wendy leborgne, ccc-slp
Published on August 17, 2016
TVF: Where do you currently practice/teach?
WL: Currently, I wear a couple of different hats. Primarily, I’m the clinical director of two private practices (The Blaine Block Institute for Voice Analysis and Rehabilitation in Dayton, OH as well as The Professional Voice Center of Greater Cincinnati in Cincinnati, OH). Happily, I’ve just finished my 20th year with these practices as a voice pathologist & singing voice specialist. I also hold an adjunct faculty position at Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music (teaching undergad vocal pedagogy, a doctoral level commercial vocal pedagogy class, and serve as a vocal wellness consultant for all of their students). A VERY small private voice studio rounds out my voice world.
TVF: Where did you complete your education/training in voice? Singing? Performing?
WL: BFA in Musical Theatre from Shenandoah Conservatory; M.A. & Ph.D. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Cincinnati.
TVF: What motivated you to dedicate yourself to the field of voice?
WL: As a professional singer since a very young age, I really wanted to marry the Art and Science of voice (and wasn’t sure I wanted to be a waitress the rest of my life!). Coming from a family of physical therapists and looking at Dr. Robert Sataloff’s recommendation for a performing arts medicine program, I was fortunate enough to be able to pursue this career with the help and support of many amazing mentors!
TVF: What comes to your mind as one of the most pressing issues in contemporary voice disorders? Do you think this is an international issue or specific to your country?
WL: The thing that most comes to mind is that singers/performers are often treated as commodities that can easily be replaced. The “patch them up and put them back out there” you see in the sports world seems to be a bit prevalent in the performing world sometimes as well.
TVF: Do you have research interest(s)?
WL: Belting (Musical theatre) and Commercial Voice stylisms.
TVF: Would you tell us in layman’s term, what your research is about?
WL: My research has been about “what gets hired” from a purely casting director standpoint, quantifying what those acoustic and physiological aspects are that make a singer hirable, and then working to train that desired/marketable quality(ies) in the most cost efficient, healthy way possible.
In what ways can your research be applied in the clinical field? Hopefully, bridging that gap between art and science (and production)….
TVF: Which vocal myth would you like to dispel?
WL: There are SO many…..perhaps the knowledge that laying on your back with a wool sock around your neck while drinking some version of a hot totty will not eliminate laryngitis.
TVF: Your most memorable voice case?
WL: Too many to name….perhaps one that has stuck with me most through the years was a very prominent physician who was dying of Parkinson’s Disease and his commitment to maintain his voice as long as he could. This was very early on and I remember wanting to do everything in my power to work as hard as he did to help him communicate. 20 years later, I still remember his name.
TVF: Do you have a vocal pet peeve?
WL: Glottal fry 24/7
TVF: As a voice pathologist/educator/researcher, what keeps you on your toes?
WL: My patients and private clients every day. Each day presents a new set of people with unique vocal instruments and challenges. I love working to figure out the puzzle.
TVF: What do you think the next steps are in growing the field of laryngology/Vocology?
WL: Continued interdisciplinary collaboration and the translational research from the lab to clinic to performance.
TVF: Who are your favorite singers?
WL: Barbara Streisand, Harry Connick, Jr., Christina Aguilera, and almost EVERY B’way singer (too many to name). Some of my current favorite B’way singers- Laura Benanti, Sutton Foster, Betsy Wolfe, Audra McDonald….Brian Stokes Mitchell, Brian D’Arcy James, Steven Pasquale…..
TVF: Can you tell us what defines safe “belting” for singing?
WL: Singing (regardless of genre) is certainly more “risky” than conversational speech. The best way I can describe “safe belting” is to make an analogy to athleticism. If you are sufficiently trained, conditioned, and physiologically suited to do backflips off a 6-inch balance-beam at the most elite level, you are still “at risk” for injury by the sheer nature of the athletic endeavor. But you are more likely to break body parts if you do not meet the criteria for doing those backflips in the first place. As belting is often done at the most heightened state of emotion, for the singer to be “safe” they must 1)know their own instruments and its current readiness for the vocal task at hand 2) be sufficiently trained to meet the physiologic and emotional demands and 3) recognize that what you do/vocal choice you make must be consistently repeatable in live performance. That takes practice, training, commitment that go well beyond the act of singing.
TVF: Why do you think so many people say that belting is not a safe way to sing? (which is not true).
WL: “safe” is relative to the singer’s capabilities, natural talent, training, and the use of amplification. There are a lot of vocal choices that occur in a recording studio that are not necessarily repeatable 8 shows a week without a bit of “vocal airbrushing”
TVF: Tell us about the book you authored with Marci Rosenberg. Who is the target audience?
WL: The Vocal Athlete (and the companion workbook) was written to fill a need to meet pedagogy for the 21st century vocal athlete. Although it focuses a lot on musical theater (as that is a passion of both Marci and me), we aimed to provide an evidence-based text that would be easily accessible to any singing wishing to broaden their knowledge of voice (specifically the non-classical singer)
For example: Is this specifically for Broadway singers?
TVF: What sparks “joy” for you as a person?
WL: First, being a mom (and wife). My boys make me smile & laugh every day!! My husband is also a musician and performing and music have always (and continue to) make me joyful.