Guidelines for Auditioning with a Cold

<p>If a student goes into an audition with congestion and/or a sore throat because it's late in the game and rescheduling was not possible - does she mention it? Does she offer a CD with her healthy vocal tracks on it (Ithaca requests one of these at LA unifieds - so my thought was to make multiple copies). My daughter typically loses her high notes when she has a cold - so other option I thought of is to lower the key of her songs - but again, would hope they would know why she was singing so low. I guess I'm thinking if she really feels like the singing didn't show what she can do - does it hurt to offer the CD? Or, is it better to not say anything and assume they will hear the congestion or throat phlegm? ANd if they mention it, is it then ok to offer the CD?</p>

<p>BTW - If she is still sick tomorrow, we are going to try to reschedule a few top auditions, but I'm worried it's too late in the game (luckily she already has two nice acceptances from her first two auditions), but I really feel like she has a shot at some of these other schools - and some of them are at the top top of her list.</p>

<p>Would love also to hear positive stories about kids getting into their dream schools with a head cold!</p>

<p>Thanks!</p>

<p>If she is sick, they will be able to tell, so she shouldn't mention it. But your idea about the cd could be a brilliant option! Ask the proctor who sits outside of the room if that is a good idea to bring up to that specific school. I would definitely advise bringing extra copies of your cd. It is excellent that she already has two acceptances, congratulations! Break a leg with all of the auditions!</p>

<p>Not a MT major, but in my voice lessons and colloquia, my professors told me never to say, "Sorry if I sound bad; I'm sick." The reasoning is if you do that, then you can't give your audience an objective performance. If they ask afterwards, then you can say, "Oh, I have a cold (or whatever)" then.</p>

<p>I second the CD idea.</p>

<p>Yes, if they ask if you are sick, answer honestly without over-playing it OR under-playing it. They will admire your perseverance.</p>

<p>My daughter had a bad cold the day she recorded her vocal Art Supplement. She did not tell the admissions reps about the cold because she has been trained never to make excuses about her singing. However, her voice teacher at the Conservatory of Music -- who wrote her one of her recommendations -- praised her in her recommendation letter for having forged ahead with the recording in spite of having been so sick. </p>

<p>By the way, my daughter's accompanist happened to be a retired doctor with 30 years' experience as a GP. He recommended she use a nasal spray called Afrin to help her breathe, which she did. She was also having asthma symptoms, so she used her inhaler. She used honey-menthol throat lozenges (but with no anesthetic) before beginning, and drank a lot of water before and during the recording session. She did not take multi-symptom cold medicine so as not to dry her throat out, just Tylenol and the antihistamine (Claritin) which she takes every day for her allergies.</p>

<p>And, yes, she got into her dream school, Wellesley College, with her less-than-perfect Art Supplement.</p>

<p>I hope this helps. Best of luck to your daughter!!!</p>

<p>3 important clarifications/corrections:</p>

<ol>
<li><p>Afrin must be taken EXACTLY as directed, and NOT more. It has a rebound effect where it actually causes MORE congestion if you do not STOP taking it after a few days, AS DIRECTED. I'd try plain saline nasal spray 1st - get it at any drug store. It's not as powerful as Afrin for some people but it has no bad effects.</p></li>
<li><p>Menthol is generally discouraged by ENT's and also pulmonologists - it is drying and irritating to the vocal folds and bronchi. So look for throat drops without menthol - Halls' Breezers or Ludens' Honey (NOT honey-lemon) or Cherry.</p></li>
<li><p>Antihistamines dry and there is antihistamine also in many multi-symptom cold meds. HOWEVER, stoping the cough is far more important than the "drying", as I posted earlier - you can combat the drying quickly by increased hydration and steam. You cannot quickly combat the swelling effect of coughing slamming your vocal folds together. </p></li>
</ol>

<p>I know you were offering kind help, marama, but GP's often offer suggestions that aren't specific enough or are a bit erroneous for the speciality needs of singers. We see this all the time in medical voice practice - even generalist ENT's get it wrong sometimes. Voice specialists, laryngologists, are the only ones who really give accurate info.</p>

<p>Thank you for offering your opinions as a high school teacher and vocal coach, CoachC. </p>

<p>One thing I have noticed in the singing world is that there is often a lot of conflicting advice offered. While you may be certain, for example, that menthol is bad, there are others who differ on that point. My daughter's past and present vocal coaches, both at the Conservatory of Music and at Wellesley College, are all opera singers who actively perform, and they have never advised my daughter to avoid menthol throat lozenges, nor has any medical practitioner ever done so. I could provide more information about the various specialists who care for my daughter, but I don't think it's necessary. Suffice it to say she is well cared for. </p>

<p>What I did find a bit confusing in your post was your use of the pronoun "We", where you said: "We see this all the time in medical voice practice - even generalist ENT's get it wrong sometimes. Voice specialists, laryngologists, are the only ones who really give accurate info." Correct me if I'm wrong: you are a high school teacher, not a board-certified laryngologist.</p>

<p>No one can dispute that medications, whether prescription or over the counter, must be used per the label instructions, and I am well aware of the rebound effect of Afrin and other similar nasal sprays. My daughter, in particular, used it once, and once only, to open up her nasal passages for her recording. If she hadn't, I guarantee you she wouldn't have been able to record at all because of the severity of her nasal congestion. In her case, this one-time use of Afrin was a life saver because, as you so rightly mention, saline can only do so much. My daughter did not use any cough medicines for her audition because coughing was not a problem -- it was her breathing and sore throat that were stopping her from singing. </p>

<p>I'm not claiming to have a monopoly on the truth. I'm just responding to the request for feedback which blueskies1108 made to the CC community, to wit: "Would love also to hear positive stories about kids getting into their dream schools with a head cold!" I believe we fit the bill: my daughter is a kid who got into her dream school with a head cold. I ask that blueskies1108 take my feedback as it is intended. For more targeted medical advice, I recommend she consult with her daughter's medical team rather than relying on personal anecdotes or opinions from parents and high school teachers.</p>

<p>You only got the early part of my bio. :). I was a high school teacher in the 90's but left that field many years ago. I'm a certified, Master's degreed speech pathologist with a speciality in medical voice care and I currently work seeing patients as a Voice Pathologist with Weill Cornell Medical College in NYC. (I also work as a vocal coach, which precedes my returning for my master's degree.) </p>

<p>Most people who read this part of CC already know the above about me, but because I know many people here on CC trust me advice, I will clarify in detail. I am not a laryngologist, but I am extremely fortunate to work treating patients in the world of laryngology at the highest level. For the past 3 years, I have worked in the office of Dr. Lucian Sulica, one of the top authorities in the world. He is a board-certified and fellowship-trained laryngologist, and I am one of only 3 voice pathologists who treats his patients for the voice rehab part of their care. Prior to working with him, I worked in the practice of a different world-renowned board-certified, fellowship-trained laryngologist, Dr. Clark A. Rosen (as one of 8 voice specialist SLP's). The people who know vocal folds best are those who view them with endoscopes, who see their make-up surgically, and who design the technology and gold standards of care. Those people take care of the singers we paid the biggest bucks to listen to. My advice comes from the medical literature followed by these top laryngologists and the advice they, and therefore I, give to patients, many of whom are active professional performers. </p>

<p>I do understand that there is a lot of conflicting information out there. My job as a speech pathologist specializing in voice, or voice pathologist (the less common term) is not only to change the "behavioral" part of the voice - the actual techniques of good voicing - it is also to disseminate correct information to the patients of the laryngologists, who are also my patients. In case you are still skeptical about SLP's role in the voice care world: we are classified as health care providers who bill separately within medical practices, are certified by insurances, and have national certifications which we must keep current. I am officially listed as part of the Voice Center medical team at Weill Cornell - you'll find it if you google. I am currently on the personal medical voice teams of many voice professionals (Broadway, Met, pop world) - I am their voice therapist and I coordinate their care with Dr. Sulica. My colleagues and I have weekly meetings with Dr. Sulica to review our patient's exams and discuss progress and further treatment. So, while you are correct that I'm not a laryngologist, I have a great deal of working laryngologic knowledge that I apply as part of my therapy job.</p>

<p>I am sorry you took offense at my post, b/c I as I said, I know it was offered in the very best of intentions. However, my corrections are anything a laryngologist who works with professional voice users will tell you, and they are factual. There is some mild disagreement about the menthol thing, but I find the common recommendation of avoiding menthol to be clinically effective for 95% of my patients. </p>

<p>The point of my above post was not to criticize your daughter's care, it was to help those who are sick now. While you may have been aware of it the rebound effect of Afrin, people who are trying to quickly help themselves before the impending LA Unifieds may miss this. I see smart patients miss that all the time, even after they are told, b/c they are so worried about being ready for a performance. </p>

<p>Because I know that I have a unique perspective to help CC kids and parent due to my expert knowledge of both MT auditioning (THAT is my vocal coaching hat) and medical voice care (my SLP-CCC hat), I will continue to post when I see medical questions that I know I can help with. I also often help CC students with referrals to the laryngologists in their area or closest.</p>

<p>Wow - I am relieved that I had my daughter see Dr. Sulica in your office for a second opinion. Not all doctors are created equal!
Daughter had chronic cough and congestion following a summer of mono. First doc we took her to, a supposed "expert" ENT at a voice center, told her she had vocal chord damage and laryngopharyngeal reflux disease. He told her to follow a vegan diet, take an acid-reducer and not to eat before bed. Also told her she needed vocal therapy!</p>

<p>We realized that was not the advice we wanted to hear, and then found Dr. Sulica. Nothing wrong with her vocal chords other than postnasal drip likely due to allergies. He put her on both saline and steroid nasal spray. No need for your services (thankfully) Coach C, but glad to know you are here!
I only trust the experts now!</p>

<p>I'm glad you saw Dr. Sulica - he is a great diagnostician and takes a lot of time with patients. NYC is lucky to have several great laryngologists and full voice centers, with SLP's and laryngologists working together, but there are also expert laryngologists in places where you might not expect them b/c they are not "big cities". Any CCers who need a referral, let me know, and I can ask Dr. Sulica if I don't already know. The fellowship-trained laryngologists in the U.S. are a really small group, so they all know each other and I know many of them personally (and can always get in touch with them through Dr. Sulica if I don't know them).</p>

<p>Thanks CoachC. My D recently had a cold at an audition and I went through old CC posts and found your earlier advice. Got all her high notes. Got her belt. All went well. Still in consideration. Keep the good stuff coming, CoachC!</p>

<p>I appreciate everyone's advice - and love hearing that kids are succeeding despite the pesky cold virus! Gives us hope.</p>

<p>I have an observation/question. Usually when my D has a head cold that is more in the sinuses she loses her head voice but can still belt. This cold seems to have settled in the throat - her sinuses are still pretty clear - and she thinks she is struggling more with her belt (although hard to tell as she's really not singing or even talking much) - but she did a couple of notes and her feeling was that she didn't have the control she usually does of her belt. Does this sound right - have others experienced this?</p>

<p>Soooo ironic - 15 months ago she had no head voice but has had this amazing high belt since she was little. She was planning on leading with her belt piece. How funny that we may be going in leading with head voice and possibly even switching out the big belt number. Crazy!!!</p>

<p>It definitely makes sense - her vocal folds may be more swollen than in her usual sinus cold, which would affect their vibration in a different way than the swelling that comes along with a sinus cold. Everyone's experience of voice impairment is different with each cold or illness, depending on how their vocal folds have been affected by a cold or virus.</p>

<p>My daughter also has seen Dr. Sulica several times and he was a life saver for two critical performances when my daughter lost her voice beforehand.
(had nothing to do with a cold or cough though....and had to be put on steroids and vocal rest)</p>

<p>Haven't read the whole thread but a word of caution - those on steroids, remember they can cause weight gain!</p>

<p>CoachC - does your group comment on which type of medication affects the voice the least, if a particular medication has been prescribed that will be needed long term or a lifetime? I have seen lists of drugs that affect the voice and there appear to be ones that accomplish the same goal that have varying degrees of effect on the vocal cords. Am I making sense?</p>

<p>Yes, Dr. Sulica would be able to advise you accurately about this. I know some of these facts, but he always has the most specific medical facts available and also knowns what the variations within the facts are. The medications list from the National Center For Voice and Speech is a good one, developed by very knowledgeable speech scientists, but it never hurts to speak directly to a laryngologist to be as informed as possible. Dr. Sulica (and other board-certified, fellowship-trained laryngologists) can tell you which medications are always to be avoided and which have variable effect dependent on the person or less impact. He can also tell you how to mediate the vocal fold effect if you do need to be on a medication that isn't great for vocal fold health.</p>

<p>Make sure you seek someone whose practice is entirely laryngology - they are the true experts! As he tells patients: "I'm an ENT who is just the T." (aka Ear, Nose, Throat physician who focuses on the throat) :)</p>

<p>As a vocalist, I caution you against singing with any cold/sore throat symptoms because doing so can do permanent damage to your vocal chords. But being real here, having had to perform sick quite a few times, here is what I do, and what I caution my D to do:</p>

<p>Slippery elm lozenges are a godsend. They coat your throat and really help.
Throat Coat tea, or any tea specifically made for throat. I also make a tea with fresh grated ginger, hot water, honey, and lemon juice that really soothes.
"Steam" your voice. Boil water, pour into basin, put a towel over your head, and breathe in and out and cough up whatever comes out. This is awesome to break up congestion. Some people add eucalyptus but I personally do not like that.
No talking, and that includes whispering, which is surprisingly harsher on the chords than talking.<br>
I advise against telling them you are sick; they have experience and will be able to tell.
Do your best, and know that many a great performer has done so when under the weather. Good luck to you!</p>

<p>Just saw the post about steroids. Vocal fold steroids are short-course ones, usually a medrol dose pack taper (sometimes combined with an injection in the gluteal muscle), so weight gain isn't so much the issue like it is with longer doses of steroids. The bigger issue usually for vocal fold steroids is that they can sometimes cause increased anxiety and jitteriness, so you don't sleep well and feel off in general. BUT let your laryngologist decide - Dr. Sulica often prescribes steroids for knowledgeable professionals like soozie's D who are sick and have a performance coming up.</p>

<p>Coach C, after reading your posts, I agree with all you said, and feel kinda funny posting my own stuff,lol. </p>

<p>I do not advise menthol either, as I said in my last post; I know two singers who ended up with pleurisy on top of everything else that was traced to the use of menthol. But for whatever reason, this conflicting info still gets out there.</p>

<p>Also consider a Neti pot, which is sold in most pharmacies now. You use a saline solution in it and it works very, very well.</p>