UNMC, Opera Omaha show vocal cords in action


September 10th, 2014

Omaha, NE — Shelby Van Nordstrand’s voice sounds beautiful,  but could you imagine looking at her voice? That’s exactly what Opera Omaha and the University of Nebraska Medical Center made possible during the latest Science Cafe.


“I think it’s fascinating for people to learn how that’s possible me and it takes years of training so the biology of it is pretty magical but also highly technical,” said Roger Weitz, general director of Opera Omaha.

Dr. Chris Bingcang is a laryngologist at UNMC. He specializes in the treatment of the voice box and throat. Dr. Bingcang said the arts, sciences and medicine are all connected.

“The vocal cords are like a finely tunes instrument. The vocal cords are what vibrate. I can show the vocal cords moving and coming together which allows the vocal cords to vibrate,” Bingcang said. “It’s the same thing as a piano and the hammer hitting the string or a drummer with a drum stick and a drum head or a guitarist who plucks a string and the string starts vibrating.”

Dr. Bingcang scoped Hannah Stephenson’s throat during the prsentation. She is a voice performance graduate student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a singer with Opera Omaha. This isn’t the first time Stephenson has been scoped, but it is the first time in front of a live audience.

“It has that weird sensation of having something in your nose, but it’s not painful. It’s kind of like you’ve swallowed a noodle and it’s come out of the wrong end,” she said.

Stephenson has been singing for 10 years. She said having a scope of her vocal cords is  a helpful resource.

“We all have this instrument we carry around inside of us and to actually see it and see how it works, for me personally, it actually informs the process,” Stephenson said. “So, when I’m singing I can actually look at it and think ‘this is what actually happening with my voice right now.'”

The next Science Cafe will be Sept. 22 in Lincoln. For more information log onto to unmc.edu/sciencecafe.

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