Isobel Chesman

Royal College of Music
Future Leader, Cathedral Music Trust

Presenter Profile

Isobel began her singing career as a chorister; an opportunity to which she credits a blossoming career in education, vocal health, and vocal performance. Isobel attended Newcastle University to read her BA (Hons) Music with specialist studies in Vocal Performance and Vocal Health and Pedagogy, and a choral scholarship at Newcastle Cathedral. Whilst at university, Isobel also took part in the VOCES8 Scholarship Programme, Samling Young Artist Programme, and Genesis Sixteen Programme with Harry Christophers CBE. In 2020 she graduated from UCL Institute of Education with a PGCE in Secondary Music, and taught in secondary schools while developing a private client base as a vocal coach. For the past few years, Isobel has been working for music education hubs as a choral animateur, vocal coach, and curriculum music provider in schools across Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, Derbyshire, for the Lichfield Cathedral MusicShare programme, and for The Sixteen. Alongside her work in education, she has held a Lay Clerkship at Derby Cathedral, and recently completed her MSc in Performance Science at the Royal College of Music in London with a distinction thesis on the vocal health of cathedral lay clerks. Isobel studied voice with Gaynor Rodway at home in Lincolnshire and Giles Underwood in London, and moved to Gloucestershire in January.

The Vocal Health Status of Lay Clerks in English Anglican Cathedral Choirs

Cathedral choirs are beacons of musical excellence. The education received by choristers and choral scholars is expected to be of the highest quality, producing healthy singers with strong technique and musical understanding. The vocal health of choristers has been a focus of research in recent decades, but the vocal health of lay clerks has not been discussed in literature. This study seeks to provide an overview of the vocal health of lay clerks in English Anglican cathedral choirs, exploring factors previously noted in literature as impacting vocal health: health & lifestyle, vocal experience and hygiene, and job satisfaction. An online survey was used to collect responses from 141 lay clerks (male = 115, female = 20, other = 1) in the areas of health & lifestyle, vocal experience & hygiene, and job satisfaction. Results of descriptive comparisons and linear regressions suggest that: (1) vocal health training correlates with improved average vocal health scores and perceived importance of such training, (2) higher levels of past vocal training and chorister experience correlate with higher average vocal health scores, (3) shorter tenure correlates with indicative levels of past voice training and vocal health, and (4) that cathedral choirs as workplaces are providing alarmingly little support for lay clerks regarding the safeguarding of vocal health. Future research exploring how to support lay clerks vocal health is needed so that effective strategies can be implemented within the community.

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