PHOTO: JEN SQUIRES VOCALS Lydia Persaud is a Toronto-based vocalist with a BA in Jazz Performance from Humber College. Her active involvement in the Canadian music scene has led to her work with The O’Pears and Dwayne Gretzky, as well as the release of her debut solo EP, Low Light, earlier this year. www.lydiapersaud.com. By Lydia Persaud Accepting the Obstacles M y journey through music began when I was a very young girl. I have vague memories of performing for my parents at the age of five, and I recall the satisfaction that I felt from their excitement and support. My enjoyment for singing and performing is something that my parents had attributed to my con- fidence as a child – confidence that had undoubtably developed from many years of singing at church. I performed through grades one to eight, partaking in talent shows and choirs. I was accepted into the vocal program at Mayfield Second- ary School, located just outside my hometown of Brampton, ON. My time at Mayfield felt like a musical awakening. I fell in love with musical theatre and I started singing soul, jazz, classical, and R&B. I had many performances and remember belting for hours followed by uncontrol- lable laughter from hanging out with my friends. While I was growing musically, I was also figuring out what type of instrument I was working with. My choir directors used to joke that if I stood outside our choir room during rehearsal, they would still be able to hear me. I had a very resonant voice but was undoubtably over-singing most of the time. After high school I was accepted into Humber College’s Jazz Perfor- mance program and realized that this was the perfect musical foundation for me to establish while continuing to perform the music that I loved. I dove into my courses and I joined a working soul band during my first year. When I wasn’t singing, I continued talking and laughing loudly. Looking back, I realize how I was overusing my voice in every way. Identifying Obstacles & Finding a Workaround I have a very vivid memory of preparing myself for a performance of Pink Floyd’s “Great Gig in the Sky.” It was hours before the performance and I was running through the song in a practice room. I was shouting to hit the high notes, and I was pushing harder and harder to sing. After the performance, my throat felt strange. I booked an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist later to find out that I had a soft vocal node on the left side of my vocal chords. The only thing that I knew about vocal nodes was to avoid them like the plague or else my career would be deemed over, but here I was, 21 years old with vocal nodes. I slipped into a deep depression and began questioning all of the stages that it took for me to get to where I was. I tried to rest my voice 32 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N and back out of commitments, but the workload was heavy and the emotional load was even heavier. While realizing my improper vocal ten- dencies, I was also made aware that my speaking voice needed attention. I enrolled into speech pathology therapy at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. I was undergoing therapy alongside smokers, thyroid cancer survivors, and a slew of others who were recovering from vocal damage. I continued my therapy while completing my studies at Humber, and was eventually told that I had yet another growth on my chords, this time on my right side. I was devastated. I thought I had dealt with these issues. Where were the youthful chords that I used to have? Why were they so weak? Why wasn’t my voice doing what I wanted it to do? Why did life bring me here only then to realize that singing might not be the right path for me? So many questions and they all felt like dead ends. A friend of mine had mentioned an opera singer/educator by the name of Kyra Millan. Kyra’s years of opera training made her speaking and singing voice incredibly strong and resonant, and I was desperate for her guidance. My first lesson with Kyra consisted of many defeated tears. She could see that I had been struggling for years and that I was in need of direction. To this day, Kyra continues to be a big part of my vocal development. The Takeaway The honesty of this story is that my journey of managing my vocal issues is still something that I deal with on a daily basis. Improving my tech- nique through warming up before performances, supportive breathing, connection to resonance, physical tension release, healthy living, and countless other maintenance tips have become a part of my lifestyle. To this day, I continue to sing a lot; however, I have become so much more aware of what my body and my mind can handle, and above all, I have learned to be gentle with myself both physically and mentally. As vocalists, we are athletes. Our voices get tired as we train and run marathons, and like athletes, it should come as no surprise when a part of our body is injured from being overworked. I am a big advocate for keeping an open dialogue between vocalists and musicians alike who struggle with performance-related injuries. If we continue to share our honest experiences, we will realize that we all struggle in our own ways, which will inevitably bring us together and encourage support within the community.