The British Voice Association (BVA) is a multi-disciplinary community of singers, singing teachers and healthcare professionals with a united cause: to promote and encourage healthy voice use. As well as sharing the latest in voice research, it provides advice on vocal technique, performance and vocal health and hygiene. Craig Lees, a vocal coach, choir director, arranger and the new BVA president spoke to iSingmag’s editor Line Hilton.
When did you join the BVA and why?
I’ve been a member for seven years. I was at university when the then president, Kim Chandler, invited me to join. Over the past seven years I’ve had the chance to learn from so many incredible people, I want others to experience that too.
In an unregulated industry, where anybody can just say “I want to be a voice teacher”, it’s so important that people are open to sharing their knowledge with singers and voice coaches and pointing them towards best practice.
What are the main benefits of BVA membership?
The BVA is one of the largest voice science organisations in Europe and has been around in its current form since 1991. Due to the diversity of background of our membership (currently around 600), we can give our members a 360 view of the current things that are happening in voice. For us it’s about looking the whole picture: technique, pathology, breathing, sleep, nutrition, mindset. We disseminate this information through our regular training events, research and publications. The more understanding we – and by we, I mean everyone from singers to voice teachers to Speech and Language therapists and Ear, Nose and Throat specialists – have, the better.
The other important thing we do is provide advice on how to access NHS voice clinics for professional users. Most singers have no idea what to do when something goes wrong. When you’re a singer, your voice is you. When it isn’t working, you can panic. Where the BVA excels is being able to say, “Okay, let’s take your hand and point you towards all the different resources that can help you”. Without that support behind you, it’s easy to run around in circles. It might also be worth mentioning here about the range of freely downloadable vocal health leaflets that the BVA publishes for “World Voice Day” (April 16) each year.
Does the BVA advocate a specific singing method?
We’re not an accrediting body or an organisation that bestows weight on one particular teaching pedagogy or therapy technique. Our training events are oriented towards a research or evidence base where different approaches to singing (and speaking) are explored. We don’t say: “This is better than this.” We present the information and allow singers to decide for themselves what is best for them.
What do you want to achieve in your tenure as BVA president?
My main aim over the next couple of years is to create more awareness about what we do and our infrastructure and people. Communication is key. I want all singers to know that there is an abundance of information and expertise that they can draw on. Obviously, I’m talking about the BVA, but also other key organisations such as the British Association of Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) and Help Musicians UK.
I would also like to introduce more young people into the BVA and reach out to get new voices to join the organization, because they’re going to bring with them different perspectives, opinions and knowledge. The BVA has been so generous to me over the last seven years. I want others to experience the same generosity.
Does the BVA have any new initiatives on the horizon?
In rather big news, in 2020 the BVA are set to host our own dedicated, multidisciplinary voice conference. Choice for Voice 2020 will take place on the 4, 5 and 6 September 2020 at leading European Conservatoire, Leeds College of Music. The theme of the conference is to be Crossing Boundaries in Voice, with an emphasis on multidisciplinary and innovative approaches to health, performance, and research in the field of voice. In particular, we are keen to shine a light on research and practice that acknowledges the holistic nature of voice use, as well as those who draw upon other fields of practice in order to inform and enhance their own. Key areas for discussion include; physical and mental wellbeing for voice users, voice and the workplace, and crossing genre boundaries in pedagogy and performance.
The Call For Papers, workshops and presentations will open this week. People who are interested in taking part can learn more on our website.