Honoring the Masters. Sharing the Journey.

Brad Story

Professor of Speech, Language, & Hearing sciences, Researcher

Introductory Video

Brad Story
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Biography

Brad Story, PhD, is Professor in the Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences and Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs in the College of Science at the University of Arizona. Dr. Story received his BS in Applied Physics from the University of Northern Iowa in 1987 and his PhD in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of Iowa in 1995. From 1987-1991, he was employed in industry as an engineer where he developed computational models and instrumentation systems for designing and measuring the performance of mufflers. Following his graduate work at the University of Iowa, Dr. Story worked as Research Scientist at the Wilbur James Gould Voice Center at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in Denver, Colorado.

Dr. Story’s research publications concern the mechanics, aerodynamics, and acoustics of speech production, as well as the perception of speech sounds with a specific focus on developing computational models that aid in understanding how the shapes, sizes, and movements of both the voice source components and the vocal tract contribute to the sounds of speech.

Dr. Story has served multiple terms as Associate Editor for the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, is a fellow of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), and recipient of the ASA’s Rossing Prize in Acoustics Education in 2016. Dr. Story was recognized by the American Speech Language and Hearing Association in 2013 with the Willard R. Zemlin Lecture Award, and by the University of Iowa in 2018 with a Distinguished Alum Award. His research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

Interview with
Brad Story

What would you consider to be the main focus of your career, or your “specialty”?

In a broad sense, my academic focus has been investigation of the physical mechanisms of human sound production. Toward this goal, I have focused on development of computational models of the vocal folds and vocal tract that serve as tools for studying speech and voice production, and to some degree, perception. These models have also served as useful tools for teaching speech and voice science in the classroom.

How did you discover your calling for your speciality? How did it start?

As I was growing up, I had a wide range of interests including music, theatre, radio, audio systems, athletics, and science and mathematics. I studied Physics as an undergraduate where I became interested in acoustics. At the time, there weren’t any direct paths to study or work in “acoustics” (at least none that I was aware of) but I was fortunate to be hired by a company that manufactured, among other things, mufflers for large trucks and construction equipment. It was there that I really learned acoustics from veteran engineers and a Professor of Physics who chose to take a sabbatical at this company while I was there. By chance one day in about 1989, I attended a seminar on new types of signal processing chips and one of the example applications was for speech synthesis – complete with a diagram of a vocal tract! This was really the moment that moved me toward a different path. After about 4 years of work with mufflers, I decided attend graduate school and found an ideal program at the University of Iowa. It was there that I began long-term collaboration with Dr. Ingo Titze, first as a Ph.D. student and then as a Scientist in the field.

What do you love the most about your work?

The experience of discovering something new through scientific exploration.

In your opinion, what qualities do you feel make an “excellent” Vocal Pedagogue?

As a teacher of speech and voice science, I try to create and tell clear stories about how voice and speech production works. I hope these stories motivate others to learn.

Can you speak to the importance of having mentors? How have mentors influenced your life/career? Can you tell us about some of your mentors?

Mentors are essential and I’ve been fortunate to have many, some that probably didn’t even realize they were “mentors”. One of the most important aspects of a mentor for a student is that they demonstrate a path toward becoming a professional. Student can observe how mentors conduct themselves, how they react to good things and bad things, how they treat others, and how they manage to get things done. I was fortunate have been one of Ingo Titze’s 15 doctoral students. With a background in physics and engineering much like Ingo’s, he quickly set me onto to learning the science, and art, of developing mathematical and computational models of the speech production system. He patiently helped me understand the wide variety of research that he was conducting, and also encouraged me to develop a new model of vocal fold vibration. In my experience and observation, Ingo motivated students primarily by sharing his own excitement about the next new thing that we might learn about how the voice works. His relentless enthusiasm was contagious (and still is).

Building Blocks – Questions About Ten Key Areas of Voice

When it comes to breathing, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Understanding the interplay of the respiratory system and the positioning of the vocal folds to optimize oscillation.

When it comes to the larynx, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Understanding the role of the cricothyroid and thyroarytenoid muscles in controlling vocal fold length and fundamental frequency can provide many insights into various types of vocal production.

When it comes to the vocal folds, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Understanding that vocal fold oscillation occurs when the tissue velocity is in phase with the intraglottal pressure, and that both the mucosal wave and the vocal tract inertance facilitate this condition.

When it comes to acoustics/resonance, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Any particular pattern of vocal tract resonances (which produce formants) is based on the entirety of the vocal tract configuration, not on a localized constriction or expansion.

When it comes to registration, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Learning about the role of the cricothyroid and thyroarytenoid muscles in controlling vocal fold length and fundamental frequency can also provide insights into registers.

When it comes to vocal health, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Knowing that the human sound production system operates with many degrees of freedom, consequently offering many “solutions” or possible ways in which a given sound can be generated. Some solutions are vocally healthy, some are not.

When it comes to style, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

I’ll defer to other experts.

When it comes to posture, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

I’ll defer to other experts.

When it comes to teaching methods or communicating complex ideas about singing, what are the most influential tips, insights or research findings that you would like to share with our audience?

Perhaps one of the difficulties in both learning and teaching about singing is that the product, that is, sound, is invisible physical energy produced by anatomical structures in motion that are mostly hidden from our view. Using the tools of science to visualize how the system works and the nature of the acoustic characteristics embedded in the sound allow us to simplify and better understand the underlying principles.

Final Thoughts (Words of Wisdom, Books, Resources)?

I hope that there is enthusiasm for understanding the science of voice, speech, and singing. I believe it opens new doors for expanding and enhancing artistic expression.

 

Please note that Brad Story is not affiliated with VocalPedagogy.com and we do not disclose contact information. We hope you enjoy the interview!
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