The theme for World Voice Day on April 16 is Focus on Your Voice in 2020, a creative play on words bringing to mind perfect 20/20 visual acuity. When this theme was chosen in September 2019 coronavirus and COVID-19 were not in our collective vocabulary, and yet in retrospect this choice of theme does indeed seem visionary.
On World Voice Day this year we find ourselves united in a global fight against a formidable enemy where one of our most powerful weapons is the avoidance of direct human contact. Social distancing, another term unknown to most of us last autumn, is now the norm. Countless events worldwide celebrating World Voice Day have been canceled, including our own annual vocal concert co-sponsored by U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance and The Vocal Health Center, in order to embrace sound public health principles and to hopefully “flatten the curve”. It made me sad to think of so many silenced concert halls, voices going unheard, and songs going unsung.
Upon further reflection though, I was heartened by the realization that this year perhaps more than ever we are in fact focused on the human voice. Just think about how vital your voice has been in recent weeks as we all struggled to maintain some semblance of our normal professional and personal lives. Simply hearing the voices of friends, colleagues, or family has taken on a significance that we could not have imagined prior to this tumultuous and fearful time. Voice has also become in many cases the primary medium through which we provide comfort and guidance to our patients whose appointments with us are necessarily deferred or converted to remote encounters. At a time when even gathering to mourn a loss is forbidden, voice has been the means through which we express condolences and support.
Yes, World Voice Day this year will be different, and yet each day that we navigate this global pandemic serves to further highlight the unique importance of the human voice. We are in this fight together. I hear your voices and they are focused.
Norman D. Hogikyan, MD, FACS
University of Michigan Vocal Health Center