Published on May 13, 2016

Pleased to introduce Joanna Lott, Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP)/Singing Voice Specialist. She is a specialist in "Twang." Please credit The Voice Forum when you share our content. #fellowshipofthelarynx


TVF: Where do you currently practice?

JL: I work at the Voice & Swallowing Clinic at University of Virginia Health System. We are in the Department of Otolaryngology--Head & Neck Surgery.


TVF: Where did you complete your education/training in voice?

JL: I started my training by working with a voice teacher who was also an SLP. He convinced me that I would be a good SLP too. He suggested I take the Estill Level One and Level Two courses to familiarize myself with anatomy and physiology, which was great advice. And with that under my belt, I applied to Ohio State, which was the only graduate program offering a specialization in singing voice for students in speech pathology. I figured that if I didn't get in, I would just keep working on my Estill training. But I got in and was one of the first SLP students there to complete the Singing Voice Specialization. During grad school, I finished my Estill Certified Master Teacher certification in addition to the Singing Voice Specialization. I was a little overworked, and a lot obsessed. After grad school, I completed my Clinical Fellowship at Dr. Robert Sataloff's office in Philadelphia. From there, a few years at GBMC--Johns Hopkins Voice Center, a year at Vanderbilt Voice Center, and now here! I hope my days of moving around so much are behind me!


TVF: What motivated you to dedicate yourself to the field of voice? 

JL: I’ve always loved singing and teaching voice. It was a no-brainer for me. I had no interest in the other aspects of speech pathology until I had been doing voice for a few years. Then it started to appeal to me to branch out a little into dysphagia and some Head & Neck. But voice is still my primary focus.


TVF: What comes to your mind as one of the most pressing issues in contemporary voice disorders?

JL: We don't even get to use the word "voice" in our titles. I find that infuriating. I feel like I'm misrepresenting myself every time I introduce myself as a speech pathologist. Along the same lines, so few graduate programs offer adequate education in voice for SLP students. It is necessary to seek most of our education outside of graduate school. It's very costly to get a good education in voice. (As if student loans aren't costly enough!) That needs to change in a big way.


TVF: Do you have research interests?

JL: I am very challenged by research - to say the least. But I'm getting better at it. Now, I can look at something and see that it might pose an interesting research question. That used to never happen. But it's still a work in progress.  :)


TVF: Which vocal myth would you like to dispel?

JL: That the larynx must always be low for healthy singing; and that belting is bad. Are those still myths?


TVF: Do you have a vocal pet peeve?

JL: Not really. I try to leave aesthetics out of it. If it's not unhealthy and it's the way the singer wants to sound, great. If it is unhealthy but it's the way the singer wants to sound, maybe we can help them. Or maybe that's OK too. Depends on the singer.


TVF: As a voice pathologist/educator/researcher, what keeps you on your toes?

JL: Medical jargon and medical abbreviations!


TVF: What advice would you like to give to the general populace about voice care? How about to the professional voice users? 

JL: ABH and ABS: Always be hydrating. Always be SOVT-ing (straw-ing)!


TVF: Who is your favorite singer?

JL: It is so hard to narrow it down to just one! My tastes change all the time. Right now I'm listening to Prince non-stop. He is a fascinating vocalist with an incredible range. So sad to lose such a musical talent. And otherwise, I've been listening to Bonnie Raitt's new CD, Patsy Cline, Lucius, Chris Stapleton and Tom Waits. One of my favorite singers is actually local to Charlottesville where I live. Erin Lunsford - - she is a super-star in the making. Keep an eye on her! (If you go to this link, listen to the whole song, or at least skip ahead to about the 4:10 mark. You'll be glad you did.)


TVF: What sparks “joy” for you as a person?

JL: Singing and listening to inspired singers. That, kayaking, and my dog - Baxter. He's the bomb.