Female vocal changes at heart of new book

Matt Hellman | Lariat Photographer
Baylor Women’s Choir, along with various surrounding high school choirs, perform during the Baylor Women’s Choir Festival Thursday in Jones Concert Hall.

Baylor author pens ‘teaching book’

By Sara Tirrito
Staff Writer

Dr. Lynne Gackle, associate director of choir ensembles, is the first to address a little-known aspect of the music world — female vocal maturation — in her new book, “Finding Ophelia’s Voice, Opening Ophelia’s Heart: Nurturing the Adolescent Female Voice.”

The book was released Feb. 21 and sold nearly 1,000 copies before being released.

“The focus of the book is as we go through life the voice changes just like the rest of us does, and basically this is on female voice change and maturation,” Gackle said. “You would think that there would be things written on it, and indeed this is the first text on it.”

Her interest in the topic was sparked when she began working with a middle school-aged community choir in Miami 34 years ago and noticed that the sound of their voices was different from the sound of those she had worked with previously.

In her research, Gackle found that as girls entered puberty, their voices underwent changes similar to those of boys’ voices. These changes included range decreases, breaks in their voices and a huskiness or breathiness of tone.

Her book, however, focuses not only on those changes and how to deal with them, but also on the psychological effects that such changes can have on young female singers.

“The book is for teachers; it’s pedagogical in nature. It’s a teaching book,” Gackle said, “But I also hope that it will help teachers consider all aspects of the personality involved — that song and music becomes our medium. It’s not our end. The end is truly the child, it’s the student, it’s the individual, it’s their spirit.”

Daniel Farris, lecturer in academic music studies, said Gackle’s book takes a unique direction in that it is concerned with the mind, body and spirit of musicians.

“I think the benefit that her book is going to add is that it’s about the entire person, not just the mechanics of the voice,” Farris said.

Gackle was inspired to focus her book on the character Ophelia because of the book “Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls” by Dr. Mary Pipher and Shakespeare’s tragic character Ophelia from “Hamlet,” who is losing her mind but is coherent when she sings.

Gackle said she hopes that today’s Ophelias can be prevented from becoming tragic characters through the use of music in finding out who they are.

“I hope that through music, through singing, through a recognition of the importance of the arts in the life of a young girl, her uniqueness, that it would maybe not allow that to happen,” Gackle said.

“Just that through finding out who they are, we maybe could thwart that somehow, help them know who they are and appreciate who they are.”

Farris said Gackle’s passion for working with the female voice and women’s choirs is apparent.

“She’s known around the country and around the world as sort of a leading figure in this field,” Farris said. “When you hear her talk about it you can tell this is what her passion is.”

Gackle has worked with numerous choirs throughout her career, including the 2011 Senior High Women’s Honor Choir, which she conducted in Bejing this semester.

She will also conduct the American Choral Directors Association National Women’s Honor Choir at the ACDA National Conference next week.