Velopharyngeal Insufficiency

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Yvette, May 9, 2010.

  1. Yvette

    Yvette New Friend

    Jan 31, 2010
    15 yr. old son suffering from VPI since October. Plays trumpet in marching band, and LOVES it. Has been taking it easy since his soft palate has not been closing on high notes--plays slow, and low only. High school band teacher has been wonderful--He has seen doctors--various, who basically tell him he needs to quit playing. Problem, he does not see that as an option. He wants to continue playing in marching band--will this harm him more? What kind of a doctor should he see? Any excercises? Very limited on research done in this area. I continually supply doctors, and teachers with printouts of what I have found on internet. Everything just says it takes time, which is fine. I just don't want him to damage it anymore. Please advice--help....guidance.
  2. stchasking

    stchasking Forte User

    Jun 11, 2006
    No one has replied so I'll take a stab at it.
    Since your son does not have a life threatening problem I doubt if the doctors would do anything surgically. Adding to the soft palate to play trumpet is not going to go over too well.
    I know that brass players who have had surgery to stop snoring have ended up with this, VPI, unintentionally and can no longer play their instruments.
    I don't think you have a solution to this problem.

    I am wondering if your son had cleft palate reconstruction as a baby? Is this possibly the reason for having VPI?
  3. mchs3d

    mchs3d Mezzo Forte User

    Sep 30, 2005
    Provo, UT
    Hi Yvette. Sorry to hear about your sons problems. Please contact these two people, they are experts in this area:

    Frank Campos - Professor of Trumpet at Ithaca College

    William Pfund - Professor Emeritus of Trumpet at University of Northern Colorado

    If you would like, I can PM their emails to you. Good luck!
  4. rowuk

    rowuk Moderator Staff Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I had a bout when I was 18. Air would come out of my nose while playing with a funny noise (especially when playing high). Back then we didn't have as many "syndromes" through.

    The problem was the brute force applied during playing. My teacher taught me to relax and a couple of months later everything was OK again. The snoring during sleep continued until I got a CPAP (APAP) a couple of years ago.
  5. Yvette

    Yvette New Friend

    Jan 31, 2010
    Thank you for the quick replies--Please let me know how to get in touch with Mr. Compos or Mr. Pfund--both for that matter. We have suggested John play percussion or strings, but his heart is with the trumpet. He loves band-- I would hate to have him have to quit if that can be avoided. Surgery is out of the question--because it only happens when he plays high notes-- other than that he plays fine.
  6. TrumpetMD

    TrumpetMD Fortissimo User

    Oct 22, 2008
    Sorry to hear about your son's problem. Do you know the cause of his VPI (cleft palate, adenoidectomy, neurologic disease)? Many trumpet players have this problem, to one degree or another. When there isn't an identifiable anatomic or neurologic etiology, and it is evident only when playing the trumpet, a better description is stress velopharyngeal insufficiency (given the velopharyngeal closure works under normal conditions, but not under stress).

    There are certain exercises and approaches to playing that can help.

    A speech pathologist may be able to help, although they tend to have more experience with anatomic/neurologic velopharyngeal dysfunction, and not the stress velopharyngeal insufficiency that some brass/woodwind players have. An ENT pnysician may be able to help if there is an anatomical defect (or if you're not sure there is an anatomical problem). A physician with experience in performing arts medicine may be able to help suggest exercises. A trumpet teacher (or any brass teacher) with experience in stress velopharyngeal insufficiency may also be able to help.

    Feel free to PM or email me with specific questions.

    EDIT: ROWUK raised a good point. Overplaying or incorrectly playing is one way to bring this problem out.
    Last edited: May 10, 2010
  7. DrDave

    DrDave Piano User

    Nov 26, 2004
    Vancouver, BC
    There is a clinic in Hamilton, Ontario (up here in Canada) that specializes in musician's problems. They might be worth contacting. You would probably have to pay privately, but the cost of a medical consultation in Canada is fairly reasonable compared to the US. | Whats New

    Dave Harrison
  8. tedh1951

    tedh1951 Utimate User

    Oct 18, 2007
    The Wide Brown Land
    My snoring continues until I get a "night-time Knee in the nuts" - then a sharp intake of breath seems to cure me - for a while. :shock:
  9. tpsiebs

    tpsiebs Piano User

    Feb 6, 2010
    Randolph, New Jersey
    Just weighing in on this as I've had several students over the last 35 that I've been teaching exhibit similar symptoms.

    My findings and opinions are purely anecdotal, so take them as just that. High notes and high compression seem to be the culprit. The 'flap' that controls the air flow is controlled by musculature in the soft palate region. That 'flap' is controlled by muscles and they can be exercised and (as long as there is not physiological anomaly) they can be strengthened to improve their efficiency and that of the 'gate'.

    If compression is just blowing them open then, the muscles may have just given up and we've inadvertently created a synaptic response to that compression that just causes failure.

    To find the muscles that work that area, try talking like you have a bad cold in your nose "read: a code in dyour dose" - like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in that old claymation classic. This should help sensitize us to the location of the failure. Learn to feel the lifted palatte.

    Band Directors are really good at using words "open your throat" and not explaining what that means. In this case, don't think about playing with an open throat, play with a lifted palatte.

    Light playing while "feeling" that lift will begin to strengthen the area. Then it is a slow build to range and volume like it is for everyone else.

    In a worst case scenario, euphonium and or trombone (and I've been successful with horn as well) can be considered as potential switches: they require just as much air but with a lower compression rate.
    tedh1951 likes this.
  10. stchasking

    stchasking Forte User

    Jun 11, 2006

    A Cpap will save you a lot of pain in the nuts. I have used one for years and it is a Godsend.
    I own two. One for home and one for travel. Seriously, save your jewels and get a sleep study. That goes for the rest of you, too.

    I am glad we have some people who can provide some advice for the thread. I didn't think the site would be stumped.

Share This Page