I had the great pleasure of speaking with Laura Curtis about the valuable research she has been doing into involuntary childlessness and singing. Please carry on reading to find out more about Laura and her research.
Laura is a PhD candidate in the Music Education program at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada. Her Doctoral research, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, focuses on the ways in which involuntarily childless women experience community and develop self-empowerment through singing in the Childless Voice Choir in the UK. Her research interests include the social and affective impact of collective singing on involuntarily childless women, the impact of infertility on the female voice, and lifelong musical learning.
Since 2004, Laura has established herself as a self-employed private instructor of voice, piano, and music theory. She is Music Director of the Addison Women’s Choir in Cambridge, Ontario, and enjoys her roles with Choral Canada as a member of both the advocacy committee and the Student Chapter. Laura also regularly writes student columns for Choral Canada’s journal, Anacrusis, and Choirs Ontario’s online magazine, Dynamic.
What has Laura researched?
Laura has conducted some unique and fascinating research on the perceived effects of infertility on the singing voice, and the effects of infertility on the gender and musical identities of female singers. It has been well-documented that female sex hormones have an impact on vocal health, but there is little information on the impact of hormone fluctuations associated with fertility treatments. Laura conducted a survey in which 102 female choral singers participated, 18 of whom had received fertility treatments of varying types, including drugs and procedures. Eleven percent of these singers perceived vocal effects of their treatment including dry mouth, hoarseness, throat irritation, instability of vocal production and lowering of fundamental frequency. There was a desire amongst the majority of participants to learn more about the impact of hormones on the female voice.
Laura’s Master of Music Education research involved an in-depth exploration of the impact of infertility on the gender and musical identities of two female choral singers. Laura found that each singer’s experience of musical and gender identity formation and evolution differed; they were unique, complex, and dependent on their life experiences. It was clear that infertility disrupted both women’s life course both positively and negatively, professionally and personally, and hence impacted their identity.
For her PhD, Laura is in the UK exploring whether, and in what ways, women who are involuntarily childless experience community and develop self-empowerment through group singing. She is working with the Childless Voices Choir, facilitated by Helen Louise Jones. As part of her research, she will be working with Helen and another childless composer in a collaborative song-writing project that will incorporate choir members’ experiences of involuntary childlessness and their participation in the choir. There will be a final recorded performance of the compositions.
What impact does Laura hope her research will have?
Laura wishes to increase knowledge in the fields of music education and community music, highlighting the need for education amongst professionals in these fields, of the support needed to maintain the physical and psychological wellbeing of those dealing with issues of involuntary childlessness. Her valuable Doctoral research will build knowledge on the experience of involuntarily childless women participating in group singing.
Where can you find out more about Laura?