Kristie Knickerbocker ’12 MS, ’10 BS, is a multi-talented individual who wears various hats in her professional life. She is a wife, mother, speech-language pathologist (SLP), singer, content creator, author and an entrepreneur. Her journey has been shaped by a deep passion for voice, singing and helping others with vocal disorders.
“I feel a strong pull to help others in similar situations that I went through with the identity crisis my voice injury brought on,” explains Knickerbocker. “I know what it’s like to be the patient and I feel it helps me see people more completely.”
Kristie is the owner of a tempo Voice Center, a private practice based in Fort Worth. Her primary focus is assessing and treating people with voice disorders, especially singers. Additionally, she manages a publishing company dedicated to creating resources that bridge the gap between speech-language pathologists and singers, offering valuable insights into voice and voice science research. She shares her knowledge through social media content, disseminating voice science information to a wider audience.
From a young age, Knickerbocker found joy in creating music and performing. She actively participated in community and competition choirs, community theater, school musicals, solo and ensemble competitions, and freelance singing and songwriting gigs. Her love for music and voice laid the foundation for her future endeavors.
The path to becoming an SLP with a specialization in voice was not without its challenges. In 2006, she aspired to major in vocal performance until a vocal cyst diagnosis on her left vocal cord changed her trajectory. After undergoing surgery and receiving vocal rehabilitation, she switched her major to speech pathology and delved into the world of voice. Her mission was to bridge the gap between common misconceptions about singing and the science of voice.
Her personal journey of vocal injury and recovery, coupled with her extensive performance background, makes her business unique. She attributes her inspiration for entrepreneurship to Chris Watts, Ph.D., the now-Marilyn and Morgan Davies dean of Harris College. Watts hosted a club during her undergraduate years where she could connect with private practice owners, igniting her passion for entrepreneurship.
During her academic journey, she also found mentors who played a significant role in shaping her path. David Grogan, one of her voice teachers, taught her to love her voice, while Ron Pitcock, Ph.D., in the John V. Roach Honors College encouraged her intellectual growth and independent thinking. Richard Enos, through a summer course, further fueled her love for writing and creation.
Entrepreneurship has been a fulfilling but challenging endeavor for Knickerbocker. Her previous experience as a clinical fellow in a hospital setting was not as rewarding as she had hoped.
“Despite having a fantastic mentor, the hospital work environment was toxic, leading to daily feelings of depression on my way to work,” she explains. “I felt I wasn’t positively impacting anyone’s quality of life.”
With entrepreneurship, Kristie has gained autonomy over her work, allowing her to shape her day, work as hard as she desires, and directly witness the outcomes of her efforts. She shoulders the responsibility for her success or failure.
“My husband has always pushed me to be the best version of myself and supported me in every way,” said Knickerbocker. “I was scared initially, and I still get scared from time to time – a bit of imposter syndrome, but ultimately I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
To aspiring entrepreneurs in the healthcare field, Knickerbocker emphasizes the importance of community-based care clinics. She believes that the current healthcare system values profits and corporate interests over patient care. She considers herself fortunate to create a patient-centered care system through her private practice.
“I am reminded that community-based care clinics have a place and can sometimes make a bigger positive impact on quality of life for patients than the most ‘high-ranked’ and ‘heavily awarded’ hospital systems.”
Kristie’s clinic operates with love and passion, driven by her desire to leave a positive mark on the world. Her 15-year journey of acquiring knowledge and healing has led her to write a book titled “Singing in a Jiff: A Guide to Creating Sustainability.” The book aims to help individuals avoid vocal injuries and navigate the recovery process if they occur.
In 2020, Knickerbocker embarked on a joint venture with two fellow voice-specialized SLP entrepreneurs, forming the Confident Clinician Cooperative. This venture is an approved provider of American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) continuing education units. Together, they create digital content centered on voice and the upper airway and provide virtual mentorship to individuals worldwide, focusing not only on voice-related matters but also on the business aspects of private practice.
Ultimately, her goal is to inspire more individuals to establish health care companies that prioritize evidence-based approaches and value patient wishes and desires. She sees herself bridging the gap between singing voice pedagogy and voice science to create a more patient-centered healthcare approach.