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Changing Lives Through Vocal Play ‒ An Interview With Katarina, The Voice Therapist And Vocal Coach

Katarina Hornakova is a speech-language pathologist, vocal coach and vocal health educator. She helps people find their true vocal potential so that they can share their voice with the rest of the world. Katarina has a successful YouTube channel and more recently a growing TikTok account, where she teaches her viewers how to take care of their voices and build a strong and lasting voice. She is a self-proclaimed voice enthusiast and could talk about the human voice for hours.

Katarina Hornakova, Vocal Health Coach and Educator

Why do you do what you do?

My road, to where I am now and what I do now, has not been straightforward. I come from a family of “helpers”. My dad was a doctor and my mom was a pharmacist, so from a very early age I wanted to be a doctor too. And indeed, I went on to study medicine. But after several years and to the horror of my parents, I realized that I did not want to be a doctor after all. I did not want to “poke” people with needles and treat them with medication. I wanted to talk to them. The inspiration to become a speech-language pathologist came from one speech therapy session with a local speech therapist. It was magical. I could see and hear visible changes in the patient’s speech. And it was achieved with nothing more than talking, experimenting, exploring and having fun. At that moment, I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

So I went on to study speech-language pathology and I have been working in the field for more than 20 years now. I have been working with a very diverse group of people from all over the world, of different ages and with different speech, communication and voice issues. I worked with babies and their moms improving early communication, I worked with preschool kids on their language and articulation skills, I worked with kids of all ages helping them be understood by others and be successful at school. I worked with adults after strokes and traumatic brain injuries to regain their lives. But my heart really lies with people with vocal problems. And that’s where I have been focusing most recently. I want to give those magic moments to people who have lost trust in their voice.

Aren’t voice problems very rare?

No. It is estimated that one in 13 adults is affected by a voice problem annually. That is a lot of people. But only a fraction of these people seek help, even though the impact of voice problems can be detrimental. Nobody talks about voice issues so you probably don’t even know anyone in your close circles who has had a vocal problem. But I bet that you would probably know several people if our society would be more open to talk about this topic.

Take for example celebrities with vocal issues. The ones who spoke out were criticized for abusing their voice or for not knowing any better. They were blamed for their vocal injuries. Their technique and skills were scrutinized by the public. Who would admit to having a voice problem in this environment? We have to stop the blame and start having an open conversation about our voices so that we learn how to take care of them the best way possible without judgment.

What led you to helping people with voice problems?

Several years ago, I decided to start a YouTube channel as a way of educating people about voice and voice care. Most people’s knowledge does not go beyond “keep your voice hydrated” and “don’t shout”. And I wanted to change that. We take our voices for granted and only when there is a problem, do we realize the value of our voices, and how much we rely on our voices for many essential daily tasks. During the pandemic, when we were isolating in our homes, I set out to connect with my YouTube followers to find out how I could be of help. I offered to meet with them over Zoom to discuss their voice and vocal issues. Within 24 hours, my calendar was full for the next 2 weeks following my announcement. I connected with about 50 people who shared their stories with me.

50 people in 2 weeks! What did you find out?

It was quite a special time. People want to be heard. They want to share their vocal journey with someone who understands. They want to find solutions. They want to experience magic and transform their lives. They want to reclaim their voices. The stories that touched me the most were stories of people whose own family and friends were dismissive of their problem. There is nothing wrong with you! You sound great! The problem is in your head! Those are just a few examples of typical remarks people with vocal issues hear on a daily basis. This is especially true for people who experience pain or tension when speaking. I bet it is hard to imagine having pain after a 5-minute conversation that leaves you fearful of using your voice ever again. And these are quite common complaints from people with voice problems.

Katarina, you are active on many social media platforms, you have an online coaching program, you run voice workshops and trainings. What is your goal?

My mission is to encourage people to take charge of their voices. It does not matter if you have a healthy voice or if you are dealing with a vocal issue. There is always room for improvement. I personally work on my voice daily. I explore it through vocal play and with curiosity. The human voice is a hidden treasure that we all possess. There are some true magicians who can do crazy things with their voice! But all of us can experience small magical moments. Just imagine having a voice that projects kindness or authority, a voice that easily connects with others, a voice that tells a story, a voice that truly represents who you are on the inside. We all have the power to have the voice that we want. I am here to show people what is possible for them, through vocal play. It’s like playing in the vocal sandbox.

Who inspires you?

I am very fortunate to be surrounded by people who inspire me every day. My family, friends, colleagues, mentors, teachers … But I get great pleasure and a big dose of inspiration from the people I work with. Their vocal stories inspire me to do more and to better understand what help they really need in order to experience those magical moments that change their lives.

Follow Katarina on her Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and visit her website for more info.



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