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Sound of Silence

Theatre alumna remembers overcoming damaged vocal chords

Kelie McIver

From The Ichabod - Fall 2020

“The doctor said you have soft nodules on your vocal chords, and if you don’t let them heal, they can become permanently damaged.”

Kelie McIver, ba ’82, took that warning very seriously. But in her junior year at Washburn University as a vocalist and theatre major, healing her damaged vocal chords with complete vocal rest was easier said than done. Well, maybe easier written than done.

For more than three months, McIver carried a pad of paper to communicate, but she definitely struggled with the silence. She wore a pin on her shirt that said “DOCTOR ORDERED VOICE REST.” In any situation, she quickly pointed to the pin instead of jumping into conversation.

“I’m a speed talker and I’m ready to dive in and provide quick comebacks, so it was very awkward not to talk,” McIver said. “At that age, that time seemed like forever. I was worried about what I was going to miss out on.”

Kelie McIver on a play setAfter sufficient rest, McIver was able to speak again, but she still took the extra effort not to aggravate her prior injury. She received speech therapy to work on bad vocal habits and made sure she was always warming up before performing. In fact, although she was cleared to perform, she purposefully chose smaller roles as she rebuilt her strength.

“The Washburn theatre department was putting on the play “Our Town,” and the female lead, Emily, was the perfect part for me,” McIver said. “I was just coming back from all of the hard work I had done to make sure my voice was okay, and I didn’t think I should take such a large part.”

Instead, McIver played the part of Emily’s love interest’s little sister — a role of fate, as she became quick friends with the male lead, Dwight Dickey, ba ’82, who was later the catalyst for convincing her to move to Hollywood, California, where she currently resides.

Before graduating, McIver took on an internship and job at KTWU working for Bill Shaffer, ba ’74, as a production assistant. In that role, Shaffer also gave her the opportunity to record voiceover promos.

“I got this incredible experience with both KTWU and the Washburn theatre department proper,” McIver said. “Because it’s a smaller pond, you get to do all kinds of stuff that you never would have in a larger school.”

Since moving to Hollywood, McIver has continued to have a life in the theater with roles in several Shakespeare plays, among others. She performs in the Razzie AwardsKelie McIver on a play set for worst films each year, and she has done promotional work for a cable television station. But interestingly, she’s also found a niche in the voiceover world and continues to stay busy in that field — something she attributes to her time working at KTWU.

“If I had not let my vocal chords rest and plunged ahead, my vocal instrument most definitely would have been different,” McIver said. “I knew it was the right thing to do.”

The Ichabod Winter 2021 issue

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2021 winter edition online and look for it in mailboxes in January.

View past editions


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