Kari Ragan has a gifted singing voice, and she also now has an award for her research on the science of singing.
Ragan, a 1982 Richland High graduate now living in Seattle, received the 2012 Van Lawrence Award for her research proposal on the importance of vocal cool down exercises at the Voice Foundation Symposium held recently in Philadelphia.
"It is the most prestigious award in the field of voice pedagogy and is an enormous honor," she told the Herald in an email. "It's given jointly by The Voice Foundation (a medical community) and the National Association of Teachers of Singing."
The award was created to honor Dr. Van L. Lawrence for his contribution to voice, particularly to recognize the importance of the interdisciplinary education he fostered among laryngologists and singing teachers.
Ragan, the daughter of Harvey and Carma Ragan of Richland, proposed in her application that exercises are considered essential for healthy singing technique, yet cooling down the voice at the end of a lesson, rehearsal or performance is not the norm for singers.
"Athletic training typically includes the process of cooling down the body, yet vocal athletes neglect this important aspect of their training," she said. "Investigating the type of exercises that would be appropriate to cooling down the laryngeal muscles may help singers reduce their recovery time."
She also told the Lawrence fellowship board that she would like to investigate whether the process of icing particular muscles as one does when working with a physical therapist applies to singers as well.
Ragan attended Pacific Lutheran University up until her junior year, when she transferred to Indiana University Bloomington. There, she earned a master's in music and voice in 1987.
She has come a long way from the little girl who suffered from dyslexia in grade school, her mother said.
"We were told by her teacher when Kari was in preschool that she would have a career in music on day," Carma Ragan said. "My father's side of the family is very musical, but it skipped my generation and picked up again with Kari."
"She was always a very stubborn child," her mother quipped. "And since she was in the seventh grade, she's been determined to do something in music. She sings beautifully, but she's also a very gifted music teacher."
Ragan still performs periodically as a professional classical singer but teaching private music lessons is her true calling, she said. Though she has performed many times in the Tri-Cities, her last performance was in 2007.