Tuning In

Words flow easily for many people. For others, however, speaking can be a daily struggle. SongShine is a national non-profit program aimed at regaining vocal strength that has found its way to Evansville. Its students typically suffer from Parkinson’s disease, stroke, aging voices, or a neurological disorder — all of which can hamper speaking ability.

SongShine began at the Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif., under the direction of Ruthanna Metzgar. Though the program is not intended to replace traditional speech therapy, SongShine uses singing and various vocal exercises to teach its students how to speak with a forward vocal placement to push the sound out and produce a “microphone effect.” Maury Hart, the director of SongShine Evansville, stresses “we’re coaching the vocal athlete.” This means students talk on the breath rather than relying solely on vocal chords. This results in a cleaner and focused sound.

SongShine has found its way to Evansville thanks in large part to Barbara Fosse. Fosse, who has worked with the Evansville’s Parkinson’s disease support group, lives half the year in California and, coincidentally, attends the same church as Metzgar. Fosse knew this was a program that could benefit the Tri-State area. She enlisted the help of her Evansville neighbor, Hart, with the music. Hart, who has roughly 30 years of experience in private voice and piano lessons, says, “I told her I would do the music as long as she did the administrative work.” The first SongShine class was held on Oct. 30, 2012. The classes are held at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, 5130 Lincoln Ave. The church provides a space free of charge for the group to use and even goes so far as to “tune the piano for us,” Fosse notes.

SongShine offers 10-week sessions, meeting for an hour on Tuesdays from Oct. 1 through Dec. 17. Students are asked to pay $45 for class materials, though this fee will be waived if one cannot afford it. Participants do not pay anything for the instruction.

“Come out and try it, see if we can help you,” Fosse says. “It’s not only for your voice. You are socializing and everything else, and we are helping you. And it’s fun.”

For more information on SongShine, call 812-598-8332 or visit the group’s Facebook page.

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