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Singing on Espresso

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David Katz reveals how his espresso brownie breakfasts put his voice – and life – at risk.

About nine years ago, I was singing opera and concerts in New York and Europe, leading a congregation full time as a Cantor and teaching private voice students.

I was running and pushing like all of my colleagues, and eating the same way too.

Breakfast consisted of a triple latte and occasional espresso brownie. Lunch (if there was such) was Chinese or pizza with a few sodas.

Dinner was a roast beef deli hero with fries and a bowl of ice cream now and then.

The other part of my “diet” consisted of three different prescription drugs for digestive and other issues as well as an antibiotic every four months or so because I was continually sick.


A Crashing Halt

Then, one day, I got incredibly sick and was rushed to the hospital. I was in extraordinary pain. It felt like nails were being hammered into every one of my joints.

Days later, and after what seemed like an endless amount of intravenous antibiotics and then a colonoscopy, the doctors said I had small tears in my colon from the antibiotics, and they might have to cut out the affected area of my colon and I would have to wear a bag the rest of my life.

Singing was now out of the question, as by this time my mid-section and the muscles I accessed for singing were literally inaccessible from the constant vomiting, diarrhea and cramping.

As I lay in the hospital alone, I said to myself, “David, you are only 37 years old and embarking on a promising career, and here you are almost dead. What the hell is going on?”


Back from the Dead

The very next day, my voice teacher and coach called to see if I was okay. After telling her my experience, she asked if I would see one of the best natural and Chinese doctors in New York.

Without hesitation, I agreed.

Over the next year, I was systematically detoxed with wheat grass colonics, raw organic juices and tea from this doctor.

At the end of that year, I felt incredible and looked better than ever.

As well, my voice had taken on a whole new life. It had nearly doubled in “size”, was full of energy, and I had more stamina and power.

Healthy Body = Healthy Voice

Within three years, I was off all prescription medications. It became apparent to me that what I put into my body directly affects my voice, and therefore my career.


Today, I don’t remember the last time I was sick. I sing constantly and have more stamina and strength than ever.

I realize that without question, a healthy body equals a healthy voice.

This experience also inspired me to become an herbalist and nutritional consultant.

My mission now is to help other voice professionals become aware of how their food choices affect their voice, and that they can keep their voice in top shape without chemicals or drugs.

Clearly, as professionals we must continue to see our ENT and physician, but it’s really about what we do in between visits.

When we commit to a clean and focused lifestyle with our diet, there is no stopping us…and the world is truly our stage!

See a response to this article from Dr. Anthony Jahn: “Can Herbs Save Your Voice?”


David Aaron Katz is a professional Opera singer, Cantor, Nutritional Consultant, Herbalist and CEO of Superior Vocal Health- Superiorvocalhealth.com. He is the author of Superior Vocal Health- Herbs for the Voice and Throat- A guide to herbs, supplements, and diet for the Voice Professional. He is also the head of the Voice Faculty for the Bronx Trial Defenders College, Bronx, New York. His life mission is to help Voice Professionals from around the world to learn how to heal, maintain and strengthen their voices naturally without chemical or drugs.

  • Owl Man

    I think the espresso was the least of the problem… It was all the dairy, sugar, red meat, and pharma. I went vegan 2 ½ years ago, and have noticed a marked improvement in not only my voice, but in my overall health as well. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us!

  • Matthew J Cutillo

    David is an excellent teacher and singer and I feel so lucky to have found this article by chance today so I can take the hints I have getting for some time now. My body hurts all over and I am 41 and really should be in great shape. Thanks Cantor Katz ! Matthew J Cutillo

  • Matthew J Cutillo

    Most of all I am glad David’s ok ! All the very best to You and Your family bro

  • Roojam

    Great article! Tragic story. Am glad it has a happy ending!

    Caffeine is a voice killer since it dehydrates your body.

    As for meat and dairy products I would never give them up but I have switched to organic-only produce/grass-fed beef/eggs from cage-free chickens, to avoid all the bad stuff we put into our modern food chain.

    I don’t consume dairy on days that I am to perform due to the phlegm issue, but when I do its organic, whole milk. Artificially low fat _____(anything) is unnatural and should be avoided.

    Refined sugar is to be avoided also, unless you like cultivating the bad bacterias that are counter-productive to a healthy happy life.