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Prepping for the Marathon: A Voice of Concern

by Jon Bolden

When I was asked to be in this year’s 43-Hour Marathon, I accepted and immediately emailed my vocal therapist currently working in Ohio to ask him a few questions. He replied very concerned about the health of my voice what I had just signed up for.

Let me back up.

Jon Bolden on the microphone

In the spring of 2005, I was a senior at Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio. I wasn’t a music major but I was in three choirs, singing about 4-5 hours a week.

On top of that, I was also a rock musician, performing a few times a week.

On top of THAT, it was the end of year which meant tons of partying, staying up late, stress, yelling at loud venues, you know… dumb college stuff.

On Doo Dah Day (the day before finals when the college buys everyone beer for some reason) my band was performing on campus. I had already overdone it the week before in choir and felt my voice slipping. My choir instructor told me I was fine and to “suck it up”, advice that would soon cause me a lot of pain. I was screaming at the top of my lungs during a song and felt an acute pain in my throat.

I knew my voice was shot. I assumed after a week of rest, it would return, like always.

However, It did not.

I waited months and my voice never restored, it was constantly hoarse and it hurt to speak. After six months of research & doctors I finally was schedule to have two vocal polyps removed from my vocal cords.

If you don’t know what a polyp is, imagine a pea-size blister on your vocal folds that will not go away on it’s own. It has to be removed surgically. After two vocal surgeries, I took two weeks with no speaking and four months of therapy to recover.

Today, my voice is fine and I can perform improv, sing, speak, and I feel great. However, my vocal cords are now fragile and weigh three times more than they used to (scar tissue weighs more than original tissue). I often lose my voice just after light use. I take really good care of it and continue to perform my therapy exercises.

band-leader bolden back in the day

Without sleep, your voice does not get the eight hours of rest it needs. In a normal day, your vocal cords can get swollen and red. They need time and rest. I know that improv can be pretty demanding on your voice.

My surgeon / therapist responded via email saying he thought this was a terrible idea and I am risking losing my voice entirely again if I push it too hard. This really scared me. I began to think that i should not go through with the marathon.

I talked to several people about and realized the following:

1. I will not be speaking for 43 hours straight. I can choose my own involvement each show. There will be at least 7 other people on stage with me.

Jon Bolden, being a badass.

2. I don’t have to do anything vocally demanding if I don’t want to.

3. I will have 10 minutes of rest between each show and a chance to hydrate constantly.

4. If I absolutely have to, it’s not the end of the world if I have to drop out half-way through the marathon (heaven forbid)

5. Let’s face it, I will fall asleep. I’m a total wuss. Even if it’s only for a few minutes, I will be sleeping at some point.

6. I’m a badass.

All of this feedback from fellow improvisers and The Hideout Theatre corroborated the well-known theory of “Austin improv community is amazingly supportive”. That’s what the marathon is all about really. We have each other’s backs for this crazy thing.

No matter what happens.

I feel safe, especially after sharing this information with everyone. I know people will be watching after me and encouraging me to rest and automatically understanding. That lack of compassion is what led me to lose my voice in the first place. I truly am in the right place.

To give a long story a short conclusion: Bring it on.

To watch Jon Bolden tackle all 43 hours, get your tickets for the Marathon here.

One Response to “Prepping for the Marathon: A Voice of Concern”

  1. […] about my voice holding up since I had two vocal surgeries back in 2006. Read more about that on a Hideout Theatre blog post I wrote last […]

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