NYMC > News and Events > News Archives

Sari Koppel, SLP Class of 2023, Combines the Art and Science of Voice

The Actor, Singer and Future Speech-Language Pathologist Will Sing the National Anthem at the SHSP Commencement Ceremony

April 24, 2023
Sari Koppel
Sari Koppel

A theater kid at heart, Koppel grew up singing and acting. She spent her last two years of high school at Interlochen Arts Academy, an arts boarding school in northern Michigan, to get extra experience before going to college. She completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at The Hartt School, University of Hartford in Connecticut in 2017. She earned a degree in music theatre, which she describes as practically a triple major in acting, dance and singing. Her studies entailed being at the ballet barre at 8 a.m., attending general education classes and theatre classes in the afternoon and having rehearsals until 10 p.m.

“For actors and singers our voice and bodies are our instrument,” said Koppel. “So anything that we're doing is automatically very personal. We're constantly being critiqued on those things. I was so lucky that I had a wonderful group of friends and a really supportive community there because the classes were rigorous.”

Upon graduation, she moved to New York City to pursue her career in theater. Koppel lived the typical actor lifestyle. She auditioned in between working at restaurants and catering services in New York City for four years. Koppel performed in multiple companies in the New England area and beyond, including Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, and at various cabaret, wedding and restaurant venues. After coming back from a contract in Mississippi performing the role of Alice Murphy in the folk musical Bright Star – her dream role – she knew she couldn’t go back to working in a restaurant.

“I had a lovely family of coworkers at the restaurant, but I wanted to do something else. I wanted to feel fulfilled every day,” said Koppel. “In theater, there's really high highs of you landing the dream role and there's really low lows of months and months of auditioning and not getting the part.”

Koppel yearned for a career that was more consistent and still allowed her to pursue her passions, even if it was in a different way. Through soul searching, she landed on speech-language pathology. Speech-language pathology felt familiar to Koppel. The practice was about how people used their voices to communicate, a concept she would explore when creating the persona of a character she would play. She decided to attend New York Medical College (NYMC) because the SLP program is medically oriented and affords endless career opportunities.

Gravitated to the vast world of speech-language pathology, Koppel knew she could work in a variety of specializations including providing cognitive-linguistic therapy to people who were coping with long COVID-19 or working with children who are developing language. She quickly found her home in the voice specialty. Koppel completed her externship at the Yale Voice Center and attended conferences and workshops on voice and upper airway disorders. Her studies included examining vocal folds, conducting behavioral voice evaluations, using acoustic and aerodynamic assessments for the voice and working with the wide gamut of voice and upper airway disorders. Koppel doesn’t see SLP as a switch in careers but rather adding tools in her toolkit.

Through her specializations, she has come full circle – working with performers. As an artist who uses her voice, Koppel finds that her experience in the arts allows her to relate to her patients who might have a vocal injury and a big performance coming up. She finds herself wearing two hats. She works with patients on ways to adjust their voice safely and how their new voice fits with the characters they’re playing. Koppel’s patients include other professional voice users, a person who uses their voice daily for their profession, as well such as teachers, lawyers or group fitness instructors.

“Speech pathology gets personal really quickly,” said Koppel. “Being able to be in the space with my patients and say, ‘I might not understand exactly what you're going through, but I can empathize with what you're going through and I can be here for you as not only your support in the communication and voice side of things, but also in the emotional side of things as it relates to the voice,’ is important.”

Koppel is currently applying for clinical fellowships in voice, upper airway and swallowing disorders, and continues to perform in the arts. Her next performance is singing the national anthem at the SHSP commencement ceremony. Koppel said singing the national anthem at graduation is an honor.  

“It'll be a nice bookend to my time at NYMC and a way to show my gratitude to all of my friends and my professors for all the time and energy that they put into my education,” Koppel said.