Associate Professor of Voice, Shenandoah Conservatory Artistic Director of the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute
Meghan Trainor is the most recent of several high profile performers who has had to cancel performances due to a vocal fold hemorrhage. Some voice teachers on social media were quick to blame her technique and suggest she needed “classical training” to prevent such a disaster in the future. More than likely, that is just NOT true. Most vocal fold injuries at the professional level are a result of insane performance demands, not poor technique.
Let us compare the demands of a classical singer to Meghan Trainor. Famed opera singer Jonas Kaufmann’s schedule consists of six performances in the month of July and seven in August, for a total of thirteen performances in four cities. That’s a pretty significant performance schedule for an opera singer. Trainor had fourteen dates in July, ten dates scheduled for August, and four for the first week of September for a total of twenty-eight performances in twenty-one cities. That is a significant difference!
When a performer such as Kaufmann gets sick, there is usually an understudy capable of stepping up and taking his place. When Trainor gets sick, it’s not so easy. If she cancels, there is NO ONE to take her place and there are A LOT of bills to pay and no ticket revenue to pay them. If a singer notices that they are losing their voice early in the afternoon on the day of a performance, it is already too late. The venue has been rented, advertising has been paid for, security staff have already been hired, stage crew members have already built the stage and hung the lights, and all of the support staff have already arrived and clocked-in. If the show is cancelled the artist still owes all of them their money AND the artist also has to provide refunds to those who bought tickets (Read a Washington Post article on the topic here).
Knowing all of this, performers often feel like they have no option but to go on with the show. No matter who you are, if you try to sing (or give a speech) through hoarseness, an upper-respiratory infection, or a cold, you are at risk for a vocal hemorrhage. That has NOTHING to do with technique. You could be the greatest vocal technician in the world and still get hurt. Meghan Trainor is not to blame, she is a vocal athlete and just as star quarterbacks sometimes get hurt, so do star singers. NO ONE should be shamed for getting a vocal injury. Does she need to see a laryngologist? Yes. Will she need to go through voice therapy? Yes. And there is nothing wrong with that. Should she have been under such extreme pressure to perform in the first place? Probably not. But we are not the producers or the investors, and neither we nor Meghan have much say over that. It’s just how the business works.