Recently Linda Ronstadt told the world that she had Parkinson’s disease saying “I can’t sing at all…I can’t sing a note”
It must be devastating for a professional singer to feel that they have lost something so personal and defining.
How does Parkinson’s affect the voice?
Parkinson’s is a disease that affects the motor system so it affects the voice. Many muscles are involved in the process of singing an speaking so of course the voice will be impacted.
1) Decreased volume
3) A breathy quality
5) imprecise articulation.
As a professional singer myself, reading this list, if I had these symptoms, speaking let alone singing would be almost impossible.
But is this true? Are all parkinson’s patients doomed to a future of silence? Is singing and the benefits of singing for a Parkinson’s patient the same as a professional singer trying to reach high technical standards in order to make a living from singing. I would argue not. The value of singing is not the same. For some people with Parkinson’s, singing is exactly what they need. By using singing as a tool, some Parkinson sufferers can improve the quality of the breath, which is turn helps with volume and hoarseness. The concentration that a professional singer would work with consonants in order to project to the back of a theatre, will benefit a Parkinson’s suffer in order to articulate a sentence and still have their voice heard. After all, Parkinson’s patients still have something to say and if singing helps them express this, how can it not be a good thing.
For a professional singer such as Linda Ronstadt, being diagnosed with Parkinson’s must be devastating and I wish her well with her journey and treatment. But for non professional singers, the benefits are enormous and voices that diminish with the disease, can still be heard.