This Embodied Voice

Joanne Hayes Bozeman: Menopause and Singing Through Change

April 26, 2021 Suzanne Lis Episode 4
This Embodied Voice
Joanne Hayes Bozeman: Menopause and Singing Through Change
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, I speak with Joanne Hayes Bozeman, soprano and co-author of the book Singing Through Change: Women's Voices in Midlife, Menopause, and Beyond. Joanne began experiencing troubling vocal changes around the age of 47, when "it felt like someone had put a different larynx in [her] neck." We speak about how this personal experience spurred her to do her research, write an anonymous article, connect with her co-authors, and how they went about the process of collecting and organizing these "deeply personal, complex, and kinda messy" stories. We also talk about how her early career as a prenatal educator and her work with adolescent girls' in a choir setting formed the matrix of her interests in female hormonal seasons.

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"Allerseelen" by Richard Strauss, performed by Joanne Hayes Bozeman, soprano, and Linda Sparks, piano, recorded 2001
"Make Believe" from SHOWBOAT, music by Jerome Kern, performed by Joanne Hayes Bozeman, soprano, Kenneth Bozeman, tenor, and Ted Kehl, pianist, recorded 1993

Suzanne Lis  0:55 
Welcome to This Embodied Voice, the podcast where we talk about the voice, the body, and everything in between. My name is Suzanne Lis and in this episode I speak with Joanne Hayes Bozeman. Joanne is a soprano and she recently retired from Lawrence Conservatory of Music, where she taught for almost 30 years. In 2005, Joanne published an article anonymously about her vocal changes during perimenopause. Fast forward to 2020 and she has co-authored a book with Nancy Bos and Cate Frazier-Neely called Singing Through Change: Women's voices in Midlife, Menopause and Beyond. I spoke with her about how her personal experience and her other work working with cis-women during hormonal seasons, as she calls them, led to her interest in this topic.

Suzanne Lis  1:37 
Alrighty, so Joanne Bozeman, welcome to the podcast.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  1:40 
Thank you.

Suzanne Lis  1:42 
So I start every interview with just a few questions. One of which is new, which I can't believe I didn't ask before, but it's: how are you feeling? How is your body feeling? And how is your voice feeling?

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  1:53 
Okay, I'm feeling okay. For us the you know, we all have COVID on our minds. For us, it has been not easy, but not horrible, because we have money coming in. And we aren't dependent on performing or teaching even to make a living, our house is paid for blah, blah, blah. So we feel privileged. However, we haven't seen our families in person for over a year. And so that's been hard. But my let's see, vax is on board and fully cooked. So that gives us a little spark of hope. Yeah, that's very nice. I know, it's not quite the same in Europe right now. But here the vaccines are going out, especially for older people. My body feeling. I'm okay, you know, I can't complain. Let's see a little achy from doing yard work. And let's see, my voice is feeling par for the course pretty much: not, not horrible today, just about the same. So. I haven't been singing much. But, you know, it's good enough for teaching and conversation.

Suzanne Lis  3:02 
Perfect. So I thought we would start with your personal experience with some vocal changes around menopause. And in particular, I found this article that you wrote for Classical Singer magazine in 2005, where you talked about when you were 47, you sort of started noticing little changes. And there's particularly this one performance of the Mozart Requiem, I think, amongst other performances, and the Mozart Requiem was a piece that you'd sang quite often before, you said it felt sort of like a familiar friend, just very standard repertoire for you. And it felt really different vocally. And I was wondering if you could talk about how, yeah, your vocal experience of that performance.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  3:50 
Sure. Well, yeah, the Mozart Requiem that was kind of a line in the sand because it had, you know, I had sung it a number of times, and this particular performance, just felt like a lot of work. You know, it just, you couldn't just enjoy singing the work, but really thinking about, "am I in tune?" It just felt like I was just pushing my voice up there. It just wasn't a lot of fun. And that told me something was fundamentally different with my voice and I, you know, I hadn't changed my technique. It was something that was happening outside of my will, for my skill.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  4:30 
So that was, I remember that particular situation and another one where I was preparing another, you know, set of arias that I had done before for another performance and I came back to them and it was like oof. I would say, I felt like somebody had put a different larynx in my neck. That's what it felt like. It's like this is this is not my voice that I was experiencing. And he was having other symptoms that were menopausal, perimenopausal specifically. And I, you know, it took me a little while to put - make the connection. In fact, it was a teacher that I was working with. And she she knew that I was having some struggles, then she kind of very quietly, she's a little older than I, she goes, "Have you considered this might be a menopausal thing that's going on?" And I kind of - what it - As well informed as I was, I had not actually heard about the possibility of voice changes. Yeah, you know, I knew all kinds of stuff about other voice health issues, but this one had not come across my desk. And so I continued to talk to other people that I trusted. And sure enough, I, one woman challenged me, an older voice teacher who worked in New York, and I figure she had worked with many, many singers over the years, and I explained some of my symptoms and she said, "Well, it very well could be," she said, "but do your homework." And so then I did. And I luckily had access to journals of singing and other materials at my university library. Things weren't so much online at that point. But you know, I was lucky because I could get those materials and study them. So that was, that's what started it. Particularly when she said, do your homework. It was a great challenge.

Suzanne Lis  6:25 
And so I also thought it was interesting that, in retrospect, your husband who's also a voice teacher said that your voice also sounded different, coming from someone who knows your voice pretty well. Do you remember how he described the changes in your voice?

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  6:40 
Yeah, he said, I would call that the the summer of beginning change. I sang a concert, a retirement concert, I did a set of Lieder and he said, You sounded like yourself, but it didn't quite have - it had loss of - a little loss of brilliance, which was interesting. In retrospect, he said that. Then over the summer, but by the end of the summer, I really was noticing some changes. So that was sort of the first, the first thing, he didn't actually say anything to me about it at the time. But in retrospect, he said, "Well, come to think of it, blah, blah, blah."

Suzanne Lis  7:16 
So you went to an ENT. Right? And you said, you mentioned some of these issues to him, like your issues with pitch and just this extreme feeling of effortfullness. And he said it was probably neuro muscular response to just a drop in the estrogen levels. And you said, that makes you feel actually a lot better.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  7:38 
(Laughs) mMeay it not a lot better. It was a little bit like taking your, your your kid who's fussy to the pediatrician, and they look in their ears and they say, Yep, got an ear infection. Because it just it made me understand that I think, well, the big fear is that you have not become a horrible singer on your own, that you know that you've lost your technique, or you maybe never had good technique. Those are the things that we do this self blamey thing a lot of singers do. Because you think, Oh my gosh, I've just particularly if your colleagues are not having a rough time, who are about the same age, but at any rate, when Yeah, when this doctor who is worked with professional singers, that was basically his practice. He told me, he said, Yeah, your symptoms are in line with what we hear, you know, from from over overall lowering estrogen levels. I mean, they're kind of going up and up and down during perimenopause a lot but the general trend is lower. Lowering, I have my my voice is quite low in pitch. My speaking voice was very low. He dinged on his little piano. He said, You know, you just speaking about a B two, which was not I mean, I've always had a good low voice, but that was lower than usual. And it was great. I mean, I had this says my chest boys got superpowers there for a while. And but I would rather lost my chest voice superpowers and have, you know, retained my comfort in the upper range. But anyway, yeah, so that was the first thing and he suggested that I try HRT hormone replacement therapy as sort of a test case to see if it helped my voice, then it kind of confirmed, but the, you know, the vocal folds were healthy. There were no lesions, nothing like that. So

Suzanne Lis  9:25 
And so you did a - Did you say you did a test case of HRT?

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  9:28 
Yeah. It took a little while to get enough on board to see - I sort of ramped up my dose. I think he said, you probably should have started at the upper dose, but I just didn't understand that. So luckily, I had a doctor that was willing to work with me on this so I, I started taking HRT, and it - I would say that it wasn't a panacea. It didn't make it all better. But I think it helped stabilize and I think it did help the the lower range not - how do I say this - I mean, I would say that my lower voice isn't as low now as it was at that time.

Suzanne Lis  10:08 
Oh, interesting.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  10:09 
Yeah. So anyway, yeah, so I got on that. And I did my research before that as well, because I wanted to make sure that I didn't have a family history that was, you know, contraindicate taking HRT. And I also this was like, right after the big scare, if you will, after the Women's Health Initiative study, where, you know, a lot of people were dumping their HRT, because of concerns from this study. That has all been kind of re-examined in the last 18, 20 years. But at that time, I just thought, Well, I think it's worth the slight risk to see if this helps my voice.

Suzanne Lis  10:53 
I think maybe we should take a terminology break. Because this is new to me that in everyday life, when people says I'm going through menopause, they actually mean perimenopause, which is changes associated with the changes in the hormonal levels. But then medically, when you say you're in menopause, it actually means the cessation of your periods. So this is something I'm still wrapping my head around, but right, if anyone's listening and you hear these words flying around, that's actually what they mean.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  11:23 
Yeah, I'll just if I could just add something to that. Yeah, just clinically speaking, or medically speaking, you are in menopause when you haven't had a menstrual period for a year.

Suzanne Lis  11:31 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  11:33 
But that means there's the sort of year where you don't know. But if there has indeed been a last menstrual period, you are, you know, your periods have ceased. Your ovaries are not functioning in a reproductive way anymore. But we don't have that sort of, "yeah, I'm in menopause" until a year later, unless you have blood tests that can affirm some other hormones that are being released that will confirm that indeed, your ovaries have stopped producing eggs. So but perimenopause is that lead up time. And it can be eight to ten years of gradually changing reproductive function. And that's, that's what we're talking about. So perimenopause is much longer. Menopause is a point in time and after that, you are post menopause.

Suzanne Lis  12:22 
Yeah. It's crazy to me that basically, in menopause, it feels like hindsight is 2020. That's like the defining trait. It's just like you said, there's a whole year where you think, "was that my last period? Maybe not? I don't know."

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  12:39 
Well, and the other part of it, is it you know, if you've had a hysterectomy, and you know, so you're not having periods, it's like, I don't know what's going on, you're having symptoms, but you don't have periods and periods can kind of give you an indication. Yeah, they're really spacing out. If you've gone like six months without a period, it's very unlikely you'll have another one.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  13:00 
Perimenopause is like being entered into a race without knowing it. And then nobody telling you where the finish line is.

Suzanne Lis  13:10 
Just keep running and running!

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  13:12 
Yeah. But there are some, you know, some symptoms like mainly the lightening up of the periods, spacing out of the periods. It kind of let you know, I kept my calendar. So I can go back and look and go, Oh, yeah, that was, I don't know why I saved them. But I'm glad I did. Because they're kind of interesting to look back. So yeah.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  13:29 
And then of course, we can go into menopause for other reasons. And the average age is 51.5. We say 51.1 in the book, but that's the average age of menopause. But women can go into menopause before the age of 40, between 40 and 45. Even as early as the 20s. That's very unusual, but it's not unheard of. And then if you have surgery to remove the ovaries, then your in instant menopause and then certain medical treatments can put you into menopause that so you know, medically induced. That can happen at any age.

Suzanne Lis  14:05 
Yeah. I thought it was also interesting how you said that, again, hindsight is 2020 that you got the sense that actually starting at 45, which is kind of I think also pretty - 45 to 55 is a pretty average range. Already at 45 your voice and I guess your body was adjusting to these like hormonal changes and you were creating little compensatory patterns and you're singing like a little, maybe a little more jaw attention or a little more like laryngeal engagement. Which is amazing, right? Because the body is so adaptable, but can you actually talk about some of those compensatory patterns that were happening and then what it's like to unwork those also?

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  14:50 
Yeah, well, I mean, a lot of people do these for other reasons, you know, singing over a cold. That's why you don't want to be performing a lot when you are. Well, I mean a one a one off maybe once in a while, but that's sort of continuing, then you, you don't even know you're doing it, it's it's a very natural thing. Even a runner might do if they have a little glitch in their ankle, they'll change their gait a little bit to compensate. But over time, they'll probably get some imbalance in the way they, they run. So the same, you know, singing is a kind of an athletic thing that we do. And so, we want to make the voice feel like we're used to so very, very subtle, subtle things can happen.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  15:36 
I developed - I started using some tongue tension and jaw attention, those kind of go hand in hand. Those are probably my two biggies. I don't think that - I don't think that I got too weighty or anything like that, just in order to sing the tessitura I was used to - just get it to happen. But even so, I mean, eventually that my pitch issues, I could not do anything about them. I just, you know, so. But yeah, that my teacher that I was working with then was was saying, you know, she was real sweet about it. But she just made me work on the jaw thing that I was relying on, making sure I was really using my body. It's very similar to working with anybody of any age, you know. So that was all part of it, you know, this compensatory thing. She's a voice teacher, a voice rehabilitator Peggy Baroody, Margaret Baroody, in the United States, she said I heard her present once - it wasn't even about getting older or menopause. She just said compensatory responses are as natural in a singer, as if somebody threw a ball and it was coming toward your face to blink. Yeah, it's just, it's so we shouldn't like feel beat up on ourselves.

Suzanne Lis  16:55 
No, of course. And I think that goes hand in hand with the self blame thing you were talking about before, where yeah, like, it's not a sudden loss of skill on your part, or anything like that. It's just a thing that happens in your body, being the amazing thing that it is just figures it out as best as it can. Right.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  17:16 
Right. And it's, you know, my, our ongoing question is like, why some women have more difficulty and others don't? You know, my colleague, sang right through her menopause without a big, big change in her voice or struggle?

Suzanne Lis  17:31 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  17:31 
Why - Excuse me - functional clear! No, that's one of the big mysteries and I, but I also think that mirrors what we see in how women go through menopause in general, you know, why some women develop really bad body aches, you know, almost like almost like an arthritic joint pain, why some women become extremely depressed. Why some women - well, you name it. So there's a huge, you know, we have this raft of symptoms, nobody gets them all. And in some women, they're worse in some area than the other. So I think, why would the voice be any different in my mind? And we can't explain it all. But we have examples of, and testimonies of women in all genres, who complained of these changes, so I don't think it's just like, one genre is worse than the other, some genres you can work around it maybe a little bit easier, you know? But, but we Yeah, we've heard it from all quarters, if you will.

Suzanne Lis  18:41 
Did you publish the Classical Singer article anonymously? Or is that like a website? Okay.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  18:47 
Yeah. I did, and I';; tell you why. And it wasn't, gosh, I mean, I told my studio, I had to tell my voice students about this, because, you know, I would demonstrate and I was almost coming out just a little under pitch or I would drop down octaves all the time, you know, and, and that one point is that I said I just, I gotta tell them. So at one studio class at the end of said, y'all stick around and I just want to tell you something and so they waited there, their bright little faces and I explained to them, you know, what was going on with my voice because I figured they were wondering, you know, they were very sweet about it. And then a bunch of girls came up and gathered around me, they go "oh, we thought you're going to tell us you're pregnant." (laughter)  No, not at all. But I felt good because that was definitely a teachable moment so that they understood that this can happen.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  19:39 
But the yeah, that the writing the article, you know, I went round and round and round about it and I thought, I felt like I had to share certain very personal details, and that I knew that my students read the magazine and maybe it was too much to to publish without my name, but at the time, it felt comfortable to me to do. I don't care anymore, obviously. So yes.

Suzanne Lis  20:05 
Yeah, I just love the contrast between this anonymous article in 2005. And then fast forward 2020 it's this whole book of all these stories! Which is wonderful. Do you think that singers are talking more openly about their experiences in menopause?

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  20:18 
I hope so. I think it kind of depends. I welcome it. I welcome it the way I welcome singers talking about vocal injury. We're hearing more and more about that. I know we hear it a little bit more I think in, I'm gonna say non-classical or popular music, CCM, whatever the term is, you know, Adele, and others, there have been a few classical singers that had been talking about it as far as menopause go, but in the 1990s, did you run across the article called as the Opera House Hot? Or Is It Me?

Suzanne Lis  20:53 
I think it's a wonderful article. Yes.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  20:56 
Yeah. And we have people like Christa Ludwig, Brigitte Fassbaender, Evelyn Lear. So of course, this all they're talking about afterwards. And Shirley Verett also talked about it, a mezzo-soprano. But it was, in retrospect, I haven't run across a classical singer talking about it in real time. But I appreciate that, because we don't, we don't want to paint a picture of every singer running into trouble, or massive trouble, or, you know, because it doesn't happen that way. So we don't want to have a No-cebo effect, which is the opposite of a placebo effect. That's what we're trying to be very, like, we don't know. At the same time, be aware, because you can save yourself some grief, if you notice some things, you avoid the compensations or work around them, work with the teacher, understand what's going on with your body versus just sort of "La la la I don't wanna know."

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  21:56 
There's a good story in our book that talks about an opera singer who she said that she made the decision to come back to the United States after having a very successful career based in Europe. She had other reasons to come back like a lot of people do, women particularly I think, but she felt like her voice was - she didn't really understand what her voice was doing at that time in her 50s. And she wishes she had sort of grasped, grasped it and gone, okay, I want to understand what my voice is doing, letting her voice make the decision, versus her making the complete decision. And she doesn't regret her decisions that she  - you know, she says it well in the book, though, you know, like, I wish I'd known more, I wish I had understood and owned it more.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  21:59 
And so I'm trying to think who else....not a lot, actually. So and that is why though, that is why we interviewed our women, and we changed their names, we changed certain parts of their circumstances, so that they could retain their, their privacy just because still it's very, it's personal. And of course, if people are teaching or performing, we don't want to put them in an awkward situation with regards to agents or anything like that. So it's trying to keep our skis in two lanes here. Be aware, but don't you know - women have enough trouble in our industry, right? We don't want to add any more difficulties, but at the same time, understanding is empowering. In case there are any changes.

Suzanne Lis  23:41 
So in April 2020, the book came out. The book is called Singing Through Change: Women's Voices in Midlife, Menopause, and Beyond. And this is co authored by Nancy Bos, yourself, and Cate Frazier-Neely. And I mean, I have a sense of how your interest in the book came about. But how did the idea for the book come about in general? And how did you connect with these co-authors in particular?

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  24:06  
It's kind of a neat story. I did not know Cate, I knew Nancy because we had been at a acoustic conference thing together. And I think it started with Cate on her own doing a presentation to a podcast and boy, I wish I could remember the name of it. But she did. She did one on menopause and voice. Nancy Bos happened to hear that presentation. And that got her attention because she was actually - because Cate and I are in our 60s. Nancy is more like I think she's maybe 50, 51. And she was going through some changes herself and noticing some things about her voice. So she went Oh, okay. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  24:46  
They got together and were coming up with the idea about the book and had some preliminary ideas about how they wanted to do it and then I don't - I should probably double check with Nancy on this, but for some reason they thought they needed somebody else to be involved and Nancy remembered my interest even though I wasn't actively researching anything at that time, but she knew I had an interest and then I remember being at the NATS convention, National Association of Teachers of Singing, sitting down during a session and she kind of slipped up next to me and she said, Cate Frazier-Neely and I are writing a book on menopause and singing, would you be interested? It just kind of came out from nowhere. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  25:29  
And so over that summer, we were in touch. And then we got together at a conference later, we were all there at the same time, had lunch together, just threw out ideas, and that what got - Oh, I remember Nancy had said, we want to tell stories, we want it to be based on women's stories. And when I heard that I went, "I'm in." After I got to know them a little bit more and what you know, like, what, what their plans were, when it came down to the storytelling, I said, this is the way to do it.

Suzanne Lis  25:58  
That's so interesting. I was wondering about that. And it's cool to think that that was like from the beginning, sort of the framework of the book, because for anyone who's listening, it's just, it's the stories of 56 cis-women singers and their stories. So each interview is sort of talked through and sometimes correlated to a certain aspect of the menopausal experience. And it's really great, I have to say.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  26:23  
Thank you.

Suzanne Lis  26:24  
And even some of them got me really emotional, because you really make such an effort to follow the twists and turns of every person's life. Because you know, as you know, voice is like, can be medical, can be personal, it can be professional, it can be a source of community. And so what do you think that basing the book around the stories rather than making it sort of like a how to manual for the menopausal singer? What do you think that brings the material?

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  26:56  
The first thing was sort of get the idea of the book, learn, you know, read the research, review the research, interview, the first - We actually interviewed the women first. And I had not a ton to do with the set of questions. I've read them recently. And I thought, "That's actually a good, good set of questions," because it wasn't just about voice. It was about their lives, but them as singers as people. And then we would say, "Okay, well, did you notice anything as you went through this part of your life?" And then also, I think our oldest lady was 88. Yeah. Youngest was 37. Oldest is 88. So that was the beyond part. Anyway. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  27:37  
So as we did these interviews, we each did them, like a chunk of them, and we recorded them and transcribed them. And as we were looking at the data, if you will, we realized, "This is complicated. This is not linear, right? These stories are really complex." Because yeah, women talked about trauma, women talked about their marriages breaking up, they talked about - I mean, I have to say this again, so grateful to them, nobody turned us down. They were all willing to - yeah, nobody turned us down. Oh, yeah. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  28:13  
We tried hard to find choral singers, women of color, and different genres. So that was kind of this make sure - we could have done better. But that's, we did the best with what we we could at the time. So as we were putting the stories together, we realized, okay, we're getting the menopausal stuff. But we're getting other things as well. A certain percentage of these women had had a vocal injury. Yeah, we had we so we said, "Oh, this woman had a thyroid condition that led to an early [menopause] so we had to like, okay, we can't just sort of drop that, we have to talk about it. So we, we couldn't present or pretend to be medical experts. But we went to sources that helped us explain and connect to good medical resources, for more follow up in the footnotes. We had to talk about - we had several women with vocal fold paresis. So we had - so in other words, it turned into more of a general voice awareness, voice health thing than we expected, along with the menopause stuff. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  28:19  
And I, I talked to a friend of mine, who teaches at the university that I retired from a couple of years ago, and I was telling her about this research, we had a nice talk. She's an anthropologist, and I said, You know, I said, this is not very tidy. It's kind of messy, and she said, Oh, she said, "qualitative, or narrative research is always messy. And if it's not, I won't believe you as a researcher." So we're going okay, this is normal. So, that's, that was the, that was how it came out. You know, this is our material. Okay, now we have to put it into a book. Keep the goal of the book which is about "Yes, voices can change in some cases, through the menopausal transition. Yes. And we can keep singing afterwards," all our women were singing, you know, nobody stopped singing, they, you know, they had to adapt and reconfigure. But they all are singing. And that makes us very happy. Yeah, so that was, you know, basically hang in there, keep going. Canti che ti passa. I don't know if you remember that - sing till it passes, even if it's not fun sometimes. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  30:31  
But your voice, I think it's important to keep going because the voice will be waiting for you at the end. It may not be quite the same voice. But it will be there. And that's what happened to me. And if I revisit my story , because my voice was most troublesome in the perimenopause, and maybe the first year or two after menopause somewhere in there, but eventually sort of stabilized it, I couldn't do everything I used to be able to do. But it was stable, it was more predictable. It wasn't scary to open my mouth and see what was going to come out. And to this day, it's I would rather be my voice now than when I was 48.

Suzanne Lis  31:13  
Just to go back a little bit. So then was there a moment when you the three of you realized that the approach of maybe writing a how to manual for the menopausal voice just wouldn't work? 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  31:26  
When we ended up with these sort of complex stories, some of which are very straightforward, but others were not. We realized that as teachers, we we didn't feel comfortable saying, Okay, now here's how to do it. Because each individual was so unique. And we realized, in some cases, women need to go see a laryngologist, they need to see if there's anything else going on, or they need to go to an endocrinologist if they have thought, you know. So it was we realized that there are healthcare aspects that need to be talked about, in some cases. We didn't, we weren't comfortable saying, and this is how you do it. It wasn't a you know, what do they call it Do it yourself DIY. It, we didn't want it to be a help yourself book other than learning about your incredible voice you have in your incredible body. And then knowing if you need to get further help where to go. 

Suzanne Lis  32:26  

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  32:27  
And it might be a voice teacher who's compassionate and understanding or it might be a voice clinic in some cases. So that's when we talk about taking care of your whole body during this time, because voice symptoms can show up from other problems or other issues as you as you go through. And so that's why we didn't feel like okay, now, here's your magical set of exercises, and this will make everything okay, it's a little more complicated than that. Now, certainly, there are ways of teaching voice during this time and there. You know, I think we would probably say, yeah, there's certain things that can help you during this time. But those probably are best explored with a teacher, or in class group. We know, we know about some women that are doing a like a online group thing for women over 50. So they're, you know, there are ways to go about it. We like the idea of cross training, we think cross training is very good. In this case, which is something that I experienced without looking for it. Yep. So that's why we, we decided we would not be putting exercises in the book.

Suzanne Lis  33:35  
Something that I also learned when I was reading the book was or something that had never occurred to me, I guess, when I was reading the book was this cross training idea that you bring up. Cross-training being the idea that like an athlete, I know, if you're a boxer, then you should dance if you're a football player, then maybe should swim, you should do something that involves your muscles in a different - and I think also like your neural connections - stimulates them in a different way. And I had never thought about opera as being - I mean, opera has a lot of flaws, but it can be a sort of, very inflexible field, unlike, you know, jazz and musical theater where you can change keys and stuff like that. But can you talk about the ways that singers can cross train their voice to be a little more flexible in the future maybe?

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  34:26  
Right. Well, there's several ways. Actually we're working on an article on this very subject. Oh, yes. Well, you know, it varies person to person, but say, say you have a soprano who - I don't know if it's still taught as much but maybe, actually, a speech therapists told me that yes, there are still women in this age life that were taught to never sing in their chest voice. 

Suzanne Lis  34:57  
Oh, yeah. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  34:58  
It's still there?

Suzanne Lis  35:00  
I mean, I actually personally haven't heard it much, but I know it is.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  35:04  
Yeah, it's a thing you know, and I wasn't trained that way. So it wasn't a problem for me at all. But you know, they just they, they're, they want to not sing in their chest voice, even though they're talking in their chest voice probably all the live long day. "No, I can't sing there." So she actually said that she'd seen in her practice sopranos that all of a sudden, they're they're getting their chest voice is getting quite well developed because of probably unopposed androgens that are making, you know, change in the, the anatomy of the vocal folds. And so their chest voice is going MMMM and they go, Oh, no must avoid, must avoid. So then they end up with this kind of hole in their lower middle voice. And it's sort of a side effect, maybe from perimenopause. But technique is sort of woven in as well. But if you do, if you're singing other types of music, then you sort of have to use a bit more - I'm sorry, a lot of people don't like these terms, but I'm gonna say chest and head voice, just to make it easy. Mode one, Mode two - that the voice is actually sort of meant to use, you know, all these sort of registrations and mixes or whatever you've cared to call them acoustic or whatever, that it's good for the voice just like it's good for someone to cross-train in athletics, to be able to do a number of things. For me, because during that time, it was really difficult to sing high and sustained. I had to sing stuff that was a little bit lower, but also more more patter-y. Yeah, and more, you know, like, you can sing Gershwin, it has a melodic feature, but it's not that Brahms Requiem, kind of singing, you know. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  36:51  
So it's, it's mixing up different kinds of voicing phonation with different kinds of articulation. Cabaret is fun, because you can get that stylistic sort of fall off the pitch a little bit, you know, that's easy to do. So it's like, giving you a chance to explore aspects of your voice if you haven't done that earlier. That expand you as a musician, as a stylist. Yeah, it's just a way to grow, if you will. And in the meantime, it's probably helping your voice move through that time without getting it stuck. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  37:28  
A friend of mine who's a speech pathologist who works in New York, he said that he finds that classical singers are very - they have this idea of what it needs to sound like, what it should sound like, it has to sound like this. And if the voice isn't going there, right now, then we have to open our minds to: "Oh, my voice can sound like this. And I may have to get there through some different methods, methodologies, different sounds, to me, nasty, nasal-y, just to help the voice kind of recalibrate, so he finds that if he can get his classical singers to get a little bit more of a theatrical music theater mindset, they make more progress, because they're more open to different ways of singing. Have you ever heard about the UUBU to OOPS spectrum?

Suzanne Lis  38:22  
Oh, no. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  38:23  
It comes from opera acting land. If I can think of the name, I'll pop it out. But it's, it's a spectrum where on one end, it's UUBU, which means Ugly or Unusual, But Useful. On the other end is OOPS, which is the One and Only Perfect Sound, which is where we classical singers like to live. Right? See, it's always got to be beautiful and I go into a British accent when I do that. But any rate, but he said the best therapy is to move all along that spectrum. And it's, it's it's better for the voice to be able to do that. So that is basically kind of cross training,

Suzanne Lis  39:05  
And probably mentally freeing as well. Right?

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  39:08  
Yes, yeah.

Suzanne Lis  39:11  
Yeah, I like that. Sort of the end of the book, you say that the point of the book is not to create negative expectations, like menopause is this looming thing on the horizon, just coming inexorably towards you, but rather just sort of expect the best.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  39:29  
Hope for the best. A

Suzanne Lis  39:32  
And I think the habits of being kind of vocally and physically aware will prepare you as much as anything else could, right?

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  39:39  
Right. Yeah. And like I said, it's amazing to me that we had stories of women who kind of just stopped menstruating. And of course, those of us that had symptoms, we go, "How could you possibly have done that?" Right? But they do, and singers that, "You know, my voice feels better than ever. Happy as a clam." You know, "I'm in perimenopause." And we go, you know, those of us that struggled a little bit go, "how can they say that?" But it's true. Yeah. And so we all need to be listening to each other. So those that aren't struggling need to listen to those who have and not beat up on 'em and their attitudes or, you know, say, must have been your technique, or it might have been something, roles you saying, maybe, you know, even I even think about - I love reading and listening to older singers and what I mean by older singers, I mean, of past generations. 

Suzanne Lis  40:35  

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  40:36  
So going back to the 30s 40s, you know, about early recorded era 30s 40s 50s 60s, maybe even to the 70s. I love listening to those women and reading their stories. And I remember reading about, do you know who Rosa Ponselle is?

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  40:54  
Rosa Ponselle was an American singer who had a precocious voice, an amazing voice. Some have compared her and Callas together in in that they had voices that defied sort of identification, if you will. So she had a remarkable voice. She's saying she started singing Verdi when she was in her 20s. And it but it was, she could also sing Carmen. And she could, it was just a remarkable instrument, you know, she's very easy to find. But when she got into her 40s, even late 30s, early 40s, she began to struggle with her upper range. And, and then they she got scared. And then she, she went into retirement much earlier than she should have, you know.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  41:40  
So I, you know, I think about those kinds of stories or even about Maria Callas who may have had an early menopause. It's possible, according to her then-husband. So I think about that, you know, people kind of dumping on them to like, oh, bad, bad role choices or bad technique. I think maybe, well, maybe. But maybe there is this underlying menopausal transition that may have started earlier. We don't really know. But it's a possibility. So we need to give some grace. 

Suzanne Lis  42:11  
Yeah. And you talk about this amazing study in the book, where there's a French laryngologist Jean Abitbol. And his wife was a gynecologist, Béatrice Abitbol, and he, I guess, was the doctor to many of these high-voiced sopranos who would always come to him and say, "you know, my voice doesn't really feel great around the time of my period." And he had the classic sort of patriarchal response of like, "must be all in your head, dear." And his wife said "actually I think you should think again," and they - well actually, can you tell us about the study? 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  42:50  
Sure. Yeah. I'm not sure that they, you know, have remained married all these years, but at the time, yeah, she's a gynecologist. So it was a really wonderful combination of putting these two disciplines together. And she said, "Well, I'm not so sure that it's all in their heads." So he went along with it. And they did studies of - this is more about pre menstrual stuff than menopause. But they - Yeah, they took at different times of the month they took - it sounds awful, but they did little scrapings, if you will, just a little bit off. They brushed off a few cells off the vocal folds, the epithelium, and then they did the same to the vaginal cervix. 

Suzanne Lis  43:32  

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  43:33  
And they looked at them at different times of the month. And they compared them. And they were so similar they couldn't even tell the slides apart in some cases. So they showed, oh boy, these cells are reacting to the changes of reproductive hormones throughout the menstrual cycle. And of course, you know, there's a great chorus of women that said, we told you so! We knew that, right?

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  43:55  
Yeah, things that have not been confirmed by science, but have just been known in the kind of public consciousness maybe or the singer consciousness for a long time. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  44:03  
Right, right. So that was the start of you know, that was, he wasn't the only one or they weren't the only ones that researched this, more research came out. But then he started looking at the menopausal situation. He also found, you know, quite a few details about what women were experiencing post-menopause. And now it's gone on from there. But yeah, without those two doctors we may not be where we are today. 

Suzanne Lis  44:32  
Yeah, that was new to me to learn that the hormonal landscape is similar in perimenopause and in premenstrual times. Is that right? 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  44:44  
Yeah, somewhat. I mean, the the other Well, yeah, it could be. There may be  - androgens or testosterone may play a little bit more of a role in the pre-menstrual part than has been understood, but it's, it's when the hormones get out of balance. In particular, when progesterone is higher, which it is in the period before menstruation, it's more of a fluid-trapper within the cells. It's just like you know, you get bloated down in your abdomen. It's the kind of the same thing so we retain fluid. And in some women that fluid retention is pretty notable. Not everybody. I never had trouble with my voice before my period. I just, you know, it wasn't a big deal. Then along came perimenopause. But yeah, you can have that same imbalance:m estrogen relative to progesterone. That can happen. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  45:35  
Now when we get into the perimenopausal thing, because the general decline of estrogen is happening then androgens  - you know, women have androgens. Yeah, but much lower amounts than males. So in a female body, the androgens are there. They've slowly declined over the years. But as estrogen gets lower, it's sort of been masking the effects of androgens in the female body. So when androgens are like making an appearance, we say like they came out from behind the curtain, then yeah, I think it can have effects on the epithelium, it can change that. It can change the structures of the vocal folds, it changes glandular, the mucosa changes and progesterone can have an effect on that, too. So that's why some complain of not having as much that nice, loose mucus, it feels sticky and thick. And those are some of the aspects of both progesterone and androgens. So yeah, that's what's going on. Did I answer your question? 

Suzanne Lis  46:38  
Yes. Yeah.

Suzanne Lis  46:41  
So for about 10 years, is that right? When your children were younger, you said that you worked as a childbirth and prenatal educator. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  46:49  
I did. And there's sort of a tie in I think, with my later interest in the whole hormone and voice thing. 

Suzanne Lis  46:56  
Of course.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  46:56  
Well, I was I was, had my first kid, my daughter at a time when everybody was taking Lamaze classes, is that a concept to you? 

Suzanne Lis  47:06  

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  47:06  
So you go with your husband or your partner, or your mother in law, whatever, but your partner, and then you you take classes and you get ready, you'd learn about childbirth, you learn how to do breathing techniques and other things to help you get through. And, but also I was taught about fetal development and how to take care of your body and eat well, as you're preparing for your - as your baby's growing. And it was, I found it really, really interesting. And I also had, the certification process they went through was pretty thorough, I had to read medical textbooks on obstetrics and gynecology and learn how to take this information and break it down to a level that, you know, a factory worker could understand or doctor. We had anywhere from doctors in our classes to whatever teen mothers. And so it was learning how to communicate stuff that was accurate but based on you know, good practice, but at the same time, it was about - it was at a time - it was about women gaining control of their bodies, understanding their bodies, you know, that birth was - giving birth was an active process. And it was sort of self expressive in in some ways, you know, so it was, I wouldn't, I don't want to say it was like natural childbirth, because that's not what we were teaching. But it was about understanding how our bodies work, working with those things versus letting the medical system just completely take over the process. So that's when birthing rooms started happening. And yeah, so that was that climate. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  47:21  
And I think that sort of schooled me a little bit it was about women owning their health situation, being actively informed as patients. So that was part of it. So you know, that sort of understand your body. I don't know, I feel like that was brought forward. To my experience. 

Suzanne Lis  49:07  
Did you take one of these classes and you thought, Man, that was such a good experience? I want to do this too, or how did you come into that? 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  49:14  
Yeah, I mean, we took Lamaze classes with our first one. And I found that birth was, it wasn't exactly what I expected it to be. It was harder, but more in the end, and I just couldn't get it out of my head. So I went to my instructor and said, How do you get into this teaching? 

Suzanne Lis  49:32  
And you also worked with a girls choir, is that right? And that also sort of tied nicely into this theme of like female female voices and hormonal hormonal events, you could say? 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  49:45  
Sure. We have a wonderful girl choir here in my community and it's a graded choir. So they start when they're about seven, and it goes all the way through high school, so they're separate choirs for certain grade - I should say age groups. I was invited to work with the middle school age choir. And it was - this particular group was more of a select choir, they found that that's when the, the girls that needed a little bit more challenge in their literature and all could audition out into this group, but it's the most vocally unstable time for, for young women. So they're 12 to maybe 14, 15. And so I would work with them in small groups, they would leave the rehearsal and then come into my studio, and maybe five to six, four to six at a time. So we were, it was really neat, because we could talk about voice change for girls, because they weren't even like aware of it. You know, we hear a lot about male voice. 

Suzanne Lis  50:48  
You hear so much about voice cracking, yeah, but nothing about.. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  50:51  
Yeah, very little in the in the public awareness, there's probably zero. Now among choral educators, and yeah, you know, teachers, yes, there's there is, but we it was, it was a wonderful experience, because the, the director of the group is a friend of mine, too, and had studied with me. So we would use similar terminology. So the voice class stuff we did, she would reinforce in rehearsals, and vice versa. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  51:16  
But we would talk about this sort of psychosocial changes, you know, we would, you know, in choir, they had to, they had to have good alignment. And then, in private, they were called collapsing their chests and putting their heads forward. You know, we talked about "why are you doing that?" "Well, because, you know..." they would, you know, touch their chests. And we would talk about "well, okay.." it was really wonderful. And that they, they would say, "Oh, yeah, that's right, I can't - my voice is kind of weird sounding now. I don't -  just a little breathier than it used to be" And I'd say, "Okay, this is one of the symptoms of voice change for girls." And it's probably harder for strong singers, as a girl. You know, if you're just a talker, you don't notice it. But if you're a singer, and you all of a sudden, you have a hole in the middle of your voice, and it's hard to sing in tune. It's very parallel to the menopausal transition as we get older. It's like, "I used to be able to do this easily. And now it's harder." So there really some psychological things. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  52:18  
You know, there are women that have written about this already. Of course, I'm not thinking of her name at Baylor University that wrote Ophelia's Voice, she wrote a wonderful book about voice change and females, but also about that psychosocial thing that we go through. How women, young women sometimes lose their voice, their voice, as they go through middle school, become more passive, they lose their strong, younger girl sort of selves. But at any rate, yeah, that was a wonderful experience. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  52:53  
And the other part of it was, even though I would, you know, listen to them, privately, I listen to their voices and sort of, say, with their ranges, their quality, and man, they - a lot of breathy singing, coming out of those [singers]. And you do your best to help with resonance strategies and support and alignment. But that group sounded fantastic. The sum of the parts was amazing. They sounded fabulous. So together, they were strong, a stronger singer than individually, and that was great for them. 

Suzanne Lis  53:25  
Yeah. And I thought that was something also that really hit me pretty hard in the book was the idea of as a young singer, how do you think of older singers? If that is uncharitable, you're not doing your future self any favors. And I thought that was very revealing. Because, you know, I think everyone's been maybe near someone in a choir or in church, or something that's a little older, and maybe can't like float the high G. So what? And I think kind of this idea of supporting other women through their vocal transitions in all stages, is very important. And it helps YOU.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  54:09  
Yeah, keep your mind open. You know, I, I love this story that one of our reviewers, professional reviewers wrote in the introduction, who is a voice teacher, and she told the story about hearing a lady behind her in church, it was, you know, actually quite old, I think 90 or something, or late 80s or something that was, you know, a little bit wobbly. And, you know, she said before I read this book, my teacher brain was going, I could fix that. And then after reading the book, she said, No, I'm going to go speak to her and tell her how lovely her singing is. And the end, the woman said, "well, it's not what it used to be." And Teri says, "No, it's not but it's lovely," right. 

Suzanne Lis  54:51  
There's also a really sweet mention of your mother in the book. How your mother sang in her church choir very regularly. And how the voice so - was she a professional singer as well? 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  55:11  
No, she she was a wonderful musician, mainly a violinist but had always sung and it was just beautiful. She never had a voice lesson in her life. Just a beautiful, natural and choral soprano. 

Suzanne Lis  55:23  

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  55:25  
Just sang all the time. I mean, she sang all the time. Just whatever song popped into her head, she'd be singing. So it was really wonderful to grow up around that. And and she was, you know, she taught me to harmonize and, you know, but when she - and she was always a leader in the choir, very solid. And as she got older, she had, she had a head injury, that she did recover from. However, she had some issues cognitively after that. And she needed, you know, assistance. She couldn't drive anymore. And her hearing, she'd lost a lot of her hearing. But she continued to sing in the choir. And I'm sure she had moved down second soprano and alto, and she would say to me, when she was like, 80, something, she'd say "Joanne I can't sing high anymore!" "Mom, that happens as we get older." But she had a beautiful and true spinny voice, you know, to the end, and the last time I visited her, she - she would get on her exercise bike and just crank away and sing.

Suzanne Lis  56:30  
Oh my gosh!

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  56:31  
Yeah, I taught her how to do lip trills. And she would just vocalize while riding her exercise bike. That's one of the lovely memories I have of that last visit. You know, it's like, good for her. And, you know, she had to have some help. Because, again, it was hearing too, you know, she would get sometimes like, "what, what? What anthem are we on?" And somebody would help her and make sure she had the right music up, and yeah, it was a lovely community thing for her to do. 

Suzanne Lis  56:58  
Alright, I think that is all. I mean, I don't know how I'm gonna cut this down. There's so much good stuff. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  57:07  
Well, can I just throw one more thing in here?

Suzanne Lis  57:09  
Please, go ahead.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  57:10  
I have to talk about my co-authors. Because, you know, it's been a lot about me and my, but oh my, I just, you know, I reread the book, just in the last few days, because I thought, hmm, it would be great review for this interview, and I had, you know, certainly delved, jumped back into it, but hadn't given it a read through for a year, really. And I just realized how grateful I am for this team of women. We are different. We've had different experiences. We are different kinds of singers. But somehow, somehow it was a really great working relationship. We listen to each other. We've fought about things - not, you know, but this is all online. You know, we this we never wrote together - no one. That's no, that's not true. We did get together in January last year, we had one sort of weekend where it was like a writer's intensive, but other than that, it was all online. And we would bring our versions of a chapter. Nancy did a great job of sort of organizing it as editor. But when I read the book, now, after a year, I don't remember who wrote what, we also had an editor that came in too but I don't you know, I realized that I could unmarry myself to my own sort of "this is my part." It wasn't - it was so well blended and so balanced. And I'm so grateful for that experience. You know, we call ourselves the Cahoots sisters, we are in cahoots. 

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  58:42  
And I am so grateful for that formula. Very, very happy that we we did this and it's ongoing because of our you know, our Facebook page, the incredible community support. It's, again, kind of like our research, it's gone places we did not expect. So we follow that and people are extremely supportive. We have all genders, teachers, choral conductors, researchers SLPs. It's quite a remarkable community and it's well over 2000 now and continues to grow, and then hopefully after the conference will even get bigger. It's about time, right?

Suzanne Lis  59:23  
Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast.

Joanne Hayes Bozeman  59:27  
I've enjoyed it thoroughly. You've done a really good job preparing for this. I appreciate your questions and your interest. So it's been a lot of fun. Thank you. 

Suzanne Lis  59:36  
Thank you.

Suzanne Lis  59:39  
If you want to get the book and learn more about the voice in midlife, menopause, and beyond, you can visit Thank you to Joanne for giving her time and her knowledge so generously. And thank you for listening to this fourth episode of This Embodied Voice. If you enjoyed the episode, then please rate, review, subscribe, and tell a friend. You can also reach me, Suzanne, on Instagram at This Embodied Voice. Also if you know of anyone or maybe you yourself have an interesting story to tell about the voice-body connection, then please, please get in touch. Until next time, take care of your body, take care of your voice, and be well.

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