause of voice prob­lems in her time there, Phy­land says.

‘‘ It can be quite costly and also ex­tremely dev­as­tat­ing for the per­former and the com­pany,’’ she says. Phy­land re­calls one mu­si­cal where a per­former had a vo­cal chord hae­m­or­rhage mid-way through a song.

Some of Phy­land’s cred­its in­clude be­ing con­tracted by Dis­ney to work with per­form­ers on TheLionKing mu­si­cal and be­ing in­volved in the Vic­to­rian Trans­port Ac­ci­dent Com­mis­sion’s ad­ver­tise­ment for cur­tain airbags, which fea­tured an ac­tor sim­u­lat­ing the speech of some­one with a head in­jury.

But Phy­land, whom many en­ter­tain­ers call a friend, also works at the mul­tidis­ci­plinary Melbourne Voice Anal­y­sis Cen­tre, runs a

‘‘ private prac­tice and lec­tures part-time at La Trobe Univer­sity. ‘‘ The best thing is, it pro­vides variety. My hus­band works out what I’mdo­ing ac­cord­ing to what I’mwear­ing!’’

Phy­land, 20 years a speech pathol­o­gist, spent the first half of her work­ing life in acute med­i­cal hos­pi­tals. It was while on ma­ter­nity leave that she started se­ri­ously de­vel­op­ing her idea for a private prac­tice.

Phy­land is also a clas­si­cally trained singer, and has done a masters de­gree re­search­ing the voice prob­lems of singers. She says she en­joys the chal­lenges of her work, but one of the most sat­is­fy­ing as­pects is be­ing able to help peo­ple: ‘‘ I think that if you are com­mu­ni­cat­ing well you are much more likely to have a good qual­ity of life,’’ she says. Vivi­enne Reiner

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