Certified Vocologist Brings New Teaching, Research Opportunities to Baylor’s Theatre Arts Programs
by Lexi Nitishin, student news writer, Baylor University Media and Public Relations
WACO, Texas (Oct. 26, 2021) – Baylor University is now home to one of a handful of undergraduate theatre programs whose faculty includes a certified vocologist. This certification brings a new level of educational rigor and professional preparedness to the students in Baylor’s Department of Theatre Arts.
Vocology is the study of the voice and focuses on the science and practice of voice habilitation. It is a complex field of study that merges the medical science and artistic practices of the voice, as well as pedagogy. With approximately 20 people certified each year, there are a limited number of vocologists around the world.
Lauren M. Weber, M.F.A., lecturer of musical theatre at Baylor, is a voice specialist focusing on contemporary commercial music and functional voice training. Her area of expertise is musical theatre, with an emphasis on the singing voice and related research in vocal health, function and pedagogy. She earned her Vocology Certificate from the National Center of Voice and Speech (NCVS) through the University of Utah, which is the only institution with a formal curriculum in vocology.
“It is a significant advantage for the Department of Theatre Arts to have a qualified NCVS-certified vocologist teaching musical theatre voice,” said DeAnna Toten Beard, Ph.D., professor of theatre history and chair of the Department of Theatre Arts.
“Professor Weber’s expertise means that our students are being trained in healthy, sustainable practices for a long career of vocal performance. Her ability to offer such specialized knowledge in the combined work of voice pedagogy, vocal performance and voice science could benefit not only singers but also preachers, lawyers, teachers and others who make their living through powerful speech,” Toten Beard said.
“Evidence-based, science-informed teaching”
Weber took three summers of rigorous coursework to complete her certification, which has prepared her for further in-depth research and teaching in the field of voice science.
“I work with students in the theatre department on singing healthily in various styles,” Weber said. “I believe everyone deserves evidence-based, science-informed teaching and that all styles of singing should be included and celebrated in this endeavor.”
While the number of vocologists is limited, the need and demand for these trained professionals continues to rise. Across the United States, vocalists seek out these highly qualified individuals to help rehabilitate or enhance their voices.
Vocology research opportunities
Weber said she is using expertise gained during her certification to work on interdisciplinary research with Kimberly Monzón, Ph.D., assistant professor of voice, as well as LesLee Funderburk, Ph.D., assistant professor in nutrition sciences, and Brittany Perrine, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders. This research group received a Baylor University Research Committee (URC) grant to study the effect of Omega-3 on the voice and is currently seeking outside funding.
In the Fall 2020 semester, they began a randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study on the possible effects of Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation on the voice.
After Monzón was awarded the Baylor URC grant, they began a second Omega-3 study in the Spring 2021 semester. The goal of the second Omega-3 study was to determine if use of an Omega-3 supplement in combination with a singer’s normal training regimen enhanced singing training adaptations and impacted body composition in young college students enrolled in applied voice instruction.
Seeking external grant funding supports Baylor’s aspirations as a Research-1 university, Weber said. If awarded this funding, they will expand the Omega-3 study to focus on professional voice users and add further explorations to the protocol, such as laryngoscopy and blood draws to examine inflammatory markers in collaboration with the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation at Baylor.
In addition to this research group, Weber and two of her colleagues, Monzón and Perrine, also started a longitudinal study of voice lessons on the voice range profile, which began Fall 2021, and will continue to collect data for at least four years.
ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 20,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 90 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.
ABOUT THE COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments in the sciences, humanities, fine arts and social sciences, as well as 10 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit baylor.edu/artsandsciences.