In the Limelight: The Voice Virtuoso She started out as a singer, but SLP Linda Carroll now helps others who rely on their voices to strengthen the tool of their trade. In the Limelight
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In the Limelight  |   February 01, 2014
In the Limelight: The Voice Virtuoso
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Speech, Voice & Prosodic Disorders / Speech, Voice & Prosody / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   February 01, 2014
In the Limelight: The Voice Virtuoso
The ASHA Leader, February 2014, Vol. 19, 22-23. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.19022014.22
The ASHA Leader, February 2014, Vol. 19, 22-23. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.19022014.22
Name:Linda Carroll
Position:Private practitioner, New York, N.Y.; senior voice scientist, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; research scientist, Montefiore Medical Center, New York, N.Y.
Hometown:New York, N.Y.
Imagine every time you listen to someone speak you find yourself diagnosing the person’s vocal cords. Much like proofreaders who have a field day catching errors on common items such as billboards or restaurant menus, speech-language pathologist Linda Carroll can detect vocal abuse or patterns by listening to a person talk. She’ll even predict how people will sound. Basically no one can walk by her or talk to her without this happening.
“Even when I go to a Broadway show, I’m not there to see the show— I’m going to see my patients and see how they are doing,” she says. “Then I track everyone else on stage because more often than not I’ll see them eventually.”
Known as the “voice chick” of New York City by the doctors who refer to her and the “voice magician” by her patients, Carroll treats not only Broadway performers but also teachers, actors and even attorneys— people in any position who use their voices for a living. Many times when a patient is referred to her, it’s because the person’s voice problem is “off the ordinary.”
Carroll can tell you all about your voice, what has affected it and what will make it better within 10 minutes of a conversation (this author, for example, needs to drink more water and work on her “right”s).
But it’s not just a neat party trick or a switch she can’t turn off—it’s her expertise and reputation that have provided the professional wherewithal that gets her invited to speak at events such as the American Voices symposium at The Kennedy Center this past November. Her message at this latest symposium? Why voice health is so important.
“Everyone’s voice takes abuse—diet, health and let’s not forget age,” she says. “One of the unanticipated side effects of longer life expectancies is that our voices are getting older, too .”
Carroll didn’t start out on a journey to become the “voice chick” of Manhattan, but rather began as a choir singer in a small town in southern Maine. She was the youngest child in a blended family of second marriages and step-siblings. Her mother and father were both musical—they introduced each of their children to singing in the local church choir and gave them a year each of voice and piano lessons. After a year they decided whether the child should pursue one of those skills.
For Linda it was singing. She began singing in choir starting at age 5 and taking private voice lessons in eighth grade. It was her calling. She attended the University of Maine as a music scholarship student where she studied classical voice performance and took classes in music education.
Then an unexpected opportunity came up. During her junior year, the state pageant association asked her mother if Carroll might compete to become the local Maine Dairy Princess. Her mother almost forgot to pass on the message, but when she did Carroll realized there was scholarship money involved. Now she was interested. “How much scholarship? What do I have to do?”
She won the pageant and became Maine Dairy Princess, went on to become Miss Maine and then, in 1978, found herself in the Miss America Pageant, using her soprano voice to sing contemporary Broadway standards. Although the pageant circuit started out as a way to pay for college, it had additional benefits.
“I got tremendous experience performing and public speaking,” Carroll says. “It was really interesting—when I got to the state level I had to always be on my game and track what I was saying. It gave me a tremendous amount of experience dealing with the public and always doing the right thing.”
Out of college and in the working world, Carroll began answering phones at an otolaryngologist’s office in Philadelphia in 1982. Her colleagues knew she was a vocal performer and technical singer and as there was no in-office SLP, the physician sometimes sent voice patients to her. She collected aerodynamic and acoustic data and began working closely with the local SLP. As she kept helping with voice rehab, she found that she had good instincts and enjoyed working with the patients, but didn’t really know what she was doing.
“As it turns out they were taking bets on how long it would take me to make the leap,” she says, laughing at the memory. She earned a master’s degree in speech-language pathology and a PhD in applied speech science at Columbia University. She is now senior voice scientist in the Division of Otolaryngology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and research scientist at Montefiore Medical Center. She has held faculty positions at many places, including New York University, The Actor’s Studio MFA Program and Pace University. She also sees patients privately and has earned the reputation of being the SLP to see if your voice is your job. All of this, and she still manages to perform live—mostly classical or semi-classical—about twice a year.
“Oh, I’d love to perform more and I miss it, but the reality is that there’s not enough room for it anymore,” she says. “But I love my job and my life and like knowing that my work is helping others keep their voices at performance level.”
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February 2014
Volume 19, Issue 2