Health Promotions in Schools of Music

2004 Conference | Sponsors | University of North Texas | Performing Arts Medical Association

Music Education Liaison

Hearing Health

Vocal Health
PreConference Report 1
Preconference Report 2
Postconference Report


Mental Health
Teacher Stresses


Post-Conference Response and Recommendations

Committee members Peggy Bennet, Elaine Bernstorf, John Flohr, Rhonda Fuelberth, Jody Kerchner, and Valerie Trollinger attended the conference in Ft. Worth, Texas. In response to presentations during the conference, the committee prepared an addendum report and recommendations as follows.

Effective and healthful vocal communication is important for people of all ages, and in the vocations and avocations in which voice is the primary sound source.  Given that most U.S. elementary school children experience music education classes and over 28 million U.S. citizens sing in choirs, music education can be a primary fountainhead for voice use and voice health education.

The committee recommends development of programs that promote general and vocal health for all, with an emphasis on programs for music educators.  The programs would include, but would not be limited to, a knowledge base and skills development in the areas of anatomy and physiology, research, best practices in teaching and performance, health risks, prevention and rehabilitation, and professional referral processes.  Through appropriate development of the knowledge base, and of skills development practices, it is felt that both music educators and health professionals can develop curricular content and teaching materials that promote vocal health in schools of music and in school music programs.  It is important that the following stakeholders be included in such programs:

  1. Undergraduate majors
  2. Vocal and instrumental music
  3. Elementary teacher candidates
  4. Practicing music educators
  5. General, Choral, Band, Orchestra
  6. Children in schools
  7. PK-12

The committee developed the following priorities for further discussion, research and development of teaching materials and best practices.

Priority One:  Serve Teachers in the Field

  1. Continue and expand
  2. Inservice offerings, health professional and presenter referral services, and links to programs that already provide science-based voice function and health education
  3. Regular access to voice function, development, and health information through professional music and educational organization publications
  4. Provide low cost multi-media curriculum materials
  5. Increase awareness of general and voice health risk factors
  6. Encourage multidisciplinary research on music educators’ health issues
  7. Partner with school administrators to find simple and elegant resolutions to the vocal health problems faced by all educators
  1. GOALS:

-    Retention of general and music educators in the profession
-    Breaking the cycle of voice health risks to educators and their students
            -    Training of music educators to become voice health educators for all other 
                  teachers and for their communities

Priority Two:  Teach the music education profession a set of practical strategies

  1. Develop and use verbal and nonverbal cues to instill healthy habits and reduce stress
  2. Use routines to eliminate unnecessary voice use
  3. Become familiar with empirical data in order to advocate with administrators
  4. Develop personal resource materials
  5. Consider classroom environmental factors and request changes to protect self and career
  6. Develop personal vocal health strategies and advocate for exceptions to problematic rules as needed (e.g., water in room)
  7. Develop a school district, school, and/or personal support team
  1.  GOALS:
  2. Retention of music educators in the profession
  3. Breaking the cycle of risk to music teacher vocal health
  4. Reduce incidence of diagnosed and treated voice disorders in the music education profession

Priority Three:  Prepare our future through child and early adolescent music education 

  1. Devise and disseminate voice education tasks that are developmentally appropriate
  2. Infuse voice function and health knowledge, and model healthy vocal function, in general music classes, children’s choirs, and junior high/middle school choirs
  3. Develop healthy speaking and singing skills in all children in all settings
  4. Cross train with fellow music educators, and mentor first-year teachers, to support each other in this work
  1. GOALS:
  2. Retention in music education throughout a student’s education
  3. Prevent the cycle of risk to vocal health in students
  4. Recruit new music educators from “connected” students


In an effort to prepare for the future, the committee developed a short list of important premises for Music Education in PK-12 schools.  These are presented in two sets of important premises, “Top 5” for teachers and “Top 5” for students as described below.

Top 5 for PK-12 Teachers

  1. Know implications of vocal anatomy and vocal capability development for curriculum
  2. Develop meta, proprioceptive, and auditory knowledge of own voice including efficiency and conditioning
  3. Demonstrate ability to model appropriately for speech, singing, and vocal health
  4. Recognize problematic vocal behaviors early in self and students and seek help when needed
  5. Engage children and adolescents in appropriate vocal activities, techniques, and repertoire for long-term vocal and musical expressiveness 

Top 5 for PK-12 Students

  1. Identify simple anatomy and physiology that relate to voices 
  2. Recognize healthy and unhealthy behaviors
  3. Know warning signs of unhealthy and/or deconditioned voice and how to seek help 
  4. Understand that imitating adult or cartoon voices frequently can be vocally harmful 
  5. Know which vocal habits can be harmful and which ones can be healthy and expressive

Action Plan for Promotion of Vocal Health in Schools of Music

Develop a Policy of Best Practice by the Profession

  1. Support research on vocal health in music education
  2. Increase awareness among all constituents
  3. Provide materials in accessible forms
  4. Advocate health to and with other educational agencies and arts disciplines
  5. Support members of the profession who have problems

Summary Statement

  1. It is the goal of the vocal health subcommittee to “Promote a culture of vocal health for all music educators and their students (vocal AND instrumental).”

Respectfully submitted,

Elaine Bernstorf, PhD, CCC-SLP
Vocal Health Committee Coordinator


The committee would like to include a public thank you to Dr. Kris Chesky, HPSM Organizers and Presenters, PAMA, MENC, NASM and all the wonderful financial Sponsors. We were honored to be involved in this conference and the projects being developed as a result of the conference interaction.