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June 4, 2005

Singers croak in allergy season.


For a town where so many people earn their living with a clear voice and a keen ear, Nashville sure is a lousy place for singers. It sits in a moist, green bowl where pollens and pollutants get trapped in the air and give allergy sufferers fits. Spring and fall are the worst - so bad that some artists have to delay their recording sessions.

"They can't get the tone," said Dr. Gaelyn Garrett, medical director of the Vanderbilt Voice Center. "I've had a couple of singers recently who have just postponed their studio work for a few weeks." The clinic, part of Vanderbilt University, treats everyone from local choir members to superstars like Willie Nelson. The biggest problem for most is nasal drainage.

"It affects the resonance and the feedback they get when they're singing," Garrett said. "A lot of the professional singers will wear monitors. They rely on the feedback of their voice to help them find the notes and help with loudness. When they're congested in the nasal passages, it makes it very difficult."

Nashville lies in a gently rolling basin surrounded by the western and eastern Highland Rim. Like much of the Southeast, it typically ranks among the worst in the country for allergies and air pollution. The area has a long growing season and abundant rainfall and is particularly bad for ragweed and pollen. "We have tons of trees and a lot of other kinds of pollen, so the pollen count is very high here," said Dr. John Overholt, an allergist in Franklin, near Nashville.

A leading recording center, Nashville is home to thousands of professional musicians, singers, producers and engineers. Overholt estimates about 50 of his patients are singers, and they all complain of the same things: hoarseness, poor tone and limited vocal range.

Posted by acapnews at June 4, 2005 12:05 AM