Photograph by Maxine Moore, '09

In good voice

May 15, 2022

Health

By Kristin Baird Rattini
It’s a perfect balance between my artistic and scientific sides.

When Claire Ligon, ’10, came from New York to Richmond on the Elizabeth Ramos Dunkum Scholarship for women in the arts and started singing lyric soprano in Schola Cantorum, the biochemistry and molecular biology major noticed the Virginia climate was causing allergies that affected her voice. She was referred to a speech-language pathologist who specialized in voice rehabilitation.

At the consult, Ligon found not just help for her voice but her calling in life. “I thought, ‘That is a really cool job,’” she says. “It’s a perfect balance between my artistic and scientific sides.”

Ligon now helps others protect their pipes as an assistant professor in speech-language pathology at Johns Hopkins in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. “It’s my passion,” she says. “I feel like I was made to do it.”

She has aided singers, actors, and broadcasters in using voice exercises, a vocal budget (monitoring their talking minutes), and a vocal hygiene regimen. “Simple steps like drinking plenty of water and taking hot showers to humidify your voice help many patients off the bat,” she says.

Her clientele also includes patients with head and neck cancers who have swallowing disorders.
“It’s such rewarding work because you’re constantly amazed by the resilience of the human spirit,” she says.

Since the pandemic, Ligon has used her voice mainly to sing with patients all day and to spread the word about her specialty to general practitioners and to the public. “Your voice is so important,” she says. “If you’re having a problem, don’t wait months and months to get it looked at. The faster you have things checked out, the faster your recovery.”