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When the crooner cannot croon (or speak)…

Monday, January 6, 2014

Jason Poole, Accidental Hawaiian Crooner, Molokai, Pilipo Solatorio, Laryngitis, Halawa Valley

Medicinal tea in a fancy, covered mug = Singer’s best friend. (Thanks, Noelle!)

What does a crooner do when he has no voice with which to croon?

A crooner with laryngitis makes for a frustrating day.

It started this past weekend.  A simple cold.  A “bubbly” feeling in the throat.  I was telling a story and noticed that my larynx felt strange, not smooth, grainy and raw.

“Did you hear that? My voice, just now.  Something is different.”

As the weekend progressed, so did the rawness.  And by Sunday afternoon, I had full-blown laryngitis.

I’m not a stranger to this phenomenon where the voice just doesn’t cooperate.  As a vocal performance major in college, I learned to be hyper-aware of my voice and how my larynx, throat and vocal cords “felt.”  It was my instrument.  My focus.

And I’m not a stranger to using home remedies to help fix the situation.  Drinking infusions of ginger root that’s been boiled on the stove.  A warm saltwater gargle.  Loading up on vitamin C.  I thought I had this one taken care of. (Insert image of stereotypical singer with throat wrapped in a scarf sipping tea.)

To make matters a bit more complicated (read: worse) I am supposed to begin a new residency at a school this week.  Starting tomorrow.  Sharing Hawaiian music, culture (and some ‘ukulele strumming?) with five classes of kindergarten students and five classes of first graders.  I love this kind of challenge.  And as Pops would say, “This isn’t a challenge.  It’s a gift!  You will be planting seeds of Aloha with these young people.”  I was looking forward to being the first taste of Hawai’i that most of these kids had ever had. (Please click HERE to read about some of my favorite “school adventures.”)

But on Sunday night, the situation hadn’t gotten any better. Still no voice.

Ok.  I know how to deal with this.  I’ll just make an appointment to see a doctor tomorrow.

And when I woke up on today, I did just that.

Now, I know that there’s little a doctor can do when it comes to laryngitis.  At best, he’ll discover it’s a bacterial infection and prescribe some kind of medication.  But most of the time, a person with laryngitis is told to simply rest the voice.  Silence.  (Um, those of you who know me know that being silent isn’t something that comes naturally to me!)

I had to notify my contact at the organization that arranged the residency, explaining the situation. I am having some vocal problems I’m schedule to meet with a doctor and will keep them posted.  I was optimistic.


I went to see the doctor today.  He gave me a very thorough examination.


Alas, there is nothing that can be done. No magic pill to prescribe. I’ve been put on complete vocal rest.


Because of my age coupled with no signs of bacterial infection, I was referred to an otolaryngologist (aka ENT) for a laryngoscopy tomorrow.  We used to refer to it as “getting ‘scoped” when I was back in college.  It’s a painless procedure where a tube with a camera is passed through the nose and down the throat so that they can take a look at my vocal cords.

As I walked out of the doctor’s office, I knew that I needed to ask that the residency with the kids be postponed until after I have the procedure.  My hope is that I’ll be told to rest the voice and I’ll be up and ready for the kids next week.

There is a tiny part of me that’s nervous.  Vocal cord nodules.  Polyps. You name it and I can go there in a heartbeat.

But the other part of me says that I need to just chill out and wait to see what the doctor finds and advises.  Maybe it’s nothing.  (And wouldn’t a lot of unnecessary worry be a huge waste of energy?)  After a few bouts of laryngitis over the past few years, it will be great to be able to see what the vocal folds look like and assess their health.

The biggest disappointment of all is that I won’t be able to start up with the kids tomorrow as I’d planned.  I love that first day of a residency: giving them the first taste of Hawaiian music and culture. Sounding the pū in the classroom.  Sharing with them my favorite Hawaiian words: Aloha and Mahalo.

And I really don’t like being an inconvenience to the wonderful folks who have arranged the residency.  It takes so much work to coordinate something like that. So many parts and pieces to sync up.  And I’m stuck here at the starting block. (Please, God, don’t let them label me as a “problematic” teaching artist.)


I remind myself that I didn’t choose to be an inconvenience.  It’s not like I’m asking to postpone the residency so that I can go shopping.  I literally cannot produce a workable sound with my voice right now.  (And those of you who have worked with kindergarten and first grade classrooms know that you may need to produce A LOT of sound when working with that age group!)

I remind myself that I’ll be even more excited about the residency when I can really share with them–in good health.  When I’m not limited by my body like I am at this moment.

So, I find myself as the Crooner Without A Voice right now.

But I’m not going to be totally silent.  I may not be able to use my voice to speak or sing, but I can still write. And there are half-finished songs begging to be completed.  And essays to be written.  And pages of Project Natalie to churn out.

I’m not going to be quiet.  I’ll just be speaking on the page, instead.

A (small-ish) pitfall on the path.

I’ll keep you posted.

5 Responses to “When the crooner cannot croon (or speak)…”

  1. noho says:

    Hang in there crooner! Those kids are going to line up for their aloha seeds and come right back for more.

  2. Susan says:

    Hope it works out soon Jason! I’ve had laryngitis for about a month now swollen vocal cords and I have to get a biopsy next week to see about a weird swelling right next to my cords. It’s been pure mystery to be without my normal ear piercing voice!!

  3. rahree says:

    sending you all of my remaining vocal mojo, since I don’t so much need it anymore. ma voce es su voce!

  4. Carol Brown says:

    Aloha e Jason
    Malama pono. This past year I had multiple scopes and procedures on my throat, including two in-hospital operations. It seems you know that a laryngoscopy is not a difficult or painful procedure and I’m glad you aren’t worried. Just remember that they ask you to say ‘EEEEEE’ as well as “AAAHHH”. Something about ‘e’ allows for good visualization. And then total quiet.. not even whispering, which is very hard on the voice. Time to listen to Hawaiian music, not sing it!

  5. Jason, the extreme weather we have had isn’t helping. Do stay warm and rest, rest, rest. You will be such a joy to the children when you return. They will probably be that much more attentive once they have settled down from holiday jitters.
    Wishing you speedy and complete recovery!

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