BE HEARD! Voice for Parkinson’s is an all-level, integrative, holistic approach to vocal wellness and Parkinson’s Disease. It was founded as a pilot program in March 2016 by Kaitie Ty Warren, whose own father has Parkinson’s Disease. Already a yoga teacher and theater actor with many years of vocal training behind her, Kaitie Ty founded BE HEARD! as an experiment after two years of teaching yoga, John Argue’s Art of Movement for Parkinson’s, and community choir work that includes voice training for the singers.
Wanting to build a communal, engaging practice that targets the muscles used in healthy vocal projection, she created a one-hour flow class in the style of a seated yoga class, although the content is very different. The work of BE HEARD! Voice for Parkinson’s consists of a creative, eclectic blend, inspired by decades of Kaitie’s training in different areas.
Parkinson’s interrupts automatic motions – and nearly all components of everyday communication are automatic ones we learned long before we had cognitive applications. Consequently, people with Parkinson’s (hereafter “PwP”) need to re-learn the system, anatomically and in detail, for how communication actually works. Communication is not just about clear, loud words – although that’s certainly important. Body language, cadence, response time and facial expression all contribute. Some studies attribute over 90% of communication to the non-verbal aspects of interaction. Communication breaks down when the content, tone, and/or facial expression don’t match, or don’t reach the other person. Seamless communication requires mindful organization of all of these.
BE HEARD! Voice for Parkinson’s covers:
How It Works:
BE HEARD! on Thursdays is an all-levels class; it is designed for people to do individual work in a group setting. Like a seated yoga class, there is a flow: warm up, exercise, and a cool down at the end. Students are encouraged to take a moment to check in with themselves and their bodies before beginning class, and at the end. In between, they engage with one another.
In class, games are played, songs are sung, balls are thrown, and faces are stretched and played with. Different weeks focus on different topics – loudness, diction, animation, resonance and more – but the format remains. The students practice remembering what it feels like to be in community by using theatrical cue games and improvisation games to pick up their reflexes, response time, and integration of how to get someone’s attention with whatever they have to say. The class always contains laughter, spontaneity, and lots of breath.
In the past year, an offshoot of the class began, for students who wanted to take the work a level further. This class is Applying the BE HEARD! Skills: Discussion Group which meets on Tuesdays. It consists of students who have done the original BE HEARD! work and have enough consistent voice (and hearing) to hold a group conversation reliably and want to explore how to take the exercises into longer talks. In this class, warmups are done and there is a closing ritual, but in between might be a variety of things, often guided by the students’ interest. Kaitie facilitates making sure that all students get a chance to practice both talking and listening, as the group focuses on a chosen topic for the day. In this way, students are able to share parts of themselves with the group, and remember that sharing who we are is a key part of why we communicate in the first place. One student remarked that the desire to communicate with his fellow classmates – whose company he enjoys – is a great motivator for him to keep working on voice.
Indeed, in both classes, this structured community works to combat isolation and restore a sense of belonging.