Honoring the Masters. Sharing the Journey.

Marci Rosenberg

Singer, Clinical Singing Voice Specialist, Speech Pathologist, Author

Biography

Marci Rosenberg, BM, MS CCC-SLP, is a singer, speech pathologist, and clinical singing voice specialist. An active performer in her earlier years, Marci completed her degree in vocal performance at Peabody Conservatory before entering the field of Speech-Language Pathology. She has worked clinically for over 22 years at The University of Michigan Vocal Health Center, specializing in the rehabilitation of injured voices. Additionally, she serves as the on-site vocal health consultant to the Department of Musical Theatre at the University of Michigan. 

Marci teaches workshops and lectures nationally and internationally on a wide array of topics, including vocal fitness, the application of SOVTs to voice training, managing vocal injuries and rehabilitation in elite singers, the application of kinesiology and motor learning principles to voice training, and healthy belting.

She is co-author of The Vocal Athlete and The Vocal Athlete- Application and Technique for the Hybrid Singer, just released in its 3rd Edition. She has research publications and is a featured author in several voice pedagogy books. Marci is a guest faculty member at The New CCM Summer Pedagogy Institute in Shenandoah. She was an integral part of the development of the PAVA-RV and is among the first cohort to receive the PAVA-RV distinction. Marci Chairs the PAVA Symposium Oversight Committee and was recently elected to serve again as Vice President of the Pan-American Vocology Association. In addition to her clinical practice, her varied clients include performers, executives, and teachers spanning the Boardroom, Broadway stage, and everything in between. 

Website: marci-rosenberg.com
Contact: vocalathlete@gmail.com

Interview with
Marci Rosenberg

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

I am a licensed speech pathologist and a clinical singing voice specialist. I spend a good portion of my time in an out-patient clinical setting rehabilitating injured voices with a micro-focus on professional voice and singing. A bit different from a more traditional voice studio setting, in my private consulting practice I see clients/students (no vocal fold pathology) for a shorter period to help get them back on track from whatever technical challenge they are experiencing. This can range from re-conditioning after hiatus, cross-training genres, helping re-organize poor biomechanics, or singer 911 sessions where I help professional performers with acute vocal health concerns and connect them with the appropriate voice care team in their location. At times, the student’s voice teacher has referred them to me for specific work, and I work collaboratively with that teacher. We can work for several months or just a couple of sessions, depending on their need.  I also work with executives and other professional voice users who are not singers. I feel very at home in the voice pedagogy realm, and I would describe myself as a teacher and voice trainer in both clinical and non-clinical settings.

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

Several things aligned within a short time span during my senior year of college, culminating in my pursuit of my second Bachelor’s degree and, ultimately, a Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology. While working on my undergraduate degree in vocal performance (1990-1994), my voice teacher would jokingly refer to me as a “secret voice doctor.” I enjoyed studying classical voice, but I was most interested in the biomechanics of singing and all topics related to vocal health. Even in high school, I recall asking my voice teachers very specific physiologically based questions. I wanted to know why they were choosing the exercise they were choosing and what their intended outcome was. I wanted to know why certain vowels sounded and felt different than others in various parts of my voice. These were not questions that my teachers were able to navigate to my satisfaction. During my senior year, I took the graduate vocal pedagogy course, and this was by far my favorite course at Peabody. I recall the sheer joy I experienced working with my first two volunteer voice students: a trombone major and a flute major. As part of my pedagogy course, we took a field trip to a voice clinic in Baltimore. Around this same time, I also volunteered to participate in a research study at this clinic to receive a free videostroboscopic examination. I learned what a laryngologist was and that an entire field of study called speech pathology worked with injured voices and singers. Also during my senior year (with the blessing of Ruther Drucker, my voice professor), I was traveling 2-hours each week from Baltimore to Lancaster, PA, to work with Thom Hauser, who was one of the early singing voice specialists, though he did not use that title. Thom was the first voice teacher who spoke a teaching language that I understood. He answered my list of questions that my previous teachers could not answer. These were wonderful teachers from whom I learned a great deal, but they did not speak the language I so desperately sought. I would frequently stop during my lessons with Thom and try to predict why he chose various exercises and vowel/consonant combinations, and he enthusiastically answered me. When I look back on these lessons, I don’t think we ever worked on an actual song, but I was as content as could be just exploring biomechanics without working on repertoire. I will never forget the afternoon toward the end of my senior year when Thom looked at me at the end of our weekly lesson and asked me what I planned to do when I graduated from Peabody Conservatory. When I responded that I wasn’t sure and that I didn’t want to pursue a graduate degree in vocal performance, he told me I needed to stay in school and become a speech-language pathologist specializing in injured voices. My head almost exploded. It had never occurred to me that there could be a path into this field for me. Within a matter of months, I was enrolled, and I started my second Bachelor’s degree in speech-language pathology right after I graduated with my undergraduate degree in vocal performance. From there, I continued my studies, completing my Master’s degree in Speech Pathology in 2002. I was also fortunate to work with Dr. Christy Ludlow in her voice lab at NIH as a research intern for a year. Because of my combined background in speech-language pathology and vocal performance, I was hired right out of grad school at The University of Michigan, where I have worked clinically ever since. At this time, there was a handful of “singing voice specialists” working in a clinical rehabilitative setting for singers, but the dual background of performance and speech pathology was relatively unusual at the time. Now, a dual graduate degree in performance (voice, theatre, musical theatre) and speech pathology is the standard expectation for working in a rehabilitative setting with injured singers. There was no established pathway to working clinically to rehabilitate injured voices, and I, like many others, created my own. During my 22-year career, I have watched the evolution of my specialty, and I have felt honored to participate in helping shape how this specialty looks for the younger generations of clinical singing voice specialists in both clinical and studio settings. The Pan American Vocology Association (PAVA), for which I have served as a board member, a symposium director, and a committee member helping to create the PAVA-RV, is a wonderful, newer organization that fosters multidisciplinary collaboration within the diverse fields of vocology.  

What do you love the most about your work?

I truly consider this work to be sacred. Over the years, my patients and private students have taught me how remarkable and resilient the voice is and how vital this function is for a thriving human experience. It is a gift to be a part of these journeys of recovery. I am never without emotion when a singer who thinks they will never perform again overcomes their vocal pathology, emerging even better than they were before. I also value the collaborative opportunities this field provides. I continue to learn daily from my patients and students, and I am humbled to participate in their voice rehabilitation and/or voice training. 

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

Experiential, student-led voice training embodies good voice pedagogy. A skilled vocal pedagogue, or any teacher for that matter, should aim to meet the students where they are. Adjusting to the students’ learning style, understanding when to add complexity and when to simplify, and fostering motivation and a desire to learn are all examples of many core attributes of good teaching. These are not the skills we typically learn when studying voice pedagogy, and often, they take years of experience to hone. I have always viewed voice training as a negotiation with the learner’s nervous system, and the efficient biomechanics are the byproduct of this conversation. When directly addressing biomechanics (specific biomechanical instruction, manual intervention), the process still unfolds as part of this larger “conversation.” Any voice exercise can yield a satisfying, effective outcome, and any voice exercise can be a complete flop. The exercise is not the primary determinant of effective voice training. It is the tacit, interwoven thread of non-verbal input that connects the dots between the skills we learned in our voice pedagogy coursework and the art and craft of voice training and teaching.

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?

I have been fortunate to have had many mentors, beginning with some of my earliest voice teachers, including Dr. Thom Houser, mentioned earlier, who inspired me to become a speech pathologist and clinical singing voice specialist. Drs. Christy Ludlow and Ron Scherer were also instrumental in my earlier development as a voice and speech science student. I would not have met Thom Hauser had my voice professor Ruth Drucker identified a passion in me that extended beyond the parameters of my performance degree. Coincidentally, Ruth and her husband Arno spent a year in Vienna on a Fulbright Scholarship befriending my now in-laws, who were also in Vienna on a Fulbright years before my to-be husband was born. This connection was recognized after my husband and I were married for a year.  

Equally important to my earlier mentors and teachers are many of my current colleagues and collaborators. I suppose I would describe these as “co-mentors” because of the lack of a better term. They may not function in a traditional master/teacher role relative to me, but I have learned and benefited greatly from my professional interactions, collaborations, and relationships with them. 

My wonderful colleagues at The CCM Summer Pedagogy Institute include several such co-mentors, including my Vocal Athlete co-author and friend Wendy LeBorgne. Additionally, my involvement with PAVA has allowed for numerous professional relationships that I highly value and learn from.

I am very grateful for my collaborators and co-mentors at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, including my wonderful voice professor colleagues Freda Herseth and Mel Racine, who work with me in our professional voice multidisciplinary clinic every Wednesday. 

The phenomenal musical theater faculty, specifically Catherine Walker, deserves a special shoutout for their passionate advocacy for vocal health and collaboration, which enables me to serve as the on-site vocal health consultant for their students. Finally, my speech pathology and physician colleagues at Michigan, specifically the director of The Vocal Health Center, Dr. Norman Hogikyan, have played an invaluable role in my evolution as a clinician over the past 22 years. I have been so fortunate to be part of such an outstanding group of clinicians and collaborative professionals, and I learn from them daily.

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?

Breathing is often over-implicated in technical difficulties with voice production. One of my least favorite pedagogy “isms” is any discussion or direction to use more “diaphragmatic support.”  As most of us don’t have a strong kinesthetic reference for the actual movements of the diaphragm (as opposed to the resulting abdominal and ribcage movement), any instruction to engage or use the diaphragm is about as useful as telling someone to contract their spleen. There can be multiple efficient breaths, and they vary depending on many factors. If given opportunity and time, the body will often self-organize into a more productive breathing pattern if we “stay out of the way.” I emphasize a comfortable, satisfying breath appropriate for the desired voice style/task/goal. I often don’t directly intervene with breathwork unless there is a gross deficit, weakness, or lack of coordination. When I do focus on breathing in a lesson or therapy session, it is more frequently for purposes of centering and grounding. If I had to describe my general thinking about the mechanics of efficient breathing, I typically encourage circumferential rib expansion, maintaining a degree of buoyancy (without collapsing) until an extra energy “boost” is needed toward the ends of phrases. Understanding that different body types and vocal styles warrant different breath patterns, I use simplified directives, such as “use less exhale energy” or “use more exhale energy,” if at all. If I directly address breathwork, it is almost always within the context of sound. I will also employ manual intervention in some scenarios, but this is not my first approach.

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

Posture refers to a fixed body position for a given task. Alignment refers to how the structures of the musculoskeletal system are aligned relative to one another. Alignment is dynamic, and within the context of tensegrity, any shift of alignment in one area can have a global impact on other parts of the body. I view much of our suboptimal alignment (ie. tech neck) to our daily, repetitive habits, and I often encourage movement and counter positions to encourage flexibility and range of motion, helping the nervous system understand that there is more than one default setting. For tongue, jaw, and neck, traditional stretches seem to offer short-term solutions. As an alternative to this, I often teach a slow, more passive neck, tongue, and jaw series designed to help re-educate the nervous system to more efficient movement patterns rather than more traditional stretching of these muscles. The aim of a slower, less active/manipulative approach is to allow the muscles to release more passively. I also do vowel work within the context of these exercises to encourage better flexibility and range of motion for efficient vowel shaping. If issues arise beyond what I consider to be within my scope of competence, I never hesitate to refer out for complimentary bodywork modalities such as Feldenkrais, Alexander, acupuncture, Myofascial, Pilates, Yoga, and PT.

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?

I avoid “bossing around body parts,” so I skirt directives targeting specific laryngeal positions or configurations. Rather, I focus on training flexibility and responsiveness through a variety of voice tasks, which help to increase awareness of various options and resulting output. 

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?

In the classroom, we learn that the myoelastic aerodynamic theory emphasizes the coordination of vocal fold biomechanics and aerodynamics, leading to self-sustained vocal fold vibration, and the Source Filter Theory emphasizes how sound source generated is altered by the vocal tract. MEAD doesn’t traditionally account for the role of the vocal tract (harmonics and formants) in sound production, and SFT doesn’t incorporate how the vocal tract might directly impact the mechanics of vocal fold vibration. Historically, these two voice production theories have often been considered as contrasting schools of thought; however, more contemporary writings (see some suggested resources below) have described a more holistic model, emphasizing how strategic coupling of vocal fold vibratory mechanics and vocal tract filtering can each impact the behavior of the other. 

In alignment with this thinking, I don’t view vocal fold vibration and acoustics as independent entities, so I have grouped them together to respond collectively (also see Registration comments). When considering voice training, I hold the roles of efficient vocal fold vibration and optimal vocal tract shaping as equal primary actors in voice production regardless of vocal style. At the foundation of my pedagogy is establishing complete and efficient vocal fold closure (TA dominant/Mode1/Chest) regardless of voice type because efficient vocal fold closure provides a strong fundamental. Without a strong fundamental signal, we have less “raw material” to leverage with vocal tract shaping, resulting in less efficient voice output. SOVTs are one useful tool to facilitate efficient vocal fold closure, but numerous other strategies also exist. I approach this differently in a clinical setting, but efficient vocal fold closure is still necessary, even with bilateral vocal fold lesions. From there, voice training cultivates the balance between these dynamic entities, leveraging their relationships and creating efficient, reliable, and sustainable voice production. 

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

The term registration is one of those slippery slope terms that can sometimes create more confusion than clarity within a learning context. I believe that both laryngeal and acoustic events contribute to what we perceive as registration, and how a singer balances these dynamic phenomena significantly contributes to their vocal efficiency. In very simplified terms, I strongly advocate for holistic training across the singer’s span of registration, however you define it. Using traditional chest voice/head voice terms, I believe all singers should have a facility with chest, head, and all the gray areas in between (head-mix, chest-mix) regardless of vocal style. Beyond the biomechanics of registration, how a singer employs vocal tract shaping is a large contributor to the perceived vocal output and style. I structure teaching to optimize balance and flexibility, but I don’t typically discuss acoustic and laryngeal registration as independent entities when training voice. I determine the learner’s vocabulary for the target vocal aesthetic, help to define a common descriptive vocabulary, and then proceed from there. 

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?

This is a straightforward question for me, and I can distill it down to one primary concept with multiple implications: Be PRO-active not RE-active. The physical and vocal demands of the performer are high, and vocal health and fitness are key to minimizing the risk of vocal injury for the vocal athlete; however, preventive measures and risk mitigation are often not formally or extensively incorporated as part of pre-professional voice training curricula, and there are limited guidelines and consistency across programs and studios on how to do this. Interdisciplinary consensus on addressing this important issue as a formal part of voice training warrants more consideration and attention. 

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 differentiate between coaching genre-specific style-isms within the context of repertoire and training the vocal strength and stamina to sing in a given style. When private students consult with me, I address style in terms of the biomechanical capabilities required to sustainably sing in the targeted genre. Fostering flexibility and agility, allows the singer to have a myriad of options. I will refer out for very genre-specific skills such as vocal distortions and specific repertoire work.

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?

My comments above about what makes a good voice pedagogue also apply here. We have more access to more information on voice than ever before, and while it is important to understand, consolidating much of this highly complex information for a student while teaching these skills can be challenging. Distilling such complex concepts into oversimplified terms also has its detriments. As teachers and voice trainers, we strive to understand these concepts, further clarifying our own understanding of the full breadth of voice production. While it is important to understand these complex concepts, pedagogy should strive to guide our students experientially through their vocal training and development, helping them find the most efficient pathway for reliable and sustainable voice production regardless of vocal style.  

Final Thoughts (Words of Wisdom, Resources)?

Below is a sampling of some seminal and/or influential works. 

  • Bozeman, K. (2022). Practical vocal acoustics: Pedagogic application for teachers and singers. Rowman and Littlefield.
  • Helding, L. (2020). The musician’s mind. Rowman and Littlefield.
  • Herbst, C. (2020). The snake pit of vocal pedagogy part I: Proprioception, perception, and laryngeal mechanisms. Journal of Singing, 77(2), 173–188.
  • Herbst, C. (2021). The snake pit of vocal pedagogy part II: Mixed voice, vocal tract influences, individual teaching systems. Journal of Singing, 77(2), 345–358.
  • Herbst, C. T., Elemans, C. P. H., Tokuda, I. T., Chatziioannou, V., & Švec, J. G. (2022).
  •  Dynamic System Coupling in Voice Production. Journal of Voice, S0892-1997(22)00310-1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvoice.2022.10.004
  • Hoit, J., Weismer, G., & Story, B. (2022). Foundations of Speech & Hearing- Anatomy and Physiology (2nd ed.) Plural Publishing
  • LeBorgne, W., & Rosenberg, M. (2026). The Vocal Athlete (3rd ed.) Plural Publishing.
  • McCoy, S. (2019). Your voice: An inside view (3rd ed.). Inside View Press.
  • Miller, R. (1996). The structure of singing. Schirmer.
  • Miller, D. (2008). Resonance in singing: Voice building through acoustic feedback. Inside View Press.
  • Schmidt, R,. & Lee, T. (2020). Motor learning and performance: From principles to application (6th ed.). Human Kinetics.
  • Schmidt, R., Lee, T., Winstein, C., Wulf, G., & Zelaznik, H. (2019). Motor Control and Learning: A Behavioral Emphasis (6th ed., p. 319) Champaign: Human Kinetics.
  • Schmidt, R., & Wrisberg, C. (2008). Motor learning and performance: A situation-based learning approach (4th ed.). Human Kinetics.
  • Sundberg, J. (1977). The acoustics of the singing voice. Scientific American, 236(3), 82–91. https://doi.org/10.1038/scientificamerican0377-82
  • Sundberg, J. (1987). The science of the singing voice. Northern Illinois University Press.
  • Titze, I (1994). Principles of voice production. Prentice Hall.
  • Titze I. R. (2006). Voice training and therapy with a semi-occluded vocal tract: rationale and scientific underpinnings. Journal of speech, language, and hearing research: JSLHR, 49(2), 448–459. https://doi.org/10.1044/1092-4388(2006/035) Titze, I., & Verdolini Abbott, K. (2012). Vocology: The science and practice of voice habilitation. The National Center for Voice and Speech.
  • Vennard, W. (1968). Singing: The mechanics and the technic (5th ed.). Carl Fischer.

 

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