marina gilman, ccc-slp


Published on August 10, 2016

Pleased to post an interview with Marina Gilman, CCC-SLP, voice pathologist and a singing voice specialist. Please credit The Voice Forum when you share our content. #fellowshipofthelarynx #frysade #voice #laryngology


TVF: Where do you currently practice?

MG: I am a speech language pathologist at the Emory Voice Center, part of the Dept of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Cancer at Emory University. It is a tertiary Voice Center primarily treating adults with a variety of voice disorders.


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

MG: I have an undergraduate degree in Music (voice) and languages from Indiana University, a Masters in Vocal Performance from Ithaca College and Masters in Communication disorders from Northwestern University.

I taught singing for 35 + years at Cornell University and Syracuse University. I still maintain a private voice studio.


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

MG: I have always been passionate about singing. My own journey as a singer, performer and voice teacher lead me to want to learn more about vocal pedagogy, but also the science of voice and voice disorders as well as the somatic aspects of voice production.


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

MG: I think the greatest issue for those of us in the field of voice is the high level of ignorance about the impacts and challenges that are faced by individuals with any kind of voice problem. People just do not know that there is such a thing as a voice disorder, let alone that treatment is available. People just don’t think about voice disorders, they don’t know they exist beyond the odd cold or allergy.

Voice is so primary to all of us as human beings and social beings. Quite apart from the fact hoarseness can be a sign of some sort of laryngeal malignancy, the general public has a low level of tolerance when they can’t understand what is being said. That goes for individuals with strange accents, poor articulation or a distortion of the vocal signal resulting in hoarseness, strain, roughness increased breathiness etc.


TVF: Do you have research interest(s)?

MG: I am very interested in the ways in which posture or position changes the level of effort in speaking and singing. My book Body and Voice: Somatic Reeducation talks about how our internal self-image relates to how we breathe, the quality of our voice. This is particularly important for singers and actors. However it applies equally well to teachers, preacher, people in sales or anyone else who depends on their voice for a living.

I am completing a series of research studies looking into the specifics of breath support and airflow. The vocal folds depend on the airstream from the lungs to vibrate and make sound. Most of us don’t really think about how that happens. But there are some who have so much to say in a short time that they don’t take the time to breathe. Over time this can lead to vocal fatigue or hoarseness. As singing teachers and voice therapist we don’t always recognize the ways in which people hold their breath or cut off their airflow. This research combines my interest in vocal mechanics with my interesting in body mechanics.


TVF: Which vocal myth would you like to dispel?

MG: There are so many that it is hard to choose. There are no magic potions or pills for dealing with many voice disorders. These for the most part are the result of using the vocal folds too much, too little or developing compensatory behaviors that result in poor coordination of the vocal mechanism. Behavioral change is hard, but works.


TVF: Your most memorable voice case?

MG: I can’t really think of one in particular.


TVF: Do you have a vocal pet peeve?

MG: I would have to say the overuse of glottal fry so prevalent in our culture today. You hear is everywhere especially in the media. Announcers, reporters, commentators as well as actors, or anyone who has a public presence, especially a vocal one is a role model whether they intend to be or not. We respond to what people do, not what they say.


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

MG: The wide variety of personalities I work with. My patients and students are individuals who are asking me for guidance to help them negotiate problems with their voice. I don’t define them by the lesion or disorder they have been diagnosed with. I can’t approach every patient in the same way, since they are different; have different learning styles, vocal awareness and needs.


TVF: What do you think the next steps are in growing the field of laryngology?

MG: The field has changed so much since I have been practicing.

This is an interesting question. Technology has allowed us to see and understand the vocal structures on ever-smaller levels. I worry that we are so focused on the microscopic view that we risk loosing site of the whole, not just the vocal structures but also the whole person.


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

MG: Don’t take you voice for granted. It is a precious instrument that needs a little care and attention especially when it doesn’t feel or sound right. Monitor your overall voice use, take as much care of your voice as you would some precious object. If you are hoarse, don’t talk so much. If it lasts for more than 2-3 weeks get it checked out. If the advice you are given does not seem to help find another doctor. This is as true for professional singers, actors broadcasters as it is for the general public.


TVF: Who are your favorite singers?

MG: I don’t have any favorites that come to mind. Through my kids, colleagues and patients I am constantly exposed to different styles and genres of music that it is hard to find a favorite.


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

MG: I love being near the ocean. I am not a beach person per se, but love being near water.