Among voice professionals (otolaryngologists, speech-language pathologists, singers, voice coaches, and actors) a discussion began in the early 1990s on the scope of practice regarding vocal health for the performer. During that decade, the term Singing Voice Specialist was inserted into the lexicon in order to recognize a voice professional who had both music training in the singing voice, and an extra amount of education in voice science, or “vocology” (both habilitation and rehabilitation). At the same time, surveys gauging the demand for such a professional were conducted, papers and articles written, and proposals for a training regimen were made.

Despite these measures, over a decade later the definition and role of the Singing Voice Specialist remain open to interpretation. The stakeholders in this issue are represented by a variety of associations (i.e. AMA, ASHA, VASTA, NATS) yet one primary membership-driven association for voice science (vocology) did not exist – until now. What follows is a brief history of the birth of such an association: PAVA, the Pan American Vocology Association.

STVH: Specialty Training in Vocal Health Symposium

In April, 2013, the National Center for Voice and Speech hosted the "Proposed Specialty Training in Vocal Health: Why, Who, What & How Symposium" in order to provide a venue dedicated solely to the discussion of these issues. A group of well-known voice professionals from across the stakeholder community served as the STVH steering committee, so that all sides were represented in the design of the symposium. The format of this event included multiple open and break-out sessions to help determine common ground and future goals. Over fifty voice professionals attended the two day symposium, and as it concluded, all in attendance recognized that, while many models can meet the needs of voice users, the best possible care for the performance voice relies on a significant amount of communication, collaboration, and cooperation between physicians, therapists, vocologists, voice coaches and singers. It was also agreed that if vocologist, singing voice specialist and the like are to become formalized professions with clearly defined roles and standards for training, the most pressing need is to identify an organization capable of providing oversight to this process. Such an organization would establish a codified set of standards, scope of practice, and eventually oversee certification. At a minimum, it would maintain a registry of vocologists, list training programs at various institutions, and serve as a clearinghouse for professional information including publications, internships, and training opportunities.

To meet the need for such an organization, the creation of a new association representing vocologists in North America, Central America, and South America, was proposed. Among the agreements reached that day were these:

  1. The association would be called the Pan-American Vocology Association (PAVA).
  2. The symposium steering committee would serve as the charter steering committee for the creation of PAVA.
  3. Lynn Helding was nominated and elected by all present as the chairperson of the charter steering committee.
  4. The charter steering committee would work to quickly develop articles of organization, a mission statement, and bylaws, including the process by which the first officers can be elected.

PAVA, the Pan American Vocology Association

While the early formation of PAVA drew upon the attendees of the STVH symposium, it is clear that the way forward must include communication and participation from all stakeholders. Such openness is the sincere desire of the current PAVA Board of Directors. Through inclusive dialogue, stakeholders can recognize common ground in current practice, identify key competencies critical to successful and effective practice, and help direct the development of a field of practice that stands to serve a critical need in the care of the professional voice.

PAVA is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization136 S. Main St., Ste. 320, Salt Lake City, UT 84101

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