KRISTIE KNICKERBOCKER, CCC-SLP
TVF: Where do you currently practice?
KK: I am owner and CEO of “a tempo Voice Center” in Fort Worth, Texas. We are located in the medical district and specialize in voice and dysphagia. “a tempo” is a musical term that means to return to the original tempo after a deviation. I help patients get “back to baseline” after a vocal deviation has gotten them off track.
TVF: Where did you complete your education/training in voice?
KK: I have been a theatre and choir performer all my life. I have been writing songs, playing guitar and piano and taking private voice lessons since childhood. I received an undergraduate vocal performance minor at Texas Christian University under the talented and knowledgeable wings of Dr. Sheila Allen and Dr. David Grogan, while majoring in Speech Language Pathology. My voice science mentor was Dr. Christopher Watts. I continued performing during graduate school as well. I’m certified in LSVT, LMRVT, CSCFT, but strive to attend as many continuing education opportunities as possible regarding voice.
TVF: What motivated you to dedicate yourself to the field of voice?
KK: I originally began at TCU as a music major in vocal performance. I developed a cyst on my left vocal fold just prior to my freshman year, and was in voice rehabilitation for 6 months before and after surgery. Then, my voice lessons and juries consisted of a regimented and painfully slow process of strengthening my singing voice back to normal. I was so certain I would be a performer at this time, the thought of changing majors never occurred to me until I knew I wanted to help others like me. After all, I had been a patient, a surgical recipient and on the other end of the table getting recommendations and voice therapy. The ultimate gift for me to give back is combining vocology and vocal performance to help others with similar problems.
TVF: What comes to your mind as one of the most pressing issues in contemporary voice disorders?
KK: Recommending behavioral voice rehabilitation instead of surgery when faced with vocal fold nodules. There is such a shift in how we are treating nodules at this time, and they are responding well to rehabilitation efforts. Surgery risks damaging those delicate tissue layers. The more we are learning about how different lesions are formed, the better plan of care we can recommend.
TVF: Do you have research interest? Why?
KK: Yes. I am currently working on research using Cepstral Peak Prominence (CPP) to better identify differences in normal and disordered voice samples. With CPP, you are able to look at connected speech and sustained vowel, which is a better sample of your patient’s whole voice. Fascinating and useful.
TVF: Which vocal myth would you like to dispel?
KK: Haha. Belting. You can injure yourself belting, just as you can singing classically. You must be trained to do either with minimal injury risk. Different techniques are required for both. There are fewer teachers out there comfortable with teaching safe belting and mixed register, and even fewer materials. Thank goodness for Marci Rosenberg and Wendy LeBorgne and others like them.
TVF: Your most memorable voice case?
KK: My most memorable case was a woman who was injured from intubation. She was certain that she would have to have surgery to fix the issue, and she was frightened and stressed out. We were able to make great progress together, and when she listened to her before and after voice audio examples, she was in tears. The emotions pouring out of her will always stick in my mind because she said that everyone was so worried about suing the people responsible for the intubation injury, but no one was concerned with how she sounded or how it was affecting her until she met me. I will continue to do this my whole life with my whole heart because of patients like her.
TVF: As a voice pathologist/researcher/educator, what keeps you on your toes?
KK: New research! I must strive to study all the time so I am giving the best possible care. There will always be something to learn.
TVF: What advice would you like to give to the general populace about voice care?
KK: Speech Therapy is not just for kids with /r/ trouble. I get so many folks in here wondering why the heck their doctor sent them for speech therapy for hoarseness.
TVF: How about to the professional voice users?
KK: That singers/actors are not the only professional voice users out there. This includes preachers, teachers, phone call center operators, and speech language pathologists!
TVF: Who is your favorite singer?
KK: Man, there are so many. I always come back to Damien Rice, old-school Beatles, Imogen Heap, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Civil Wars, and that new “Post Modern Jukebox” youtube channel. Those artists are wicked good, and very talented.
TVF: What sparks “joy” for you as a person?
KK: Living for each day and caring for yourself. You can’t expect to give hope and joy to others if you aren’t healthy yourself.
Published on April 9, 2020.
Zoom interview with Kristie about pediatric voice therapy