This week’s guest is Megan Durham.
Our guest this week on A Voice and Beyond, is Megan Durham who currently serves on the voice faculty at the University of Louisville. Megan works as a Singing Voice Specialist, partnering with laryngologists (ENTs) and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) to habilitate singers, actors, and professional voice users who have experienced vocal injuries. Megan uses an integrative approach to vocal wellness that cultivates mind-body-voice awareness for maintaining authentic communication.
She explains that by cultivating mindfulness, self-inquiry, and an emphasis on observation rather than correction, this collaborative work provides an approach to voice care that empowers individuals to more clearly identify their voice and its innate creative agency. She uses several different modalities which includes yoga, to help establish composure in times of anxiety, depression and trauma, through breath, physical postures, mudra, and sound. Megan further explains her trauma informed approaches to teaching voice, what it means to be trauma informed, the impact of trauma on our singing bodies, how to create a feeling of safety for our students, and the ways in which we can successfully set boundaries within our teaching voice studios.
This a most fascinating, interesting and not be missed interview with Megan Durham.
In this episode
1:15 – Introduction
11:22 – Megan’s journey of self-discovery
16:52 – How yoga and pilates changed her voice
32:37 – What is involved with being a singing voice specialist
51:09 – What is trauma-informed
1:09:44 – The importance of self-care in creating safe spaces
1:18:03 – What Megan is working on next
Find Megan online
NEW CCM BOOK
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith is excited to announce the release of her new book “Singing Contemporary Commercial Music Styles: A Pedagogical Framework” published by Compton Publications UK. Marisa offers this book as a starting point and as CCM markets continue to evolve, she encourages that we, as a voice community, continue to evolve, debate and communally add to this framework.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 00:00
Hi it’s Marissa Lee here, and I’m so excited to be sharing today’s interview round episode with you. In these episodes, our brilliant lineup of guests will include healthcare practitioners, voice educators, and other professionals who will share their stories, knowledge and experiences within their specialised fields to empower you to live your best life. Whether you’re a member of the voice, community, or beyond your voice is your unique gift. It’s time now to share your gift with others develop a positive mindset and become the best and most authentic version of yourself to create greater impact. Ultimately, you can take charge, it’s time for you to live your best life. It’s time now for a voice and beyond. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode. Our guest this week on a voice and beyond is Meghan Durham, who currently serves on the voice faculty at the University of Louisville. Meghan works as a singing voice specialist partnering with laryngologist and speech language pathologists to debilitate singers, actors and professional voice users who have experienced vocal injuries. Mega news is an integrative approach to vocal wellness that cultivates Mind Body voice awareness for maintaining authentic communication. She explains that by cultivating mindfulness, self inquiry, and an emphasis on observation rather than correction. This collaborative work provides an approach to voice care that empowers individuals to more clearly identify their voice and its innate creative agency. She uses several different modalities, which includes yoga, which helps to establish composure in times of anxiety, depression and trauma, through the use of breath, physical postures, mudra and sound. Meghan further explains her trauma informed approaches to teaching voice, what it means to be trauma informed the impact of trauma on our singing bodies, how to create a feeling of safety for our students, and the ways in which we can successfully set boundaries within our voice teaching studios. This is a most fascinating and interesting interview with Meghan Durham, and I love to hanging out with her. So without further ado, let’s go to today’s episode
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 03:28
Welcome to a Voice Megan Durham . I’m so excited to have you here. I’ve been looking forward to this interview. How are you
Megan Durham 03:37
I’m doing really well, it is it is evening here. I’ve got two kiddos for any other caretakers out there who sort of have multiple parts. So I’m part mom and now I’ve got my sort of teacher adult hat on maybe I’m not sure. Some days it’s I have no idea what adds on.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 03:56
That’s part of adult teen and parenthood and all of that. And it’s almost like it sneaks up on you. You feel like you’re 16 and then tomorrow you’re already a parent and you go Where did all that time go? You know, they say time flies when you’re having fun and I go Dang, I don’t remember having that much of a good time. Anyway, Megan, you’re currently serving on the boys faculty at the University of Louisville Lewisville or do you say Louisville?
Megan Durham 04:35
You know it’s hotly debated debated but here we say Louisville, low level.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 04:43
I don’t have either of those. I didn’t have that in my vocabulary. Why don’t you and your work as a singing voice specialist is collaborating with medical professionals to habilitated singers. who have experienced vocal injury? So I would love for you to tell us about your journey and your background. What was your own vocal journey?
Megan Durham 05:12
Yeah, thank you so much for asking. And I’ll kind of meme, just from the beginning, I’m so thrilled to be here. And then there’s a part of me that’s feeling a little bit nervous for anybody listening, who is perhaps also like me, who doesn’t often share details of their life. And I’m quite honoured to have a space because I think sharing story is so sacred, and I’m great. I’m so grateful for the space that you provide and grateful to anyone listening to receive a little bit of my story. So, you know, I like most folks that you know, back in college, I did not set out to really be where I am today. I think it was a really nonlinear journey. I will probably say that a lot. Skip this interview, but particularly regarding trauma informed work that really grew out of my own way to reconnect with my identity personally. And then a lot of the tools that certainly we can talk about today, I’ve gathered I sort of like a hunter gatherer or sponge, again, as so many of us as pedagogues are the tools that I gathered along the way that were first and foremost things that I found useful and supportive in my own body, and my own experience. And just I will I won’t go into too much of my personal psychological and trauma history. But I will say a couple of things. I haven’t fully integrated our process, some of the more personal things that have drawn me to this work as of as a singer, and I certainly don’t mean to be cryptic or withholding with that. No, but but I will share a couple of things. The first thing is I’m adopted. And I think like so many adoptees, my first experience of the world was loss. And I think it despite having grown up in a tremendously wonderful and loving family, I think it’s hard to describe or quantify how that kind of initial separation can impact your life. And so often when I reflect on things like perfectionism, let’s say, or, or things that that separate me from, from whatever I perceive my self, my true self to be, a lot of it comes down to this feeling of an inability to differentiate between I am a mistake, and I can make mistakes. Well, so I think for me, a lot of my fundamental stuff kind of comes down to that. And the other thing that I’ll name and perhaps this resonates with any anyone listening today, i The other thing that’s been really formative for me is that I am BRCA positive. So sometimes it’s called braca. Two. What that is, is it’s the genetic mutation for early onset breast cancer. So my biological mother and grandmother both died in their early 20s, early 30s of breast cancer, and I do not know them being adopted, but in 2013, I had a prophylactic bilateral double mastectomy. And then more recently, this December I had an oophorectomy which is where they take people are usually familiar with the hysterectomy, but they left the uterus. So I have they they take the ovaries and the tubes. So I am 38. And I’m on hormone replacement. And I want to name it really clearly, I’ve never had cancer, and I am so privileged to have access to care and resource set to access health, health insurance and health care, particularly here in the US. So those two things, I think, have been sort of primitive, as I said in in sort of why I think I’m led to to this work.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 08:45
Yes. Because that in itself is so traumatic. I would say. Can I ask you, though, what drew you to go and be checked for that for that gene? That yeah,
Megan Durham 09:00
it’s a good question. I did. It’s a bit of a wild story that’s actually continuing continuing to unfold, which is I am a little bit I won’t go into too many details. But sure, I will say it was pretty wild. So my foster mother, it was a closed adoption, but my foster mother knew who the family was and open the paper one day and saw an obituary. And that sparked the memory. And she said, I cannot reach out. And she was she was a social worker. And so that’s how I found out and it was it was relatively random and quite fortunate. So So because we knew the family has we knew that my biological grandmother had passed of cancer. So when we found this out, and this was 20 years ago, we I immediately got tested. And I think the thing that for me is important to me, not to take us too far away from that but more More importantly than like the details of my story. Is I have absolutely struggled with potentially overwhelming circumstances with illness with grief, with anxiety, depression, and in every possible traumatic, potentially traumatic event in my life, I’ve had access to care. I have so greatly benefited from privilege for those of you that are listening and can’t see me. So I’m a white sis white head sis woman of immense privilege. I’m here in the United States. And I, I think about access, for example, to genetic testing, which can be prohibitively expensive, I think about cancer death rates, particularly among bipoc communities. Also, the trans community, particularly here in the US is under constant attack around access to hormone therapy and gender affirming care and life setting like life saving medical treatment. So I think one of the biggest reasons I’m drawn to this work is because someone gave me support. And if it’s possible at all, for me to reciprocate that I feel led to try. And there’s always like this boat fan with this though, because I really try to be aware of saviour ism, again, with my privilege that I’m really not here to save. I’m not here to save singing bodies, right? I’m not here to be someone’s therapist that’s out of my scope of practice. And I can, in my humanity in this sort of really messy way, try as best I can to share connection with those who might be in need.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 11:22
What an incredible story. You know, and thank you so much for sharing that.
Megan Durham 11:30
Oh, it’s a pleasure. And I hope Yeah, for anyone that I’m you know, go if you have access, or we can get you access to screening, go get a screen.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 11:39
Wow. Yeah. Cool. I need a moment myself. Oh, Megan, you’ve been through so much. You know, and, and for someone who wasn’t going to share, you certainly shared so much of yourself and you didn’t have to, you know, and that’s you being your authentic self, but also knowing your boundaries and saying, okay, in my authenticity, I’m prepared to share this much. But I’m also not prepared to share the rest of of that. So thank you. Let’s take this back to singing. Because this is all going to tie in. I was going to ask you had you been through something yourself that led you on this journey to studying and training all these auxilary things that you’ve trained in? These? You’ve studied so many different ideologies and philosophies? This training is like absolutely so eclectic. There’s things like movement for trauma, creative body practitioner, lifeforce yoga, yoga voice, archetypal. Cymatics. I mean, there’s just so much. So what as a singer? Do did you find that what you were going through? And that journey you were on as a human? Was that impacting your voice? And did that lead you to do this training? Or was that you did the training and then you found that it helped your singing?
Megan Durham 13:21
Huh? That’s juicy. Oh, it’s, it’s like you interview interview people for for for a job. It’s like you have a podcast.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 13:33
I mean, I’m just naturally curious. I want to know, stories. Because I think in our community, it’s so important to realise that everyone has a story to share. We are all human beings, in this, at times, highly academic community that at times begets that there is a person and there is a human, and our behaviours are human like.
Megan Durham 14:05
Yes, I love it. That’s such a great question. I mean, I’m gonna probably pull the pull the both end, as I will probably do many times.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 14:14
That’s so fine. I think
Megan Durham 14:17
this might be a little circuitous here. But I think where my mind goes is I came to yoga, yoga has saved me many times. And I came to it out of curiosity, I wouldn’t say that I came to it completely willingly at first, for many reasons. Yes, maybe I’ll maybe I’ll try. But I think what I was really struggling with and I wonder again, I think maybe a lot of us particularly in music spaces struggle with this is that I was constantly looking for someone outside of my body to tell me what was going on in my body. And, and I want to be clear, cuz I’m also like, actually a huge fan of external validation. Like, I think we need like I kind of guilty. Yeah, and accountability, that sort of pen in hand like, we need that because so as I dive in with this, I wonder, like really like highlight, you know, by my feelings about that too. But I think I think I was constantly particularly right after graduate school, that’s really when I, my, my body journey really started taking flight. And I, I was constantly looking for for a teacher, or a master teacher, a master clinician, a master, a yoga guru, or, you know, someone to tell me what I needed to do. And I think a lot of that stems from binary pattern thinking. So when we have been in periods of intense stress, and whether that’s chronic stress, or in fact, PTSD, we are not given time and agency to make choices about how to respond. So our bodies are going to respond for us instinctually. And then sometimes after that event passes, we may become kind of locked in safety seeking patterns, measuring any circumstance or any person on a safe or unsafe binary, like this person is safe, this person is not safe. And then sometimes that leads into like decision making like this is a good decision or a bad decision, or this is pure or impure, this is on pitch. This is not on pitch. This is good singing, this is bad singing. So everything becomes kind of lumped into a category I and in order in order to like perpetuate that, which is really a very highly perfectionistic way to go. I think we’re constantly seeking out these experts to help us find more of the whatever we perceive the right answer to be. So then perfectionism is sort of synonymous with answer seeking so wildly. I think that’s where I was my my headspace was was very much in that binary patterning after graduate school. And then when I sort of fell into yoga, and when I fell into some of these body modalities, it was curiosity. But But I started to see that there was nuance, I started to see that I was multiple, I started to see that my voice was vast, that I could hold multiple truths at my body, if my body can be two things, if my body can be both kind of inflexible, and also look at this thing, this skill that I’m able to do that I couldn’t do last week, if I’m able to see that there is change in there a shift in my body, maybe there’s also change in shift in my voice as well. But mostly how I think about my voice and my conscious and unconscious patterns are around my observation of myself and how I treat myself the language that I use in my in my, in my dialogue. So anyway, just to kind of bring that back. I’m not I think it was a really both and experienced with all of these modalities. And I think I’m continuing to learn it. And a part of it is I just love learning. Like, I think like, you’re like so many of us out there. It’s like, Yeah, well, I just can’t I can’t wait to see what’s behind door number 17.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 18:06
Yes, yes. I’m such a curious person. Definitely. That’s why I do this podcast, I think, tends to like feed my curious curiosity about people. So what’s really interesting about this whole yoga thing, I have to share my little yoga story. I’ve only done it a couple of times. And both times I’ve cried like a baby. Yeah. And so I won’t go any more. I’m so embarrassed that I cry. And then a part of me thinks I don’t pay someone to make me. I’m not going to that class. I’m paying money. And all I do was cry and look for being back again.
Megan Durham 18:52
Yeah, yeah. No, I very, very real and certainly not every modality is is is right, and I celebrate your choice to say no, celebrating. No is one of my favourite things.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 19:05
Yes. And I think I’m getting better at that. I went and did Pilates this morning, and I’m on a high from Pilates. That doesn’t make me cry. So I choose a Pilates yoga. So I’m interested to know though, how was all this stuff you were going through? And how did it affect your voice? And did the yoga make changes to your voice? Was there a change?
Megan Durham 19:37
Taking a moment to kind of re situate myself that that fate of my vocal distress I would say it was in graduate school but so I haven’t really low voice them alone. So I wouldn’t say necessarily contralto but we’re born. We’re borderline. We like it. We like it down here. And so it was a bit of a confusing voice part. I think for a lot of folks that heard it. I have Have a richness and they would say, oh, that’s, that’s really rich. And you say, Oh great, and but then you make it richer. So you’ve killed the Lillian and sort of you end up with this kind of thing. And there was a lot of tension there. But I think when I hit when I hit grad school was was really when the shoulds started with my voice should be higher, my voice shouldn’t be more agile, I should have all these things. And I remember distinctly it was like, I had a vise grip. I mean, it was like, someone was just holding tension, incredible amounts of tension. And this was way before I really knew anything about injury. And I really hate to I don’t want to label it or diagnose it or anything, but something that I might say, akin to muscle tension dysphonia, which is a bit of a catch all diagnosis, but I had an extraordinarily I had an extraordinary amount of tension. And at the time, I don’t really know how much of it was was stress and how much of it was skill, I think it was all of the above, right. So when I, I’ll tell you though, it’s interesting. Yoga was incredibly empowering for some other reasons is certainly vocally but I think I would go beyond that and say, yoga modality taught me how to be in my body in a way that singing actually felt distanced from, I wasn’t enjoying this the singing experience in my body, I wasn’t enjoying singing as a pleasurable event. And I will mean when I’m talking about yoga, again, as someone who is white body, the yogic lineage is, anytime I suppose want to talk about it, I think it’s important to name appropriation and how the West particularly has sort of CO opted, you’ll get tradition. And so it is part of my personal values as as best I can to honour the roots of that practice as a sacred tradition. And the chant of yoga was actually really healing that the chant components of yoga voice I certainly I’ll name a mark militaire No, and his wonderful work with yoga voice, but but the sacred roots of own and, and using sound as a way as a vehicle to to sense into my body was really new and really different, because I hadn’t been introduced to sound in that way before. And it’s interesting that you mentioned yoga as being like a really overwhelming experience, which truly singing can be as well. And for sometimes a similar reason. One of the things we talked a lot about in some informed yoga, and I’ll also name trauma sensitive mindfulness modalities is this idea of interoception. So when we are interoceptive, ly aware, it’s just being aware of things happening inside the body. So I feel hungry, I feel my heartbeat, I feel my breath, I feel sound, I feel whatever it is, we can name. But sometimes that sensation of interoception is incredibly overwhelming. We’ve all kind of had the experience of I just can’t go there right now. I can’t think another thought I can’t have another sensation. I’m a mom of two very small children. So like, warming the depths of my internal life isn’t always what I want to do. And so I think sometimes when we invite folks into embodiment spaces, whether that’s a singing space, or whether that’s a yogic space, or any kind of movement space, being able to offer an invitation of being embodied, however, that feels accessible in the moment, and even when I use the word embodied, like what do we mean by that anybody has a body is a body, we don’t have to go to Hawaii and save up pay, you know, $5,000 on a retreat to be a body, like I have an elbow Oh, I’m, I think, again, often in wellness spaces. That idea gets really lofty, but I think it’s so important to remember that embodiment is whatever kind of access is available to us at any given time at any moment. And sometimes breathing is not accessible, sometimes moving with our breath. And creating sound is not what is needed in that moment. And that is also to be celebrated. So again, I’m on a little bit of a path here, but but I just wanted to like really honour your experience. Thank you with that, because I think that’s a really I think it’s so so real. Such a real experience.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 24:15
Yeah. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. So what I’m hearing from you, and maybe you haven’t thought about this, but you talked about perfectionism before, this idea of perfectionism, this binary system, when you’re thinking where something’s wrong or right, it sounds beautiful or not, it is correct or not. So it’s this constant. feeling judged whether that’s coming from within you, you judging yourself, or someone else judging you. And then you find yourself in the yoga studio, and you’re creating this sound and you feel liberated. Do you think perhaps it’s because there is no judgement in that? And the voice is 100% free? And it’s not wrong. And it’s not right. It’s not beautiful or not. It’s it’s not all this self criticism, or this external criticism, all of a sudden, it is your sound to own no matter what that sound is.
Megan Durham 25:30
Yes, I do. I think that’s so beautifully said, I don’t know that I have much to add other than I’m doing. I’m doing hands here. And I think being able to choose like, I can choose what pitch to come on. And I don’t even I can change pitch, I can bend the pitch there. If there’s like no pitch, there’s, I can have any number of vocal characteristics in the sound, I can make it breathy, I can make it doll I can make it really bright. I can, you know, there’s no way there’s no way except whatever I choose. And I think at first that can be very scary, when we’ve never had choice. And all of a sudden that’s introduced, that in itself, I think is very overwhelming because not having to choose and not having that it can can in some ways be a safety scaffolding of allowing someone else to choose for us. So
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 26:20
yes. And imagine if we as teachers let go of all those shackles. As teachers, we have a student in front of us, we let go of that master apprentice, that binary system of teaching. And we allow for that playfulness. And that liberation of voice within our studios. What an impact that has on our students. And isn’t that student centred learning, essentially? I mean, I do that within my own teaching studio where I allow for playfulness I allow for exploration. I always say to my students, there’s no wrong or right here, let’s just see what happens. Let’s just give this a go. And, and the other thing is, like, how many of our students look at us and they go, was that, okay? And I always say to my students, no, no, it’s not about me, this is your story to share your story to tell. So you tell me what felt really good in that moment? And what do you feel you were challenged by in that moment? This is you it Don’t look for me, at me for the answers here. What do you think? So I mean, that that kind of philosophy you’re talking about through yoga, I think is an amazing philosophy for us to have as teachers. Yes. And what what has shaped your teaching philosophy the most out of everything that you’ve done? What is your teaching philosophy? And what has had the greatest influence over it?
Megan Durham 28:07
Oh, Mercy. That’s, uh, gosh, I don’t know that. There’s any one thing and I mean, I know that you had a brilliant guest, because he’s a good friend of mine on a couple episodes ago, Dr. Travis Sherwood.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 28:19
Oh, I have a crush. My Crush. So
Megan Durham 28:23
Travis and I so I’ve had, I have had so many wonderful teachers in my life, and I honour them. Gosh, I feel like every time I sing a note or play, play a key or hear someone sing a song. There’s something that a teacher has said to me that lives through that that tone. But we’ve Travis and I both studied with Marvin Kenzi at Westminster choir college. And one of the things that Marvin always said was information is only useful if it sparks your imagination. Oh, and that was such a gift to me. I Marvin knit my soul back together and a really tough time. And but I think, I think so that was the kernel that for me and and I also knew I had a really brilliant teacher at the University of Richmond, Virginia for cable who was really instrumental in this as well for me. He let it be okay that I was different. And it wasn’t even okay, it was celebrated. It was It wasn’t Oh, you’ve got your voices. Oh, you’ve got a really interesting voice. That’s, that’s, you know, it wasn’t it was what a celebratory thing. I’m so glad it’s the My maiden name was Smith and he used to I used to walk in the studio. He said, It’s the Smith sound coming into the studio, you know, he just had this. He just had this way of inviting you in but honouring your dignity as a human not just a singer but as a human. And this idea of dignity really stuck with me because and that’s not a word that he used, but it’s just that’s how I felt walking into that space that brother for one of the first times particularly in grad school that I that I felt that and I think I’ve done some unpacking of that word and my own in my own pedagogy in my life. And there’s this whole idea particularly put forth by Audra Lord. Dignity is honouring difference. And and this idea that it’s not our differences that divide us, but our inability to recognise them and to honour them. And I think I’m going back to Travis, because I know he he’s done. He does such stellar work. Yes, it’s important, because on the master apprentice, and I’ll even throw it, you know, I the brilliant work of your previous guests, Matt Edwards and his wife, Jackie, Oh, yes. And kind of dismantling all of this as well. But I think when we can start to honour differences and bodies and voices in cultures, and that our yes might be someone else’s, like no way, I think we’re able to offer choices in the studio, like in the first place. Because I think when we can’t fundamentally see that my yes might not be someone else’s. Yes, I mean, we’re really talking about consent. But but that is sort of the seed for me of building, hopefully a culture of co creation in the studio space. Something else, though, that Travis, I know really helped me to frame was that this western classical voice lineage has such a long history of like, non consensual pedagogy. So, so is that master apprentice model often operates under this, like model of assumed deficiency. So like, we assume that the point of walking in a voice lesson is to somehow walk out different, and that that is really necessary, like I need to somehow be changed? And like, what message is our body constantly receiving when we’re when we’re always trying to optimise or change our fixed parts of ourselves. And this is why yoga was so different for me. And I know, there’s so many other modalities that offer this as well, which is, there was an immediate assumed model of wholeness in the space that the teacher was offering to me. Interesting, I wasn’t there to fix anything. There really wasn’t a goal except to practice. And so I just I, that really led me to down a path of curiosity about the voice spaces that we cultivate, and what if we could we could create models of assumed wholeness. And, you know, wholeness is a little interesting word. You know, everybody has different words that they might use there. But so there you go, that that was a little Yeah, more than I.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 32:37
Sorry, my brain ticks away. When my guests are talking, my brain is going tick, tick, tick. And when you use the word different, or difference, my brain was going, I would actually like to substitute that word for you, EAC and uniqueness. How wonderful wouldn’t be if we all celebrated everyone’s uniqueness. Because different to me, still sounds like this slightly different. You know, if some thing and you go, and someone says, Okay, did you like that? I’m not sure it was different. Yeah, yeah. But to celebrate everyone’s uniqueness and build on that, use that as a foundation, and not try to, to create generic sounds, or slot voices into this binary system. And the other thing was this idea of practice, and this idea of fixing my idea when a student leaves so my goal when a student leaves my teaching space, is for them to feel better about themselves. And when they first arrived, if they do that, even if their singing hasn’t improved in that lesson, for whatever reason, but they leave feeling better about themselves as a human being I go, I’ve done my job because the voice can create that feeling of feeling better about yourself. Absolutely. Even if I haven’t made the most beautiful sounds, but the fact they’ve been heard, and they’ve used that voice and it’s brought them joy. I go, I’ve done my job. Yeah. So I think there’s so many ways we can look at all of this isn’t there. Now we’re going to move off this subject, okay, because we can sit on this book all day, you and I feel we’re bad together in a really good way. Let’s talk about your studio voice specialist work. So you’re currently serving on the voice faculty at the university level. will reveal. I think I said it right that time through. Yeah, I know. Right? Which means that you collaborate with medical professionals to habilitated singers who have experienced vocal injury. So tell us about that work. But let’s start with what does a singing voice specialist work involve? And how is that different to a speech language pathologist?
Megan Durham 35:27
Yeah, it’s a great question. Um, you know, you’ll ask probably five singing voice specialist and you’ll get five potentially different answers. So there’s an auto regulating body for being a singing voice specialist. And that that is slowly evolved, evolving and Opava is creating a vocal what is it called cover registered psychologist? I know there’s a there’s a programme and a couple of programmes in the US that have popped up or training in this when I when I first got interested in vocal habilitation. It was again around around graduate school. And at that time, there wasn’t as much focus on critical sway. There weren’t as many programmes as there are now for receiving sort of additional training in working with singers that had experienced injury. So So very often the path is you’ll have a speech pathologist who perhaps also has a degree in singing. And they will they will work with voices. I do not have a speech pathology background. So my training was with Dr. Karen Wicklund, who for several years had a wonderful programme, where she would take those of us that actually had only singing backgrounds, and gave us specialised training and an extra skill to interface with medical, the medical community. Her philosophy being we are offering a voice lesson. We’re not offering therapy, we’re not giving them necessarily rehabilitation, we’re not giving them a sort of new skill, we’re not in a way we are. But the semantics of it are can be a little bit tricky when you’re working with this. But the idea is we’re a habit annotating rather than rehabilitating in a sort of a therapeutic sense. We’re not offering that. So it is sort of a specialised way of working with singing voices in communication with a medical team. Even though I’m not offering any kind of diagnosis I am in relationship often with the e and t, or the the speech pathologist. So I work with a team here in town, and I get referrals that way. So folks come to my home or I see them over zoom. So I’m informed by what the medical team tells tells me but then it’s more using tools like for example, stroke donation, of course, the soft T V, I have a bit of a background in sort of some massage technique for for voice disorder just well, Fritz is just a wonderful, but yeah, really brilliant practitioner of our all sort of WordPress.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 37:59
We’ve had him on this show. Everyone go back, don’t just listen to Travis Sherwood go back and listen to Walt to
Megan Durham 38:08
just really tremendous. So I feel like I’ve been a sponge not only for teachers and folks that have shared their knowledge with habilitation. But also certainly using tools from yoga to manage muscle tension and to manage things like one of the things actually I see quite often is the folks that have been diagnosed with a voice injury that then also have sort of some underlying stress, particularly depression and anxiety, either around their voice hair situation or something that potentially in their life has led to having a voice disorder because there’s actually a lot of really interesting research about the impact of childhood trauma and adult voice disorder. My friend and colleague, Elisa Monti is doing some really fascinating research there. I won’t speak more to that, because that’s not my area of expertise. But the intersection of how our mental health impacts voice is so vast and so huge, and frankly, really hard to study because there’s so many things that intersect when we have mental health and then our psychology, our physiology, our nervous system, right. So there’s so many intersecting systems, not to mention the ethics involved of sort of studying trauma survivors. So it’s a very sticky field, but it’s an up and coming. Yeah, so a lot of the folks I certainly use a traditional I would, I would say sort of traditional forms of when someone is diagnosed with something that is either hyper functioning or hypo functioning. Again, we have sort of these tactics that that we can use, but I also use things that are perhaps not as traditional. For example, one of the things that I have learned in using movement for trauma is that when we’ve experienced stress typically chronic stress, breath can become incredibly inaccessible, the diaphragm may not yes immobilise as It would if we were in a more easeful state. And so asking that singer to breathe deeply for exam, they may actually exacerbate the situation because there is a survival response. So they’re actually you’re trying to support their survival response, which is to run. And so it breath is actually not something that I talk about a lot. I mean, it certainly if someone wants to talk about it, we can, but I have found movement and dance party dance, but we have a lot of dance party in our spaces, because
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 40:28
I love dance party. Yeah, who doesn’t and moving
Megan Durham 40:31
bilaterally, particularly side to side movement can be really impactful for allowing breath to sort of come back into a state of balance or a state of whatever your baseline is, is maybe a better word on its own. So yeah, I think there’s a lot there.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 40:48
I have questions around that. I just want to get in my head, the flow of how people come to you. So generally, they are referred to you. So I know for example, here that there are n T’s and LPS who do their work with their clients, be it singers or not
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 41:13
a vocal pathology. And it comes to a point where they’ve done their job. And if it’s a singer, then it’s getting them back into. Okay, we’ve done all the work we need now need to get you back into some sort of singing teacher who is going to help you in that next phase of your journey is that the kind of clients so it could be yes, someone to that has had surgery for nodules, polyps, who maybe has had vocal folds swelling. So all different types of things that there have been to see a medical practitioner, and you’re kind of the last person. Let’s just say for want of a better term in the food chain. You’re the last to assist. Dessert. Yeah. Hey, wait, we make great dessert, we’d be like chocolate mousse, or cream caramel, or beautiful sorbet. So is that how what you the kind of thing that happens?
Megan Durham 42:24
Yes, exactly. And then sometimes those folks continue to study with me. And then sometimes those folks have a teacher and they might only come to see me for a couple of sessions. I love working collaboratively with teachers. I think that’s really quite fun, too, because I learned so much in the process, too. So it’s such a cool, creative way to go about providing care for someone.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 42:44
Yeah. And just one question with your singers. This is a sneaky question. I’m popping in here. With singers who have had some kind of vocal injury. Do pathologies discriminate between genres? So do you see a higher incidence between classical voice singers, musical theatre singers or CCM singers?
Megan Durham 43:11
Not in my experience.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 43:13
Thank you. That was all I wanted to hear. We can move on.
Megan Durham 43:21
Actually, if I could, what I do think is is also part of that is and this is a little bit of a tangent, but what do we mean by vocal health? What do we mean by health? I think that’s a really important, okay, thing to consider
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 43:37
efficiency. Great. And
Megan Durham 43:39
I kind of even mean philosophically, like, this is something I think about too, like who has access, I think sometimes we can throw around words particularly, there’s no nuance on social media. I mean, like, we’re all on it, and we’re all like, well, you know, it’s a little bit sticky, but I think it’s so important to acknowledge that even having an en t even being able to access SLP care to have funds to go see a singing teacher requires a privilege and again, I think this sort of idea of like of like vocal health which is everywhere right now which is so important. And also 10 can feel reserved for for the view in some cases so and also it’s such a nuanced conversation around like what is healthy like, you know, what, what’s going on what I’m doing money by air quotes, or you know what sounds healthy and it’s so easy again in that master apprentice model to make assumptions about what healthier beautiful sounds like so anyway, that’s all we can we can move that but I’m always I’m always curious about those those bigger philosophical conversations when we’re talking about these things.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 44:48
All Yes. I love those conversations. I’m, I’m probably a bit of a stir when it comes. I like to say
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 44:59
that But that’s, that’s okay, someone’s got to. So I’m guessing then that your job then as a habilitated is to change habit create new habits and pathways to healthier vocal production.
Megan Durham 45:15
I love that idea of pathway. And I would say I would say yes. And also like really honouring what’s there? I think what I’ve learned and a lot of this comes from my background in working with in trauma informed care is like, can we honour a goal that someone has, at the same time that we’re honouring potentially the pain that is happening right now, particularly if it’s a situation that is not going to improve quickly, things like just working with somebody to the day with spasmodic dysphonia is a tough one, or just, you have someone with multiple situations, chronic pain is something else that I’ll mean, where the goal of this session is not always to feel good, or to make an improvement, kind of like you were saying earlier that sometimes just being able to be with someone in discomfort, and just sit there for even if it’s just for a moment, and do we have tools to help help them meet that? And then maybe to move it a little bit, maybe toward maybe not toward good, maybe toward neutral? And what does that look like? And that’s going to look certainly different for every everybody, of course, but being able to just sit in that which can feel I think for the practitioner, in my view, and this is sort of where the again, the trauma informed work comes in. It’s not so much when I’m really offering that person, it’s actually being with my own shit. In that moment. Yeah. And being with that impulse to change something or fix something, or oh, why don’t we try this? And sometimes just my presence, you know, might be the only thing that I’m able to offer? Yes. And that,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 46:52
yes, I have that. Within my own teaching practice, where sometimes our students don’t want us to come up with all the answers and to necessarily fix and repair and mend them. Yeah, they just want to be heard. And it’s Yeah, and I think we can just sit and take a moment. And listen, we don’t have to take it on board. We don’t have to make comment other than to acknowledge Yeah, and then make a decision. Is this a problem? Or not? Do we refer out or not? Is this within my, my, my teaching boundaries, or not? So I love what your your work really ties in with that body mind voice approach, because at the end of the day, our whole body is the instrument, we can’t separate the psyche, from what is going on within our bodies, and especially our voices, and even that simple phrase all choked up with emotion. That says it all people, doesn’t it. So our teaching community right at the moment, and if you go on any of the forums, everyone’s spraying everywhere on those forums about this science informed pedagogy, which I think is great. You know, I’m not I’m not boo hooing it. But do you feel and this is this can be just your personal opinion, doesn’t have to be from evidence based place. It can be just you as a person and what you observe and the work that you do. Do you feel that all this emphasis on acoustics and science and evidence based teaching is dehumanising? A singer, where we forget that behind every voice lays a human being with a mind and the heart and emotions and a psyche?
Megan Durham 49:11
I think I think again, I’ll go to the both and and I think so. For me, again, just in my own I’m reflecting kind of in my own body, my journey with this because because I think and I’m true to this land with any any listener. So I was really lucky to study with Scott McCoy at Westminster. So I am not a brain that that processes acoustic science. particularly well.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 49:41
I’m the dumbest at it. I am so dumb at it, but I aren’t that I that doesn’t make me a bad teacher.
Megan Durham 49:50
No, no, no. And I remember sitting in as as a grad student where you know, I mean, I was overwhelmed by everything at that time, but I was like, God, I have no idea what’s going on but I Love it. And I was I was a sponge, but I’m not sure what I’m, I’m not sure what this is that I’m soaking up here, but but I’m going with it. And so so I’m gonna name that part of my personal feeling toward evidence base modality is that I recognise that my brain has a really hard time I get confused really easily with with some of the language and part of that’s just how I work. That’s how I work.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 50:30
I’m laughing because you’re talking about me and
Megan Durham 50:34
the Baudin is, I would not be the teacher that I am without having folks like Scott McCoy. And without having these amazing I love science. But the reason I love science is because I like experimenting. And I actually view myself as a scientist, even though I’m really bad with data, I asked my husband, if you like about my, you know, receipts and taxes, I’m kind of a mess. And I. So numbers are always tricky. And I’m always grateful for people whose brains really operate in that way. Because I can learn from that. And I think sometimes, I think sometimes an overemphasis on what we can prove can negate people’s lived experience, particularly when the thing that is evidence base, for whatever reason is not, quote, unquote, working in the moment. And my experience with this is directly with working with folks that have experienced trauma. Sometimes folks will come to me, I can think of several off the top of my head who professional singers, they know what the evidence based pedagogy is, they know what a softy is they can recite to you, you know, pressure flow, you know all the things, but for whatever reason, it’s not, it’s not landing in their body, and their brain needs a new pathway. And so what do we do when the straw foundation? Isn’t the thing that is needed in that in that moment? It can be a real, we’re gonna throw some spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks. And so yeah, I mean, I think it’s a real both. And I really do because I’m so grateful for expertise. But I think this whole idea of being an expert, like no one is the expert of, of my body, but me, no one is the expert of my students body. But that student I don’t even like my student of the students body, but the student. And so I think sometimes too, information is used is sort of can be weaponized, I think of like worship of the written word. So one of the things I’m really interested in is how whites were going to take a bit of a big turn here, but yes, how white how white supremacy and sort of the characteristics of white supremacy and dominance impact systems, and things like urgency, things like paternalism, things like worship of the written word. And I would sort of I would sort of include, I hate to say sort of evidence in that, but But I do think that sometimes we’ve become so wedded to what can be proven that there’s very little room for narrative and for sacred story. And even again, I’m speaking as a white body, but for indigenous knowing as well, and sort of these cultural knowings that we don’t have evidence for, but clearly are incredibly impactful for the bodies that we were working with. So I think it’s really nuanced. I’m not sure that I have more to say than that. But I think it’s an incredibly important topic to explore.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 53:37
That is amazing. And I I have never heard anyone express it in that way. And it’s so important to acknowledge that, you know, what did you What was that term that you used? I don’t want to use the term race, but our culture in all of this.
Megan Durham 53:57
Yes, white supremacy, culture is something particularly the United States, but you know, we have from really something that we’re grappling with. So interesting
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 54:07
to hear it put that way. And it’s like, I’ve never had anyone express it in that way before. Let’s dig deeper into this trauma informed teaching. What is trauma informed approaches? Like? What is what is trauma informed? What is it? And yeah, how does that apply? In the boy studio? And are we talking about vocal trauma or emotional trauma or both? That’s a lot of questions. Sorry.
Megan Durham 54:41
Yeah. So I’ll back up and say, first of all, what is trauma so we can again, be here for a long time. I want to acknowledge first and foremost, my experience with this, but also my imperfection with this. I am not a mental health care provider. And so and this is a really important framework for being trauma informed. So being strong It informed. Gosh, I wish I could remember the author behind this quote, This is not my quote, I can get it to you in to include but trauma informed is not trauma specific. So trauma informed care is not trauma specific care. So one of the ways that I think about that is I’m in more of a habit of sharing practices than swapping stories. So story stories are very sacred, you know, if someone shares something with me in confidence that, you know, that’s, that’s certainly, again, very sacred. And then here in the United States, particularly if you work for a university, we have title nine and mandatory recording where if someone shares today with me, I might have to report that right so so I, but usually, I really have no idea what someone’s carrying with them, I really have no idea about the story. But I can observe the body that I’m working with and through the context of voice work through through this session that we’re in together, I might have a practice maybe a movement, perhaps a breath, perhaps a way of thinking about sound that I can offer to that singing body in the moment. I can get little bit more detailed with that in a moment. But just to kind of back up. There are so many definitions of trauma, certainly we think of a traumatic event is one that is life threatening causes intense fear and jeopardises physical and emotional safety. And that results in PTSD. Something else that I think is really important to name is that not everything that is difficult is traumatic.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 56:32
Yes. I think the word gets thrown around a lot. It does. I know I can tend to be a little dramatic. If I spill something on a white dresser. Oh my gosh, I’m so traumatised. I mean, we overuse it.
Megan Durham 56:48
Yeah, and the word trigger, you know, too, is another one that gets kind of tossed around. There’s another great sort of framing. If there’s a resource that I could name outright with this, it would be resin a mannequin, I can give you the name for the notes if you’d like but resin a mannequin, this book is a couple but my grandmother’s hands, it’s just a really brilliant resource on trauma, how trauma impacts bodies. And there’s a portion of the book where he unpacks this idea that trauma can be anything that we experience as too much too soon or too fast, sort of it so it’s not the event itself. It’s when we’re unable to move through our process or metabolise the emotional and physical intensity, that result right, or we’re not given agency or access to resources that allow us to do that.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 57:37
So it’s almost like our response.
Megan Durham 57:40
Yes, which is totally instinctual, it’s out of our control, there’s no, there’s there’s no way that we could have gone back and made and made a different choice. So I think when we’re unable to make choices about our bodies, choices about our voices, often that’s when trauma can occur. And it can also be interpersonal, and intergenerational. So there’s this whole study of how trauma can be inherited, the study of epigenetics and certain cultural so a lot of my work considers how like voice culture and we kind of unpacked all this previously, but sort of voice culture specifically Eurocentric colonial white body supremacy, ideals of beauty and health and ability impact singing bodies. So if we were to be really specific about trauma informed care, the CDC those sort of Centres for Disease Control here in the US has sort of six guiding principles for what trauma informed means. They are safety, trust, choice, empowerment, peer support, and cultural competency. I would sort of say that yes, cultural competency and honouring honouring identity is actually at the centre of all of those not just its own separate thing. So it’s how we can integrate these into voice work. Another way to think about it actually, I think it’s also really helpful over four hours. So we think realise, so realising that, yes, trauma is impacting folks that we work with, in fact, my colleague I mentioned, Elisa has found that it is more likely that someone walking into a voice session or a clinical session has experienced childhood abuse than that they’re left handed. So and we know this, because I mean, we work with bodies and they tell us their stories. And we’re, you know, yeah, we live in a world that has incredible systemic oppression and violence. Yes, so So realising that this is real Secondly, recognising the signs which that’s a little bit tricky, because we really don’t we might not have any idea what those signs might be in a person but there are some sort of there are some things that we might be able to to recognise numbness change, you know, some sort of drastic changes in personality. Again, I’m not a therapist, so I don’t want to know too much to those. The third one is responding. So using just compassionate practices to respond to what’s happening in this space, and then resisting, resisting re traumatising as much as we can. So those are sort of some principles that we can sort of weave into our work. Again, it’s not healing folks that are not offering that kind of therapeutic intervention, even though certainly music in and of itself is absolutely a healing vehicle. But I as a practitioner, am not offering myself as a healer in that in that way. And for me, that’s, that’s a really important boundary is the scope of practice. That’s the music facilitating anything like that. It’s not it’s not meat.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:00:41
Yes. This raises two questions. One is, there are those teachers who say, I just want to teach singing, I don’t want to be bothered with any of all any of this. And then, of course, we are boys, teachers, we’re not therapists. So how far should we go? How open minded? Should we be with all this stuff? And what is our duty of care with all of this as voice teachers? And what? What constitutes a boundary violation between therapist and voice teacher? When it comes to trauma?
Megan Durham 1:01:22
Yeah, gosh, you know, I think I think first of all, it can be really messy. I don’t know that there. That’s why I think a lot of people are like, hands off, because it’s very messy. I think sometimes there are situations where we’re not clear what the boundary is. This is where I’ll start. In my experience, being trauma informed is actually less what I’m offering to someone else. It is first and foremost, how am I being in my bar? Do I know what no feels like in my body? Because if I don’t, I might have a really hard time offering no as a choice. And I might have a really, really hard time receiving no, from a student. So for me, the first place to start with all of this, particularly around boundaries is what are my boundaries before I even like go about, like offering them in a space. It’s and sometimes this is called neuroception. In some therapeutic spaces, it’s sometimes called threat detection, just like what it’s sort of this like, unconscious feeling the spidey sense, right, that we get in our bodies when it is safe enough to connect with someone or it’s like, whoa, whoa, whoa, like this for an idea. Even like, at like, like, you know, you put a piece of, you know, atonal music in front of me and say, sight read my body says, Oh, my God, I look at a spectrogram. And my body says, Oh, I don’t know about that. Right. So So it’s that feeling in our body and actually just curious when I when I set that. Is there a place in your body that you know, like, Oh, that’s my know. For some people. It’s like the chest tightening. For other people. It’s the jaw. For some people. It’s the gut clenching. Do you? Do you know where that is for you? Well, I,
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:03:14
I really want to laugh right now. Because a lot of the time the word know comes out before I’ve even had a chance to stop it. I’m one of those people. That I think my reflex is just to verbalise what I’m thinking or feeling before. I’ve even had to stop the words. That’s wonderful. Yeah, but it’s not always. But it’s almost like I just go now.
Megan Durham 1:03:50
Yes. So I’m curious. I’m curious. What about the word maybe?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:03:57
If it’s a maybe I usually don’t say anything. And I take a moment to process
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:04:03
Yeah, maybe it’s like a placeholder. Yeah. And and sometimes that scares my students. Because they immediately go to, it must have been bad or Oh, my gosh, what she’s thinking can’t be good. Isn’t it interesting. Beings, how our aren’t stuff their own baggage influences the way that we think, because I had this happen on Friday, where I just sat there.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:04:36
I mean, I don’t even realise I’m doing this stuff. It’s just me like a goat. Not yet. Not like usually, but if I just go, the student was like, Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. That was really bad. I’m going no, I’m actually just thinking about how to put this into words because that was really amazing, but I want to be able to do Have you watched what I experienced just felt so amazing. But you need to know why I experienced this amazingness and why it felt so good for me is the person that was listening to it. Yeah. So. So my, or Yeah, I just need to process but a no when it’s a straight out no, the word just comes out before I’ve even had a chance to like filter. Which I’m still
Megan Durham 1:05:27
some work. Yeah, no, I mean, I think I think just knowing, just knowing that, I think is so much. So there’s another word kind of a longer I feel like I’m rambling. But I think that I think it to kind of your question. So one of the things, there’s a couple words that come up a lot in this work around the these these ideas of boundaries. And the first word that I’m going to name is safety. Because safety, I think is often like, where our brain goes to when we’re thinking about trying to create an inclusive space or whatever trauma informed space. And certainly in the CDC guidelines, you know, safety is the first one, the problem was safety is that it is a felt sensation. It’s not something we think like I don’t think I’m safe, I feel that I’m safe. And and so what feels safe for me could be incredibly dangerous to someone else. Yes. So safety is not something that we can assume that we offer. It might be creating safety for me or like sometimes I’ll say like a safe enough space. Because sometimes it because things like consent are not always black and white. Sometimes our head is saying no, when our body is saying yes, and then vice versa. And sometimes it felt like a yes, today and then tomorrow, it feels like a no, it’s very fluid. And we have to check in with those boundaries constantly. So because safety is not something again, particularly someone who inhabits a white heads his body, I cannot assume that I can offer safety to the folks coming into my space. The other word that comes into play a lot is this idea of CO regulation. So co regulation is an idea in therapy, therapeutic circles, but it’s also something I think we can borrow, as always practitioners, where we are creating a space where my nervous system, and my students nervous system feel safe enough to connect, that we are creating environments, where in relationship. And that’s key, I cannot say my space is CO regulatory. Because inherently it has to be created mutually. I can’t do that myself. And so if I can be in the habit, and I want to stress like I’m not great, I’m drawn to a lot of this work because it’s really hard for me so and I so so if I can create a space where I’m like, You know what something is in my body is telling me no, I don’t know why. Or maybe I don’t know why. But I’m just going to be aware that there’s a no coming up for me and my body or there’s a navy or there’s a puzzler there’s like a hell yes. Coming up in my body. Right, very likely, that is being mirrored right? That is that is somehow even if they’re not picking up the entire story about it, there might be a way that I’m you know, giving off an energy or you know, having mirror neuron and whatever you want to say. So if I’m not aware of my know, that can create some really interesting relational dynamic around boundary and about story sharing. Now, there are absolutely times although it doesn’t happen often where I might have to say to someone, you know, I want to support you the best way that I can. And I don’t know that I have the resources to do that. I might need to then have a conversation about if we’re in a collegiate setting, the Counselling Centre, certainly if there’s been a reported situation, and I and I have to be a mandatory reporter, we have that situation. If I’m in my private studio, maybe we have a conversation around another kind of care that might be supportive. I’ll also name that sometimes, you know, people say so I just tell them to get a therapist. And that can be really dicey, too, because often people have not had positive experiences. And I thought that would be don’t get me wrong, but it’s a very nuanced conversation. And so sometimes I might say, is there some kind of support coming to your mind that might be beneficial? And so really asking more questions than we give answers, particularly if we’re getting a no in our body and we’re just not sure how to proceed. Sometimes just naming that, you know, I’m not sure how I can support you today. Is there something coming up for you that that we could kind of think through together and absolutely referring out when it’s not our scope?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:09:44
Yeah. Yes, yes. Usually when we work in institutions, they are very clear on the kinds of things that we have to refer out and, and there are particular protocols and procedures in place. So for all that to happen, when you talked about safety, that was a different issue to the no situation. Because I feel like if I feel unsafe, or something starts to constitute a boundary violation for me, then I start to feel uncomfortable in my own body, my gut will fire up first I get a gut feeling that this is not going to be good. And then I start to feel agitated.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:10:32
And that’s how I know. And then I have to figure out the best way for myself to get out of that situation, whether to shut down, if it’s a conversation, how to exit the room.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:10:46
But all of that I believe, takes awareness for ourselves for our own safety. But then when it comes to our students, one thing that kept coming up for me when you were speaking, is that we really and truly have to do the work on ourselves. And when we’re trying to create a safe space for our students, and we don’t know what that is, and we don’t know how safe it is. But I think the more work we do on ourselves, the safer that space becomes. Because we are more aware, we’re more in tune. We know what our biases are, and we go okay, is this a bias? Or, you know, do I have to shut that down, because that is my own bias creeping in here. We know what our limitations are. We know our own boundaries, but we can’t support our students. If we don’t know ourselves, then it’s even how can we be kind and empathetic towards others, if we don’t have that empathy, that compassion and that kindness for ourselves. And that is something that I feel takes daily work an effort, and it’s at the start of the day, before you even step into a teaching studio, having a practice before you go to work, that puts you in that mind, space, that headspace that you and your best is different every day. But turning up is your best self for that day. Because we all have stuff that goes on and being kind and going you know what today isn’t as good as, I don’t feel as good as what I did yesterday, but that’s alright, you know, but I’m still gonna do my best based on what I have to offer today. And then acknowledging that owning that and then taking a breath going to the voice studio. And it’s also knowing when we need to debrief. So there’s a lot of self care involved in this. What do you do for your self care? And do you feel that we need to debrief at the end of the day? In some way?
Megan Durham 1:13:05
That’s such a Yeah, I love the word debrief. I think a lot of my self care is actually about accountability. And I have a circle of folks that that I can go to and I sort of unload you know, as we all sort of do, but also just for reflection, like is there something I could have done differently? Not in a way to shame you know, what I did in the moment, but just to say upon reflection, is there something else that I can do to create a different outcome or or to to get different feedback, right so for me accountability circle is really important dance party. I mean, I will say it like I have right before we before we logged on, I one of my favourites is stayin alive by the Bee Gees, I was like getting down. And you know, I have found dance to be really liberating and a way to reset my body nourishing food. And I love coffee, you know, so So I have actually right now I have something really cosy and my dog isn’t my feet. And so just trying to find things that orient you to the present moment, as best as they can. And I’ll need to like, gosh, there’s so many things coming up around the idea of self care and like, which I celebrate. And sometimes in mental health spaces, we get really concerned about making everybody calm, and like down regulating. And I think this comes up a lot in talking about trauma informed care, too, and just trying to make sure everybody calms down. And and I think like, the first thing I think about is like, but artistry requires activation. Like it requires a sense of mobility, that sympathetic nervous system, which is not just fight or flight. It’s giving us all kinds of really beautiful, brilliant vitality. And so one of the things that I think is important to me working with folks that have experienced PTSD is how can we create access to curiosity and access to vibrant To see and vitality and stimulation without it becoming overwhelming, because so often at first and kind of I don’t, I don’t want to make any assumptions about your experience in the yoga class, but because you use that as such a great example, like sometimes we go into spaces and our bodies are live for whatever reason, like, I don’t know about this space, right? Because there’s an intense feeling of over or under activity going on in the body. And so a lot of my work around practices with Boese, is it’s not helpful, we get them call, it’s not how can I get rid of my performance anxiety? It’s how can I actually learn both as a teacher and in sharing space with students to widen my capacity to be uncomfortable? How can I widen my capacity to be a little bit in discomfort so that I can create so that I can be more curious, because we have not taken more information we cannot learn when we are in chronic states of stress, and certainly PTSD, or C, PTSD is PTSD, we cannot learn because certainly our body is just trying to survive. And so so much of my work is actually not again, it’s not about the trauma. It’s about really accessing pleasure, and helping folks to not bypass that really painful situation that they find themselves in, and also sort of like that both. And on one hand, I’m holding that and then I’m also holding, is there room for being curious? Is there room for messy playfulness to emerge from this
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:16:34
love that Heidi moss would love that? Yeah. I would love what just what Megan just said, then she loves playful curiosity about that all the time. We’re going to start wrapping up. Meghan, this is an amazing discussion. I just love what you’ve been speaking about, and what you’ve been sharing. And I really appreciate how candid you’ve been about your own story. You know, that was that was a big piece of you that you shared with our listeners, what is the greatest piece of advice you would like to share with our singing voice community? Gosh,
Megan Durham 1:17:16
Well, aside from that wonderful my little quote from Marvin about information, sparking curiosity, I think the thing that you often come back to is showing up in a studio space. Sometimes we show up thinking I’m here to teach. And what if we showed up with simply I’m here, I’m here to be a human. And sometimes that small reframe for me, again, is a way to settle any expectation or any perfectionism or anything, the litany of things we’ve just named today. Just I’m here.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:17:55
I love that. I love that. Yeah, I could use that. That’s so cool. What are you working on next?
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:18:04
Because you’ve got respire wellness, that’s your brand. That’s where people can find you. On the web. If they look up respire wellness, they’ll come to your work. Is there anything specific that you’re working on? At the moment that you’re going to be putting out? Courses programmes, so
Megan Durham 1:18:22
yes, thank you for asking. So there’s always something cooking over on the site right now is speaking of perfectionism, a good friend of mine, Christina Kent, who is a brilliant voice teacher in Canada and mindfulness teacher, we’re putting together a series on perfectionism. So if you’re looking for a community, to just sit with some of these ideas, we are trying to create that also, I’m a board, a board member and education director for the voice and trauma research and connection group. So we are a up and coming nonprofit to raise money for for, for research around the intersection of voice and trauma as well as providing education. So we have several zoom meetings with incredible practitioners and folks, so please, please come join us. Come find us.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:19:10
Amazing. Well, we’re gonna wrap it up here, Megan. It’s been amazing. It’s such a privilege having you on the show. I appreciate you.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:19:19
I appreciate everything that you’ve shared with our listeners and with me today. I feel like well, you know, you use the word privilege. I am certainly in a privileged situation, sitting in a room with some of you amazing guests. And people can find you through the links in the show notes. You have such amazing information and knowledge to share with the work that you do. I think it’s going to benefit everybody in even if you don’t see it for what it is just look at it with an open mind and open heart and it will be life changing for your studio work. So Megan, thank you again and good luck with everything in the future and look forward to connecting again. Thank you.
Megan Durham 1:20:07
Thank you so much for us. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Dr Marisa Lee Naismith 1:20:09
Thank you. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of a voice and beyond. I hope you enjoyed it as now is an important time for you to invest in your own self care, personal growth, and education. Use every day as an opportunity to learn and to grow so you can show up feeling empowered and ready to live your best life. If you know someone who will also be inspired by this episode, please be sure to copy and paste the link and share it with them. Or share it on social media and use the hashtag a voice and beyond. I promise you I am committed to bringing you more inspiration and conversations just like this one every week. And if you would like to help me please rate and review this podcast and cheer me on by clicking the subscribe button on Apple podcast right now. I would also love to know what it is that you most enjoyed about this episode and what was your biggest takeaway? Please take care and I look forward to your company next time on the next episode have a voice and beyond