Journal of Singing, September-October 2023

Page 13

The Official Journal of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Inc. Volume 80 | No. 1 September/October 2023 T HE O FFICIAL J OURNAL OFTHE N ATIONAL A SSOCIATION OF T EACHERSOF S INGING ,I NC .
Volume70|No.2 November/December2013


The arrangements ofRobert De Cormier

Compiled, edited, and with background material, by John Yaffé

The first-ever publication of the late, great Robert De Cormier’s finely-crafted arrangements of Yiddish folk songs — and the firstever large body of Yiddish folksong repertoire arranged by a master composer-arranger and suitable for concert/recital performance.

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•Yiddish Pronunciation Guide

• Yiddish

•Article on folk songs in arrangement

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•Article on Yiddish vis-à-vis German

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• Historical/contextual

•Historical/contextual background on the Yiddish language as well as on each individual song

To order: Anthology, Volume 1 (192 pgs.), plus MP3 tracks: $42.00 plus shipping and handling

Ipsilon Music Press


The Official Journal of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Inc.

The Official Journal of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Inc.


Lynn Helding



Care of the Professional Voice

Robert T. Sataloff


Alison d’Amato

Elvia Puccinelli

From the President

Diana Allen

The Independent Teacher Brian Manternach

Mindful Voice

Lynn Maxfield

The Vocal Point

Melissa Treinkman

Practical Voice Science

David Meyer

John Nix


Kimberly Broadwater,

Recent Research in Singing

Don Simonson

The Versatile Voice

Justin John Moniz

Voice Pedagogy

Matthew Hoch


Book Reviews

Debra Greschner

Music Reviews

Kathleen Roland-Silverstein

The Media Gallery

Gregory Berg


Richard Dale Sjoerdsma


Voice Pedagogy, Repertoire, and Performance Practice

Stephen Austin

Kenneth Bozeman

Debra Greschner

Judith Nicosia

John Nix

Elvia Puccinelli

Trineice Robinson-Martin

Voice Medicine and Health

Michael M. Johns III

Wendy D. LeBorgne

Deirdre D. Michael

Lindsay S. Reder

Robert Sataloff

Mark A. Williams

Psychology/Cognitive Science

Lynn Maxfield

Elisa Monti

Heidi Moss Erickson

Voice Science

Stephen Austin

Kenneth Bozeman

Joshua D. Glasner

David Meyer

John Nix David Okerlund


(904) 992-9101



Laura Carter

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Journal of Singing archives can be found at journal_singing.html

ii Journal of Singing Journal of Singing
Volume 80, No. 1 PRINT ISSN: 1086-7732 | ONLINE ISSN: 2769-4046 | USPS 890-380 September/October 2023
September/October 2023 iii
CONTENTS FEATURES Travis Sherwood 13 Powerful Dynamics: Exploring the Evolution of the Master-Apprentice Tradition David Dillard 23 La solita forma: Examining the Musical and Dramatic Structure of Bel Canto Arias Maria Georgakarakou 35 The Impact of Blindness on the Physical and Vocal Development of Visually Impaired Singers
Diana Allan 1 From the President: What I Did on My Summer Vacation—Go NATS! Lynn Helding 7 Editor’s Commentary: To Understand, Value, Uphold, and Advance Matthew Hoch 43 Voice Pedagogy: Singing Redefined Bailey Balouch, 51 Care of the Professional Voice: The Effect of Marijuana on the Voice Ghiath Alnouri, and Robert T. Sataloff David Meyer and John Nix 57 Practical Voice Science: What Science Is and What It Is Not Justin John Moniz 63 The Versatile Voice: Building Versatile Voices Brian Manternach 67 The Independent Teacher: Time Spent: The Eight-Hour Day Lynn Maxfield 73 Mindful Voice: I Feel, You Feel: Considerations of Emotion in Singing Kimberly Broadwater 77 Provenance: Consumption Et Alia Alison d’Amato and 83 Collaborations: Margo Garrett: A Model of Mentorship Elvia Puccinelli Melissa Treinkman 89 The Vocal Point: A Conversation with Leslie Holmes Donald Simonson 93 Recent Research in Singing REVIEWS Debra Greschner 95 Bookshelf Kathleen Roland-Silverstein 99 Music Reviews Gregory Berg 103 The Media Gallery INFORMATION iv Publication Deadlines 50 NATS Membership Information 108 NATS Association Page 109 Index to Advertisers 109 Nonmember Subscription Information 110 Guidelines for Contributors

The Online Journal Index

An online annotated index of articles published in The Bulletin, The NATS Bulletin, The NATS Journal, and the Journal of Singing, was created by former NATS President and author of Teaching Singing John Burgin. From the first issue to the present, seventy-five years of publication yield more than 5,000 individual entries. The index also represents the contributions of hundreds of authors.

An important research tool, now managed by Dr. Alexander Brosseau, the index includes those articles considered to be contributions to voice pedagogy, technique, performance, medical science and practice, and the literature on singing. New entries are added with the publication of each issue. The index provides a searchable online bibliography, information, and helpful annotations of articles published. The index also provides a means of quickly finding what articles have been written on specific topics and by what authors. In addition, active NATS members and Journal of Singing subscribers are able to download printable copies of articles previously published in the Journal, as well as complete issues.

Readers may access the index via the homepage at

Article manuscripts should be submitted directly to the Editor-in-Chief. All manuscripts are evaluated by the Editorial Board. Decision to publish rests with the Editor-in-Chief. The deadlines published here refer to articles that have already been accepted for publication.

(We can no longer estimate the date of delivery.)

Vol. 80 No. 1 Vol. 80 No. 2 Vol. 80 No. 3 Vol. 80 No. 4 Vol. 80 No. 5 Sept/Oct 2023 Nov/Dec 2023 Jan/Feb 2024 Mar/Apr 2024 May/June 2024
Features and Reviews by Continuing Contributors 1 May 2023 1 July 2023 1 Sep 2023 1 Nov 2023 1 Jan 2023 Submission of Advertisements 20 Jun 2023 20 Aug 2023 20 Oct 2023 20 Dec 2023 20 Feb 2024 Issue to be placed in mail approximately 15 Aug 2023 15 Oct 2023 15 Dec 2023 15 Feb 2024 15 April 2024

What I Did on My Summer Vacation—Go NATS!

Summer 2023 began with the NATS voice pedagogy trip to England that began with a miniconference that brought together 110 voice teachers from eight countries. Our tour group visited three music preparatory schools and two music universities. Celebrating the English choral tradition, we heard rehearsals or services at Eton College, St. Paul’s Cathedral, King’s College, Cambridge, and Trinity College, Cambridge. Overlapping the Pedagogy Trip, the NATS Intern Program was held at West Chester University, where five Master Teachers worked with sixteen Interns. Next, the NATS Board gathered in Florida for our annual meeting. In late June, the inaugural NATS Science-Informed Voice Pedagogy Institute was held at Utah State University where clinicians presented a wealth of information to fifty-five attendees. July 7–9, we gathered in San Diego for the Summer Workshop. Sessions focused on a variety of repertoire; in addition, the 2023 NSA Finals were held. In mid-July, the South Africa NATS Chapter held their first conference at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town.

Summer 2023 is in the books and what a summer it was! My summer was kicked off by our NATS 2023 transatlantic voice pedagogy trip to England. Past NATS president Karen Brunssen and I had a great time putting this trip together and were joined by a wonderful group of seventeen participants with four other NATS members in London who connected with us on individual days.

Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 1–5

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

While in the United Kingdom, four voice associations—NATS, the Association of Teachers of Singing in the UK (AOTOS), the European Voice Teachers Association (EVTA), and the British Voice Association (BVA)—produced a two-day mini-conference in London called “Global Connections—The Wisdom Among Us,” attended by over 110 voice teachers and voice professionals from over eight countries. We heard four keynote addresses given by Anne Marie Speed (UK), Barbara Hoos de Jokisch (GER), Ken Bozeman (US), and David Howard (UK), seven presentations from AOTOS, NATS, and BVA members, three panel presentations, and two masterclasses given by Sir Thomas Allen and Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher. Members of our tour group included Cheryl Brooks (California), Karen Brunssen*+ (Illinois), Jeffrey Carter* (Missouri), Deborah Dalton* (Texas), Alexis Davis-Hazell* (Alabama), Dorothy and Garry Froese* (British Columbia, Canada), Christina Haldane* (New Brunswick, Canada), Emily Romney and George Hein (Massachusetts), Allen Henderson+ (Georgia), Sarah Holman (Illinois), Lori McCann (New Jersey), Sandra Oberoi (UK), Alex O’Donahue (Washington), Anupa Paul + (India), Yvonne Redman + (Illinois), Cynthia Vaughn* (Virginia), Deirdre Welborn* (South Carolina), Mira Yang (Washington D.C.), and myself.1

September/October 2023 1
Diana Allan

Following the mini-conference, our group visited such distinguished schools as Guildhall School of Music and Dance, Eton College, Guildford School of Acting, Purcell School for Young Musicians, and Tring Park School of Performing Arts. Celebrating the English choral tradition, we enjoyed attending a chapel choir rehearsal at Eton College and Choral Evensongs or services at St. Paul’s Cathedral, King’s College, Cambridge, and Trinity College, Cambridge. We toured Westminster Abbey and Windsor Castle, and were treated to a Thames river cruise to Greenwich and attended two shows: Cry Baby, The Musical (Guildford) and Wicked (West End).

We observed a wide spectrum of training at the various schools we visited. From our brief experience this summer, we found faculty colleagues to be of high quality and performance training to be excellent. At the preparatory programs at Eton, Purcell, and Tring Park (three of eight to ten such schools in the UK that specialize in training young musicians), we found the student performances, even at young ages, were quite exceptional. Although some students attended these schools as day school students, the majority of the students were residential. This seemed key to the dedication, focus, and commitment we observed. Students’ daily routines included scheduled practice periods, study of various singing or musical styles, and performing for peers who were like themselves—focused on music.

When we visited Guildhall and Guildford, where a high percentage of preparatory students eventually attend, it was no surprise that the quality of student performance at these schools was extremely high as well. As an American, I was struck by the contrast of the early training we were observing in the UK at these schools with my own experience of early musical instruction in the United States. I would have given anything to attend a preparatory school where I was able to focus primarily on music with peers who were also passionate about singing like me.

NATS Intern Program

Our England pedagogy trip was a wonderful beginning to a very active summer of so many professional development opportunities within NATS. While we were in the UK, past president Carole Blankenship organized and directed the NATS Intern Program, our preeminent offering for early-career voice teachers (both academic and independent) and collaborative pianists with less than five years of teaching experience. It was held at West Chester University outside of Philadelphia, with Stephen Ng as site coordinator. Thank you to our 2023 master teachers: Cindy Dewey, Nathan Gunn, Julie Gunn, Trineice Robinson-Martin, and Lorna MacDonald who guided and encouraged their interns. Congratulations to our 2023 interns Lara Brooks, Justin DeLong, Evan Bravos, Ju Hyeon Han, Christine Jobson, Casey Joiner, Daxom Kwon, Michael McAndrew, Paul Patinka, Will Perkins, Sarah Pigott, Laura Pritchard, Cayla Rosché, Yu-Hsin Teng, Issac Vargas, and Olivia Yokers. Thank you to all donors who support the intern program and thank you Carole and Stephen for all your efforts to continue this important program.

NATS Annual Board Meeting

One week after returning from London, the NATS board of directors met in Jacksonville, Florida for our annual meeting. It was two and one half days of checking in with how NATS is doing with our executive committee (all our national officers, past president Carole Blankenship and president-elect Alexis Davis-Hazell), our fifteen region governors, our new Journal of Singing editor-in-chief Lynn Helding, our NATS staff, and our executive director.

2 Journal of Singing
Diana Allan England trip participants at Tring Park School.

Highlights include:

• Albert Lee, NATS member and director of Equity, Belonging, and Student Life at Yale School of Music, kicked off our meeting with an inspiring session, inspiring us to be equitable leaders within NATS.

• Our region governors met together on the first evening, facilitated by Texoma Governor Melinda Brou. They had a fruitful discussion that produced some valuable feedback on topics of region membership, leadership, belonging, infrastructure and onboarding, and NSA auditions.

• NATS past president Carole Blankenship reported on the successful 2023 intern program (see above) and, as chair of the nominating committee, presented the new slate of NATS national officers for board approval prior to membership vote this fall. The slate of officers that was approved by the board to be added to the ballot include: Randall Umstead, for the office of presidentelect, Lily Guerrero, for the office of president for membership, Kevin Wilson for the office of vice president for workshops, and Holly Bewlay for the office of Secretary-Treasurer. Thank you Carole and NATS nominating committee members Mark Kano, Julie Krugman, Albert Lee, Dana Lentini, Yvonne Gonzales Redman, and Richard Weidlich. This is important work and we appreciate your dedicated service.

• President-Elect Alexis Davis-Hazell reported on our her work in setting up both district governor and region governor training and resource portals on our website, our current strategic plan progress, and use of a formal action item tracking system. This will be excellent as we draw this plan to conclusion by the end of 2024 and as we develop and implement our proposed new plan for 2025–30. Thank you Alexis.

• Vice president for auditions Alisa Belflower and her team have been extremely busy with the 2023–24 expansion of NSA into commercial music, youth, and children’s categories. We appreciate all of the work that has gone into this doubling of the NSA categories. Thank you Alisa, NSA coordinator Dan Johnson-Wilmot, NATS competitions and auditions coordinator Mark McQuade, Noel Smith, chair of the commercial music group, and Karen Brunssen, chair of the youth and children group. We owe you a debt of gratitude.

• Torin Chiles, our vice president for membership, and

his committee have been reviewing our membership categories with the goal of making recommendations for revisions to the Board to be as inclusive as possible to all segments of our association, in this hemisphere, to our international members and to those teachers who have yet to join us. Thank you Torin and the membership committee.

• Vice president for outreach Nick Perna reported on his work with SNATS, the NATS affinity groups, discretionary funds, and, as co-chair of the mentoring committee, our mentoring initiatives. All of these activities foster a sense of belonging that is key to inclusivity within NATS. Thank you Nick.

• DeMar Neal, vice president for workshops, reported on plans for the upcoming summer (see below) and winter workshops. He announced the theme for the 2024 winter workshop to be “The Art of Collaboration” to be held in January at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. At the time of his report, Warren Jones was announced as the featured presenter. Thank you DeMar.

• Randy Umstead, NATS secretary-treasurer, conducted the budgetary discussions with the board. Coming out of the pandemic, we discussed the need for robust event attendance across our association and especially at national events. The costs of these events, such as our national conference, have risen dramatically. We discussed the various ways we can be frugal in our spending and the need for a dues increase.

• Bob Bryan, NATS development director, reported on our advancement goals and efforts, encouraging us to examine ways we can institutionalize the fundraising progress we have made. One of these ways in to capitalize on “Giving Tuesday,” which will be November 28 this year. Stay tuned for more to come on this.

• Our national committees have been extremely active this year doing the business of NATS. I thank all our committee chairs and members for their tireless work on our behalf.

Please join me in thanking all of our NATS leaders at every level. I know you, as I, have witnessed their uncommon commitment and dedication to NATS and to the members in their areas. We are fortunate to have so many who give of their time, talent, and treasure to help “transform lives through the power of singing.”

September/October 2023 3 From the President

NATS Inaugural Science-Informed Voice Pedagogy Institute

Two days after the close of our Board Meeting, it was off to Logan, Utah for our inaugural “Science-Informed Voice Pedagogy Institute” held at Utah State University. Featured clinicians included Lynn Helding and John Nix, special topics clinicians included Amelia Rollings Bigler and Allen Henderson and the on-site coordinator was Cindy Dewey. Fifty-five attendees enjoyed a week of voice pedagogy exploration and discovery, deftly guided by our clinicians. Each day started with a group sing, followed by a content lecture, another lecture/application in the afternoon, and after dinner, an evening lecture and group experience. If you have never had the opportunity of personally acting as an arytenoid cartilage or the diaphragm, see John Nix about arranging a session of “pedagogical twister” for your pedagogy class! I learned so much practical and applicable pedagogical knowledge and thoroughly enjoyed this intensive six days in Utah with a great group of fellow learners, many of whom expressed that the week was life-changing. Thank you Kaylyn Baldwin for your administrative and logistical skills and for keeping us on track most of the time. Congratulations to all for an incredible week of study that will inform our teaching in the studio and classroom for years to come! If you did not get the chance to participate, but would have loved to have done so, please stay tuned for plans for next year and check out the “Science-Informed Voice Pedagogy” resources on the NATS website:

NATS 2023 Summer Workshop

On July 7–9 we gathered in San Diego for our summer workshop “Shine On: Inspiring Diverse Repertoire.” Melissa Foster, faculty at Northwestern University, presented two commercial music sessions: “Singing Pop/Rock: The Foundation of Style” and “Exploring Hip-Hop: Rap and R&B History and Pedagogy.” Texas Christian University faculty member San-ky Kim presented a suggested graded list of Korean art songs in his session, “Korean Art Songs Anyone?” AmericanScandinavian Foundation fellow Colin Leven presented “The Foundational Nordic Vocal Literature Repertory,” an introduction to the repertory of Nordic schools compositions, and “An Introduction to the Repertory and IPA of Iceland.” Independent teacher Keely Phillips-

Carter presented “The Flops, the Forgotten, and the “Fly by Night”: Exploring Musical Theatre Rep” and “So You Need a Song For,” in which she shared her most requested audition package musical theatre material. Current National Opera Association president-elect Isai Jess Muñoz shared his expertise in “Catalan Art Songs of the XX and XXI Centuries” and “Living Composers of Latin American Art Song.” NATS president-elect Alexis Davis-Hazell and piano professor Rosalyn Wright Floyd presented two powerful sessions: “Uncommon Gems: Classically Arranged American Negro Spirituals” and “The Art Song Heritage of American Negro Spirituals Interactive Masterclass.” Thank you Alexis for organizing and facilitating the student sessions that were so valuable to our finalists. What a treat to experience some of this repertoire for the first time with these experts. Thank you DeMar for organizing such an interesting, diverse, and informative workshop.

In addition to the “Shine On” programming, our 2023 NSA finalists gathered in San Diego. Congratulations to all 2023 NSA semi-finalists and finalists for your accomplishments, to your teachers for their excellent instruction, and your pianists for their collaborative efforts on your behalf. It was a joy to hear you. See the NATS website for a complete list. Thank you to Vice President for Auditions Alisa Belflower, as well as Dan Johnson-Wilmot, Mark McQuade, and site host Dr. Travis Sherwood for making this event possible, and thank you to all the adjudicators who served at every level of the auditions. We look forward to the addition of commercial music and children and youth categories in our upcoming 2024 cycle.

South Africa Chapter Conference

On July 19–21, one of our newest NATS chapters, the South Africa Chapter, hosted their first chapter conference at the music department and conservatory of Stellenbosch University. I was thrilled to be counted among the other outstanding keynote speakers that included South African composer and music lecturer Dr. Andile Khumalo and the internationally acclaimed South African conductor and coach Rachelle Jonck. Thank you to the following organizers and NATS South Africa officers: chapter president Dr. Conroy Cupido, vice president Lize Thomas, secretary Lauren Dasappa, treasurer Bronwen Forbay, and board member-at-large

4 Journal of Singing

Dr. Laetitia Orlandi. Thanks also to NATS international region governor Sarah Holman for her continued leadership. What a wonderful time we had with some of our newest NATS members.

Thank you to all organizers, presenters, and participants in these summer activities. Not that I needed to be reminded, but my summer was what NATS is all about—community and professional development and downright fun. I was inspired, encouraged, motivated, educated, and humbled by the wisdom among us and the generosity of sharing this wisdom for the good of us all. What a summer!


1. + indicates members who presented at the conference;* indicates members who made presentations at Guildhall or Guildford Schools.

Dr. Diana Allan, soprano, has appeared in operatic and concert performances throughout the Mid- and Southwest, and has performed in

Germany, the Czech Republic, Italy, and Brazil. In addition to her performing, Dr. Allan has more than 30 years university teaching experience and currently is on the faculty of Missouri Southern State University.

As a certified Peak Performance Coach (2010), Dr. Allan works with musicians to help them identify and assess their unique strengths and challenges, to formulate customized Peak Performance Plans, and to help them learn and improve the mental skills necessary to prepare and perform at peak levels. Dr. Allan is author of The Mindful Musician: Physical and Mental Strategies for Optimal Performance (2018) and co-author of The Relaxed Musician: Mental Preparation for Confident Performances (2012). Her website, Peak Performance for Musicians, has a readership of performers from over 180 countries, and she has coached or worked with performers throughout the United States, Ireland, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Nigeria, and Iran.

Dr. Allan has been a member of the NATS for over 35 years and has enjoyed serving as National President-Elect (2020–22), National Vice President for Auditions (2016–20), Texoma Region Governor (2007–2009), Texoma Region Auditions Chair (2000–2004), South Texas Chapter President (2005–2006), and South Texas Vice President-Auditions.

September/October 2023 5 From the President

Have you considered leaving a gift to NATS in your will or trust?

For many individuals, the bulk of our wealth is held in our estate – our retirement plan, property, life insurance, etc. This means that legacy giving might be the most impactful gift we will ever make.

How would you impact NATS? You could create a named scholarship for future NATS students or name a NATSAA or NMTC prize. You could advance the careers of young vocal teachers. You might provide permanent funding for the program you value most. Making a legacy gift to NATS advances our art in a lasting way.

A legacy gift to NATS makes you a member of the Encore! Society, created to recognize donors who have made a longterm commitment to NATS’ mission through estate gifts.

Encore! Society member benefits:

• Knowing your values will be carried forward by NATS

• Name recognition, with permission, in the NATS annual reports and on the NATS website

• The opportunity to name a scholarship or prize

• Invitations to NATS President’s Reception at the National Conference

• Updates on NATS programs and activities

Changing lives through the power of singing through:

• Gifts In Your WILL OR TRUST


• Designate NATS as a beneficiary of BANK AND BROKERAGE ACCOUNTS


If you would like to discuss a charitable bequest, please call Bob Bryan at 904-992-9101 or email

You don’t have to be wealthy to leave a gift that will resound for generations.
NATS has been an important part of my life. I’m happy to know my gift will help transform lives for years to come.

To Understand, Value, Uphold, and Advance

The new editor in chief of the Journal of Singing (JOS) writes her inaugural “Editor’s Commentary” column for the first issue under her editorship. It begins with a meditation upon the three actions that inspire the new editor in chief—to understand, value and uphold—as they relate to both the past and future of the journal, and the need for the fourth action, to advance, in order to bring the journal in line with twenty-first century publication practices. It also includes recognition of retiring and departing Journal of Singing contributors, as well as announcements about new peer reviewers who have been added to the journal’s editorial board, several new journal columns and their associate editors, and two initiatives of the new editor in chief: the “Mentored Writing Initiative” and the “Richard Sjoerdsma Excellence in Writing Award.”

Greetings, J ournal of S inging readers! As a longtime reader and contributor to this journal, it is with a mixture of gratitude and enthusiasm that I assume the helm of the Journal of Singing as its newest editor in chief. I am honored that the members of last summer’s search committee for a new editor in chief placed their trust in me to lead our venerable journal forward into the twenty-first century; and since change is inherent in any new venture, I am enthusiastic about the many new people, columns, and initiatives that will be introduced in this and future issues of the Journal of Singing.

Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 7–11

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

What began as simply The Bulletin in 1944, changed to The NATS Bulletin (1966–1985), morphed to The NATS Journal (1985–1995), and finally dubbed itself plainly The Journal of Singing in 1995, has been led by an equally varied list of editors in chief over these past seventy-nine years, who served terms ranging from a few years to longer terms of service. Yet the twenty-two-year term of editor in chief emeritus Richard Sjoerdsma is one of the longest. Dick (as he is known to friends) transformed our journal from its once rather parochial view to a journal worthy of NATS’ self-description as “the largest professional association of teachers of singing in the world.”1 As Dick himself noted in his interview with NATS earlier this spring, “I was able to bring the Journal of Singing to a new level of sophistication and relevance.”2 I heartily agree. Thus, I feel that my overarching charge as the journal’s newest editor in chief is to understand, value and uphold the high standards that Dick attained for the Journal of Singing, while at the very same time, advance the journal’s mission by first bringing it in line with the changed (end ever changing) standards in academic publishing in the twenty-first century. To begin this work, one must first understand where JOS currently stands and how far it has come, from not only the period when Dick took over in 2001, but where it stood in the previous century—for example, when I joined NATS in 1988,

September/October 2023 7 EDITOR’S COMMENTARY
Lynn Helding

which was practically my first act after my university graduation. As Dick himself described it, JOS at that time was “essentially a magazine.”

When I began my editorship, the title was, in fact, Journal of Singing, but the very cover belied that claim. The magazine contents were listed on the cover, and its appearance resembled that of the Reader’s Digest. Sometimes printing errors appeared on the cover itself, which was not exactly positive advertising. In one issue, in fact, I found three different spellings of “Winterreise”! As a result, I felt that the journal was not taken as seriously as I wished it to be.3

That “magazine” grew into the “respected scholarly journal” that it is today largely thanks to Dick’s efforts.4 It must also be noted that in the realm of printed matter, the visual representation of scholarly content is arguably as important as the articles that appear inside our journal. In this regard, kudos must go to both Dick and our journal production manager Laura Carter (owner of Carter Publishing Studio) who, along with Dick, “redesigned the entire publication. . . . we opted for the clean look we still have today, and Laura modernized the fonts and page design, resulting in the current sophisticated and professional appearance.”5

In both form and content, JOS truly is “the premier peer-reviewed journal exclusively dedicated to the art of singing and the teaching profession,” as was claimed by the NATS subcommittee dedicated to begin the process of moving JOS to an all-digital production process. 6 While we must continually strive to both retain and deserve this description, we must also endeavor to catch up with the new digital standards in academic publishing. To that specific end, I have been working closely with Laura Carter since last fall as the transition editor elect, and our work continues on many levels, from the laborious aspects of digitizing almost every aspect of the journal’s production, to confronting the deeper philosophical and ethical issues surrounding the glut of information that characterizes life in the twenty-first century.

The Journal of Singing in the Digital Age

I am a “digital immigrant,” defined as those people “who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in [their] lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology.”7

In my new role as editor in chief, I feel the experience of having been born just before the rise of the information

age, yet having grown up alongside its increasing influence on society affords me an advantageous perspective, allowing me to see both the positive and negative effects on society wrought by the advent of digital tools. On the downside, many people feel that the constant flood of information has eroded the entwined attributes of erudition and expertise—we are all experts now!—amplifying an all too human tendency to relativize and reduce just about all human endeavor to this sentiment (as the bored Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus sings): “Chacun a son gout!” His utterance is usually defined as “each to one’s own taste,” or “do as you like;” but in a jaded era, it could also be understood as “whatever.”

Yet an equal number of voices (particularly those dubbed “Digital Natives”) cite the many advantages to having breached the ramparts and taken on the “gatekeepers of knowledge who exercised their expert power,” an infiltration made possible by the invention of the world wide web in the previous century.8,9 It is important to understand how the torrent of free information in the current digital age has operated as both blessing and curse to society as a whole. On the upside, the digital age dissolved what social psychologists call the “gatekeepers of the knowledge economy;” this, in turn, allowed many previously unheard voices to be heard and amplified. Indeed, it was both unfettered access and connection via social media that sparked and nurtured the most recent social movements in the United States, such as the Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements. Unfortunately, that same unfettered access has also allowed unfiltered information into the communication ecosystem and with it, the proliferation of “alternative facts” (courtesy of former presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway) and conspiracy theories.10 In a world in which everyone is an equal expert, then no one really is; in such a world, expertise itself is in danger of being denigrated as just another sham. This picture has become even bleaker with the rise of AI and ChatGPT, two recent juggernauts of the information age that all of us as humans will have to assess, and with which all of us as singers, teachers, NATS members and JOS readers will have to contend. We face historic and monumental decisions about who creates the content we consume.

This multifaced charge—to understand, value and hew to the high standards that Richard Sjoerdsma attained for JOS, yet align with the new and fluid aca-

8 Journal of Singing

demic publishing parameters of the twenty-first century and advance the journal’s mission– is an immense one.

I am honored to take on the challenge.

The JOS Transition Period

As previously mentioned, in October of last year, I was appointed editor in chief elect in order to work behind the scenes to refine the journal’s transition to the alldigital workflow begun the previous year. I would like to thank several people for their help during this necessary and critical process; first, to current NATS president Diana Allan for hearing my entreaties about the necessity of this “transition phase,” and to NATS Executive Director Allen Henderson for crafting a “delineation of duties” and a title for this critical juncture for JOS. As I was laboring behind the scenes, Dick Sjoerdsma was deftly seeing to his last volume (number 79) as well as patiently answering my many email questions about current JOS obligations and personnel. He always found time to include a bon mot or two for my amusement, small acts that added sparkles of merriment during the drudgery. Danke! In his last “editor’s commentary, Dick thanked the retiring and outgoing contributors (Robert Edwin, Ingo Titze, Leslie Holmes, Margo Garrett, Leslie de’Ath, and Heidi Moss Erickson) and I would like to recognize their contributions as well as their part in building the excellence of the Journal of Singing.

Before introducing our readers to the newest members of our journal’s editorial board, I want to thank the board’s longest serving members: Stephen Austin, Kenneth Bozeman, Debra Greschner, Judith Nicosia, John Nix, Elvia Puccinelli and Trineice RobinsonMartin. These peer-reviewers have gamely retired the old assessment systems, created their new ScholarOne (S1) accounts and learned to wield S1’s awesome new commenting features while at the same time, weathering the digital annoyances of its robo-reminders and tiny tech failures. Finally, I wish all JOS readers to be aware that this transition would have been virtually impossible without the outsize efforts of our journal production manager, the brilliant Laura Carter, who has devoted untold hours to both the S1 onboarding process as well as training me in the many digital tools that are needed to run an academic journal in the twenty-first century. I cannot imagine a more knowledgeable or dedicated navigator of this JOS transition phase. Thank you.

New JOS Columns and Writers

It is my pleasure to introduce the following new writers for the journal, all of whom carry the title “associate editor;” readers should also note the introduction of associate editor teams; it is my hope that two persons instead of one might not only share the workload, but also complement each other’s profiles and in so doing, inspire one another via inquiry and investigation. Another change I have made is the transformation of The Vocal Point column from a print-only to a hybrid print-plus-video format. New associate editor Melissa Treinkman will continue the “Vocal Point” tradition (begun by Leslie Holmes) of interviewing professional singers, yet will take JOS in a new direction by inaugurating the journal’s first hybrid column. Treinkman’s interviews will be video-recorded and posted on the NATS YouTube channel, along with a written column about the interviewees and their roles in the world of singing. In the words of Treinkman, “The addition of the video interview to the existing written format serves to expand the audience for the Journal of Singing, allows NATS members to hear artists speak in their own voices, and creates a unique historic record of the artists of our time.”11 Treinkman will continue to interview classical singers as well as reach further afield to include the many vocal styles represented in the NATS membership. Her first interviewee is “Vocal Point” founder Leslie Holmes; the printed column about Leslie’s work can be found in this issue, while its hybrid “cousin”—the live interview— can be found on the NATS YouTube channel.

Pianists Alison d’Amato and Elvia Puccinelli are the first team to assume the new model of “joint associate editors” as they take over the collaborative piano column begun as “Collab Corner” by Margo Garrett. They will continue to enlighten the NATS membership about the vital role our collaborative partners play in their partnerships with singers, but under the slightly new name “Collaborations.” They describe their column as “the landing place for pianists and coaches within the NATS community,” with a mission to “serve and support all NATS members by providing engaging, relevant and stimulating content sourced from a range of respected practitioners in the discipline of collaborative musicmaking.” 12 These co-editors aim to “explore, honor, and nurture the alliance between singers and pianists in the NATS community and beyond.”13 Fittingly, their

September/October 2023 9 Editor’s Commentary

first column in this issue, “Margo Garrett: A Model of Mentorship,” honors this column’s founder.

David Meyer and John Nix, the second new team of JOS associate editors, launch a new column called “Practical Voice Science” in this issue. As the title implies, their charge is to focus on translating the science for practical application for our JOS readership, by making voice science concepts understandable, relevant, and actionable for singers, singing teachers, collaborative pianists, opera directors, and choral conductors. These two editors believe that, “as in sports, science may transform the training of singers with individualized tools that enhance the teacher’s experience and intuition,” and add that they “hope these tools may help singers more efficiently reach greater levels of performance.”14

As Richard Sjoerdsma reported in a previous “Editor’s Commentary,” Justin John Moniz was tapped to continue covering the CCM ground begun by retiring columnist Robert Edwin, with a new column named The Versatile Voice.15 Justin’s first column appears in this issue with aims to “promote the importance and understanding of vocal efficiency and sustainability, provide practical tools derived from evidence based practice, and to enlighten readers as to the benefits of vocal versatility through varied genres and styles of singing.”16 Moniz further explains that, in addition to traditionally represented Western approaches, the column will “highlight a broad spectrum of styles and their respective performers including an in-depth exploration of technical and stylistic approaches to classical, musical theatre, pop, rock, a cappella, jazz, gospel, country, hip-hop, and various world music idioms.”17

An Expanded JOS Editorial Board

In order to advance the Journal of Singing, I have considerably expanded the editorial board. The seven members of our editorial board with whom I have served over the past ten years (listed above as our editorial board’s “longest serving members”) make up a mighty but rather small board when compared to the relatively large amount of work these professionals volunteer by reviewing each and every submission on a wide-ranging slate of topics. These editorial board members will continue to review submissions on topics directly related to their individual expertise, but will cede authority on specific topics to the following new editorial board members,

who have been specifically tasked to review submissions on the following topics:

• Medicine and Health: laryngologists Michael M. Johns III, Lindsay S. Reder and Mark A. Williams, and speech-language pathologists Wendy D. LeBorgne and Deirdre D. Michael will join Robert Sataloff to review submissions on these topics.

• Psychology and Cognitive Science: Heidi Moss Erickson and Elisa Monti will join Lynn Maxfield and myself (Lynn Helding) to review submissions on topics in these categories.

• Voice Science: Joshua D. Glasner, David Meyer and David Okerlund will join current editorial board members Steve Austin, Ken Bozeman, and John Nix in reviewing all submissions on voice science topics.

The Journal of Singing “Mentored Writing Initiative”

I am delighted to share with NATS members two of my most gratifying initiatives. The first of these is the “Journal of Singing Mentored Writing Initiative.” Over the thirteen years I served on the JOS editorial board, I noticed a specific type of submission that failed to be accepted outright, not because the thoughts in the paper were not compelling, but because their execution was or obscured in some way. Therefore, I am happy to announce my “Mentored Writing Initiative,” which pairs an expert who serves on the JOS editorial board with an author whose submission may generate mixed reviews through our peer review process, yet merits a closer look; if both members of the team agree, the partnership leads to a guided research and writing collaboration. The first article in this occasional series is “The Impact of Blindness on the Physical and Vocal Development of Visually Impaired Singers,” written by author Maria Georgakarakou and mentored by Kenneth Bozeman, and can be found in this issue. Congratulations to both author and mentor for inaugurating this special column.

The Richard Sjoerdsma Excellence in Writing Award

With the help of NATS Development Director Bob Bryan, we created the “Richard Sjoerdsma Excellence in Writing Award” last summer, just in time for the NATS 2022 Chicago conference. It was seeded with generous contributions from the JOS personnel at that

10 Journal of Singing

time, and announced to Dr. Sjoerdsma at the biennial JOS conference luncheon, and has since grown due to the generous contributions of many NATS members and former feature authors. The award will be given to the author of a feature article in the Journal of Singing judged to be the best in that category over a two-volume period. 18 The winner will be chosen by a subcommittee of JOS (including Richard Sjoerdsma), and the prize will be awarded every other year at the national NATS conference. I look forward to honoring both Richard Sjoerdsma as well as a new crop of feature writers who will keep our membership edified on all aspects of singing, and teaching singing, that should be considered in the twenty-first century.


The three actions that inspire me as the new editor in chief—to understand, value and uphold—relate to both the past and future of our journal, for they both inform and inspire the fourth action, which is to advance. I look truly forward to advancing more Journal of Singing initiatives, writers, and columns in the months to come, which I will always announce in this “Editor’s Commentary” column. As the Italians say, “avanti!”


1. “NATS Membership,”; accessed 6–26–23.

2. Editing, modern upgrades and the future: A Q&A with Richard Sjoerdsma, NATS Website, May 17, 2022; accessed 6–26–23.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid

6. From the Proposal for Advance Online Publication of the Journal of Singing written by the JOS Subcommittee on Advance Online Pre-Publication, February, 2021; private communication.

7. The source for these terms is Marc Prensky, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: Part 1,” On the Horizon 9, no. 5 (2001): 3.

8. Prensky, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” pg. 1.

9. Lynn Helding, “The Professionalization of Voice,” Journal of Singing Vol. 69, no. 5 (May/June 2013): 597- 602.

10. See Rebecca Sinderbrand, “How Kellyanne Conway ushered in the era of ‘alternative facts,’” Washington Post January 22, 2017; wp/2017/01/22/how-kellyanne-conway-ushered-in-theera-of-alternative-facts/; accessed June 13, 2023.

11. Melissa Treinkman, mission statement for “The Vocal Point” column in the Journal of Singing,” private communication, May 2023

12. Alison d’Amato and Elvia Puccinelli, mission statement for the “Collaborations’ column in the Journal of Singing,” private communication, May 2023.

13. Ibid.

14. David Meyer and John Nix, mission statement for the “Practical Science” column in the Journal of Singing,” private communication, May 2023.

15. The Moniz announcement may be found in the  Journal of Singing 79, no. 4 (March/April 2023): 435.

16. Justin John Moniz, mission statement for the “Versatile Voice” column in the Journal of Singing,” private communication, May 2023.

17. Ibid.

18. Fundraising for the “Richard Sjoerdsma Excellence in Writing Award” is ongoing; please contact NATS Development Director Bob Bryan,

Editor in chief Lynn Helding is the author of The Musician’s Mind: Teaching, Learning and Performance in the Age of Brain Science, a book deemed “essential” by CHOICE Magazine , “a unique and outstanding contribution to pedagogy” by Voice and Speech Review, and a “groundbreaking, invaluable contribution to the field of music pedagogy” by opera star Renée Fleming. Before becoming the journal’s newest editor-in-chief, she founded its “Mindful Voice” column and served on its editorial board from 2009 to the present. Her honors include the 2005 Van Lawrence Voice Fellowship, induction into the American Academy of Teachers of Singing, and recognition as a “legendary figure in the field of voice pedagogy” by the Contemporary Commercial Music Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah University, receiving their 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award . Her stage credits include leading roles in opera, oratorio and musical theatre. Her commitment to contemporary American music inspired new compositions and a refashioning of the traditional recital into theatrical performance pieces presented on multiple tours throughout the United States, Australia, England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Iceland where her performances were broadcast on Icelandic National Radio. Helding serves as Professor of Practice in Vocal Arts and Opera and coordinator of Vocology and Voice Pedagogy at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.

September/October 2023 11 Editor’s Commentary


Series Editor: Matthew Hoch

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Evolving the Master-Apprentice Tradition: A Pathway Back to a Student-Centered Pedagogy

This article explores one of the oldest structures of formal education, the master-apprentice tradition, and how it has both persisted and evolved in the Western classical singing community in both name and practice. By studying the history of the master-apprentice tradition, contemporary pedagogues may contextualize their current practices while considering modifications that may yield a more student-centered pedagogy.

The master-apprentice tradition is rooted in the experiences of the master. This teacher-centered pedagogy establishes a clear hierarchy of power in the teacher-student relationship. From an inferior position, students may become dependent on their teachers and ultimately silence their own technical and artistic instincts.

Student and teacher interaction play a crucial role in the development of a student’s concept of self and their agency to embrace autonomy. Teachers and students often assume the dependent relationship of the master-apprentice tradition as it allows them to fulfill roles they understand, and earnestly continue to honor traditions established by the singers and pedagogues of the past. The period from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century is often regarded as the “golden age” of Western classical singing. During this time, Manuel Garcia II, Mathilde Marchesi, the Lamperti’s, among others, codified much of the bel canto technique that continues to resonate throughout voice studios today. Much of the research concerning these revered pedagogues focuses on what they taught, but not how they taught. However, writings of the “golden age” pedagogues and their students infer that their primary focus was on the individual and independent development of each student. The teacher often relinquished the traditional role of “master,” and assumed the role of mentor and co-learner. By examining the how, contemporary pedagogues may realize adjustments in their teaching that honor and build upon the knowledge and experiences of students, ultimately devising a more student-centered pedagogy.


Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 13–22

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

The period from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century is often regarded as the last “golden age” of Western classical singing.1 Since this time, many singers, voice pedagogues, critics, and opera aficionados have mourned “the decline of classical singing.”2 Lamentations for the bygone days of this cherished art form frequently begin with questions: Where have all the big voices gone? Why don’t contemporary singers have the same dynamic flexibility of their predecessors? Why do singers today appear to struggle through phrases that the old guard seemed to toss off with ease and bravado? Looking for answers, blame is often assigned: Contemporary productions and overbearing stage directors don’t

September/October 2023 13
Travis Sherwood Travis Sherwood

allow singers to exhibit their full vocal potential. Casting directors and company management focus too much on the physical appearance of singers and not enough on their voices. Singers today do not have a deep enough understanding and appreciation for the traditions of Western classical singing. Perhaps some readers may have overheard or even participated in a similar exchange of grievances. Though they may begin with the best of intentions, these conversations are often as frustrating as they are unproductive. Lamenting singers of a past era or assigning blame to an industry seeking innovative ways to remain relevant and adapt to the demands of an ever evolving twenty-first century global society are complaints that do not offer solutions, nor do they provide a path forward.

It is all too tempting to focus on the singing, performance practices, and aesthetics of the “golden age” idols. One may get lost imagining what it must have been like to hear a live performance of the legendary stentorian power of famed tenor Francesco Tamagno, the deep sumptuous tone of illustrious contralto Clara Butt, the seemingly effortless flexibility of storied soprano Nellie Melba, or the time-honored resonance of the oft-lauded baritone Mattia Battistini. However, rather than focusing on the celebrated sounds these revered artists were able to create, perhaps it would be more productive to consider the pedagogy that gave birth to this unprecedented, and arguably, yet-to-be-replicated era of Western classical singing.

Contemporary teachers of singing often discuss voice pedagogy in terms of anatomy, science, and function. This invaluable information provides teachers and students of singing with a clear foundation in voice technique and instruction that is grounded in scientific evidence. In other words, it defines and explains what voice pedagogues teach. However, singing teachers should also consider voice pedagogy from the perspective of how they teach. Student and teacher interaction plays a crucial role in the development of a student’s concept of self and their agency to embrace autonomy.3

By examining the teacher-student relationship, voice pedagogues may find clearer means of communicating the what.

One of the oldest structures of formal education, the master-apprentice tradition, has both persisted and evolved in the Western classical singing commu-

nity since the seventeenth century in both name and practice — for example, masterclass, master teacher, young artist apprentice program. Though the art of Western classical singing and educational philosophy have changed over the last 400 years, in some cases certain teacher-centered aspects of the master-apprentice tradition continue to permeate contemporary voice pedagogy, establishing a clear hierarchy of power in the teacher-student relationship. By examining the history of the master-apprentice tradition, contemporary voice pedagogues may determine if any teacher-centered aspects of this tradition persist within their pedagogy as well as contextualize those aspects within the evolution of the tradition. Equipped with this information, teachers of singers can consider how and why the masterapprentice tradition may affect their current interactions with students, which could ultimately help forge a path toward a more student-centered pedagogy.


The master-apprentice tradition evolved out of the European guild system of the late Middle Ages.4 These guilds established definitive rules and standards of quality, professionalism, and ethics, as well as provided support for infirmed members and the families of members who were deceased.5 In the sixteenth century, the masterapprentice tradition was universally adopted by the European guilds to educate young people in a trade or craft.6 At a young age, an apprentice would enter a contract with a master and move into their home, ultimately becoming a member of the master’s family. The sixteenth century concept of family was quite different from the contemporary one, as the family included everyone living in a household regardless of blood relation.7 A family was essentially a system of governance with the master of the household at the top and all other members—including his wife, children, apprentices, and servants—subject to his authority. Rooted in a patriarchal philosophy, the master-apprentice relationship was akin to that of an absolute monarch and his subjects. Robert Cleaver, the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century author of the highly popular domestic guidebook, A Godly Form of Household Government wrote,

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Evolving the Master-Apprentice Tradition: A Pathway Back to a Student-Centered Pedagogy

The governors of a family be such as have authority in the family by God’s ordinance, as the father and mother, master and mistress. To whom, as God hath given authority . . . not only for their own private profit, credit, or pleasure, but also for the good of those whom they are to govern . . . If masters then or parents do not govern but let servants and children do as they list, they do not only disobey God and disadvantage themselves but also hurt those whom they should rule.8

Masters were encouraged to view their authoritarian rule as not only serving God but also providing the necessary structure for their subjects. Exercising their perceived divine authority, masters oversaw all aspects of their apprentices’ education including professional training as well as morality and religion.9 The fabric of the master-apprentice tradition discouraged young people from exercising autonomy or expressing themselves freely.10 Individualism would upset the conventional values of the master-apprentice hierarchical framework and would not become popular until the Industrial Revolution.

The master-apprentice tradition was not only a form of education, but also an important part of a larger socioeconomic structure. The selective and domestic scheme of the master-apprentice tradition limited admittance to those few who were deemed worthy to receive training.11 The framework of the master-apprentice tradition limited the opportunity for social and economic advancement by controlling access to education.

Young singers who demonstrated promise in the seventeenth century may have received the opportunity to study with a master teacher of singing. If selected, their family would enter them into a contract requiring the young singer to move in with the master teacher. In her book, Singing and Teaching Singing: A Holistic Approach to Classical Voice, Janice Chapman recounts a perspective from her colleague, Gordon Stewart.

Adopting your pupil was possible and being regarded as a parent was quite common. Or a deputy one— in loco parentis. Until modern music colleges came to be the norm, even conservatory students lived in the house belonging to their teachers and could come downstairs for a lesson after a shout from a window.12

Cohabitation allowed master teachers the opportunity to monitor the singing of their apprentices closely

and consistently. Apprentices typically received daily voice lessons and were often forbidden to practice when not under the watchful eye of their master teacher. Eighteenth century castrato and voice pedagogue Giambattista Mancini reflected on the experiences of his teacher, Antonio Bernacchi when studying with Francesco Antonio Pistocchi.

One of his [Pistocchi] most famous pupils, was Antonio Bernacchi . . . Bernacchi undertook his difficult task bravely, willing to study the necessary length of time as the rules of his teacher required. He never missed his daily lessons, in order to avail himself of his teacher’s advice. During this time of his study, he not only refused to sing in any of the churches and theatres, but even refused to sing for his most intimate friends. He continued living this way, until his teacher gave him permission to do otherwise, and at that time he startled the world with his art.13

Bernacchi’s experience illustrates how the singing voice was developed slowly over many years and under extremely close supervision. It was quite common for apprentices to sing nothing but vocalises in their lessons for several years before they were permitted to sing repertoire. Eighteenth century master teacher, Nicola Porpora famously required his student Caffarelli to study a single page of exercises—composed by the maestro himself—for six years before he was allowed to attempt singing any repertoire.14 Many master teachers required their apprentice singers to complete a twelve-year course of study before they were permitted to sing in public or embark on a professional career.15

In most cases, master teachers were not paid for their tutelage until their apprentices started working professionally, often causing them to select their apprentices with much scrutiny.16 When it came time for the apprentice singer to embark on a professional career, it was the master teacher who acted as impresario or artistic manager. Masters commonly took half of their apprentices’ earnings for the first couple years of their professional careers as compensation for their instruction.17 As famed late seventeenth /early eighteenth century voice pedagogue Pier Francesco Tosi wrote, “If the Singer should make his fortune, it is but just the Master to whom it has been owing, should be also a sharer in it.”18 Since apprentices were a financial investment, it

September/October 2023 15

was in the best interest of master teachers to take every step necessary to ensure their singers’ successes. One may imagine the individual attention provided by daily voice lessons and career guidance from a committed master teacher would be a welcome structure for many contemporary young singers. However, vocal instruction during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries left little room for young singers to exercise and develop their individual artistry. The authority of master teachers over their apprentice singers was absolute. Master teachers took charge of every aspect of an apprentice singer’s training. Not only did they teach vocal technique, but also musicianship, languages, history, performance practice, religion, and morality.19 It was the job of master teachers to inculcate their apprentices in the many traditions of Western classical singing. The master teacher’s authority, however, did not stop with aspects of their apprentice’s education. If a prepubescent boy showed promise as a singer in the seventeenth century, it was the master teacher who often made the decision whether he would be castrated to preserve his unchanged voice.20 The inherent authoritative architecture of the master-apprentice tradition clearly honored the traditions of singing over the individuality of the student.


Contractual apprenticeships continued to evolve throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the late nineteenth century, voice teaching began to bifurcate into two divergent philosophies—those who taught singing as an art informed by science, and those who taught singing as a universal method determined by science. This statement is not meant to paint a picture in which there were only two distinct philosophical perspectives among late nineteenth century voice pedagogues—honest critical historical analysis rarely adheres to the confines of such a binary. However, writings from turn of the century pedagogues and their students indicate a palpable division in the way members of the Western classical voice community utilized scientific advancements in their teaching and singing.

The attempt to codify vocal instruction as a scientific method perpetuated the master-apprentice tradition,

providing teachers with an intellectual rationale for ignoring students’ observations of their own bodies. Famed nineteenth century soprano Sybil Sanderson studied for a while with Giovanni Sbriglia—teacher of legendary tenor Jean de Reszke. Sbriglia maintained that Sanderson must push more from her diaphragm, often causing her to leave lessons without the ability to phonate. Sbriglia advised Sanderson to purchase dumbbells so that she may exercise the muscles surrounding her diaphragm.21 Sbriglia wielded his scientific understanding—albeit misinformed—as an intellectual weapon, ignoring Sanderson’s observations of her own body as she struggled to phonate. When weaponized to create an intellectual hierarchy between teacher and student (as Sbriglia appears to have done with Sanderson), one size fits all methods for singing can discourage individual and autonomous artistry while perpetuating the inherent cycle of gatekeeping in the master-apprentice tradition. Many voice pedagogues embraced the advancements in science yet without allowing the teaching of singing to resemble a laboratory experiment. Teachers such as Mathilde Marchesi as well as Francesco and Giovanni Battista Lamperti, used science to inform their teaching, but not to create a universal method for singing. Even Manuel Garcia II, the pedagogue who is credited with inventing the laryngoscope and is often referred to as “The Father of Modern Voice Science,”22 did not allow science to triumph over the individuality of the student in front of him. Sir Charles Santley, accomplished baritone and student of Manuel Garcia II wrote,

Manuel Garcia [Jr] is held up as the pioneer of scientific teachers of singing. He was—but he taught singing, not surgery! I was a pupil of his in 1858 and a friend of his while he lived, and in all the conversations I had with him, I never heard him say a word about larynx or pharynx or glottis, or any other organ used in the production and emission of voice . . . 23

Malcolm Sterling Mackinlay, another pupil of Garcia II who studied with the great Maestro when he was in his nineties proclaimed, “His Method may be perhaps summed up in the doctrine that it was not a method—in the sense that he had no hard and fast rules—his object always being to make each pupil sing in the way most natural and involving the least effort.”24 In reference to his invention, the laryngoscope, Garica II exclaimed,

16 Journal of Singing

Evolving the Master-Apprentice Tradition: A Pathway Back to a Student-Centered Pedagogy

“If it is used under the pretense that it can show how one must sing while the throat is opened in phonation, it is clearly an instrument of torture, and deserves to be thrown away without hesitation.”25 Though Garcia II and many of his contemporaries studied and wrote like scientists, firsthand accounts of their teaching suggest they taught as artists. Science may have informed instruction, but a voice lesson was not a lesson in anatomy and physiology. William Earl Brown, reflecting on the pedagogy of his teacher Giovanni Battista Lamperti wrote, “Most great singers know very little or nothing about their vocal organs and lungs—and are largely self-taught. Each has a different idea of “how he does it” and that “method” is not exactly like the one his master taught him. The fact is—each voice is a law unto itself.”26 Many of the revered voice pedagogues of the last “golden age” of Western classical singing approached singing as an inherently flexible artform, understanding that students learn best when they feel acknowledged as unique beings.27 Learning to sing did not adhere to a predetermined calendar. Students were respected as individuals and encouraged to develop artistic independence and creative autonomy in their own time.

This philosophical divide continued throughout the twentieth century and now lives on in the twenty-first century.28 There is no question that developments in voice science have served, and continue to serve, the art of singing. Understanding how and why the voice functions is inarguably a valuable contribution to voice pedagogy and research. However, when scientific evidence is valued over the sensations and experiences of individual artists, it further exacerbates the masterapprentice divide. Master teachers are commonly elevated in the eyes of their students to the level of infallible consummate artists.29 Such an elevation may cause students to value the teacher’s observations of their voice over their own—silencing their thoughts as they seek the teacher’s approval, ultimately creating a teacher-centered learning environment. In a teachercentered learning environment, the knowledge and experiences of the teacher are valued over those of the student.30 From an inferior position, students become dependent on their teachers—afraid to make technical and artistic choices without approval. Some teachercentered practices include requiring complete control over repertoire selection and not permitting students

to perform a piece in public until it has been heard by the teacher. In the lesson, teachers may limit space for students to share their thoughts, insist they understand a student’s voice or body better than the student, treat students as empty vessels to be filled with knowledge of the art of singing, and perpetuate studio politics as they claim to possess the “secret” to a sound vocal technique. If young singers are taught to trust science over their own bodies, then they ultimately must depend on their scientifically informed teachers to evaluate the efficiency of their technique and the quality of their sound.

In his book, We Sang Better (a critical study of the pedagogy that yielded the last “golden age” of Western classical singing), James Anderson writes, “Approaching singing as an art, rather than a science, allows for the individuality of each singer and allows for the pursuit of ideals—different perhaps for each artist, but meaningful nonetheless.”31 Legendary “golden age” soprano Nellie Melba further illustrated this point when she observed, “Learn from the very beginning to depend upon yourself. Your teacher can do no more than point out the way. You must walk along it yourself. Use your own ears and do not depend on anyone else’s opinion.”32 Melba eloquently expressed the importance of autonomy. When one considers that Nellie Melba studied with Mathilde Marchesi, who was herself a student of Manuel Garcia II (“The Father of Modern Voice Science”), this quote resonates even stronger.

Voice science is not the only intellectual weapon with the potential to create a dependent student-teacher relationship. Traditions, such as style or performance practice may also be used to establish an intellectual hierarchy. 33 When students are convinced that their artistic choices are invalid if they are not grounded in historical performance practice, then they may become dependent on their teacher to validate or even provide them with an artistic perspective. Revisiting the great diva Nellie Melba, she noted, “When studying, do not ask yourself how the teacher would treat such and such a phrase. Delve deep down into your own self until your own feelings are reached.”34 Turn of the century soprano Geraldine Farrar further illustrated Melba’s point.

How to lend color to one’s operatic impersonations is another thing with which no teacher can endow the singer. The latter must have her own vision of the

September/October 2023 17

character she desires to create from her point of feeling, physical and mental. And this vision must come out of her own brain and heart—it cannot be built up out of studio coaching.35

The famous French soprano and student of Mathilde Marchesi, Emma Calvé, echoed the sentiments of Melba and Farrar. “For only the artist who radiates a personality of her own, who expresses her own self, her own mind, her own soul, instead of traditions of others, wins to greater achievement and success.”36 From these quotes, and many more like them, we may infer that several voice pedagogues of the last “golden age” of Western classical singing provided their students with the space to develop artistic autonomy by inviting them to make committed artistic choices in their singing. The teacher relinquished the traditional role of “master” and instead assumed the role of mentor and co-learner—listening with an empathetic ear and responding to the needs of students while encouraging their sense of individual agency. 37 Historically incongruent or anachronistic artistic choices are a valuable part of an artist’s development and the evolution of any artform. Throughout the history of Western classical music, composers and musicians shared artistic ideas with each other as they collaboratively created new traditions. Artistic individuality breathes new life into an historic artform, paving the path forward and providing relevance in an ever evolving twenty-first century global society.


The voice is often a crucial component of one’s musical and cultural identity.38 The vocal aesthetic produced in the moment of singing can be an expression of innermost feelings, something primal and courageously vulnerable. Living and teaching in a twenty-first century global society, voice teachers must provide space for students to embrace aesthetics beyond the Western classical sound. Vocal technique presented in binary terms—valuing the Western classical sound as “correct” and other sounds as “incorrect”—potentially denies students the opportunity to embrace their musical and cultural identity in the moment of singing.39 In her dissertation, “Bodies That Sing: The Formation of Singing Subjects” Victoria M. Joyce writes,

Bel canto singing is a technique of singing that has come to dominate the discourse about what constitutes ‘good’ singing generally and ‘classical’ or formal professional singing in particular in the West. Central to the pedagogy of bel canto vocal technique is the perfection of the singer’s ‘tone.’ Without having vocal training, most people (in the West) can recognize this tone immediately as the sound of the operatic singer and associate this with bourgeois culture. In some cases bel canto singing appears to act as a kind of musical trump card whereby the bel canto singing voice receives more than its due recognition, often to the point of deferential homage.40

Historically, the vocal technique associated with bel canto tradition was entwined with Victorian British colonialism. Emily Good-Perkins, contributing author to the book Humane Music Education for the Common Good , summarizes the research of music historian Grant Olwage,

In nineteenth-century Britain, vocal pedagogy was referred to as “voice culture,” where “culture” in the nineteenth century was synonymous with “civilization.” The “othering” of singing voices justified the use of vocal teaching to “civilize” and refine those who were not part of white bourgeois culture for the betterment of society . . . voice culture provided the opportunity for re-forming the voice, for colonizing yet more of the other’s body . . . the singing voice . . . became the vehicle for “symbolic violence.”41

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the concept of “voice culture” traversed the Atlantic Ocean to the United States, permeating the voice pedagogy community and ultimately American society. In 1908, Richard Cone, a voice instructor at the Leland Powers School of the Spoken Word in Boston, Massachusetts, lamented the bleak state of the American voice in his monograph, The Speaking Voice: Its Scientific Basis in Music. 42 This monograph, and many others like it, were part of the “voice culture” movement in the United States, which strived to create standards for elocution and singing that would represent the cultural and socio-economic achievements of the country. 43 As the United States looked for its place among the elite economic and imperial nations of early twentieth century global society, it quite literally attempted to unite the voices of its citizens. In his article, “Forging a Sound Citizenry: Voice Culture

18 Journal of Singing

Evolving the Master-Apprentice Tradition: A Pathway Back to a Student-Centered Pedagogy

and the Embodiment of the Nation, 1880–1920” Scott

Though unrefined voices could be heard throughout the national populace, authors regularly singled out the voices of African Americans and of the recently arrived European and Asian immigrant populations as particularly vexing. These Other voices posed for the cultured elite an aural and physical threat to what was perceived as a fragile national culture by transforming urban soundscapes into polyvocal communities beset with racial and cultural tensions . . . The voice culture movement responded to such change by delimiting which vocal expressions, and in turn, which bodies, could (and should) sing for the nation . . . Voice culture, in this sense, served as a means to exercise the power of race in order to forge sound citizenry.”44

The American “voice culture” movement sparked a national multi-decade long campaign to reform voice instruction beginning in elementary music classes through collegiate and conservatory professional training programs. 45 Education historian Ruth Gustafson notes a long history, predating the twentieth century “voice culture” movement, of utilizing singing instruction in the United States to “fortif[y] the qualities of citizenship, duty, patriotism, and manliness as aspects of whiteness” in public school music education.46 However, the use of science in voice pedagogy literature and scientific evidence to rationalize the efficiency of a civilized sound was new to the turn-of-the-century “voice culture” movement. In order to comprehend most writings about American “voice culture,” one required at least a cursory understanding of human anatomy and physiology. Carter writes, “ . . . voice-culture authors suggested that by scientifically training the body and, in turn, vocal expression, one could literally sing the progress of American civilization.”47 This is a clear example of the burgeoning field of voice science being used as an intellectual weapon to justify the “voice culture” movement in America and the othering of vocal aesthetics outside of the bel canto tradition.

Contemporary voice pedagogues must adopt an awareness of the Eurocentric aesthetics of beauty that may permeate their pedagogy, and the use of evidencebased instruction as well as historical based performance practices that are indicative of the Western classical sound to rationalize this aesthetic. While honoring the

teacher’s identity over that of the student, the masterapprentice tradition—both born and raised in the bel canto aesthetic—perpetuates hegemonic colonialist practices. It is not bel canto technique, historical performance practice, nor voice science that are inherently hegemonic, rather it is the use of such “standards” to other historically marginalized voices. Contemporary teachers of singers must shoulder the responsibility of creating space in the voice studio for a polycultural vocal aesthetic and a multiplicity of musical genres by utilizing student-centered and aesthetically non-binary vocabulary in their instruction that embraces the infinite shades of beauty the human voice can create.


Beyond the ethical and moral issues embedded in the master-apprentice tradition, this practice has been removed from its original context while attempting to preserve certain aspects of its antiquated pedagogy. Rarely do twenty-first century voice students live with their teacher, receive daily voice lessons, sing only vocal exercises for the first several years of their study, and fail to compensate their teacher until they begin a professional career. However, in their 2018 publication for Oxford University Press titled “Solo Voice Pedagogy,” authors Jean Callaghan, Shirlee Emmons, and Lisa Popeil wrote

The master-apprentice tradition of pedagogy has continued despite a breakdown in many of the assumptions underpinning it, and despite modern educational pressures. This continuous tradition has become fragmented, since teachers now confront a genre and style proliferation encompassing a wide span and geographical spread.”48

In the book Teaching Singing in the 21st Century, Jessica O’Bryan and Scott D. Harrison acknowledge that despite the evolution of voice pedagogy, “the transmission of knowledge remains one that follows the master apprentice tradition.”49 Perhaps contemporary teachers of singing continue to embrace the dependent relationship of the master-apprentice tradition because it allows them to fulfill a familiar role they experienced throughout their education, as well as adhere to current institutional expectations. 50 The inherent hierarchy and gatekeeping of the master-apprentice tradition smoothly

September/October 2023 19

aligns with the sclerotic top-down bureaucratic structure of most intuitions of higher education. Beyond the hierarchical foundation of both structures, both bureaucratic institutions and the master-apprentice tradition establish dependency and thwart autonomy.51 The authority—whether it be the administration in the case of institutions of higher education, or the master teacher in the case of the master-apprentice tradition— provides structure and security for the dependents, while the continued commitment of the dependents justifies the existence of the authority. Some contemporary teachers of singers working in higher education may feel painted into the master-apprentice corner by Western traditions such as classical-centric curricula as well as repertoire requirements for both matriculated and prospective students; specific musical and vocal benchmarks often communally assessed in semesterly jury examinations and recital hearings; and pressures from upper administration for quantifiable assessment data and increased graduation rates. Holding all students to the same aesthetic of vocal beauty as defined by the bel canto tradition, assessing artistry based on the accurate execution of historical performance practices indicative of the Western classical sound, and the use of scientific evidence to prove the efficiency of vocal technique may provide equality in assessment but fail to deliver equity for students. Some students may feel forced to choose between their artistic impulses and the expectations of the institution, ultimately requiring them to look to their teachers for approval and permission when making artistic, musical, technical, or career decisions. Some teachers may feel pressure to embrace their power over students to meet the requirements of their institutions and ultimately preserve the integrity of institutional bureaucracy.

The authors of the book, A New Weave of Power, People, and Politics: The Action Guide for Advocacy and Citizen Participation discuss four different types of power—power over, power with, power to, and power within.52 Power over is constructed by domination or control and motivated by fear. This concept of power is predicated on the belief that a finite amount of power exists in all relationships, which therefore requires individuals to claim power to achieve dominance. Historically, power over has been the bedrock of the master-apprentice tradition. The implicit gatekeep-

ing and dependent structure of the master-apprentice tradition puts masters in a clearly dominant position over their students. Power with encourages mutual collaboration that empowers all parties in the relationship. In power with, choices are made collaboratively, while considering the unique perspectives of all involved. Power with requires space for both teachers and students to share their thoughts and experiences in a lesson, ultimately making choices informed by their collective experience. Power to is the distinct potential each individual brings to a relationship. Without the need for domination, power to provides each person the capacity to shape and define their unique world that exists harmoniously with the worlds of everyone else in the relationship. Power to recognizes the legitimacy of individual experience in that teachers and students may experience or navigate aspects of the singing process differently from one another. Power within refers to a person’s sense of self, and their agency to recognize what they contribute to a relationship while respecting others for their unique contributions to the dynamic. Power within emboldens both teachers and students to identify and value the opportunities for reciprocal learning in the voice studio. By embracing power with, power to, and power within, contemporary voice pedagogues may find ways to modify the power dynamic in their teaching, encouraging students to embrace their autonomy. Considering most twenty-first century voice students typically receive a maximum of one voice lesson per week, it is imperative that they become their own best teacher. Turn of the century soprano Luisa Tetrazzini wrote, “After all, each one must do the real work herself.”53 Rather than an environment determined to claim power over artists, voice lessons can empower students to embrace their independence while providing them the tools to teach themselves how to sing and explore their artistic potential while practicing.


Authentic singing requires vulnerability and autonomy, as it compels singers to contextualize their artistry within their worlds.54 If the ultimate goal of teaching voice is to inspire a culture of autonomy, then voice teachers should reflect this in their pedagogy and process. 55 Contemporary teachers of singers must move beyond

20 Journal of Singing

Evolving the Master-Apprentice Tradition: A Pathway Back to a Student-Centered Pedagogy

the fundamental tenets of the master-apprentice tradition, grounding their teaching in a student-centered philosophy which leads to actions in the voice studio that provide space for agentic students. It is not enough to remove the labels of master and apprentice from the Western classical singing community, but the requisite teacher-centered practices of this tradition must also be removed. Rather than mourning singers of a bygone age, contemporary voice pedagogues may need to question their how —actively and purposefully considering or reconsidering the way they interact with students. Do my actions encourage autonomy or perpetuate dependence? Is this mid-lesson voice science lecture for me or the student? Am I valuing science over the sensations of students? How can I include students in the selection of repertoire, making it a formative experience for all involved? Is now the time to teach this student about historical performance practice, or celebrate their bold artistic risk? How might I navigate the focus of instruction from curricular expectations to providing space for students to develop as artists in their own time? Am I denying students the opportunity to express their identity in their singing by imposing the bel canto aesthetic on them? Can I propose policy and curricular changes that provide more space for autonomy within the bureaucratic structure of higher education? Can I develop a rubric that provides the opportunity for formative and equitable assessment of singing? Grappling with questions like these can cause discomfort but may ultimately provide both teachers and students more space for vulnerability and autonomy in voice lessons. Perhaps by paying heed to the pedagogy of the revered turn-of-the-century voice teachers who ushered in the last “golden age” of Western classical singing, contemporary pedagogues may find a pathway back to a more student-centered philosophy.


1. Roger Neill, Divas: Mathilde Marchesi and Her Pupils , (Sydney: New South, 2016), vi-vii.

2. James Anderson, We Sang Better Vol. 2 Why it was Better (Barcelona: Beuthen Press, 2012), 67.

3. Christine A. Brown, “A Humane Approach to the Studio,” in Humane Music Education for the Common Good, ed. Iris M. Yob et al. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2020), 94.

4. Jessica O’Bryan and Scott D. Harrison, “Prelude: Positioning Singing Pedagogy in the Twenty-First Century” in Teaching Singing in the 21st Century, ed. Scott D Harrison et al. (Heidelberg: Springer, 2014), 2.

5. Kay Brainerd Slocum, “Confrérie, Bruderschaft and Guild: The formation of musicians’ fraternal organizations in thirteenth and fourteenth century Europe,” Early Music History 14 (1995): 258.

6. Steven R. Smith, “The Ideal and Reality: Apprentice-Master Relationships in Seventeenth Century London,” History of Education Quarterly 21, no. 4 (Winter, 1981): 449–459.

7. Ibid., 449.

8. Robert Cleaver, “A Godly Form of Household Government,” in Sexuality and Gender in the English Renaissance : An Annotated Edition of Contemporary Documents Lloyd Davis, ed. Vol. 10 (Taylor & Francis, 1998), 183–211.

9. Smith, “The Ideal and Reality: Apprentice-Master Relationships,” 450.

10. Ibid., 450.

11. Ibid., 449.

12. Janice Chapman, Singing and Teaching Singing: A Holistic Approach to Classical Voice (San Diego: Plural Publishing, 2017), 284.

13. Giambattista Mancini, Practical Reflections on the Figurative Art of Singing (Boston: The Gorham Press, 1912), 30.

14. Morell Mackenzie, The Hygiene of The Vocal Organs (London: Macmillan and Co., 1888), 88.

15. O’Bryan and Harrison, “Prelude: Positioning Singing Pedagogy in the Twenty-First Century,” 2.

16. Mollie Sands, “The Singing-Master in Eighteenth-Century England,” Music & Letters 23, no. 1 (Jan., 1942): 69–80.

17. Ibid., 71.

18. Pier Francesco Tosi, Observations on the Florid Song (London: J. Wilcox, 1743), 14.

19. Sands, “The Singing-Master”: 69–80.

20. Chapman, Singing and Teaching Singing, 285.

21. Neill, Divas: Mathilde Marchesi and Her Pupils, chap. 7.

22. James Stark, Bel Canto A History of Vocal Pedagogy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999), xxii.

23. Anderson, We Sang Better Vol. 1 How We Sang, 8.

24. Ibid., 273.

25. Benjamin Steege, “Vocal Culture in the Age Laryngoscopy,” in Nineteenth-Century Opera and the Scientific Imagination, ed. David Trippett & Benjamin Walton (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 56.

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Travis Sherwood

26. William Earl Brown, Vocal Wisdom Maxims of Giovanni Battista Lamperti (New York: Arno Press, 1931), 20.

27. Brown, “A Humane Approach to the Studio,” 94.

28. O’Bryan and Harrison, “Prelude: Positioning Singing Pedagogy in the Twenty-First Century,” 4–5.

29. Travis Sherwood, “Inspiring Autonomous Artists: A Framework for Independent Singing,” Journal of Singing 75, no. 5 (May/June, 2019): 528.

30. Henry Kingsbury, Music, Talent and Performance: A Conservatory Cultural System (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988), 85.

31. Anderson, We Sang Better Vol. 2 Why it was Better, 142.

32. Ibid., 102.

33. Ibid., 126.

34. Ibid., 102.

35. Anderson, We Sang Better Vol. 1 How We Sang, 384.

36. Ibid., 386.

37. Brown, “A Humane Approach to the Studio,” 100.

38. Emily Good-Perkins, “Rethinking Vocal Education as a Means to Encourage Positive Identity Development in Adolescents,” in Human Music Education for the Common Good, ed. Iris M. Yob et al. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2020), 159.

39. Ibid., 159–160.

40. Victoria M. Joyce, “Bodies That Sing: The Formation of Singing Subjects” (doctoral diss., University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2003), 145.

41. Good-Perkins, “Rethinking Vocal Education,” 160–161; Grant Olwage, “The Class and Colour of Tone: An Essay on the Social History of Vocal Timbre,” Ethnomusicology Forum 13, no. 2 (Fall, 2004): 206.

42. Richard Wood Cone, The Speaking Voice: Its Scientific Basis in Music (Boston: Evans Music Company, 1908), 114.

43. Scott A. Carter, “Forging a Sound Citizenry: Voice Culture and the Embodiment of the Nation, 1880–1920,” American Music Research Journal 22 (2013), 12.

44. Ibid., 13.

45. Ibid., 17.

46. Ruth Iana Gustafson, Race and Curriculum: Music in Childhood Education (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 16.

47. Carter, “Forging a Sound Citizenry,” 25.

48. Jean Callaghan, Shirlee Emmons, and Lisa Popeil, “Solo Voice Pedagogy,” in Musical, Instrumental, and Ensemble Learning and Teaching An Oxford Handbook of Music Education, ed. Gary E. McPherson and Graham F. Welch (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 10.

49. O’Bryan and Harrison, “Prelude: Positioning Singing Pedagogy in the Twenty-First Century,” 3.

50. Jessica O’Bryan “Habits of the Mind, Hand and Heart: Approaches to Classical Singing Training,” in Teaching Singing in the 21st Century, ed. Scott D Harrison et al. (Heidelberg: Springer, 2014), 24.

51. Siri Terjesen, “Reducing Higher Education Bureaucracy and Reclaiming the Entrepreneurial University,” in Questioning the Entrepreneurial State Status-quo, Pitfalls, and the Need for Credible Innovation Policy, Karly Wennberg and Christian Sandström, editors (International Studies in Entrepreneurship 53, 2022), 112.

52. Lisa VeneKlasen and Valerie Miller, A New Weave of Power, People, and Politics: The Action Guide for Advocacy and Citizen Participation (Warwickshire: Practical Action Publishing, 2007), 45.

53. Luisa Tetrazzini, Caruso and Tetrazzini on the Art of Singing (Oslo: Compass Circle Publishing, 2020), 37.

54. Anthony Herrington and Jan Herrington, Authentic Learning Environments in Higher Education (Hershey: Information Science Publishing, 2006), vii.

55. Sherwood, “Inspiring Autonomous Artists,” 528.

Travis Sherwood serves as Assistant Professor of Voice and Vocal Area Coordinator on the faculty of San Diego State University. His students have been accepted to leading graduate programs and have won regional and district competitions. Dr. Sherwood is an active performer on the operatic, concert, and recital stages. Offstage, Dr. Sherwood frequently lectures and presents on the subjects of student-centered pedagogy, artistic literacy, voice pedagogy, and vocal literature.

Dr. Sherwood holds a Doctor of Musical Arts and a Master of Music degree from the University of Southern California, Thornton School of Music, and a Bachelor of Music Degree from Westminster Choir College in music education and vocal performance. Additional studies include a certificate from the “Académie Internationale d’Eté de Nice” in “Interprétation chant & piano” under the instruction of Dalton Baldwin.

22 Journal of Singing

La solita forma: Examining the Musical and Dramatic Structure of bel canto Arias

Classical voice pedagogy is rooted in the principles of bel canto technique. A specific and common aria form associated with the bel canto aesthetic in Italian opera of the first part of the 19th century (the primo ottocento ), was the double aria, or cavatina/cabaletta . This form became known as la solita forma , a term defined as “the usual way” to describe a normative practice. This article considers the musical and dramatic structure of la solita forma as embodying the principles of bel canto style (the hallmarks of which are sostenuto and agility) and offers modern singers, teachers, and opera lovers a window into the conventions of primo ottocent o opera.

Historically, classical voice pedagogy has been rooted in the principles of bel canto technique. As teachers and performers of bel canto repertoire, in addition to expressivity or dramatic interpretation of a song, aria or operatic role, we focus on the singing technique itself. However, we often overlook the critical aspect of the musical and dramatic structure of the repertoire which demanded this technique. This article will explore the musico-dramatic form which embodied the principles of bel canto style: la solita forma

Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 23–34

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

The term bel canto is one of the most malleable in all music. James Stark, author of Bel Canto: A History of Vocal Pedagogy states, “There is no consensus among music historians or voice teachers as to the precise application of the term.”1 Let us enumerate just a few possibilities: bel canto may be variously applied to a kind of music, a technique required to sing that music, or an era in which that music was composed. To some, the birth of bel canto coincided with the birth of opera in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries with the rise of virtuosic solo singing in the operas of Peri, Caccini, and Monteverdi. Others use the term when referring to the era when castrati dominated the operatic stage in opera seria of the eighteenth century. And finally, when some use the term bel canto, they mean to say the early nineteenth century in the operas of Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and early Verdi. Oxford Music Online suggests the use of the term be limited, “to its nineteenth-century use as a style of singing that emphasized beauty of tone in the delivery of highly florid music.”2 For the purposes of this article, the scope will be limited to the early nineteenth century or primo ottocento.

In Italian opera of the primo ottocento, one encounters arias written in a variety of musical forms. One common form begins with a recitative followed by two arias (the first slower, and the second faster) which are separated by

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David Dillard

Focus drama music drama music

Text versi sciolti versi lirici versi lirici (v.s. possible) versi lirici

Melody recitative lyrical/ sostenuto recitative/ sustained lyrical/ agility

Harmony modulatory stable modulatory stable Orchestra punctuating pulsed/ supportive punctuating/ supportive pulsed/ supportive

a bridge section. This aria form may be referred to as the double aria, cavatina/cabaletta, scena ed aria or an aria in la solita forma

The aria in la solita forma showcases the two most important aspects of bel canto vocalism, what Richard Miller called, “The Two Poles of Bel Canto”: sostenuto and agility.3 In the adagio (or first aria) the singer displays beauty of tone via long, legato lines in a slower tempo. Then, in the cabaletta she presents dazzling feats of agility via coloratura passages in a faster tempo. An aria in la solita forma is constructed to display these two indispensable and inextricable facets of bel canto singing.

The term la solita forma was coined by Abramo Basevi (1818–85), a composer (and also one of Verdi’s early biographers) to describe “the usual way” or normative approach to organizing musical and dramatic materials in many Italian operatic arias and other kinds of numbers. He also identified structural approaches that were outside the normative process which he called insolita forma. The musicologist Harold Powers reintroduced these terms in his article, “‘La solita forma” and “The Uses of Convention.’”4 Other kinds of musical numbers that could be structured using la solita forma include the introduzione (the first scene of an opera), the grand duet, and the internal finale (a finale that ends an act, but not an opera).

To appreciate the significance of la solita forma to early nineteenth century opera, an apt analogy might be to consider the importance of a pianist’s comprehension of sonata form when working on the first movement of a sonata from the classical era. Certainly, he could identify and understand the structural importance of the first

theme, second theme, exposition, or development sections. Likewise, should not singers and teachers of bel canto repertoire have at their command the principles of la solita forma and associated terms such as tempo di mezzo and versi sciolti?

An aria in la solita forma has four parts: The first is called the  scena, the recitative section that sets up the given circumstances of a scene, unfolds the plot, or presents a dramatic conflict. The  scena must also provide dramatic justification for the main character to sing the next section, the adagio. A composer might indicate this section as the  cavatina, cantabile, larghetto or another term. However, Harold Powers adopts adagio  as a generic term clarifying that this second section, however the composer labels it, expresses a shift from a dramatic focus to a musical one.5 This musical focus is epitomized by the singer’s display of beauty of tone and legato in a slower tempo. Here, the drama pauses while the music takes prominence. Once the adagio is complete, the tempo di mezzo or “middle movement” begins. This third section is signaled by a dramatic interruption and new information coming to light. As in the scena, this information motivates the main character to another moment of reflection in the final section, the cabaletta. This time, rather than sostenuto, the singer displays her agility by singing coloratura passages in a relatively fast tempo. As in the adagio, the drama comes to a halt and the music takes prominence.

The alternation of dramatic and musical emphases is an integral aspect of la solita forma. In the first and third sections, the drama is most prominent. In the second and fourth movements, the drama is static while the music is most prominent (see Table 1).

24 Journal of Singing David Dillard
TABLE 1. The Four Parts of an Aria in la solita forma 1. Scena 2. Adagio 3. Tempo di mezzo 4. Cabaletta

La solita forma: Examining the Musical and Dramatic Structure of bel canto Arias

Why would a composer use la solita forma? Today, we venerate composers like Rossini and Verdi. However, primo ottocento operatic composers were under tremendous pressure to write quickly. Rossini wrote Il barbiere di Siviglia in as little as three weeks. Verdi famously referred to the early part of his career in which he composed seventeen operas in just eleven years as his “galley years.” La solita forma was a form which allowed composers to write quickly. It could be used in a variety of different musical numbers and had a proven record of audience approval.6 Moreover, Miller’s “Two Poles of Bel Canto,” sostenuto and coloratura, were just as important to Italian audiences as the plot. La solita forma furnished opportunities for singers to display these two essential facets of bel canto singing. Finally, since the dawn of opera, composers and librettists have struggled to balance the competing needs of drama and music. In opera seria of the eighteenth century, the recitatives moved the plot along and the arias provided musical interest. There was relatively little integration of the two. While la solita forma maintained an alternation of dramatic and musical emphases, it provided for a more flexible, balanced, and at times, integrated approach.

Norma’s act one aria from the eponymously titled opera by Vincenzo Bellini serves as an excellent example of the aria in la solita forma. The focus of the scena is plot

unfoldment and the introduction of a dramatic conflict: Norma’s father, Oroveso, leader of the Druids, wants to battle their Roman enemy, led by Pollione. Norma, the high priestess of the Druids, secretly loves Pollione and has borne him two children and therefore wants to avoid military entanglements that could risk the life of her children’s father.

The text of the scena is in a prose-like poetic form called versi sciolti. The melody is presented in recitative texture, often unaccompanied, declamatory, and syllabically set (Example 1). The orchestra emphasizes the text by remaining silent, punctuating with brief chords or motives, or by underscoring with tremolo. The harmony of this section reflects the uncertainty of the drama (will Norma succeed in quelling the Druids’ bloodlust?) by not settling in one key. It is modulatory, ending in a different key from which it began.

While the scena largely serves a dramatic purpose, it must also move the main character to express a lyrical response in the next section.

In the adagio, the plot becomes static and the music takes over. Now, Norma can unveil her sostenuto—one of Miller’s “poles” of bel canto. The melody becomes tuneful, periodic, and is arguably the most important element of the adagio section. The text, which changes from the prose-like versi sciolti to a more poetic verse

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Example 1. Vincenzo Bellini, Norma, Act I, Scena e cavatina “Casta diva”

called versi lirici, also contributes to the more lyrical quality. The orchestra provides a pulsed and supportive accompaniment to the lyrical vocal melody. This accompaniment often takes the shape of broken chords (Example 2). The stable harmony reflects the dramatic stasis by beginning and ending in the same key. The form of the adagio is two-verse strophic with one poetic stanza per verse. It often begins with an orchestral introduction and features a cadenza on the final dominant harmony.

Let us take a moment to compare versi sciolti and versi lirici. Versi sciolti is found primarily in scena sections, but may also appear in a tempo di mezzo . It is prose-like and comprised of seven- and eleven-syllable lines (settenario and endecasillabo) which can be freely alternated and freely rhymed. The first line of Norma’s recitative, “Sedizïose voci,” (Table 2) has seven syllables and the subsequent lines have eleven. Only the last two lines rhyme (in bold below). The sense of metric feet is irregular and therefore lends itself to flexibility and irregular phrase structures when set musically.

Versi lirici is found in the adagio, tempo di mezzo, and cabaletta sections. It is a more poetic verse form which features more regular metric feet and rhyme scheme ( Table 3). Norma’s “Casta diva” is grouped into two quatrains. The first three lines of each quatrain are eight syllables (ottonario ) with the final stress of each line occurring on the penultimate syllable. This is called verso piano. The fourth line of each quatrain has only seven syllables since the “o” of velo and cielo have been apocopated or omitted. This is an example of verso tronco or truncated verse and lends the end of each quatrain a sense of finality or coming to rest because it ends on

Bellini, Norma, “Sedizïose voci” Syllable Count Rhyme Scheme

voci, 7

di guerra avvi chi alzar si attenta 11 presso all’ara del dio? V’ha chi presume 11 dettar responsi alla veggente Norma, 11 e di Roma affrettar il fato arcano? . . . 11 yes ei non dipende da potere umano. 11 yes

Bellini, Norma, “Casta Diva” Syllable Count Rhyme Scheme

Casta diva, che inargenti 8 A queste sacre antiche piante, 8 B a noi volgi il bel sembiante, 8 B senza nube e senza vel. 7 C

Tempra tu de’ cori ardenti, 8 A tempra ancor lo zelo audace, 8 D spargi in terra quella pace 8 D che regnar tu fai nel ciel. 7 C

a stressed syllable, rather than the unstressed eighth syllable. The rhyme scheme (ABBC ADDC), trochaic meter (LONG-short, LONG-short), and eight-syllable lines make the text ideal for a lyrical musical setting.

After Norma displays her sostenuto in the adagio, the audience awaits the fiery cabaletta. But, how should

26 Journal of Singing
Example 2. Vincenzo Bellini, Act 1, Andante sostenuto assai, “Casta diva” TABLE 2. Felice Romani, Norma, Act 1 scena, “Sedizïose voci”
TABLE 3. Felice Romani, Norma, Act 1, adagio, “Casta diva”

La solita forma: Examining the Musical and Dramatic Structure of bel canto Arias

Bellini and Romani motivate her to this change of attitude? That is the raison d’être of the third section: the tempo di mezzo or “middle movement.” It is signaled by a dramatic interruption (often the entrance of another character or chorus introducing new information) which prompts a shift in attitude in the main character.

The text of the tempo di mezzo is versi lirici (however, some versi sciolti may appear in other tempi di mezzi). Norma’s melody is initially recitative-like (Example 3) as it was in the scena, but also includes more sustained singing. The orchestra punctuates in the recitative-like passages, but also supports the singer when she sings in a more sustained manner. This section usually ends in a different key from which it began as it prepares for the upcoming cabaletta. Like the scena, the tempo di mezzo must motivate the main character to another moment of reflection based on the new information revealed. In

the case of Norma’s aria, there is no interruption per se, but the chorus of druids declares that when the time is right for battle, the first to be killed will be Pollione. This is the new information that compels Norma to continue to the cabaletta

The cabaletta acts as the finale and an emotional release to the entire scene. The focus is back on the music, while the drama is static. In response to the information revealed in the tempo di mezzo, the main character sings two stanzas of versi lirici, displaying agility through coloratura passages (Miller’s second “pole” of bel canto) or a more energetic vocalism (Example 4). The orchestra functions as it did in the adagio, providing a harmonic and rhythmic background, pulsed and supportive, but this time in a faster tempo with a driving rhythm to propel the aria to its climax. The form of the cabaletta, like the adagio, includes an orchestral intro-

September/October 2023 27
Example 3. Vincenzo Bellini, Norma, Act 1. Tempo di mezzo, “Fine al rito”

duction and two strophes. Here, both stanzas of text are sung in each of the two musical strophes and the piece ends with an exciting più mosso coda.

What differentiates the cabaletta from the adagio in terms of form is that the adagio truly has two verses: one stanza of text for each musical strophe. In the cabaletta, both stanzas of text are sung in each of the two musical strophes. The second verse of the cabaletta is really a repetition of the first and could be written with repeat signs. The two strophes are separated by a ritornello in which others on stage may comment on the situation ( pertichini ). The second statement of the verse was originally an opportunity for the singer to display ornamentation and is often omitted in modern performance practice.8 While the cabaletta does not propel the plot, it does provide a thrilling musical climax and emotional release to the entire aria.

Taken as a whole, Norma’s act one aria checks most if not all the boxes for la solita forma. The scena provides the plot set up. The adagio allows the soprano to contemplate the information revealed in the scena and to display her sostenuto in long lines. While there is no dramatic interruption in Norma’s tempo di mezzo, new information is introduced that prompts her cabaletta in which she presents her agility via virtuosic coloratura passagework while again reflecting on the new information.

La solita forma was an integral component of serious opera for at least the first half of the nineteenth century. Throughout that era, it was used hundreds, if not thousands of times and risked becoming formulaic. Moreover, according to musicologist Julian Budden, opera audiences were musically conservative and expected to hear familiar forms, such as la solita forma. 9 Therefore, in order to avoid monotony or excess predict-

28 Journal of Singing David Dillard
Example 4. Vincenzo Bellini, Norma, Act 1, Cabaletta, “(Ah, bello a me ritorna)”

ability, composers had reason to adapt la solita forma to each dramatic situation.

Riccardo’s act one aria from Bellini’s I puritani serves as an example. The number begins with a short orchestral introduction. Then, Riccardo sings unaccompanied, “Or dove fuggo io mai, dove mai celo gli orrendi affanni miei?,” which is followed by orchestral punctuation—typical recitative texture found in the scena. After an additional unaccompanied line of recitative, the orchestra begins a pulsed, supportive accompaniment of broken chords and Riccardo sings the lyrical melody, “O, Elvira, Elvira, o mio sospir soave” (Example 5). It seems that the aria has transitioned to the adagio section. Surprisingly, nine bars later, the piece returns to recitative before a larger lyrical section (“Ah, per sempre”) appears.

What to make, then, of this nine-measure lyrical section? Is this the adagio? No, this section is too short to be the adagio, which is ordinarily two musical verses and two stanzas of text. The excerpt in question is barely one strophe and one poetic stanza. For the lack of a better term, one could call it a “false adagio.” The real adagio, “Ah, per sempre” begins after the intervening recitative dialogue with Bruno, Riccardo’s fellow Puritan and is the normative two musical strophes and two stanzas of text.

Why would Bellini include adagio texture within a scena ? Perhaps the poignant lyricism of Riccardo’s “false adagio” convinces Bruno (and the audience) of Riccardo’s depth of feeling and motivates the following dialogue in a more dramatically potent way. 10 In this dialogue, Riccardo confesses the details of his relationship with Elvira and fully prepares the real adagio.

September/October 2023 29
La solita forma: Examining the Musical and Dramatic Structure of bel canto Arias
Example 5. Vincenzo Bellini, I puritani, Scena, “Or dove fuggo io mai”

Riccardo’s aria also brings up an interesting point when preparing students to sing bel canto arias— whether to use operatic anthologies or vocal scores. Operatic anthologies are useful and have many benefits: they are great starting places when looking for audition or concert repertoire; the editor has prepared excellent piano reductions of orchestral accompaniments; and judicious cuts have been made so that neither singer nor pianist must wade through long recitative or dialogue passages when performing in an audition or concert setting. However, these cuts have downsides, too.

The cuts remove important musical and dramatic information. For instance, does the main character have a scene partner? When preparing an aria, it is essential to know whether the character is alone on stage or if there are one or more scene partners. Moreover, the omitted text, whether solo or with a scene partner, often contains information vital to understanding the character’s motivation. For instance, if a baritone were preparing, “Or dove fuggo io mai,” from Robert L. Larson’s Arias for Baritone anthology, he would know that Riccardo is upset about a woman named Elvira. However, he would not know that Riccardo was promised Elvira’s hand in marriage by her father, who has subsequently allowed her to marry her true love, Arturo, rather than Riccardo.11 This information comes from the recitative dialogue which bridges the false adagio and real adagio, and which is not included in this anthology.12 So, as beautifully as any baritone may sing, “Ah, per sempre,” without knowing exactly why he is singing it, he will risk giving a dramatically incomplete performance.

Another case of a composer upsetting our expectations for la solita forma comes from Lucia’s Mad Scene in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. The scena begins with Raimondo and the chorus of wedding guests watching in horror as Lucia, bloodied after murdering her husband, enters with, “Il dolce suono mi colpì di sua voce!” Here, Lucia does not sing unaccompanied. In fact, her lines are more lyrical than in a typical scena. Moreover, the orchestra does not punctuate Lucia’s lines; instead, it provides a pulsed, supportive accompaniment. These elements are much more indicative of an adagio section, rather than scena (Example 6).

So, how do we know this is the scena? One clue is that the text is in versi sciolti, seven- and eleven-syllable lines arranged freely and only occasionally rhyming. In the

excerpt below from the scena, rhymes are bolded and instances of synalepha or sinafele are indicated with curving lines; (see Table 4). Synalepha occurs when two vowels, one that ends a word and another that begins the following word, count as only one syllable. Therefore, to accurately count syllables at the top of the scena , Raimondo’s three-syllable line (“Eccola!”) combines with the chorus’ five-syllable line (“Oh giusto cielo!”), resulting in an eight-syllable line. However, synalepha comes into play since the final “a” of “Eccola!” combines with the chorus’ “Oh,” resulting in one shared syllable. Thus, the first line is not eight syllables, but seven.

Since the text is in versi sciolti, Donizetti and Cammarano probably thought of this section as the scena.

Transitioning from Lucia’s scena to the adagio also presents analytic challenges. Normally, the adagio begins with an orchestral introduction which presents the main melody, and that is the case with Lucia’s Mad Scene. It begins at the larghetto. However, Lucia’s lines overlay on top of the introduction, so we do not really hear it as an introduction. It sounds much like the opening of the scena with the melody and accompaniment in the orchestra and Lucia singing in a quasi-recitative texture. Here, Donizetti blurs the transition between the scena and adagio. It is not until Lucia’s “Alfin son tua,” that the adagio is recognizable as such with a lyrical melody in the voice (which was introduced ten measures earlier by the orchestra) and a pulsed, supportive accompaniment in the orchestra (Example 7).

Why did Donizetti obscure the boundary between the scena and adagio? One possible explanation could be that by disorienting the audience as to where they are in la solita forma procedure (a procedure they knew well), they experience the same disorientation that Lucia does as she is visited by her hallucinations. Thus, Donizetti utilizes la solita forma as the underlying structure of Lucia’s centerpiece aria, but disguises it to reflect the drama of Lucia’s psychological trauma. He upsets our expectations as to what kind of music we should be hearing in the first two sections of the aria.

One of the first instances of the aria in la solita forma can be found in Rossini’s Tancredi (1813) in the aria “Giusto Dio che umile adoro.” Rossini was such an influential and successful composer that the procedure was adopted by his followers: Bellini, Donizetti, early Verdi and others. In fact, Julien Budden called the conven-

30 Journal of Singing

La solita forma: Examining the Musical and Dramatic Structure of bel canto Arias

tions that Rossini developed during his short career the “Code Rossini.”13 These conventions, including la solita forma, became a mainstay of Italian opera through the mid-nineteenth century. In fact, throughout the primo ottocento, composers usually provided at least one aria in la solita forma for each major character in a serious opera. The procedure was used as late as 1867 in Rodrigo’s act four aria, “Per me giunto,” from Don Carlos.

At times it can be challenging to determine whether an aria is structured using la solita forma. Most arias in la

September/October 2023 31
Example 6. Gaetano Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor, Act III, Scena, “Il dolce suono” TABLE 4. Salvedore Cammerano, Lucia di Lammermoor, Act III, Scena, “Eccola!”

solita forma occur in serious operas. Furthermore, it helps to consider what elements of la solita forma are present. For example, Rosina’s aria “Una voce poco fa” from Il barbiere di Siviglia is not in la solita forma since there is no tempo di mezzo. However, its two sections move from slower to faster, akin to the adagio and cabaletta. So, one could say that her aria expresses that element of la solita forma—a slower movement followed by a faster one.

On the other hand, the Duke’s act one aria (“Questa o quella”) from Rigoletto bears no resemblance to la solita forma. It is a two-verse cavatina or entrance aria. Finally, Rigoletto’s act two aria (“Cortigianni, vil razza”) is in four sections like la solita forma. However, after the scena, the second section is fast and declamatory, rather than slow and lyrical. The last two sections are both lyrical and move from slow to slower. To Verdi,

32 Journal of Singing David Dillard
Example 7. Gaetano Donizetti, Lucia di Lammermoor, Adagio, “Alfin son tua”

La solita forma: Examining the Musical and Dramatic Structure of bel canto Arias

Rigoletto was a character of Shakespearian proportions and he jettisoned la solita forma in favor of creating an aria that shows the title character at his most vulnerable and debased.14

La solita forma was a procedure by which primo ottocento composers balanced the needs of drama and music, and was an improvement over the recitative and aria formula of the eighteenth century. It gave singers the opportunity to display the two requisite aspects of elite singing in the early nineteenth century, what Richard Miller called “The Poles of Bel Canto,” sostenuto and agility. It was adaptable to a number of dramatic situations vis-à-vis the examples from I puritani and Lucia di Lammermoor. La solita forma faded from fashion in the latter nineteenth century or secondo ottocento as composers, including Verdi in his late operas, broke down formal building blocks, preferring a more formless, through-composed style which more intimately wedded words and music.15

Understanding the framework of la solita forma arias offers modern singers, teachers, and opera lovers a window into the conventions of primo ottocento opera. The author hopes readers will be inspired to re-examine these works that seem so well-known and appreciate the craft that went into their creation.


A Selection of Arias in La Solita Forma


“Giusto Dio! che umile adoro . . . Ah d’amor in tal momento,” Act II, Tancredi, Rossini, “Morte io non temo . . . Ah! Non poss’io partire,” Act II, I capuletti e i Montecchi, Bellini

“Ah, forse lui che l’anima . . . Sempre libera,” Act 1, La Traviata, Verdi

“Tacea la notte placida . . . Che tale amor che dirsi,” Act 1, Il trovatore, Verdi


“In si barbara sciagura . . . Si, vendicato il genitore,” Act II, Semiramide, Rossini

“Se Romeo t’uccise un figlio . . . La tremenda ultrice spada,” Act I, I Capuleti ed i Montecchi, Bellini

“Oh mio Fernando . . . Scritto in cielo il mio dolor!” Act III, La favorita, Donizetti

“Non san quant’io nel petto . . . Non vo’ quel vecchio,” Act I, Un giorno di Regno, Verdi


“La speranza più soave . . . Si, sperar voglio contento,” Act II, Semiramide, Rossini

“Meco all’altar di Venere . . . Me protegge, me difende,” Act I, Norma, Bellini

“Vivi tu, te ne scongiuro . . . Nel veder la tua Constanza,” Act II, Anna Bolena, Donizetti

“Parmi veder le lagrime . . . Possente amor,” Act II, Rigoletto, Verdi


“Ah, per sempre io ti perdei . . . Bel sogno beato,” Act 1, I puritani, Bellini

“Cruda funesta, smania . . . La pietade in suo favore,” Act 1, Lucia di Lammermoor, Donizetti

“Per me giunto il dì supremo . . . Io morro, ma lieto in core,” Act IV, Don Carlo, Verdi


“Deh ti ferma . . . Que’ Numi furenti,” Act II, Semiramide, Rossini

“Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni . . . Tu non sai con quei begli occhi,” Act I, La sonnambula, Bellini

“Forse in quell cor sensibile . . . Qui ribelle ognun ti chiama,” Act I, Roberto Devereux, Donizetti

“Infelice! E tuo credivi . . . Infin che un brando vindice,” Act I, Ernani, Verdi


1. James Stark, Bel Canto: A History of Vocal Pedagogy , Toronto: University of Toronto Press (1999), xvii

2. Jander, O., and Harris, E. Bel canto.  Grove Music Online.  Retrieved 16 May. 2023, from view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-978156 1592630-e-0000002551.

3. Richard Miller, On the Art of Singing, Oxford: Oxford University Press (1996), 101

4. Harold Powers, ‘“La solita forma” and “The Uses of Convention,”’ Acta Musicologica 59 no. 1 (Jan.–April, 1987): 68

5. Powers, 68

6. Julian Budden, The Operas of Verdi: From Oberto to Rigoletto (New York: Praeger Publishers (1973), 12

September/October 2023 33

7. The dieresis (¨) in the word “sedizïose” separates the two vowels (i) and (o) into two syllables, when without the dieresis, they would form a one-syllable glide.

8. Budden, 17

9. Budden, 8

10. Verdi uses a similar device in the Duke’s act two recitative, “Ella mi fu rapita,” in Rigoletto

11. Robert L. Larsen, Arias for Baritone, New York: G. Schirmer, Inc. (1991)

12. Even the entry in the “Notes and Translations” portion of the Robert L. Larsen Arias for Baritone anthology omits this fact.

13. Budden, 12

14. Budden, 477

15. Richard Taruskin, “Chapter 11 Artist, Politician, Farmer (Class of 1813, II),” in Music in the Nineteenth Century , Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2 Nov. 2021, from https:// Volume3/actrade-9780195384833-div1–011007.xml

16. In Rossini’s operas, baritones tend to appear in comic, rather than serious roles and therefore rarely sing arias in la solita forma.

Baritone David Dillard is Associate Professor of Voice and Director of Graduate Studies at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where he teaches voice, song literature, voice pedagogy, diction, and opera history. He has performed dozens of roles with Union Avenue Opera and Winter Opera St. Louis and has appeared with Florida Grand Opera, Austin Lyric Opera, Lake George Opera, Dicapo Opera Theater, the San Diego Opera Ensemble and the Tanglewood Music Center.

Dr. Dillard attended the Franz Schubert Institute in Baden-bei-Wien, Austria, where he coached lieder with Elly Ameling, Helmut Deutsch, and Wolfgang Holzmair. An ardent proponent of music by living composers, he has coached with Lori Laitman, Alan Smith, and Jake Heggie. Among his collaborations with Martin Katz are several performances of Schubert’s Winterreise.

As a scholar, his interests include voice science, song and operatic literature. In 2022, he presented at the International Conference of Voice Teachers in Vienna and has also presented at NATS and College Music Society regional conferences. His arrangements of arias with obbligato instruments are available from Classical Vocal Reprints. A NATS Intern and a semi-finalist in the New York Oratorio Society’s Aria Contest, he holds music degrees from the University of Michigan, the University of Texas at Austin and Principia College.

34 Journal of Singing

The Impact of Blindness on the Physical and Vocal Development of Visually Impaired Singers

Traditionally, music has been viewed as the quintessential non-visual art. In past centuries, a handful of blind individuals became renowned composers, singers, or organists. In fact, popular culture helped form a rather inaccurate relationship between blindness and music to the extent that visually impaired people are often expected to excel by default in the musical arts. In some cultures, parents tend to automatically choose music as their blind child’s ideal vocation.

As a totally blind professional singer and voice pedagogue herself, the author has evaluated a significant number of young, visually impaired vocalists who seemed unable to use their voices as reliable instruments. Researchers have found that blindness affects the developmental stages of a person with regard to posture, gross motor skills, and muscle development and coordination. 1 As a voice instructor, the author finds that visually impaired youths whose developmental stages have deviated from the norm must follow a specially designed curriculum in order to effectively learn the psycho-motor aspects of vocal technique.

The goal of this article is to illuminate a path that voice teachers may follow to ensure that their blind students can maintain healthy voices and engage in rewarding singing.


Music is of essence to blind voice students. As I will point out later in this article, when a visually impaired adolescent chooses to invest in voice lessons, her goal is social integration and self-empowerment, as well as cultural fulfillment. In this context, the following quote, uttered by one of my students, seems rather discouraging.

I have been studying voice for three years. All my colleagues have shown considerable progress and singing has become easier for them. Even though my teacher initially said I was very musical, something is delaying my progress. No one can explain what is wrong. Three years ago, my teacher regarded my visual impairment as a welcome asset. In fact, she even expected my other senses to be heightened. Now, her enthusiasm has waned significantly.

Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 35–41

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

I have heard similar comments and complaints from many frustrated visually impaired singers. Some have admitted that two or three years of hard work and endless practice are not even remotely evident in their vocal output. It is not uncommon for some voices to deteriorate rather than improve. In order to untie this peculiar Gordian knot, I must focus on the early years of a child’s existence.

The Journal of Singing Mentored Writing Initiative pairs a selected author with an expert writer from the journal’s editorial board. Maria Georgakarakou Maria Georgakarakou Mentored by Kenneth Bozeman

Right after birth, every human infant embarks on a lifelong journey which involves using his senses as tools for exploring the world and interacting with it. This continual transaction is essential with regard to the natural development of his young brain. Such uninterrupted strings of sensory and social experiences enhance the baby’s ability to understand and control his environment. Eventually he learns to build his self-image through which he realizes his active role as a member of society.

According to the transactional model, the adaptation of the environment to promote the infant’s interaction and participation will have a positive influence on the infant’s learning and development.2

Each sensory channel acts as a link between the infant’s brain and the outside world.

Just a-few-days-old infants will look more at oval shapes with dots suggesting eyes, and this interest in face-like stimuli becomes more sophisticated as the infant’s visual acumen develops. And they don’t just look — they smile, or at least try to.3

Soon, the mother’s voice becomes a familiar sound which each child associates with safety and wellbeing. As soon as the baby learns to control her facial muscles, she will smile when her mother sings to her. A couple of months later, the sound of a closing door will prompt her to look around and attempt to locate the source of this particular disturbance. After observing family members communicate through language, she too will start experimenting with her articulators and resonators.

Evidently, multilayered sensory input is the key to a child’s growth and social integration. Can lack of visual perception possibly affect the developmental process outlined above? How crucial are visual stimuli and what do they contribute to the kaleidoscopic input received during the first two years of a person’s life? Most importantly, can blind individuals grow up in a way that precludes their brain from exchanging with their own body some of the feedback needed while using it as a wind instrument? Can the repercussions of those early experiences be felt many years later, when a visually impaired person takes her first voice lessons?

A blind baby cannot discern a human face, or an oval-shaped image with two dots signifying the eyes. His stimulants are primarily auditory and tactile, not

visual. This important detail is life-changing for the baby’s development.

She will inevitably smile when she hears her mother’s voice, but will not necessarily turn her face towards her mother. Two months later, the baby will not be prompted by nature to look around because, in her case, there is nothing to look at. So, if the mother or caregiver does not find a way to help the blind baby pull through this important developmental stage by coaxing her into strengthening the muscles which support and rotate her head (specifically the trapezius, the levator scapulae, and the sternocleidomastoid muscles), chances are these muscles will remain weak and she will spend the rest of her life looking toward the floor. 4 So, our visually impaired potential singer is barely three months old and we already need to be aware of two upcoming hurdles for her, one social and one technical.

In our culture people are generally expected to look at the person who is addressing them. Even though their eyes cannot focus, they are still expected to turn their face towards their interlocutor. Social interaction is hampered for people who deviate from this norm. In fact, even in cases where a blind person does turn toward her interlocutor, the latter often prefers to address her sighted companion rather than her. Evidently, the speaker would rather speak to someone who can maintain actual eye-contact. Consequently, the blind person feels virtually expunged.5 She is not part of the social picture unless she always remembers to turn her face towards the voice of the person addressing her.

As a voice teacher, I have worked with many totally blind singers who completed twelve years of elementary and secondary education at the school for the blind in Athens, Greece. For many of these students, holding up or rotating their head was very difficult. The pairs of muscles (listed above) that perform these functions had not been used enough since infancy and were lacking in strength. It is reasonable to hypothesize that this has resulted from the previously elaborated lack of movement response to visual stimuli. Their voice teachers may be reluctant to address the issue and do not know to trace it back to their student’s infancy. If the teacher does not tackle this problem boldly, the student will end up with a posturally compressed larynx, tongue and jaw, compromised resonance, and forced sound.

36 Journal of Singing

The Impact of Blindness on the Physical and Vocal Development of Visually Impaired Singers

I have outlined some of the problems visually impaired singers may need to solve if they have missed the early developmental stage of learning how to support and rotate their head. Technical particularities notwithstanding, one does not have to be a voice teacher in order to agree that singers need to face their audience while on stage. Establishing a strong rapport with listeners is one of every performer’s most effective tools. Even though I am totally blind, I typically forge a connection with my audience provided I can rely on technical and social safety. As explained above, achieving optimal head position may be essential both technically and socially. Let us now consider the impact of a second developmental stage on a young singer’s body posture and breath management.

As soon as the baby has mastered supporting his head, he starts experimenting with lying on his stomach and raising his upper body by pushing up with his hands. This movement will develop his torso muscles, whose role will be to support him when he stands erect. Strengthening the trunk muscles will also help the infant propel himself through crawling.6 However, this movement and muscle development requires some sort of motivational reward. Our infant raises his torso with the aid of his hands in order to visually explore his environment. In other words, he is stimulated by the fact that he wants to actually see what is taking place around him. At this early stage, visual exploration is the only way for him to reach out beyond the rails of his crib.

What happens if this visual reward is absent? Blind infants generally dislike performing this simple movement. Consequently, development of muscle tone in the torso is delayed. Instead of propelling themselves forward and learning to crawl, some blind infants prefer rocking in place.7 With others, muscle tone may have been developed, but the baby realizes from the experience of crashing into things headfirst, that she needs to protect her head, so she chooses to crawl backwards. Infants who have delayed learning to crawl may not be able to move their pelvis independently from the rest of their torso.8 I will now analyze why this is the most important issue voice pedagogues need to address when teaching visually impaired singers.

As a young voice student in the late 1980s, I soon realized that I was not in step with the rest of the students in my class. Even though the teacher used a purely intuitive

method, most of the students somehow managed to improve. In contrast, my voice worsened progressively. The teacher attributed my failure to lack of support. I desperately tried to satisfy her by resorting to the use of extremely high levels of subglottic pressure. My tone became forced, I could not sing above modal register, and my vibrato was inhibited. My facial muscles were perpetually contracted and singing provided pain rather than joy.

Initially I had hoped that, as singing did not require vision, I would excel without too much difficulty. After all, I was a skilled braille music reader, could play the piano, and was fluent in several languages. I tried to imitate my teacher’s tone but only succeeded in forcing even more. If I was seeking social acceptance in singing, I certainly did not achieve it at that time. In fact, in spite of all my efforts, I was failing miserably.

After moving to the United States, and surgically correcting the phono-trauma I had acquired during those early years, I invited the late Mr. Janusz Preis, an orientation and mobility instructor, to observe one of my voice lessons. Orientation and mobility instructors are professionals who specialize in teaching visually impaired children and adults to navigate indoor and outdoor areas safely and independently with the use of a long cane or a guide dog.9

Janusz promptly pointed out that my technical issues seem to be related to my visual impairment. He explained how blind people who have not learned to move their pelvis independently tend to acquire a characteristic posture often referred to as “sailor-walking”; the feet and legs are far apart, the knees are hyperextended and movement is always initiated from the hips. The pelvis is virtually immobile and the torso swings only from the waist up. The shoulders remain stiff while the arms rarely swing during walking.

Naturally, if the pelvic-floor muscles (pubococcygeus, iliococcygeus, ischiococcygeus, levator ani, rectococcygeus) and lower abdominal muscles ( transverse, rectus, and external and internal obliques) are stiff and unyielding, the excursion of the diaphragm cannot be deep enough nor the respiratory system flexible enough to respond to the dynamic demands of singing. Evidently, my proprioception had to be recalibrated. If I wished to achieve a viable singing career, I would have to learn to free my pelvis, even though I would have to learn this late, as an adult.

September/October 2023 37

Twenty years after this unique revelation, which literally reshaped my professional life, I decided that the time had finally come for voice teachers across the globe to become aware of the particularities unique to their visually impaired students. Young singers who are blind need to avail themselves of powerful tools and resources that will enable their brain to retrain their body and transform it into a musical instrument.

I generated two spectrograms for this article using my own voice. The first (Figure 1) reproduces sounds sung with pelvis, hips and knees stiffened from habitual sailorwalking, while the second is performed with the pelvis, hips and knees completely free (Figure 2)

Correcting these habituated developmental responses will require a patient retraining process over time and a more complete curriculum, something I hope to provide in the future. Meanwhile, I offer here a few initial exploratory strategies.


The student must follow the extracurricular activities outlined below while continuing her voice lessons on

a regular basis. Discontinuing singing until she has completed this specialized curriculum is not advisable. Most importantly, the student must not be led to believe that she is inferior because of her blindness. On the contrary, her visual impairment provides her with the opportunity to explore uniquely empowering avenues which could eventually prepare her for a fulfilling singing and teaching career.

First, the teacher must assess whether or not the issues identified in the first part of this article actually exist. Individuals with a high percentage of useful vision may not present with these problems. After all, blindness alone does not automatically identify a person as a singer in need of specialized technical assistance. The following corrective habilitative strate -

are designed to release habituated pelvic bracing, freeing the lower torso to participate in the respiratory response to the variable needs of phonation. It should be noted that some of them exceed the training, equipment, and insurance circumstances of most voice teachers, thus likely necessitating the services of certified, insured physical therapists in appropriately equipped facilities.

38 Journal of Singing
Maria Georgakarakou
gies Figure 1. Singing with pelvis, hips and knees stiffened from habitual sailor-walking. Vibrato is largely absent except for the final note. The sound becomes progressively forced on the ascent to the highest note. These figures are spectrograms, which chart frequency on the vertical axis and time on the horizontal axis, with a pressure waveform superimposed in the center. The present analysis setting displays the harmonic frequencies of the sung tones, making the presence or absence of vibrato oscillations obvious. The breadth of the pressure waveform is indicative of its relative intensity.10

Free improvisatory movements or horizontal dancing on the floor

Allow the student to improvise using free body movements while lying on a smoothly surfaced floor that, with appropriate clothing, facilitates easy gliding movements. Make sure the room is quiet and free of obstacles. Encourage two-dimensional movement guided by the student’s imagination. On this plane, he will not be hindered by fear of falling or injuring himself. He may imitate the fluidity of the brush strokes on a raised abstract painting or the graceful movements of an animal or bird. He may move in circles, embodying a melodic or harmonic sequence in an instrumental piece that may be playing during the session. Eventually, his body will be freed of any inhibitions caused by his blindness, and all joints will begin to move independently of one another. During those moments of newly acquired empowerment, the voice teacher may encourage the student to phonate. He may then ask the student to concentrate, not on the sound he produces, but on the new way his whole body reacts to singing.

Pelvic tilts on the floor

This exercise is part of the Feldenkrais method, but I have found it extremely useful with regard to students

whose pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles are stiff and unyielding.12 The student lies on her back on a yoga mat or moving blanket. Her head is slightly elevated by means of a folded towel. The knees are bent but do not touch one another while the soles of the feet touch the floor. Instruct the student to push down with her feet and then let go slowly. The force must not be enough to lift the pelvis off the floor. Instead, the body should rock freely back-and-forth towards the head or feet as though it were the bowed piece of wood connecting the front and back legs of a rocking chair. You may have to show your blind student a toy rocking chair, or demonstrate on a doll with moving parts. Even though your student has doubtless used a rocking chair, it is possible that she has never touched the components of the chair closest to the floor.

As she gradually masters the movement, ask her if she can feel the impact on her head, neck and shoulders. Invite her to concentrate on her breathing and encourage her to point out any changes she can feel in the past week. Can she visualize her body as a boat rocking on an undulating sea where the movement is initiated by her own breath? Avoid using words such as correct, right, wrong, or phrases such as “inadequate support.” Instead of voicing your opinion, let the student express herself.

September/October 2023 39
The Impact of Blindness on the Physical and Vocal Development of Visually Impaired Singers
Figure 2. Singing after training to release the pelvis, hips, and knees. The vocal function is freer, probably due to the presence of vibrato on each sung pitch, as opposed to only the final one in figure 1. The resonance is fuller, as is evident in the broader pressure waveform across the center of the spectrogram as compared to Figure 1.11

After all, the body is hers, not yours, and she is the only one who can assess what is happening within it.

Pelvic tilts while sitting

This exercise should ideally take place while the student is sitting on an exercise ball. However, it is my observation that most blind people cannot maintain their equilibrium while sitting on a spherical object. For such cases I propose the use of a padded cubicle, large enough for the ball to roll slightly but not wide enough for the student to fall over. The cubicle is equipped with movable handrails for added security. Eventually the student may graduate out of the cubicle and use the ball independently while simply holding onto a wall. If he is too frightened to sit on the exercise ball, he may use a sturdy chair, not armchair. If his arms and hands rest on the arms of an armchair, his shoulders will end up elevated.

While sitting on the ball or chair, the teacher should invite her to imagine that she is sitting on a horizontal clock face; number twelve is towards the front of her body, number six is at her back, number three is on her right and number nine is on her left. In this exercise (which is also borrowed from the Feldenkrais technique), movement is initiated by one or both feet pushing down towards the floor and then letting go. The student is asked to move very slowly back and forth from 6 to 12 or from 3 to 9. then she’s told to move clockwise or anticlockwise along the circumference of the clock. The movement must be small enough for the student to feel comfortable. Explain that we are looking for minimal effort. The teacher must make sure that the pelvis is, in fact, moving. Many blind students believe they are doing this exercise correctly but do not realize that their pelvis is stationary while they are moving their lumbar and thoracic spine instead.

This process requires patient persistence. With appropriate consent, a physical therapist may need to manually guide the student’s movement. This movement will be new to the singer, who will need time and nonjudgmental repetitions to process the experience. The ultimate outcome could be a pleasant surprise for both.

Guided pelvic movement while standing

For this exercise we returned to the previously mentioned padded cubicle. This time we have removed the

horizontal handrails. Instead, the student holds on to a swinging handle hanging from the ceiling. He uses both hands while his feet are firmly on the floor and his knees are slightly bent. In this position, he moves his pelvis from left to right while bending his knees and ankles in the same direction. Let him play with a marionette hanging from a string and ask him to pretend he is impersonating it.

Students may experiment with singing while working on any one of these exercises. I myself feel practicing whole arias on the exercise ball extremely fulfilling. After having taught many blind students of all ages, I have reached the conclusion that the average time needed for a visually impaired person to experience alignment with her body is about twelve months. It may take even longer for her to receive adequate kinesthetic feedback. After reinstating the long-lost connection to her body as an instrument, the visually impaired singer’s vocal technique is bound to improve exponentially.


Singing can be an exceptionally rewarding form of communication. As such, it provides a unique kind of freedom extremely empowering to blind individuals. Voice teachers should strive to help resolve the technical problems that inhibit their students’ singing progress, regardless of students’ disabilities, to the best of their own training and abilities as teachers, and to refer students to appropriate habilitative partners in this process when needed. After all, young singers who are blind are as entitled to healthy instruments and fulfilling careers as their sighted colleagues.


1. William R. Wiener, Richard L. Welsh, and Bruce B. Blasch Ed., Foundations of Orientation and Mobility, Volume 1, History and Theory. (New York, NY: AFB Press).

2. Deborah Chen, Ed., Essential Elements in Early Intervention: Visual Impairment and Multiple Disabilities. (New York NY: AFB Press, 2014), 6.

3. Nicky Hayes, Fundamentals of Social Psychology. (New York, NY: Routledge, 2018), 6.

4. Author’s observations from years of teaching blind students.

5. Author’s personal observation.

40 Journal of Singing

The Impact of Blindness on the Physical and Vocal Development of Visually Impaired Singers

6. William R. Wiener, Richard L. Welsh, and Bruce B. Blasch

Ed., Foundations of Orientation and Mobility, Volume 1, History and Theory. (New York, NY: AFB Press, 2010), 142–3.

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid. p. 143–4

9. see the website of the Orientation and Mobility Specialist Association at

10. Sound sample may be heard at watch?v=HeT-fHcbPRg

11. Sound sample may be heard at watch?v=ZVmJHFp5CjI

12. Gleaned by the author from instructions and training of a certified Feldenkrais practitioner during her university degree work.

Maria Georgakarakou, a native of Greece, holds a BA in linguistics from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She traveled to Massachusetts as a Fulbright Scholar in 1997, completing an MM in early music vocal performance from the Longy School of Music in 2001, and a PhD in historical musicology from Boston University in 2015. Dr. Georgakarakou is an active performer and voice pedagogue. She recently

published the first book written in Greek on voice pedagogy. She is a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Macedonia in northern Greece, and starting in September, 2023 she will be working towards a graduate performance diploma at the Longy School of Music of Bard College. Her experience as a visually impaired singer and teacher uniquely qualifies her to address the topic of training visually impaired singers.

Mentor Kenneth Bozeman, author of Practical Vocal Acoustics and Kinesthetic Voice Pedagogy, served as Professor of Music at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin for 42 years. He was awarded the Van Lawrence Fellowship by the Voice Foundation in 1994 and is on the editorial boards of the NATS Journal of Singing and the Voice Foundation’s Journal of Voice. He was twice a master teacher for the NATS Intern Program and was inducted into the American Academy of Teachers of Singing in 2019. He was honored to be a keynote speaker for the British Voice Association (2021) and the International Congress of Voice Teachers (2022). His work explores the internal acoustic landscape all voices inhabit, describes the inherent relationships of its components, and seeks ways to motivate efficient singing while respecting both physiologic and acoustic realities as well as effective historic pedagogy. He continues to work by mentoring teachers and young professional singers in acoustic pedagogy and presenting lectures and demonstrations for university voice departments and professional voice organizations.

Intermezzo is a weekly compilation of news clips about the singing profession, in addition to NATS news, that is delivered to each member’s inbox. Intermezzo tackles today’s most relevant issues, gathered from sources like The Associated Press, The New York Times, Financial Times and the leading industry publications. It is delivered to the inboxes of teachers of singing in the United States, Canada and more than 35 other countries.

September/October 2023 41


DEADLINE: Dec. 1, 2023

The National Association of Teachers of Singing invites all NATS members and friends to submit abstracts for presentation consideration in poster paper format at the 58th National Conference in Knoxville (June 28 – July 2, 2024). Topics for poster papers may include:

► Voice Pedagogy

► The Private Studio

► Vocal Repertoire

► Commercial Styles

► Voice Science

► Technology and Teaching

► Performance Practice

► Musicological Studies

... or any other topic related to the art and science of singing and teaching singing. Abstracts should not exceed 500 words in length and should be uploaded in PDF or Microsoft Word format as a file attachment through the submission portal at Only electronic submissions will be considered. To submit a poster paper proposal: Visit and complete the online application. You will be asked to upload your abstract through the online portal. Only online submissions will be accepted.



June 28-July 2, 2024

National Association of Teachers of Singing presents:

National Musical Theatre Competition Gala Finals

A special concert event with the next generation of musical theatre stars!

Monday, January 8, 2024

Neidorff-Karpati Hall at Manhattan School of Music

New this year, VIP pre-show champagne reception with industry insiders.

• More than 1,000 singer/actors have participated in six previous competitions since NMTC premiered in 2012.

• A powerful collaboration between New York professional theatre, the world’s largest network of voice teachers, and visionary investors in musical theatre

• The competition cultivates young, diverse, promising talent to carry the banner of musical theatre into the future

For more information and to purchase tickets, scan the QR code:

NMTC 2024 is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Florence Birdwell — NATS member and legendary teacher. Honoring Florence Birdwell

Singing Redefined

Associate editor Matthew Hoch revisits Walter C. Foster’s 1998 book Singing Redefined, reconsidering its arguments within a twenty-first century context. Hoch uses Foster’s compendium of historical writings on various aspects of voice pedagogy as a starting point for examining the challenging task of defining pedagogic terms and concepts. Hoch argues that published definitions are a product of their era and the endeavor of defining pedagogic concepts is a perpetually moving target that always involves the periodic redefining of terminology as new science emerges and society evolves, recontextualizing our knowledge of the singing voice. The author concludes by speculating on several emerging trends that may inform pedagogic discourse and expand our lexicon moving forward.

Over the past twenty-five years I have accumulated a large number of voice pedagogy books, enough to occupy their own shelf in my studio. Some of these—like those by William D. Vennard, Richard Miller, Barbara Doscher, and Scott McCoy— are well-worn and have been opened, read, and taught from many times over the course of my career.1 Others, however, show few if any signs of wear; I have never gotten around to reading them for one reason or another.

One of these “like new” volumes was gifted to me several years ago by Glendower Jones: Singing Redefined by Walter C. Foster. The title alone intrigued me, as did its copyright date, 1998; Foster’s book was published exactly a quarter century ago, when I was a senior undergraduate student at Ithaca College. As so much has changed in the world of voice pedagogy over the past twenty-five years, I was eager to read about how Foster “redefined” singing in 1998, and whether his definitions within this volume necessitated further revision. (My hypothesis was that they did.)

Under the title, in finer print on the blue clothbound cover, was perhaps the longest subtitle I have ever encountered. The book’s full title, including this subtitle, is as follows:

Singing Redefined: A Conceptual Approach to Singing That Includes a Study of the Emotional Process and the Imaginative Capacity, Linguistic Awareness and Musical Awareness, Singing Concepts Based on the Responsive Nature of the Instrument, and Exercises Designed to Promote a Technically Correct, Artistically Expressive Singing Tone.

Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 43–50

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

This lengthy subtitle divulges both the content and the organizational structure of the book, which is delineated into five sections: (i) emotion, (ii) imagination, (iii), linguistic awareness, (iv) musical awareness, and (v) singing concepts. Numerous quotations from historical resources—including those by Silviano Arieti, Louis Bachner, Ralph Morse Brown, Walter B. Cannon, David Clippinger, Clifton Cooke, Bénigne de Bacilly, Richard DeYoung, Ferdinand

September/October 2023 43
Matthew Hoch

Dunkley, David Ffrangcon-Davies, Victor Fuchs, Edgar F. Herbert-Caesari, Florence Lamont Hinman, Frederick Husler and Yvonne Rodd-Marling, Ernst Kretschmer, Lilli Lehmann, Charles Lunn, P. Mario Marafioti, Paul Moses, Edmund J. Myer, Clara Kathleen Rogers, Harry Felix Schwartz, Charles Donald Spielberger, Crystal Waters, Herbert Witherspoon, Marie Withrow, W. Henry Zay, the somewhat infamous Douglas Stanley and even Charles Darwin—are sprinkled throughout the volume.2 Upon reading the preface and skimming the book’s contents, I readily realized that one of Foster’s ambitions in this title was to reconcile the old and the new, advocating the application of historical concepts to a modern pedagogic approach.

Foster’s acknowledgment of then-current scholarship, however, is meagre compared to his citation of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century resources. Richard Dale Sjoerdsma astutely remarked on this when he reviewed Walter’s book for the Journal of Singing in 1999, writing the following:

Unlike many typical singing manuals, this book eschews traditional pedagogy that is rooted in anatomical and physiological principles in favor of a more abstract, philosophical approach. That approach arises out of a redefinition of singing as a series of reflex movements under the direction of the subconscious mind as it acts to implement conceptual demands.3

Singing Redefined is essentially a compendium of historical quotations and musings on the art of singing, replete with wide-ranging descriptions of various phenomena. Sometimes terminology—such as “psychodynamics”—emerges within the prose but remains undefined.4 Elsewhere, Foster offers conclusions mid-chapter before all information on a given topic is presented for consideration; this reduces the quotations that follow to non sequiturs. Foster probes historical writings for essential and timeless truths about voice pedagogy but stops short of reconciling this trove of archival information with pedagogic literature from the modern, factbased era.5 In addition, the majority of resources Foster cites present few, if any, concrete definitions upon which one can base a new methodology (let alone redefine it, as the title suggests).

However, Foster’s work does raise an interesting discussion regarding how each generation of voice peda-

gogues endeavor—and at times struggle—to find precise words to define phenomena in singing. As a result, published definitions are a product of their era based on the knowledge, resources, and experiences available to the writers and thinkers of the time. This gulf that often exists between generations of voice pedagogues and the terminology associated with various epochs of pedagogic practice are the subjects of this editorial.

While Foster’s methodology is unclear and—as a result—his conclusions are underwhelming, the title of his book is admittedly appropriate, though perhaps not in the way that the author intended. Historically, definitions and descriptions of phenomena varied greatly depending on who espoused them, necessitating the need for reassessment and revision. Even in the modern era of voice pedagogy, it has taken decades to begin coalescing around agreed-upon professional definitions. In this article, I will offer a few thoughts on defining singing terminology through the lens of history beginning with the “undefined” prescience era and proceeding through the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.


Foster points to Manuel García II (1805–1906) as the father of the science-based era of voice pedagogy, tracing its origin to his invention of the laryngoscope in 1854.6 However, while García certainly had his disciples, a more practical date to site as the dawn of fact- or evidencebased pedagogy is 1967, the year that two seminal textbooks were published:7 D. Ralph Appelman’s The Science of Vocal Pedagogy: Theory and Application and the revised and enlarged edition of Vennard’s Singing: The Mechanism and the Technic 8 Prior to this date, the master–apprentice model of voice pedagogy was the most prominent strain. Pupils repeated the maxims of their teachers—perhaps accurately, perhaps not—and then interpreted and reinterpreted concepts for their students.

William Earl Brown’s Vocal Wisdom: Maxims of Giovanno Battista Lamperti serves as a model par exemplar of this master–apprentice approach.9 Brown collected and recorded this collection of epigrammatic advice on singing and vocal technique at the conclusion of his studies with Lamperti in Dresden in 1893,

44 Journal of Singing

although Vocal Wisdom in its current form was not published until 1931. Espousing his belief that singing is an art form passed down from master to pupil over the course of generations, Brown wrote the following:

The mantle of my father, Francesco Lamperti, fell upon me. It now descends to you, for you have grasped the truth of the Old Italian School of Singing, which descended from the Golden Age of Song, by word of mouth. It is not a method. There is no “bell canto” [sic] system of teaching. Mental, physical, and emotional reactions are the fundamentals of this old school.”10

Perhaps no term during this era was more ubiquitous—and frankly, obtuse—than “bel canto,” misspelled above but certainly the philosophy espoused by Lamperti, his teachers, and others from his generation and before (and even now in some circles). Bel canto, which literally means “beautiful singing” in Italian, is a broad concept that is difficult to pin down in large part due to the multifarious nature of the definition itself. The term is at once an aesthetic concept and tonal preference, a reference to flexible and florid singing, a specific operatic repertory, and a school of voice pedagogy. In addition, bel canto can mean different things depending on the social-historical context of the time period in question.11

While there are literally hundreds of introductions to bel canto concepts—both historical and contemporary— few provide concrete definitions for bel canto concepts, leading to inconsistencies between resources that often creates more confusion than clarity. One of the most valiant attempts to get to the bottom of this issue was James Stark’s 1999 book Bel Canto: A History of Vocal Pedagogy. 12 For this work, Stark surveyed hundreds of primary sources, devoting lengthy chapters to individual concepts.13 Toward the conclusion of his book, he included an essay titled “Bel Canto: Context and Controversy” in which he discussed how the term “bel canto” has meant different things to different singers, pedagogues, and eras. Stark synthesized this multitude of meanings, endeavoring to provide a comprehensive definition of bel canto:

Bel canto is a concept that takes into account two separate but related matters. First, it is a highly refined method of using the singing voice in which the glottal source, the vocal tract, and the respiratory system interact in such

a way as to create the qualities of chiaroscuro, appoggio, register equalization, malleability of pitch and intensity, and a pleasing vibrato. The idiomatic use of this voice includes various forms of vocal onset, legato, portamento, glottal articulation, crescendo, decrescendo, messa di voce, mezza voce, floridity and trills, and tempo rubato.

Second, bel canto refers to any style of music that employs this kind of singing in a tasteful and expressive way. Historically, composers and singers have created categories of recitative, song, and aria that took advantage of these techniques, and that lent themselves to various types of vocal expression. Bel canto has demonstrated its power to astonish, to charm, to amuse, and especially to move the listener. As musical epochs and styles have changed, the elements of bel canto adapted to meet new musical demands, thereby ensuring the continuation of bel canto in our own time.14

Stark attempted to crystalize bel canto by exploring various topics through primary sources, including coup de la glotte, chiaroscuro, registration, appoggio, vibrato, and ornamentation, and he succeeded as masterfully as anyone reasonably can—indeed, few have read more prodigiously on bel canto than Stark. His exhaustive approach, however, reveals the near impossibility of defining bel canto as a cohesive vocal technique. Perhaps no one stated this as directly as Richard Miller, who in The Structure of Singing wrote:

Why not just put ourselves in the hands of someone who teaches “the old bel canto method” and be done with it?

We cannot because there is no specific codified system of bel canto waiting for the vocal neophyte to pick up and assimilate. Despite some claims that certain teachers have a direct link to “the old Italians,” no modern teacher can honestly profess to teach some clearly delineated method that is universally recognized as being “the bel canto method.”

Anyone who has studied with teachers who trace a historical lineage to other persons often cited as major teachers of bel canto (for example, pupils of pupils of Giovanni Battista Lamperti) must admit that the specifics, the actual techniques of acquiring the art of beautiful singing, are only imprecisely enunciated by them. A careful reading of the pedagogical literature of the historical bel canto period must lead to a similar conclusion. The term bel canto has become a twentieth-century shibboleth, with opposing methodologies staking out highly suspect claims for its possession. This is because of the indefin-

September/October 2023 45 Voice Pedagogy

ability of the term beyond its literal meaning: beautiful singing. Skills of sustaining and moving the voice (cantilena and fioritura) are required to execute the bel canto literature; those skills join to produce “beautiful singing.” They call for the most exacting technical accomplishments, in whatever century.15

In spite of Miller’s apparent cynicism, there are actually many hallmarks of bel canto within the “international Italian school” for which he so passionately advocated in his writings.16 Miller, however, represented a new generation of singing teachers and researchers. He desired to distill a cohesive, systematic approach to voice pedagogy and is remembered as one of the principal “definers” who emerged in the early decades of the fact-based era of voice pedagogy.


Miller represents a late-twentieth century approach to voice pedagogy that carries forward the science-informed approach initiated by Vennard and Appelman. Other pedagogues in this vein include Berton Coffin, Meribeth Bunch, James McKinney, and Barbara Doscher, all of whom contributed seminal textbooks during the 1970s and 1980s.17 These works focused overwhelmingly, albeit not exclusively, on the biomechanics of the singing voice. Modest forays, especially by Coffin, were also made into the realm of practical acoustics. Perhaps most important, all these pedagogues strove for consensus; the glossaries published in their respective textbooks, when compared, bear more similarities than differences. This presents a stark contrast to the incongruence of many bel canto primary sources.

Cornelius Reid, also from this late-twentieth century era, represents something a bit different than the writers listed above, but he too made efforts to codify specific definitions within singing in his 1983 book, A Dictionary of Vocal Terminology: An Analysis . Reid resisted the concise definitions and glossary-style lexicons present in the textbooks of Vennard, Bunch, Miller, and Doscher in favor of more lengthy (and often opinionated) essays. Further, Reid’s bias—and, to be fair, the bias of most of the textbook authors mentioned above—was staunchly aligned with the classical bel canto repertory, looking upon commercial (i.e., nonclassical) styles pejoratively. Take, for example, Reid’s definition of “belting”:

The practice adopted by “pop” singers (particularly women) of driving the chest register too high in the tonal range. Belting is not a legitimate use of the mechanism and is extremely detrimental to vocal health. “Belters” frequently develop nodules on their vocal folds that require either long periods of rest or surgery for their removal.18

Clearly, this definition—in addition to being thoroughly untrue—is harrowingly dated. While we are indebted to this generation of pedagogues for their attempts at establishing early working definitions of vocal phenomena, clearly some redefining was necessary at the time as pedagogy continued to evolve into the twenty-first century.


A little over a decade ago, I was offered the opportunity to write my first book, A Dictionary for the Modern Singer , in which I was tasked to write contemporary definitions of essential singing terminology, taking into account multiple styles and genres. Redefining terminology was a core mission of the project. Sticking with Reid’s egregious example of a definition that needed to be revisited, I offered the following definition of “belting” in 2014:

belting. A frequently encountered term that can refer to a style, a register, and a technique used by singers who perform in nonclassical styles. Because “belt” can mean so many things, it is often a confusing term to discuss and difficult to define precisely. Indeed, belt can serve as a noun (indicating the register or the technique), an adjective (describing the tone quality or sound), or a verb (describing what the singer is doing). Perhaps no other word in singing is as multifarious.

Most singing teachers would agree that belt is most frequently associated with the female chest voice (or the TA-dominant or mode 1 register). As classical female singers largely avoid this register (with the possible exception of dramatic, “Verdi” mezzos)—favoring head voice (or the CT-dominant or mode 2 register) instead—the belt sound emerged as a distinctly different, refreshing commercial sound in the late 1920s, when Ethel Merman did much to popularize the new technique. Heralded as having a “voice like a trumpet,” Merman could project to the back row of the theatre without the assistance of a microphone. Belting became an enduring aspect of the musical theatre style, and became equally ubiquitous

46 Journal of Singing

among female singers in most forms of contemporary popular music as well.

While women are most frequently cited in discussions involving belting, men can also belt as well. Since men (with the exception of countertenors) sing in their chest voices already, their belt may sound less distinctive than the female belt. Male belting usually involves brighter, spread vowels in the higher register, with the complete absence of cover or operatic head voice.19

I wrote this definition ten years ago, and if I were to rewrite it today, I would no doubt define it a bit differently (likely emphasizing more acoustic and fewer biomechanical properties). Nevertheless, it hopefully is some improvement over Reid’s definition and, if nothing else, represents an evolution that speaks to the progress of a new era.

The concept of “turning” as it relates to the TBB second passaggio was another definition that needed updating.20 Pedagogues like Miller—who devoted an entire chapter to the subject in The Structure of Singing described “turning” primarily as a biomechanical phenomenon.21 In “Unifying the Registers of Male Voices,” Miller presented a chart identifying the male secondo passaggio according to voice type; this detailed table (of ten voice classifications) lists passaggi from highest (tenorino at B ♭4) to lowest (basso profondo at D ♭4) indicating with precision the exact pitches at where each voice “turns.”22 Miller made no mention of the (now) wellabsorbed acoustic fact that voices turn from “chest” to “mix” at different pitches depending upon which vowel is being sung—specifically, when the second harmonic passes above the first formant. 23 A Dictionary for the Modern Singer adds this sentence:

turning. The phenomenon that happens at the secondo passaggio of the male classical voice—vowel modification or cover to cultivate a certain warmth or depth—is sometimes referred to as the voice “turning.” At the second passaggio, one needs to “turn” his voice to avoid a “shouty” or “spread” sound. Acoustically, turning occurs when the second harmonic (H2) passes above the first formant (F1).24

More recently I worked closely with Ken Bozeman, cochairing the “terminology” working group for the NATS “Science-Informed Pedagogy Resources” that were unveiled in Chicago at the 2022 national confer-

ence.25 Over the course of the 2021–2022 academic year, we collaborated—over Zoom and Google docs—with a vibrant cohort of singing teachers to determine both the list of terms and their definitions. Finding consensus was not always easy; it was clear that—while we have come a long way over the past fifty-plus years (since Vennard’s and Appelman’s books)—there were still contradictions between resources and varied opinions that needed to be reconciled. In the case of anatomical terms, some were defined ubiquitously in so many resources that we deferred to Merriam-Webster to settle the matter . . . or so we thought. To cite an example in which this method failed, Webster’s definition of “jaw” is as follows:

Either of two complex cartilaginous or bony structures in most vertebrates that border the mouth, support the soft parts enclosing it, usually bear teeth on their oral margin, and are an upper that is more or less firmly fused with the skull and a lower that is hinged, movable, and articulated with the temporal bone of either side.26

Although generally regarded as the authoritative American standard for English-language definitions, Webster’s notion of an upper and lower jaw contradicts nearly every commonly used voice pedagogy textbook, including all four mentioned in the opening paragraph of this editorial. More recently, Scott McCoy emphatically writes the following in Your Voice: An Inside View:

Let’s get one thing straight from the start: people have a jaw, not a lower and upper jaw. The jaw, or mandible, is a single, unpaired bone that resembles the letter U or V when viewed from above.27

Webster is clearly more concerned with common usage than anatomical correctness, but it falls short as a resource for voice pedagogues, who are understandably more concerned with precision and accuracy than the casual conversationalist.


Circling back to where this editorial began, Foster’s treatise, while flawed, was also in some ways perspicacious. In the preface to Singing Redefined, the author writes the following:

In this book I attempt to integrate these commonly recognized aspects of the singing event into an effective pedagogical approach. I speak of “the singing event”

September/October 2023 47 Voice Pedagogy

rather than “the vocal event” because singing, from its conceptual origin to its tonal completion, involves many factors in addition to vocal mechanics—factors which investigators have recognized but have left relatively unexplored in their research.28

Sjoerdsma, who is not at all bashful about highlighting the shortcomings of Singing Redefined, seems to agree with the author on this point, conceding that Foster suggests “a number of valuable precepts and generates many interesting ideas that will stimulate teachers to reexamine their approaches to the teaching of voice. The study of concepts and nonmuscular aspects of the singing event certainly merits serious consideration . . .”29

Singing is still being redefined. The master–apprentice model, while still present to an extent, is rapidly decaying to a twenty-first century model that prioritizes studentcentered learning. In 2018, Lynn Helding presented a session at a symposium at the University of Southern California titled “The Missing Mind: The Third Pillar of Voice Pedagogy.”30 In it, she convincingly argued that singing voice research over the past several decades has focused overwhelmingly on biomechanics and acoustic theory, but the brain’s role in singing—including topics such as cognition, perception, procedural learning, neuroplasticity, and motor learning theory—has been a largely neglected aspect of voice pedagogy.31 Other emerging topics, such as gender-inclusive language, culturally responsive teaching, trauma-informed pedagogy, voice banking, and the increasing role of AI/ChatGPT in the academy, are likely to challenge and expand our lexicon of pedagogic terminology in both the near and distant future.32

Attempts to define terminology and phenomena in voice pedagogy are conceived in a specific time and place; all scientific knowledge, as well as the sociology and culture of a given milieu, are brought to bear on these attempts when choosing words that comprise definitions. The quest for clarity and the struggle for valid, science-informed terminology is, in and of itself, dependent upon an evidenced-based approach to voice pedagogy. As new science emerges and our world changes, it will be necessary for singing terminology to be continually redefined. Perhaps in twenty-five years this editorial, like Foster’s book, will be scrutinized and reassessed as a dated product of its era, stimulating discussion among a new generation of voice pedagogues.


1. William D. Vennard. Singing: The Mechanism and the Technique, revised and greatly enlarged (New York: Carl Fisher, 1967); Richard Miller, The Structure of Singing: System and Art in Vocal Technique (New York: Schirmer Books, 1986); Doscher, The Functional Unity of the Singing Voice, 2nd ed. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1994); and Scott McCoy, Your Voice: An Inside View 3 (Gahanna, OH: Inside View Press, 2019).

2. Silviano Arieti, The Intraphysic Self (New York, Basic Books, 1967); Louis Bachner, Dynamic Singing (New York: L. B. Fischer, 1944); Ralph Morse Brown, The Singing Voice (New York: MacMillan, 1946); Walter B. Cannon, Emotion: Bodily Change (New York: Van Nostrand, 1962); David Clippinger, Fundamentals of Voice Training (New York: Oliver Ditson, 1929); Clifton Cooke, Practical Singing (London: Waverley, 1918); Béngne de Bacilly, Curious Remarks on the Art of Singing Well (1668, numerous translations); Richard DeYoung, The Singer’s Art: An Analysis of Vocal Principles (Chicago: DePaul University Press, 1958); Ferdinand Dunkley, The Buoyant Voice (Boston: C. C. Birchard, 1942); David Ffrangcon-Davies, The Singing of the Future (New York: John Lane, 1905); Viktor Fuchs, The Art of Singing and Voice Technique (New York: London House and Maxwell, 1964); Edgar F. Herbert-Caesari, The Science and Sensations of Vocal Tone (London: M. M. Dent & Sons, 1936); Florence Lamont Hinman, Slogans for Singers, 2nd ed. (New York: Schirmer Books, 1936); Frederick Husler and Yvonne Rodd-Marling, Singing, the Physical Nature of the Vocal Organ (New York: October House, 1965); Ernst Kretschmer, Hysteria, Reflex and Instinct, trans. Vasta Baskin and Wade Baskin (New York: Philosophical Library, 1960); Lilli Lehmann, How to Sing, trans. Richard Aldrich (New York: MacMillan, 1902); Charles Lunn, The Philosophy of Voice, 5th ed. (Huntsville, TX: Recital Publications, 1886, 1984 reprint); P. Mario Marafioti, The New Vocal Art (New York: Grune & Stratton, 1925); Paul Moses, The Voice of Neurosis (New York: Grune & Stratton, 1954); Edmund J. Myer, Truths of Importance to Vocalists (Huntsville, TX: Recital Publications, 1883, 1984 reprint); Clara Kathleen Rogers, Philosophy of Singing (New York: Harper & Bros., 1925); Harry Felix Schwartz, Allergy: What It Is and What to Do about It (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1949); Charles Donald Spielberger, ed., Anxiety and Behavior (New York: Academic Press, 1966); Crystal Waters, Song, the Substance of Vocal Study (New York: Schirmer Books, 1930); Herbert Witherspoon, Singing (New York: Schirmer Books, 1925); Marie Withrow, Some Staccato Notes for Singers (Boston: Oliver Ditson, 1915); W. Henry Zay, Practical Psychology of Voice and of Life (New York: Schirmer Books, 1917); Douglas Stanley, Your Voice:

48 Journal of Singing

Applied Science of Vocal Art (New York: Pitman Publishing, 1950); and Charles Darwin, The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals (London: J. Murray, 1872). The ideas presented Stanley’s book were met with a considerable amount of resistance and caused quite a stir in the voice teaching community.

3. Richard Dale Sjoerdsma, review of Singing Redefined, by Walter C. Foster, Journal of Singing 56, no. 1 (SeptemberOctober 1999): 47. Italics by the author of this article for emphasis.

4. Foster, Singing Redefined, 28–29.

5. According to Sjoerdsma, “[Foster] develops a theme that seems to denigrate vocal research as it informs twentiethcentury vocal pedagogy. It is Foster’s contention that vocal research over the last 150 years has not culminated in any generally recognized vocal truths, nor has it led to higher standards of vocal excellence. One wonders in what biosphere the author has lived during the past few decades as, expressive of an attitude that seems contemptuous of mechanistic pedagogy, he records that ‘there still exist profound differences of opinion with regard to every [italics mine] aspect of vocal mechanics’ and ‘even in those cases in which some degree of accord does exist, it goes largely unnoticed and its pedagogical ramifications remain unrealized.’ Such irresponsible assertions seriously undermine the author’s credibility, and the suspicion that he may be somewhat out of touch with the present state of affairs gains substance when one examines a bibliography that is remarkable for its dearth of important contemporary contributions to the literature.” Review of Singing Redefined, 47–48.

6. Walter C. Foster, Singing Redefined (Huntsville, TX: Recital Publications, 1998), 1.

7. Matthew Hoch, “The Legacy of William Vennard and D. Ralph Appelman and Their Influence on Singing Voice Pedagogy: Reflections after 50 Years (1967–2017).” Voice and Speech Review 11, no. 3 (November 2017): 308–13.

8. D. Ralph Appelman, The Science of Vocal Pedagogy: Theory and Application (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967); and William D. Vennard, Singing: The Mechanism and the Technique, revised and greatly enlarged (New York: Carl Fisher, 1967).

9. William Earl Brown, Vocal Wisdom: Maxims of Giovanni Battista Lamperti (Marlboro, NJ: Taplinger Publishing, 1931).

10. Ibid., 127.

11. In A Dictionary for the Modern Singer I attempted to confront this complexity as concisely as possible by defining bel canto as follows: “bel canto. (1) An Italian phrase meaning “beautiful singing,” referring to a flexible, coloratura style

of singing. In this sense, bel canto was used to describe the florid operas of George Frideric Handel (1685–1759), the arias from which showcased the virtuosity of the singer. The same phrase was used to describe florid singing in later eras of Italian opera as well. (2) A label for the specific brand of Italian opera that emerged at the beginning of the nineteenth century in Italy, featuring florid-style singing and legato Italian melodies. Gioacchino Rossini (1792–1868), Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848), and Vincenzo Bellini (1801–1835) represent the apotheosis of the genre. Many of Giuseppe Verdi’s (1813–1901) operas retain elements of the bel canto school of Italian opera. (3) A school of voice pedagogy roughly equivalent to the International Italian School. While the specific tenets that define bel canto pedagogy can be somewhat ambiguous—and vary widely from teacher to teacher, all of whom may claim to subscribe to bel canto ideals —a practical definition assumes a reverence to the treatises and method books of the great Italian pedagogues, with an emphasis on the central canon of Italian operatic repertoire. Some pedagogues have defined the bel canto school of pedagogy more narrowly, for instance, Lucie Manén, in her 1987 treatise, Bel Canto.” Matthew Hoch, A Dictionary for the Modern Singer (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), 24.

12. James Stark, Bel Canto: A History of Vocal Pedagogy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999).

13. Ibid. Specific chapters are devoted to the coup de glotte (chapter 1); chiaroscuro (chapter 2); registers (chapter 3); appoggio (chapter 4); trills, vibrato, and ornamentation (chapter 5). Concluding chapters address expression and engage in discussion about the “context and controversy” surrounding bel canto.

14. Stark, Bel Canto: A History of Vocal Pedagogy, 189. Italicization reprinted as published.

15. Richard Miller, The Structure of Singing, xx–xxi. Italicization reprinted as published.

16. Richard Miller, National Schools of Singing: English, French, German, and Italian Techniques of Singing Revisited (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1997); Richard Miller, Solutions for Singers: Tools for Performers and Teachers (New York, Oxford University Press, 2004).

17. Berton Coffin, Overtones of Bel Canto: Phonetic Basis of Artistic Singing with 100 Chromatic Vowel-Chart Exercises (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1980); Berton Coffin, The Sounds of Singing: Vocal Techniques with Vowel-Pitch Charts (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 1987); Meribeth Bunch, Dynamics of the Singing Voice, 5th ed. (New York: Springer, 2009); James McKinney, The Diagnosis and Correction of Vocal Faults, 2nd ed. (Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, 2005); and Doscher, The Functional Unity of the Singing Voice

September/October 2023 49 Voice Pedagogy

18. Cornelius Reid, A Dictionary of Vocal Terminology: An Analysis (Huntsville, TX: Recital Publications, 1983), 32.

19. The definition, one of the longest in A Dictionary for the Modern Singer, continues as follows: “Belting has been a major source of controversy among vocal pedagogues for over half a century. This controversy usually centers around two points of contention: (a) disagreement over the definition of what constitutes a belt voice, and (b) whether it is possible to belt in a healthy way. Regarding the first point, if one is to accept that the belt describes chest-dominant register, then one can answer the second point by saying “it depends.” If the female belts in a lower range, then the singer has little to fear in terms of her vocal health. But the higher one belts, the more precarious the issue becomes. The most common solution to this conundrum is the use of mix—essentially the introduction of CT-dominant activity with brighter vowel choices—in the higher belt range. Mix can be either heady or chesty in quality, giving rise to the terms head mix, chest mix, or other variants. The belt voice remains one of the most fascinating topics currently explored and discussed by modern singers and pedagogues.” Matthew Hoch, A Dictionary for the Modern Singer (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), 24, with slight syntax changes and adaptations to conform to The Chicago Manual of Style and Journal of Singing house style.

20. TBB is an initialism for tenor–baritone–bass, preferable to the gendered “male” passaggio discussed by Miller.

21. Miller, The Structure of Singing, 115–31.

22. Ibid., 117.

23. See McCoy, Your Voice: An Inside View 3, 229–50; Kenneth W. Bozeman, Practical Vocal Acoustics: Pedagogic Applications for Teachers and Singers, 37–48.

24. Hoch, A Dictionary for the Modern Singer, 181, with slight syntax changes and adaptations to conform to The Chicago Manual of Style and Journal of Singing house style.

25. Pedagogy_Resources.html (accessed April 27, 2023).

26. (accessed April 28, 2023). Italics by the author of this article for emphasis.

27. Scott McCoy, Your Voice: An Inside View 3, 256.

28. Foster, Singing Redefined, 1.

29. Sjoerdsma, review of Singing Redefined, 48.

30. “The Art and Science of Great Teaching: Celebrating the Legacy of William Vennard,” symposium at the University of Southern California, May 18–20, 2018. https://libguides.*u8d1k2*_ga*MTU5NDgx MjkyNC4xNjg4NzcwMDQ4*_ga_YRR9RE26RP*MTY4OT IyMDIwNy4zLjEuMTY4OTIyMDIxNy4wLjAuMA

31. See also Lynn Helding, The Musician’s Mind: Teaching, Learning, and Performing in the Age of Brain Science (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).

32. Voice banking is an artificial process that digitally creates synthetic voice that is deliberately designed to sound like someone’s natural voice.

Matthew Hoch is professor of voice at Auburn University. Prior to this appointment, he spent six years as assistant professor of voice at Shorter College/University. Hoch’s students have gone on to successful careers in both classical and musical theatre genres and have won awards from the Metropolitan Opera National Council (MONC), NATS, MTNA, ACTF, the Vann Vocal Institute, and others. He has appeared as a soloist with the Oregon Bach Festival, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, the Vox Consort, Harmonie Universelle, the Hartford, Rome, and Nashua symphony orchestras, the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, and the United States Coast Guard Chamber Players. Hoch is the 2016 winner of the Van L. Lawrence Fellowship, awarded jointly by the Voice Foundation and NATS. He is the author, coauthor, editor, or coeditor of nine books and his articles have appeared in numerous academic and professional journals. In addition to his role as associate editor of the of the voice pedagogy column in the Journal of Singing, Hoch currently serves as chair of the NATS/Rowman & Littlefield editorial board. In 2018, he presented performances and master classes in the United Arab Emirates as was awarded the Auburn University College of Liberal Arts Teaching Excellence Award.

National Association of Teachers of Singing


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50 Journal of Singing

The Effect of Marijuana on the Voice

Marijuana is derived from the cannabis sativa plant originating in central and southeast Asia. In recent years, there was increasing popularity and use of marijuana in addition to the legalization of its recreational use in parts of the United States. Singing teachers should be fam iliar with the voice effects of marijuana so that they may counsel students about marijuana usage. The authors sent a web-based questionnaire to adult voice center patients. The survey was designed to collect relevant demographic data, past laryngeal history, marijuana use history, and beliefs about effects of marijuana on voice. Those who used marijuana reported voice symptoms that they attributed to marijuana use, including hoarseness, breathiness and weakness. Smoking marijuana may cause immediate and long-term voice dysfunction. No positive changes to the voice have been identified. Further research is necessary to evaluate changes to the voice and safety of marijuana use, but voice teachers should be aware of the common adverse effects.

[Modified from Balouch B, Alnouri G, Valentino W, Sataloff RT. The Effect of Marijuana on the Voice: A Pilot Study. J Voice . 2022;36(4):559–562. doi:10.1016/j.jvoice.2020.07.006]


Marijuana is derived from the cannabis sativa plant originating in central and southeast Asia. It is the most widely used illicit drug in the world.1 Concomitant to the increased focus on medicinal marijuana usage, recreational use of marijuana has become accepted more widely, as is evident by recent changes in state legislation in the United States.2 Despite its common use, little is known about whether there are any effects of marijuana on the voice.3 Singing teachers should be familiar with the voice effects of marijuana so that they can counsel students about marijuana usage as it might affect voice performance. In order to gather more information on this topic, the authors performed a pilot survey study that was published in the Journal of Voice4 and which we summarize here because so few singing teachers read that journal regularly; and we believe that the information will be helpful for singing teachers and their students.


Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 51–55

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

This study was approved by the Drexel University College of Medicine Institutional Review Board. An anonymous, web-based questionnaire was sent to adult voice center patients. The survey was designed to collect relevant demographic data, past laryngeal history, marijuana use history, and beliefs about effects of marijuana on the voice.

September/October 2023 51
Bailey Balouch Ghiath Alnouri Robert T. Sataloff


Forty-two patients responded to the survey. The average age of respondents was 45.7 (range 19–74). Thirteen were male (30.95%), twenty-seven were female (64.29%), and two were transgender (4.76%). Eighty-eight point one percent of the respondents reported having never used tobacco, 9.52% were former tobacco users, and 2.38% were current tobacco users. The one patient who reported current use of tobacco was excluded from subsequent analysis.

We were somewhat surprised to find that, of those who responded to the survey, 75.61% reported having tried some form of marijuana at least once. Sixty-eight point two nine percent of respondents reported having smoked or vaped marijuana, 39.02% had consumed edible marijuana, 36.59% had used CBD oil products, and 58.07% of marijuana users reported using more than one route of administration to consume marijuana. Sixteen point one three percent of marijuana users reported medical use and 45.16% reported recreational use. No respondents reported both recreational and medical use. Of those who reported smoking marijuana, 21.43% were frequent (monthly) users, and 39.29% were infrequent (yearly) users. Twelve point five percent of edible marijuana users reported frequent use, and 75.00% reported infrequent use. Twenty percent of CBD oil users reported frequent use, and 66.67% reported infrequent use.

The survey assessed marijuana users’ attitudes and beliefs about the effects of marijuana on the voice. Forty-one point nine four percent of marijuana users (12 smokers, 3 vapers, 1 edible marijuana consumer) believed that marijuana causes immediate changes to the voice. Twenty-nine point zero three percent of marijuana users (8 smokers, 4 vapers, 1 edible marijuana consumer) reported that they believed that marijuana has long-term effects on the voice. Hoarseness (n = 11, 39.29%), breathiness (n = 6, 21.43%), and weakness (n = 5, 17.86%) were the most common immediate changes reported to be associated with smoking marijuana. The most common long-term effects associated with smoking marijuana were hoarseness (n = 8, 28.57%) and weakness (n = 6, 21.43%). Only one user of edible marijuana reported immediate or long-term effects of edible marijuana on the voice (n = 1, 6.25%), and that

individual reported both breathiness and hoarseness. There were no voice effects reported for CBD oil.


In recent years, there have been changes to state legislation allowing recreational marijuana use in 22 states. With legalization of marijuana, decreased perceptions of harm and increased popularity and use have been observed, particularly in adolescents and young adults.5 Marijuana may have been used by humans for as long as written language has existed.6 Historically, smoking has been the most common route of administration used to consume marijuana. However, high temperatures (600–900ºC) and combustion byproducts including tar, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide make this method unfavorable, especially for surgeons.7 Vaporization of marijuana using an electronic vaporization device has become increasingly more common. This smokeless form of marijuana heats the cannabis to 160–230ºC, producing significantly fewer combustion byproducts when compared to smoking. Cannabis also may be cooked or baked into foods or desserts to produce edible marijuana. Lastly, an oil extract may be consumed as droplets of oil or formulated into capsules.8 Hundreds of compounds have been isolated from the cannabis sativa plant, but delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the most notable. THC is largely responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana, while CBD is not psychoactive and has recently gained attention in several fields for its potential therapeutic role in a plethora of medical conditions.9

We surveyed patients from the voice center of the senior author (R. T. Sataloff) and asked about frequency of marijuana use in all of its commonly used forms, as well as any perceived immediate or long-term changes to the voice. Many patients seen in the author’s center are professional voice users. Therefore, these patients may be more attuned to recognizing changes in voice when compared to patients seen by a general otolaryngologist. Most of the reported effects on the voice were associated with smoking. Hoarseness was the most common effect on the voice to be reported by marijuana users in our study, and long-term hoarseness was associated with a higher frequency of marijuana smoking. By contrast, there were fewer reports of voice changes following

52 Journal of Singing

inhalation of vaporized marijuana, and only one edible marijuana user reported voice effects. No CBD oil users reported any voice effects.

Only one other study exists on the potential effects that marijuana may have on the voice. Mueller and Wilcox used objective voice measurements and subjective ratings of voice pitch and quality performed by laypersons (undergraduate students) and “sophisticated listeners” (graduate students in communication disorders).10 The authors found no objective differences between three groups: marijuana smokers, cigarette-smokers, and never-smokers. No subjective differences were found either by the two groups of listeners. The authors also performed indirect laryngoscopic examinations of these three subject groups to determine any physical differences between the vocal folds. They thought that 66% of marijuana-smokers had “darker” vocal folds. This change was not found in any of the subjects who had never smoked or who had smoked only cigarettes.11 In the scientific literature, marijuana has been described as associated with vasodilatory effects on the small blood vessels12 and impaired vascular endothelial function.13 Therefore, marijuana might have a theoretical risk of predisposing patients to vocal fold hemorrhage.

Previous research has suggested that airway insult following marijuana smoking is more likely to be a result of combustion byproducts than any component of the cannabis plant.14 These byproducts would be present only when marijuana is smoked and might explain why few voice effects were reported for other methods of administration which do not require burning of the marijuana to produce smoke. In a recent review, Meehan-Atrash et al. postulated that byproducts of marijuana smoke should theoretically cause dysphonia due to inflammatory changes to the viscoelastic properties of the vocal folds.15 Similarly, a recent study in tobacco users found that deleterious effects on the voice were more pronounced after smoking conventional cigarettes compared to electronic cigarettes.16 It seems likely that the method of administration of marijuana has substantial impact on the nature and degree of damage to the airway, resulting in differing effects on the voice.

There are similarities between tobacco and marijuana in their effects on the airway. Previous studies have found evidence that both marijuana and tobacco cause inflammation, congestion, and cough in a dose-depen-

dent manner.17 Similar to tobacco, our findings suggest that marijuana may cause hoarseness both immediately and in the long term. Reports of hoarseness after using marijuana were not associated with a past history of cigarette use. These similarities between tobacco and marijuana might raise the question of whether there is a possibility for carcinogenesis (causing cancer) associated with smoking marijuana. Although there is strong research in the literature demonstrating robust anticancer effects of marijuana components in vitro and in animal models, clinical studies evaluating these effects in humans are limited.18 A recent meta-analysis demonstrated that there was insufficient evidence currently available to determine whether smoking marijuana is associated with carcinogenesis. The authors emphasized the importance of conducting well-designed longitudinal studies to determine whether marijuana smoke is associated with cancers of the lung, head and neck, and oral cavity, in particular.19 Condensate of marijuana smoke has been shown to parallel tobacco smoke in biochemical changes associated with carcinogenesis in vitro. Gene expression analysis demonstrated common effects of tobacco and marijuana in regard to metabolic, oxidative stress, DNA damage or response to DNA damage, and inflammatory pathways, with marijuana smoke being more potent than tobacco in some measures.20 Further research is necessary to determine the safety of marijuana use in both smoke and smokeless forms.

The results of our survey-based study should be interpreted with consideration of its limitations. The biggest limitation in this study was the low response rate to our survey (9.68%). Typically, a survey response rate ≥60% is desired in order to avoid nonresponse bias.21 In our experience, the frequency of admitted marijuana use in this patient population is far lower than the survey findings demonstrated. In fact, as determined from the history form completed by all new voice patients in our office, only approximately 2% of our patients admit to marijuana use. It is possible that individuals who have never used marijuana were less likely to respond to the survey, which would account for the low response rate overall, as well as the high percentage rate of reported marijuana usage. The implication of this nonresponse bias is that the large percentage of respondents who reported marijuana use is likely not an accurate reflection of the prevalence of marijuana use in this patient population. However, we were

September/October 2023 53 Care of the Professional Voice

interested primarily in examining the effects of marijuana on the voice, reported specifically by marijuana users. So, if respondents who had never used marijuana excluded themselves from this analysis, their exclusion from the study did not affect our ability to achieve our primary goal. Despite this, the overall low response rate still imposed a small sample size on this study. It is possible that a stigma still exists pertaining to marijuana use, which may have made patients uncomfortable or unwilling to complete the survey, even though it was deidentified. Hence, there is no way to know how many non-responders were nonusers and how many really were marijuana users who were reluctant to respond even to an anonymous survey. As a result, there may be additional effects of marijuana on the voice, or effects induced by routes of administration other than inhalation of marijuana smoke, that were not detected in this study.

Other potential factors were not investigated in this study but have been addressed by the senior author (R.T. Sataloff) and others for more than four decades. Marijuana can alter sensorium, just as alcohol can. Singing lessons strive to develop discipline and fine motor control over the voice mechanism. Just as slight intoxication can impair motor control for driving, it can also do so for singing, which may be an even more complex neuromuscular task than driving. So singing teachers should consider advising their students to think long and hard about consuming or smoking anything that will interfere with control of their singing technique, especially shortly before practice, rehearsal or performance.


Smoking marijuana may cause immediate and long-term hoarseness. No positive changes to the voice were identified in this or other studies. Singing teachers should be familiar with the possible adverse effects of marijuana on the voice. Singing students who use marijuana, or are considering using marijuana, should benefit from counseling on the voice effects of marijuana in its various forms and routes of administration. Further research is necessary to evaluate changes to the voice and safety of marijuana use; but at present, teachers can be confident in advising their students to avoid marijuana use, especially by smoking it.


1. Patricia Alves, Cristina Amaral, Natércia Teixeira, and Georgina Correia-da-Silva, “Cannabis Sativa: Much More beyond Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol.” Pharmacological Research 157 (July 2020): 104822.

2. William L. Valentino, and Brian J. McKinnon, “What Is the Evidence for Cannabis Use in Otolaryngology?: A Narrative Review.” American Journal of Otolaryngology 40, no. 5 (2019): 770–75.

3. Jiries Meehan-Atrash, Tetiana Korzun, and Aaron Ziegler, “Cannabis Inhalation and Voice Disorders.” JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery 145, no. 10 (October 1, 2019): 956.

4. Bailey Balouch, Ghiath Alnouri, William Valentino, and Robert T. Sataloff, “The Effect of Marijuana on the Voice: A Pilot Study.” Journal of Voice 36, no. 4 (July 2022): 559–62.

5. Kristie Ladegard, Christian Thurstone, and Melanie Rylander, “Marijuana Legalization and Youth.” Pediatrics 145, no. Supplement 2 (May 1, 2020): S165–174.

6. Caroline A MacCallum and Ethan B. Russo, “Practical Considerations in Medical Cannabis Administration and Dosing.” European Journal of Internal Medicine 49 (March 2018): 12–19.

7. McCallum and Russo.

8. McCallum and Russo.

9. Alves et al.

10. P. B. Mueller and J.C. Wilcox, “Effects of Marijuana Smoking on Vocal Pitch and Quality.” Ear, Nose & Throat Journal 59, no. 4 (December 1980): 195–95.

11. Mueller and Wilcox.

12. P. Pacher, S. Bátkai, and G. Kunos, “Cardiovascular Pharmacology of Cannabinoids.” Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, 2005, 599–625.

13. Stefania I. Papatheodorou, Hannah Buettner, Mary B. Rice, and Murray A. Mittleman, “Recent Marijuana Use and Associations with Exhaled Nitric Oxide and Pulmonary Function in Adults in the United States.” Chest 149, no. 6 (June 2016): 1428–35.

14. Meehan-Atrash, Korzun and Ziegler.

15. Meehan-Atrash, Korzun and Ziegler.

16. Birgül Tuhanioğlu, Sanem Okşan Erkan, Talih Özdaş, Çağrı Derici, Kemal Tüzün, and Özgül Akın Şenkal, “The Effect of Electronic Cigarettes on Voice Quality.” Journal of Voice 33, no. 5 (September 2019): 13–17.

17. Meehan-Atrash, Korzun and Ziegler.

18. Pawel Śledziński, Joanna Zeyland, Ryszard Słomski, and Agnieszka Nowak, “The Current State and Future Perspec-

54 Journal of Singing

tives of Cannabinoids in Cancer Biology.” Cancer Medicine 7, no. 3 (March 23, 2018): 765–75.

19. Mehrnaz Ghasemiesfe, Brooke Barrow, Samuel Leonard, Salomeh Keyhani, and Deborah Korenstein, “Association between Marijuana Use and Risk of Cancer.” JAMA Network Open 2, no. 11 (November 27, 2019): e1916318.

20. Rebecca M. Maertens, Paul A. White, Andrew Williams, and Carole L. Yauk, “A Global Toxicogenomic Analysis Investigating the Mechanistic Differences between Tobacco and Marijuana Smoke Condensates in Vitro.” Toxicology 308 (June 2013): 60–73.

21. Timothy P. Johnson, “Response Rates and Nonresponse Errors in Surveys.” JAMA 307, no. 17 (May 2, 2012): 1805.

Bailey Balouch is a fourth-year medical student at the Drexel University College of Medicine. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience from Union College (NY) in 2017.

Ghiath Alnouri, MD, is an otolaryngologist who joined Philadelphia Ear, Nose and Throat Associates (in collaboration with Dr. Robert Sataloff) in 2020. Dr. Alnouri is Assistant Professor in the Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery at Drexel University College of Medicine and Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. He sees patients for general ear, nose

and throat complaints, but he has special interests in voice/swallowing, sinonasal and sleep disorders. He completed a rhinology fellowship at St. Elizabeth Medical Center, Boston, MA. He also completed a laryngology fellowship under the supervision of Dr. Sataloff at Drexel University and Lankenau Medical Center. He is active in medical research, teaching and publication. Dr. Alnouri speaks English and Arabic.

Robert T. Sataloff, MD, DMA, FACS is Professor and Chair, Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and Senior Associate Dean, Drexel University College of Medicine. He holds Adjunct Professorships at other medical schools and is on the faculty of the Academy of Vocal Arts. He is Conductor of the Thomas Jefferson University Choir and a professional singer and singing teacher with an undergraduate degree in Music Theory and Composition. Dr. Sataloff is Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Voice; Editor Emeritus of Ear, Nose and Throat Journal ; Associate Editor of the Journal of Singing; on the Editorial Board of Medical Problems of Performing Artists, and is an editorial reviewer for numerous otolaryngology journals. He has written over 1,000 publications including 73 books, and has been awarded more than $5 million in research funding. His h-index is 45 (as of January 2023). Dr. Sataloff is recognized as one of the founders of the field of voice, having written the first modern comprehensive article on care of singers, and the first chapter and book on care of the professional voice, as well as having influenced the evolution of the field through his own efforts and through the Voice Foundation for over 4 decades.

Do You Know About SNATS?

Student NATS (SNATS) Chapters are student organizations that meet, hold events and discussions, participate, practice, and learn more about voice teaching as a profession. Chapters receive the biannual SNATS Newsletter and participate in online SNATS Chats.

If you are interested in establishing a new SNATS Chapter at your school, send an email to Having a NATS Student Membership is not a requirement for belonging to a Student NATS (SNATS) Chapter.

For more information log on to

September/October 2023 55 Care of the Professional Voice


1ST PRIZE $10,000

The FIRST National Competition for the Musical Theatre Soloist!

Seeking out and promoting the best emerging talent in the field.


Online Auditions – October 15–30, 2023

In-Person Auditions (NYC) – TBD

Approximately 24 singers will advance to the semifinal round in New York City.


PLUS a concert at the 2024 NATS National Conference, and $1,000 gift certificate from Hal Leonard Corporation.

2ND PRIZE $2,500

PLUS a $500 Gift Certificate from Hal Leonard Corporation

3RD PRIZE $1,000 Louise Lerch Prize

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January 8, 2024 in New York City (as part of the NATS Winter Workshop)


All singers age 20 – 28 as of September 15, 2023

Reduced entry fee for students of NATS members. Adjudicators at all rounds will include casting agents and managers from the top agencies in the industry in addition to veteran performers, coaches, and teachers.

Foundation Heritage Fund of the NATS Endowment

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What Science Is and What it Is Not

In their first article together as associate editors for the Journal of Singing, Meyer and Nix explore what science is and what it is not. Importantly, they discuss why singing teachers should care about this distinction.

Editors’ note: This article marks the start of a new column for the Journal of Singing, Practical Voice Science. We come to this work as active academic teachers of singing and voice pedagogy who are also involved in research and in mentoring the work of graduate students in voice performance and pedagogy. As such, we constantly examine and re-examine the quality and, most importantly, the relevance of scientific exploration of the voice to singing and the teaching of singing. We both owe a huge debt of gratitude to our mentors, one of whom is Dr. Ingo Titze, who as of May 2023 has written 197 columns and articles during 43 years of service to this journal. We begin our work together on this column with a mix of awe and respect for what has come before us and an excitement for the future.

What is a scientist after all? It is a curious man looking through a keyhole, the keyhole of nature, trying to know what’s going on.1

Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.2

Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.3

Science, my lad, has been built upon many errors; but they are errors which it was good to fall into, for they led to the truth.4

Science is an ever-changing, dynamic interface, and in order to use it there must be a willingness to learn and change and evolve.5

Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 57–61

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

Visit your nearest drugstore or supermarket, and on the shelves, you will see products that are “scientifically proven” to grow hair or soften your skin or help ease the discomforts of arthritis (or if you are really lucky, all three at once). Search on YouTubeTM for “Singing Voice Lessons,” and videos appear with claims about “science-based” exercises which can help you sing like a pro in five minutes. Scroll through your favorite online newspaper, and chances are high that you will find the text “According to a recent scientific study . . .” at the beginning of at least one article. All of these common uses of the word “science” center around trust: trusting that a product will work; trusting that voice teachers

September/October 2023 57
David Meyer
John Nix

knows what they are doing; trusting that an aspect of human experience is valuable and meaningful; trusting that science equals a truth upon which you can depend, perhaps for your very life. Yet as we see in the examples above, science tends to be used in common speech without a lot of thought about what the word really means. So we begin this new column with a few fundamentals: What science is, what science is not, and why should singing teachers care?


Science: 1. knowledge about the structure and behavior of the natural and physical world, based on facts that you can prove, for example by experiments; 2. the study of science; 3. a particular branch of science; 4. a system for organizing the knowledge about a particular subject, especially one that deals with aspects of human behavior or society6

Science is thus both a knowledge base and a process for creating new knowledge. Many of the misconceptions about science stem from a lack of understanding about the scientific method, which is the process through which new knowledge is discovered. The scientific method is a cyclical process in which observations are made, prior research literature is consulted, research questions are formulated, hypotheses are made (based on observations and prior investigations), an experimental method is devised to test the hypotheses (more on that below), data is collected and analyzed, results are compiled, and conclusions are drawn; then the process begins again. In testing a hypothesis, many types of studies use independent variables (components that are changed or controlled in scientific experiments) and dependent variables (components that respond—or not—to changes in the independent variables).

When talking about data collection, it is important to discuss the two broad categories of data: quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data is that which can be counted or measured against some calibrated standard, is expressed through numbers, and is objective. Qualitative data is about ideas, concepts, attitudes, and opinions; in other words, it is subjective—how an individual or a population thinks, feels, and interprets some aspect of existence. Qualitative data is expressed through language. To use a singing voice as an example,

a soprano might have a frequency vibrato rate of 5.5 Hz and a frequency vibrato extent of plus or minus 50 cents on her [o] vowel. Those are measurable quantities, so vibrato rate and extent are quantitative data about a singer’s voice. Whether such a rate is pleasing to listeners or is considered stylistically appropriate within the context of a Mozart aria is subjective and would be qualitative data about a singer’s voice or their performance.

Quantitative data collection involves having some means of measurement. In designing an experiment, investigators have to make sure they have the necessary equipment capable of accurately measuring whether changes in the independent variables result in changes in the dependent variables. It follows that to make accurate measurements, a researcher must be able to check that the equipment they are using provides internally consistent results given the same input and that the results are consistent with some external fixed standard (e.g., the equipment must be calibrated), so that the results can be compared to other studies measured with similar equipment. Qualitative data collection also involves having some kind of instrument or consistent procedure and is often achieved through the use of surveys (which can be tested for validity) and interviews.

There are two broad categories of studies: those which are descriptive and those which are analytical. Descriptive studies examine specific aspects or characteristics in a population. This is often seen in medical case reports (detailing a patient’s history, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes) or case series, where several clients with similar experiences are grouped together. Analytical studies, on the other hand, come in one of two types: observational or experimental. One of the authors (Nix) led an analytical cross-sectional study which looked at vibrato rates and extents for five vowels performed in three ways by college voice majors. No interventions to change the singers’ voice production were made; data was collected merely to see what the vibrato rates and extents were for singers in the cohort (college voice majors in the United States). Had there been an intervention of some kind, for example, one in which data was collected on the singers’ vibrato characteristics (pre-test), the singers underwent a standardized training protocol, and then were retested (post-test), the study would have been experimental in nature: what is

58 Journal of Singing

the effect, if any, of training regimen “X” on college voice students’ vibrato rates and extents?7

After data is collected, the data may undergo a series of tests of significance. Tests of significance help us to understand the probability that the results are not due to chance. Many studies use a 95% probability standard to say a result is significant; that is, there is a 95% or greater probability that the results are not due to chance. This is commonly notated in the literature as ‘having a p value of 0.05 or less (p>0.05).’ Some fields use a higher threshold to determine significance, such as a 99% probability (p value of 0.01 or lower). There are many different kinds of tests to use; consulting with a statistician during the experimental design portion of the study to determine which kinds of tests are appropriate, given the type of data being compared, is essential.

Finally, there is peer review. After an experiment has concluded, researchers prepare presentations and scientific papers to share their work with colleagues. It is at this point that other researchers external to the team doing the experiment are given access to the results to review the quality of the work; has the research team designed the experiment correctly, given the research questions? Were there adequate controls in place to ensure that the data was collected and analyzed accurately and ethically? Do the results prove or disprove the research team’s hypothesis? Have the researchers put their results in context with other prior work in the field? Reviewers make determinations about which studies are selected for presentation at conferences and publication in journals; as such, they serve as gatekeepers for what is disseminated through traditional academic channels. Reviewers can also provide valuable feedback to research teams about how to improve their work in the future.

This overview helps us to understand in general terms what science is. For a clearer picture, however, it is useful now to examine what science is not.


Science does not provide hard facts or ultimate truth. Instead, it tries to explain how the world works using theories and models that are rigorously tested.8 If they survive testing, the theories are temporarily accepted. In contrast, some singing voice teachers look to science to prove their instructional methods are correct. This

is a common philosophical difference between voice teachers and researchers: science does not typically set out to prove what we already believe to be true.9 Though their approaches differ, pedagogues and scientists often collaborate successfully. Diverse, interdisciplinary teams working in an atmosphere of mutual respect often produce science that advances our understanding of the functional basis of singing.

Science is neither simple nor static. In the second century, Ptolemy’s geocentric theory explained that the sun and stars orbit the Earth. This was the accepted scientific belief for over 1300 years, but thanks to Copernicus and others, our knowledge changed. We also know that the Earth is round. But is it really?

If you were to measure the diameter of the Earth across our equator, you’d get a value: 7,926 miles (12,756 km). If you measured the diameter from the north pole to the south pole, you’d get a slightly different value: 7,900 miles (12,712 km). The Earth is not a perfect sphere, but rather a near-spherical shape that bulges at the equator and is compressed at the poles.10

For many years, voice pedagogy texts stated that registers were physically caused by vocal fold vibration characteristics. Today we know that is not the whole truth.11 Science helps us question long held assumptions: what we thought was right may in fact be wrong, and the more we learn, the more there is to know.12 Readers of this column are encouraged to be skeptical of simple answers from authoritative persons: “This [insert concept here] applies to all singers, of all genres, all the time.” True experts rarely offer absolutes, but instead use qualified language to discuss what they know. Complex questions are usually addressed in voice science with three somewhat annoying words, “Well, it depends.”

Lastly, and this deserves particular emphasis, voice science is not only for elite genius-level experts. Singing pedagogues may feel that colleagues with more education, intelligence, or experience are the only ones who can understand voice science. This is by no means the case. Some aspects of voice science are fairly easily understood and applied. Others require patience, study, and repeated exposure. It is hoped that this column will convince readers old and new that voice science is for all of us.

September/October 2023 59 Practical Voice Science


This may be a strange question to read in this column, but the arguments against incorporating voice science into singing instruction are strong. It is observed that nearly every elite singer of the past was trained without an awareness of voice science. The teachers’ well-developed ears, years of experience, and intimate knowledge of the repertoire guided students’ vocal development. Scientific tools were not needed.

Another argument against incorporating voice science in our teaching is the limited nature of our instructional time. Voice lessons are short, and the tasks are many. We work on breathing, strengthening the muscles of the vocal mechanism and ensuring their optimal coordination, vocal tract configuration, vowel modification, text articulation, body awareness, and a host of mental skills. Singers also need experience in acting, movement, musical styles, language and diction, career navigation, and many other things. If we cannot articulate why voice science should be included in our practice, perhaps it would be best to leave it outside the studio door.

One of the common arguments in favor of voice science relates to vocal health. Familiarity with the scientific basis of the instrument may help us prevent vocal injury, or so we hope. Though it seems reasonable, this argument does not stand up to scrutiny. Our bodies, like our voices, are unique. For example, two friends can go to a sporting event and shout for their team; one of them develops a vocal injury just a few minutes into the game, whereas the other shouts for hours on end without any ill effect. Biology is not fair, and some lucky people seem to have bulletproof larynges.13

Terminology is another common argument in favor of voice science. Many pedagogues use proprietary language when teaching singing. We speak “Singereze” with our students, and they (hopefully) understand what we want to say. But colleagues in neighboring professions who do not understand “singereze” (e.g. speech language pathology, laryngology, and psychology, for example) are left out of the conversation. The standardized terminology of voice science helps interdisciplinary colleagues all speak the same language.

Other arguments in favor of voice science center around the concept that knowledge is power. We asso-

ciate education with a general sense of control, and therefore it follows that the more we know about the voice, the better we may be able to control it for artistic purposes.14 This view is easily refuted by the historical evidence, however. Elite singers with no scientific understanding of the voice have enjoyed long careers over the centuries. Knowing what is happening in our bodies may or may not help us in performance.

Why then should voice teachers consider incorporating science into their instruction? The benefits to general health, terminology, or education are worth noting, but given our limited instructional time, should voice science indeed be left outside of the studio?

The most persuasive argument comes from the world of sports. In 1896, athletes from fourteen countries met in Athens, Greece for the first modern Olympic Games. Champions set world records that were the pinnacle of athletic performance.15 As impressive as these historical records were, student athletes in average high school programs achieve similar levels of performance today.16 How is this possible? Advances in running surfaces, shoes, and other types of equipment have improved performance to some extent, and elite athletes have been getting larger, thanks in part to improved nutrition.17 But generally speaking, the human species has not evolved in the last 127 years. What has happened is that science has revolutionized the training of athletes. Kinesiologists, physiologists, nutritionists, psychologists, physicians, strength and conditioning specialists, (and many others) all use science to create individualized training regimens that help athletes achieve ever greater levels of performance. In the near future we may see a similar revolution in the training of singers.

Advances in voice science may lead to a world in which the teacher’s experience and intuition are enhanced by individualized scientific tools that help all singers – elite vocal athletes and beginning amateurs alike – more efficiently reach increased levels of performance. The goal of this column is the discussion of these emerging scientific tools and their practical application in singing.


Author contributions: John Nix contributed the “Introduction” and “What Science Is” sections. David Meyer contributed “What Science Is Not” and “Why Should Voice Teachers Care?” The authors would

60 Journal of Singing

like to express our grateful thanks to Barbara Doscher, Richard Miller, Giorgio Tozzi and Albert Gammon for the rich pedagogical wisdom they imparted. We would also like to thank the current and former members of the NATS Voice Science Advisory Committee, particularly Lynn Helding, Bob Sataloff, Ron Scherer and Ingo Titze for their support and encouragement. Thank you, friends!


1. Jacques Yves Costeau, in Clive Lawrence, “Each year he dives deeper . . . learns more,” The Christian Science Monitor, July 21, 1971, 13.

2. Edwin Hubble, “The Exploration of Space,” Harper’s Magazine 158 (May 1929): 732.

3. Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (New York: Random House, 1979), 15.

4. Jules Verne, A Journey into the Interior of the Earth (London: Ward, Lock, & Co., Ltd, 1877), Chapter 31, https://www.

5. Heidi Moss, e-mail message to co-author John Nix, April 29, 2023.

6. “Science,” Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, accessed April 28, 2023, definition/english/science?q=science

7. Readers may find the examples given at the Cochrane website very helpful for understanding the different study types: an-introduction-to-different-types-of-study-design/

8. Alan F. Chalmers, What is This Thing Called Science? (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2013), 64.

9. Ron Scherer, “The Voice Science Profession—a Perspective,” Distinguished Lecture delivered at A Symposium on Voice Science, Department of Communication Disorders and the College of Health and Human Services, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, delivered April 2, 1989; transcript shared via personal communication with authors.

10. Ethan Siegel, “Ask Ethan: What Does ‘Truth’ Mean to a Scientist?” Forbes, accessed April 28, 2023, https://www.

11. Christian T. Herbst, “Registers-The Snake Pit of Voice Pedagogy Part 1: Proprioception, Perception, And Laryngeal Mechanisms,” Journal of Singing 77, no. 2 (November/ December 2020): 175–190; Christian T. Herbst, “Registers— The Snake Pit of Voice Pedagogy: Part 2: Mixed Voice, Vocal Tract Influences, Individual Teaching Systems,” Journal of Singing 77, no. 3 (January/February 2021): 345–359.

12. Naomi Oreskes, “If You Say ‘Science Is Right,’ You’re Wrong,” Scientific American (July 1, 2021), accessed April 28, 2023, if-you-say-science-is-right-youre-wrong/

13. Robert T. Sataloff, Mary J. Hawkshaw, Jaime E. Moore, and Amy L. Rutt, 50 Ways to Abuse Your Voice: A Singer’s Guide To a Short Career (Oxford, UK: Compton, 2015), 1–94; Robert T. Sataloff, Christina Manceni, and Mary J. Hawkshaw, 50 More Ways to Abuse Your Voice: Another Singer’s Guide To a Short Career (Oxford, UK: Compton, in press).

14. Scott Schieman and Gabriele Plickert, “How Knowledge is Power: Education and the Sense of Control,” Social forces 87, no. 1 (2008): 153–183.

15. “Athens 1896 Athletics Results,” International Olympic Committee, accessed April 28, 2023, en/olympic-games/athens-1896/results/athletics/.

16. “High School 2023 Outdoor Track & Field,” Athletic. net , accessed April 28, 2023, TrackAndField/.

17. Kevin Norton and Tim Olds, “Morphological Evolution of Athletes over the 20th Century: Causes and Consequences,” Sports Medicine 31 (2001): 763–783.

A leading scholar and researcher of the singing voice, David Meyer is an active performer, teacher, clinician, and voice scientist. He serves as associate professor of voice and voice pedagogy at Shenandoah Conservatory and is Director of the Janette Ogg Voice Research Center. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Voice Foundation and co-chairs the NATS Voice Science Advisory Committee. Meyer received the 2010 Van L. Lawrence Fellowship, a prestigious national award in recognition of his contributions to the field of teaching singing and the use of voice science. His students have won numerous awards and have sung in major venues worldwide. To learn more about Dr. Meyer, see or

John Nix is Professor of Voice and Voice Pedagogy at UT-San Antonio. His mentors include Barbara Doscher and Ingo Titze. His students have performed with the Santa Fe, Arizona, Chautauqua, St. Louis, Nevada, Omaha, and San Antonio Operas, and two have been NATS Intern Master Teachers. In addition to voice teaching, he performs research and has 50 published articles and 9 book chapters; he co-chairs the NATS Voice Science Advisory Committee, is an Associate Editor for The Journal of Singing, and is a member of the American Academy of Teachers of Singing. Prof. Nix is editor/annotator of From Studio to Stage: Repertoire for the Voice (Scarecrow, 2002), vocal music editor for the Oxford Handbook of Music Education (OUP, 2012), one of three general editors for the Oxford Handbook of Singing (OUP, 2019), and one of two general editors for the Oxford Handbook of Voice Pedagogy (OUP, pending 2025).

September/October 2023 61 Practical Voice Science



Semifinal and Final Rounds in New York City!

January 7, 2024

(as part of the NATS Winter Workshop)


• $5,000 Cash

• A New York solo debut sponsored by DCINY

• A $4,000 scholarship to attend the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria

• $1,000 Gift Certificate from Hal Leonard Corporation

• Solo recital at the 58th NATS National Conference (June 28 – July 2, 2024)


• $4,000 Cash

• $2,000 Scholarship to attend AIMS in Graz, Austria

• $500 Gift Certificate from Hal Leonard Corporation

• Age 21–35 on September 11, 2023

• Must be a member of NATS (Full or Associate, in good standing) OR coached for at least one year by a current NATS member (Full or Associate)

Generous monetary awards sponsored by the Foundation Heritage Fund of the NATS Endowment. Scholarships to AIMS in Graz, Austria are awarded to remaining semifinalists.


Building Versatile Voices

The author discusses how teachers might utilize efficient pedagogic practices to assist singers in optimizing vocal function. Through a systematic approach to versatility training, the author addresses practices that support increased levels of vocal efficiency and sustainability.

Throughout my career, I have been quite fortunate to have experienced the benefits of a versatile voice. It has afforded me a rich and balanced vocal journey through the worlds of opera, musical theatre, and popular music. This versatility has not only been a positive attribute of my artistry, but more often, a necessary and desirable artistic trait for many hiring organizations. Whether it be the myriad of musical theatre songs programmed during my time at Sarasota Opera, or my singing Cassio in Verdi’s Otello while simultaneously covering the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Utah Festival Opera, I have experienced the considerable benefits a versatile voice can provide. What is, perhaps, an even greater benefit is bearing witness to students who have found similar successes themselves—be it opening for Dua Lipa, duetting with Jennifer Hudson on The Voice, or fulfilling engagements with Central City Opera and Ohio Light Opera. Many of these students trained classically and later moved into popular music or musical theatre; others received formal training in musical theatre or popular music and were subsequently hired to sing with a professional opera company. Regardless of the scenario, the quantifiable benefits of building a versatile voice are rather difficult to contest.

As I begin my tenure as an associate editor of the Journal of Singing and author of “The Versatile Voice” column, I must acknowledge the work of my predecessor, Robert Edwin, who saw previous iterations of this column through significant development over his thirty-eight years in the position. Avid JOS readers may recall those earlier versions of the column, specifically “The Bach to Rock Connection” and “Popular Song and Music Theater,” later followed by “Singing A Cappella to Zydeco.” As we launch into volume eighty under the direction of our newly appointed editor-in-chief, Lynn Helding, I look forward to exploring how the versatile voice both enhances our artistry and informs pedagogic practice in the teaching studio.


Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 63–66

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

Cambridge University Press defines “versatility” as “having the ability to change easily or be used for different purposes.”1 Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines versatility as “the ability to change to suit new conditions or situations.”2 As we consider the meaning of the word as it relates to the voice, it is worth investigating versatility through another lens. To be versatile implies

September/October 2023 63
Justin John Moniz

a necessary level of flexibility. A marathon runner might incorporate strength training into their exercise program to counterbalance the body and condition its various systems. Football players might utilize ballet or Pilates in their training program to build greater levels of balance, agility, strength, and coordination.

As teachers of singing, we too must carefully consider how best to cultivate versatility. How might teachers utilize efficient pedagogic practices to assist singers in optimizing function? Building a vocal conditioning program which cultivates flexibility will provide long term benefits. In terms of vocalises, one might consider incorporating a superset circuit of exercises at varying levels of intensity– this might be achieved through both variations in volume and resonance.3 A messa di voce exercise which moves from pianissimo to fortissimo and back to pianissimo on a single pitch would be one way to build flexibility through stabilization; alternating this with a resonance based model which utilizes movement from a closed vowel to an open vowel and back again – for instance, [e] to [ɛ] to [e] – would outline a superset model of versatility training for the voice. For the purposes of versatility training, circuits such as the one mentioned above may incorporate the use of vocal supersets. This type of conditioning explores the use of antagonistic muscles or opposing muscle groups to assist in stabilizing operations and optimizing function.4

The assignment of repertoire is yet another important element of versatility training which should be carefully considered. If a singer explores a folk song which might require ample levels of breathiness and thus a partial closure of the vocal folds, the teacher might also consider programming a piece of repertoire that requires a contrasting glottal configuration, or a style that utilizes a more clean signal and full closure of the vocal folds. For instance, “when the party’s over” by Billie Eilish would call for a significant level of breathiness in the tone. Counterbalancing this glottal configuration with a piece such as “Come On-a My House,” by Rosemary Clooney could be especially helpful to stabilize and balance the vocal mechanism. Worth noting is the vocal load or exertion required in both pieces; each presents a similar dosage which allows for the singer to work in a parallel framework. Additionally, the glottal signal in the style of Rosemary Clooney is arguably much cleaner. This circuit training (or alternating) model of repertoire

programming would allow a singer to build flexibility in the mechanism through utilization of these specific and varied internal postures.

Another example is “Sunset Boulevard,” from Sunset Boulevard paired with “Gethsemane” from Jesus Christ Superstar, both composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber. The style of singing present in Sunset Boulevard requires a cleaner and more consistent signal as compared to the rock stylings necessary in Jesus Christ Superstar. The stylistic attributes of the latter include heavy use of rock cries, cracks, pops, growls, glottal onsets, aspirated offsets, excessive breathiness, and occasional vocal fry phonation. Each of these stylings has the ability to create a level of imbalance in the vocal mechanism and at times, a compromised or broken signal. Working through a varied circuit of repertoire, however, helps to facilitate a balanced engagement of laryngeal muscles and will likely result in a singer’s increased levels of stability and endurance.

Cultivating a balance of clean and breathy sounds is an essential part of maintaining vocal homeostasis. It is important, however, to recognize that raspiness is a result of aperiodic events during vocal fold vibration, perhaps caused by psychological and/or pathological voice disorders.5 Being able to identify the key differences between breathiness and raspiness is essential for effectively teaching in many popular styles of singing. It is important to note that breathiness is best identified as a hiss or white noise whereas raspiness may sound similar to hoarseness or possess a gravelly quality. The latter should be carefully assessed to ensure both short and long term wellness.

Greater levels of vocal flexibility also reduces risk of fatigue and delayed onset muscle soreness. In the world of exercise science, this occurs twenty-four to seventytwo hours after significantly strenuous exercise, particularly due to movements that involve a lot of eccentric deceleration; an eccentric contraction is the motion of an active muscle while it is lengthening under load.6 For singers, this would include singing in the upper register or implementing stylistic attributes that may increase the overall vocal load. In contemporary vocal styles, this can be easily measured by the infiltration of stylistic attributes that create an imbalance in the mechanism and help to provide the necessary authenticity in a particular style.7 Regulating vocal load is heavily dependent upon one’s ability to recognize the impact of each stylistic

64 Journal of Singing

nuance as well as the potential for sustainability in light of their recurring presence.


The idea of cross training the voice has long been a topic of discussion among voice teachers. Various methodologies surrounding contemporary styles began to emerge as early as the 1970s.8 Pedagogues such as Jeanette LoVetri, Jo Estill, Mary Saunders Barton, Robert Edwin, Elizabeth Howard, and Katie Agrestra laid the foundation for what we know today as CCM pedagogy. Some popular present day CCM methodologies include The Estill Voice Model, Speech Level Singing, Somatic Voicework, Voiceworks, Complete Vocal Technique, and Vocal Power Method, among others. As many students seek to quickly move in and out of various styles, it is important to carefully consider the demands this versatility places on the vocal apparatus. In the book So You Want to Sing CCM, voice pedagogue Matthew Edwards highlights the importance of creating an understanding of the fundamental differences between singing in these various genres. Edwards responded to the common sentiment that “it is all the same technique– the only difference is style.”

Scientific research shows that this statement is not accurate. Differences in technique begin at the vocal fold level.

Christopher Barlow, Jeannete LoVetri, and David Howard investigated CQ (closed quotient) ratios in adolescent females singing in both classical and CCM styles. The investigators found that in 76 percent of the singers, CQ was greater in mix than in head voice. The findings also suggest that the closed quotients are indeed different in the two styles.9

Possessing the understanding that stylistic parameters may significantly impact technique is an essential part of efficient pedagogic practice. Without the appropriate foundational elements of production in place, stylistically-informed technical alterations may not be easily implemented in order to accommodate the demands of each unique genre.10 In order to successfully execute an authentic sound in each style, special considerations need to be made in regard to soft palate posture, pharyngeal space, and laryngeal position. Ingo Titze has long investigated many of these technical modifications and indicates that a slightly raised larynx allows the first formant frequency of the vowels [a] and [ae] to rise with

pitch, thus surpassing the second harmonic and providing an acoustic advantage for the CCM singer.11 In a 2008 publication, the American Academy of Teachers of Singing stated the following:

Since there are significant and measurable acoustic differences between classical singing styles and popular singing styles, the Academy proposes that the techniques used to train singers in those styles should be tailored to the particular performing needs of the singer . . . Though many singers perform successfully in both classical and CCM styles, the vocal techniques required to produce those styles are not likely to be interchangeable.12

Nevertheless, working toward a greater understanding of both the muscular and acoustical parameters involved in different singing styles will more effectively serve those teachers who might be interested in building and nurturing versatile voices. In addition, the more deconditioned a singer is, the greater the risk of injury. It is important to recognize that being deconditioned does not necessarily mean that a singer is unable to sustain adequate airflow or sing comfortably in the upper register. Being deconditioned is a state in which a singer may have a combination of muscle imbalances, poor flexibility, insufficient endurance, or limited stability.13 All of these conditions can greatly inhibit the ability of the vocal mechanism to produce proper movement and may ultimately result in vocal fatigue or even vocal pathology.


The state of affairs in the world of voice teaching has changed considerably since Robert Edwin’s 1985 Journal of Singing Article, “Are We the National Association of Teachers of Classical Singing?”14 The emergence of newer programs in contemporary voice have begun to support a significant desire for formal vocal training in contemporary styles. According to a 2022 Inside Music Schools Report, Berklee College of Music, The New School, University of Southern California, NYU Steinhardt, UCLA, Belmont University, and The Frost School of Music at University of Miami have been identified among top programs for contemporary voice training.15 As additional programs begin to emerge, there is a greater need to serve a more diverse population of young artists. There was also a time when singing musical theatre was taboo in the world of opera. Many may recall the

September/October 2023 65 The Versatile Voice

days of navigating different résumés for opera versus musical theatre auditions. As the classical music industry has evolved, however, there have been both refreshing changes and newfound desires to lean into diversity of artistry and expression. This individual artistic versatility, for many companies, has been deemed a positive element in the audition room.

From 2009–2018, there was a significant increase in the programming frequency of musical theater on American operatic stages.16 From 2009–2013, OPERA America Level I-IV companies programmed an average of 7.6 musicals per year. From 2014–2018, OPERA America Level I–IV companies saw an average of 15.8 musicals programmed per year. Within this ten year period (2009–2018), programming frequency of musical theater increased by 108 percent. In a 2017 interview with the author, Tri-Cities Opera’s former general director Susan Ashbaker argued that the industry will ultimately adopt a model that is inclusive of both opera and musical theatre in one canon of repertoire.

To me, American Musical Theatre in 200 years is going to be part of the opera and music theatre canon. Operettas in Germany were very different from operas in Germany, but now we in the United States consider that opera. … It certainly begs the question as to what opera will really look like in 2050, 2100, or even 2150. I think in a couple hundred years, especially some of the musical theatre pieces that are so vocal, will find their way into what we know as the opera canon.

Whether one’s teaching or performance specialization is contemporary voice, musical theatre, classical voice, or a combination thereof, vocal longevity and wellness is dependent upon one’s ability to cultivate a balanced approach to technical execution. The benefits of vocal versatility afford singers the opportunity to engage in long term, sustainable practice. As voice teachers, we have an obligation to encourage student exploration, as well as to feed that of our own.


1. versatility

2. english/flexibility

3. A “superset” is two exercises performed back to back rapid succession with minimal to no rest in between.

4. Justin John Moniz, “Regulating Vocal Load in High Impact Production,” Journal of Singing 78, no 5 (2022): 605.

5. Scott McCoy, Your Voice: An Inside View 3 (Gahanna, Ohio: Inside View Press, 2019), 4.

6. Micheal A. Clark et al, NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training , 7th Edition (Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2021); CPT7104001

7. Moniz, 602.

8. Matthew Hoch, So You Want to Sing CCM (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2018), 4.

9. Hoch, 10.

10. Moniz, 602.

11. Ingo R. Titze, “Belting and A High Larynx Position,” Journal of Singing 63, no. 5 (2007): 557.

12. Addison, Adele, et al. “NATS VISITS AATS,” “In Support of Contemporary Commercial Music (Non-Classical) Voice Pedagogy,” Journal of Singing 65 no.1 (September/October 2008): 7–10.

13. Moniz, 606.

14. Robert Edwin, “Are We the National Association of Teachers of Classical Singing?” Journal of Singing 41, no 5 (1985): 40.


16. Justin John Moniz, “Musical Theatre Programming Frequency in American Opera Houses: A Quantitative Study,” VOICEPrints 20, no 2 (2022): 43.

Dr. Justin John Moniz serves as Associate Director of Vocal Performance and Coordinator of Vocal Pedagogy at New York University’s (NYU) Steinhardt School where he holds the rank of Associate Professor. Moniz is also a member of the Vocal Arts Faculty at Manhattan School of Music where he teaches vocal wellness and physiology. His students regularly appear on Broadway, off-Broadway, on national tours, in regional theaters and opera houses, and on national television. A leading expert on contemporary vocal pedagogy, Moniz is regularly engaged as a guest clinician and consultant for organizations including the National Association of Teachers of Singing, National Opera Association, The Royal Conservatory of Music, New England Conservatory, Boston University, and Berklee College of Music. As a voice teacher, researcher, and NASM Certified Personal Trainer, he is particularly passionate about identifying the parallels between the worlds of voice science and sports medicine, more specifically concerning vocal load, efficiency, and sustainability. In 2022, he was the recipient of the Yamaha Corporation Top 40 Music Educator Award and named a Musical America Top Professional of the Year. Moniz serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Singing, where he is the author of “The Versatile Voice” column.

66 Journal of Singing


Time Spent: The Eight-Hour Day

This second article of the “Time Spent” series examines the eight-hour workday and considers its potential usefulness or applicability to studio voice teaching. The article explores the origin of the eight-hour workday and provides perspectives on how effective (or ineffective) it is in other fields, especially for those considered to be “knowledge workers.” It then presents alternative models to the eight-hour workday, including advocacy for shorter overall hours of work each day or interspersed periods of rest throughout the workday. Finally, the article offers suggestions for voice teachers as to how they may adjust their schedules to bring more focus and energy to a full day of teaching.


The first “Time Spent” article in this column examined the forty-hour work week, considering its origin, how it functions in our society, and how it may apply to independent voice teaching.1 In addition, it discussed the possible health ramifications of excessively long work weeks as well as the emotional burden of the “cult of overwork,” which can trap teachers into believing they are not sufficiently dedicated to their students if they are not working to the point of exhaustion. Although there are studio teachers who do spend forty hours each week with students and clients, it should not be presumed as a set standard or the only way to run an effective and profitable independent studio.

This second article of the series will look at another unit of time that has become a standard measure of how voice teachers arrange their work: the eight-hour day. In considering its potential usefulness or applicability to studio voice teaching, the article will provide perspectives on how effective (or ineffective) the eight-hour workday is in other fields, explore alternative models, and offer suggestions on how voice teachers may adjust their schedules to bring more focus and energy to a full day of teaching.


In an episode of the “Interviews on Voice Matters” YouTube series, host Liz Johnson discusses how voice teachers divide their time and energy.2 Her guest, Chris Johnson (voice teacher and co-founder of The Naked Vocalist podcast), expresses his thoughts on how a full day of voice teaching compares to a full day of work in other fields.

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Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

I don’t think people in other industries, especially industries where you’re not interacting one-on-one for that amount of time, quite understand how much energy is required to deliver one-on-one lessons for 10 hours a day, every day. … Any job is hard [for] 10 hours a day. I mean, people would normally puff their

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cheeks out and go, ‘Blimey, that’s a lot of hours.’ But 10 hours teaching is a lot of energy.3

Besides the tremendous stamina required to maintain mental focus for that long, Johnson also describes the toll it takes afterwards. “Most people just want to crawl up in a hole for two days,” he says. “Saturday and Sunday, just put me in a hole. I’ll get back out again Monday when my brain has managed to absorb all of this energy and all of that chat and all of that worry that you get from your clients.” Instead, he advocates setting a schedule in which teachers are not continuously engaged from minute to minute and hour to hour. “When singing teachers are able to give themselves a bit more space mentally in their day, I think that curiosity and integration of new techniques will happen better,” he says. “But until someone does that, it’s just going to be difficult.”4 Johnson instead tries to find balance among all of his life priorities, including leaving mental energy for his podcast and emotional energy for time with his family. “At the advice of other teachers and people in business, I have made moves to make my work and my life serve the things that I find important,” he says.5 Even so, he admits that it can still be a struggle. “I’m not at nirvana. Let’s say that, right now.”6


If most would agree with Johnson that 10 hours of teaching per day is simply too much to take on, is an eighthour day preferable? Writer and correspondent Lizzie Wade answers with an emphatic ‘no’ in a Wired article titled, “The 8-Hour Workday Is a Counterproductive Lie.”7 She notes that Welsh textile mill owner Robert Owen is credited with outlining the philosophy, “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, and eight hours rest” back in the nineteenth century. As she points out, however, although this was an improvement on the twelve- to fourteen-hour days factory workers—including children—were logging at the time, that standard is simply not applicable to much of today’s workforce. “It’s all but impossible to actually work for eight hours a day in the jobs so many of us now have,” she says. “I’m focusing on knowledge workers here—those of us who work at desks, mostly in front of computers, in offices or from home. Especially those of us who spend those hours making things, like writers, coders, and graphic

designers.” 8 She also notes, “Honestly, I think eight hours a day is too long to work in a factory, a restaurant, a call center, or a store, too, and we should rethink and relegislate this standard in all industries.”9

Are teachers included in the “knowledge workers” category Wade describes? Management consultant, educator, and author Peter Drucker first coined this term in the book The Landmarks of Tomorrow, defining knowledge workers as “high-level workers who apply theoretical and analytical knowledge, acquired through formal training, to develop products and services.”10 Robert Jacobs, creator and developer of Education Innovation, applies Drucker’s definition to classroom teachers and concludes that they should indeed be considered knowledge workers.11 He argues, however, that the quality and quantity of their “product”—and, thus, the effectiveness of their “productivity”—can be difficult to determine since the results of teaching are often subjectively measured according to frequently changing standards set by principals, school districts, and other supervisors. Independent studio teachers, on the other hand, who are beholden only to themselves and their clients, can determine their own criteria when judging the effectiveness of their teaching. Therefore, as knowledge workers, the proof that they are producing and delivering a quality service is evidenced every time returning clients continue to show up for their weekly lessons.

Regarding how many hours a day teachers can be most effective, an article in the Washington Post suggests reducing the upper daily limit from eight hours to four or five hours a day for peak productivity.12 The author Keri Wiginton found that she was most effective by dividing her work into four or five 55-minute chunks throughout the day, separated by half-hour breaks. This practice was backed up by Borna Bonakdarpour, a behavioral neurologist and assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. According to his summary of the research on the subject, the brain needs about a twenty to thirty-minute break for every two hours of focused work.

A study conducted by the Draugiem Group reached similar conclusions with strikingly comparable suggested blocks of time for work and rest as those that Wiginton anecdotally observed in herself. Investigators in the study used the “DeskTime” tracking and pro -

68 Journal of Singing

ductivity app to measure how much time employees spent on various tasks. They then compared those data with the employees’ productivity levels. As reported by Travis Bradberry in Forbes, the length of the workday did not matter as much as the way the workers structured their day. Specifically, those who took consistent breaks throughout the day were more productive than those who worked longer hours without regular breaks. The ideal work-to-break ratio was found to be fifty-two minutes of work followed by seventeen minutes of rest.13

Therefore, an eight-hour workday may be most productive if it is broken into intervals of work followed by periods of rest. Bradberry suggests this approach keeps us working when we are likely to be the most focused and then allows us to rest during the times we would likely be less productive. These periods of rest then prepare us to return to work feeling more refreshed than we would have been had we pushed through and continued working as fatigue began to set in. Bradberry also believes this to be a particularly useful strategy when tackling daunting tasks, since it allows the work to be divided into manageable pieces.

In the book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, author Alex Pang presents a historical argument that advocates for shorter overall workdays as well as periods of work followed by periods of rest.14 He points out that Charles Darwin worked for two 90-minute periods in the morning, followed by an additional hour of work later in the day. Mathematician Henri Poincaré worked each day from 10:00 a.m. until noon and then again from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. Thomas Jefferson followed a similar routine, as did Nobel Prize-winning author Alice Munro, as well as a significant list of other accomplished individuals from a variety of fields. Pang concludes, as summarized in The Guardian: “We’re rhythmic creatures, and the part of the cycle that involves not taxing the mind is no less essential to the result.”15


Bonakdarpour acknowledges that not all of our work requires our complete, undivided attention, which is why we can often push through a long day even when we start to get tired. But during these times, he adds, “As

a general principle, your brain is functioning at a lower level.”16 This makes us more prone to distractions and mistakes.

He believes that, when we are working toward impending deadlines, we may experience “positive anxiety,” which can temporarily boost brain function and productivity. “But the thing is, it does take energy,” he says. “The next day, you may feel tired. And you need to consider that and plan for it.”17

Author and journalist Oliver Burkeman highlights the benefits of prioritizing non-work time. “The most important reason to work fewer days, of course, is that it’s good for families, friendship, hobbies, and the human spirit,” he says. But he also acknowledges the simple ineffectiveness of working long hours, pointing to research that indicates how knowledge work relies on both exertion and rest. “Pushing people past their natural limits doesn’t just make them inefficient,” he says, “it actively damages work on the following days.”18

As indicated in the first “Time Spent” article, there may be additional emotional baggage at play when our work is tied into our identities or self-worth. As author Anne Helen Petersen says, when we acknowledge what a privilege it is to do what we love, we may feel compelled to overwork.19

To take a step back sometimes feels like failing: failing yourself, failing other people and failing your passion. … But it’s not sustainable. When you burn out, you’re also failing your passion. You’re also failing other people in all of these different ways. I think if you want to cultivate that sort of longevity in your passion . . . there has to be boundaries around the work that you do.”20


Based on the information above, the most logical change voice teachers can make is to plan regular breaks into the teaching day. We can each find a version of the “fifty minutes on and seventeen minutes off” formula that can be individualized to our own work/rest rhythms. Even ten minutes of true rest after each hour-long lesson may be enough to provide a refresh so we are able to bring better focus to the next lesson.

An analogy can be made to an oft-repeated maxim among singers and voice teachers regarding hydration. Many of us have likely advised our students that

September/October 2023 69 The Independent Teacher

if they wait until they feel thirsty to drink water, they may already be insufficiently hydrated for peak vocal performance. Bradberry advocates a similar philosophy for our work schedules, saying, “If you wait until you feel tired to take a break, it’s too late—you’ve already missed the window of peak productivity.”21 If we intentionally set a teaching schedule with breaks built in, instead of scheduling multiple consecutive lessons that leave us feeling drained afterwards, we can preemptively ensure that we will have sufficient mental rest throughout the day. “Remember, it’s far more productive to rest for short periods than it is to keep on working when you’re tired and distracted,” Bradberry says. “Real breaks are easier to take when you know they’re going to make your day more productive.”22


Singer Dolly Parton knew the drawbacks of the eighthour workday way back in 1980 when she wrote and recorded her famous song “9 to 5.” Her sentiments clearly struck a resounding chord with the American public as the song reached number one on the Billboard Country chart as well as on the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts. As she exhorts, we can feel like we’re “barely gettin’ by” due to the long workday’s penchant for being “all takin’ and no givin.’” Perhaps by scheduling more frequent breaks throughout the day, allowing our brains much-needed rest, and increasing our focus on work-life balance, we can speak with gratitude rather than exhaustion when, at the end of the day, we exclaim, “What a way to make a livin’!”


1. Brian Manternach, “Time Spent: The Forty-Hour Workweek,” Journal of Singing 78, No. 5 (May/June 2022): 629–634.

2. Liz Johnson, “Interviews on Voice Matters: Episode #18 with Chris Johnson, Liz Johnson Voice, February 5, 2019; https:// (accessed April 6, 2023).

3. Ibid. 4. Ibid. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid.

7. Lizzie Wade, “The 8-Hour Workday Is a Counterproductive Lie,” Wired, Nov 21, 2019; eight-hour-workday-is-a-lie/ (accessed April 6, 2023).

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. CFI Team, “Knowledge Workers: High-level workers who apply theoretical and analytical knowledge in product and service development,” Corporate Finance Institute, December 6, 2022; valuation/knowledge-workers/ (accessed April 6, 2023).

11. Robert Jacobs, “Are Teachers Productive ‘Knowledge Workers?’” Education Innovation, https://educationinnovation. (accessed April 6, 2023).

12. Keri Wiginton, “Your ability to focus may be limited to 4 or 5 hours a day. Here’s how to make the most of them,” Washington Post, June 1, 2021; https://www.washingtonpost. com/lifestyle/wellness/productivity-focus-work-tips/2021/ 05/31/07453934-bfd0-11eb-b26e-53663e6be6ff_story.html (accessed April 6, 2023).

13. Travis Bradberry, “Why The 8-Hour Workday Doesn’t Work,” Forbes, June 7, 2016; travisbradberry/2016/06/07/why-the-8-hour-workdaydoesnt-work/?sh=1f94115236cc (accessed April 6, 2023).

14. Oliver Burkeman, “Let’s hear it for the four-hour working day,” The Guardian , August 11, 2017; https://www.

15. Ibid.

16. Wiginton

17. Ibid.

18. Oliver Burkeman, “Go tell the boss: let me work less and I’ll produce more,” The Guardian , July 31, 2015; work-less-produce-more

19. Anne Helen Petersen in Terry Gross, “Fresh Air: Working 9 to 5? ‘Out of Office’ author says maybe it’s time to rethink that,” NPR , December 13, 2021; 2021/12/13/1062991645/out-of-office-author-ann-helenpetersen?utm_medium=social& &utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&fbclid=IwAR3J G54jjuN91s0eHbeMY5EBkPlHr9xkOOY-igWtG3qBUM_ 6IaVPxF71yfc

20. Ibid.

21. Bradberry

22. Ibid.

70 Journal of Singing

Brian Manternach is a career-line associate professor in the University of Utah Department of Theatre and a research associate for the Utah Center for Vocology, where he is on the faculty of the Summer Vocology Institute. His students have been cast in film, TV, Broadway tours, Off-Broadway and regional theatres, and cruise lines. He earned the Faculty Excellence in Research Award from the University of Utah College of Fine Arts, the NATS Voice Pedagogy Award, and has presented at numerous international conferences. He is an associate editor for the Journal of Singing, a regular contributor to Classical Singer magazine, and has been published in a

variety of additional voice-related journals. His solo appearances include the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Chamber Symphony, and Sinfonia Salt Lake, and his stage credits range from Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail to Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus to Miles Gloriosus in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Originally from Iowa, his degrees in voice performance include a B.A. from Saint John’s University/College of Saint Benedict of Minnesota, an MM from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a DM from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.



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September/October 2023 71 The Independent Teacher

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I Feel, You Feel: Considerations of Emotion in Singing

Live musicians inhabit a space at the intersection of emotion and music. Singers must navigate interactions between emotions and their motivation to participate in music-music making, their own emotional responses to the music they perform, and the emotional expectations of the audiences for whom they perform. If ignored, these interactions have the potential to derail musical success, but handled correctly, they provide the opportunity for singers to develop lasting strategies for meaningful musical experiences.

Emotional response to music, in its extremes referred to as absorption or transcendence, is one of several effects that are widely reported by participants in studies examining the impacts of expressive art activities. Indeed, one’s very openness to experiencing these states of absorption appears to be strongly correlated to one’s ability to experience music as pleasurable or rewarding at all.1 A wealth of research has examined these emotional responses from the perspective of listeners and audiences, but what of the musicians producing the music? What should the singer consider regarding the intersection of emotion and music?

There are many ways in which a musician, a composer, and an audience might interact with considerations of emotion to produce a meaningful performance experience. Early research around what motivates musicians to pursue careers in performance found a strong link between an individual’s history of experiencing emotional responses to music at an early age and the likelihood that they would eventually choose such a career.2 It stands to reason, then, that an important task of the performer is to communicate the composer’s intentions and to evoke an emotional response to the music from their audience members. To successfully complete this task, the performer must balance their own emotional response to the music with the desired emotional response of the audience.3 All of these interactions between music and emotion must be considered by the musician, so that, when successfully managed, audience members will be unaware of their complexity.


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Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 73–76

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

Music making can be difficult work. It requires hours of practice honing accuracy and precision in one’s ability to perform thousands of motor tasks. Presenting that performance for others to hear, while often rewarding, many also be a stressful endeavor. Making a career of performing music is more difficult still, balancing all the challenges of performance with the day-to-day

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Lynn Maxfield

realities of bills and healthcare and taxes. What is it, then, that motivates intrepid creators to stay the course through these challenges in pursuit of life as a musician?

There are, of course, many answers to that question, but research in the psychology of motivation has established a strong and clear connection between emotion and motivation.4,5 Largely, this connection is explained by how emotional experiences impact the development of self-efficacy. Woody and McPherson draw this connection: “People’s feelings about themselves and others affect their beliefs and perceptions about the activities they choose to undertake and are an inescapable source of their motivation.”6

The music teacher’s role in developing motivation is equally inescapable. Musicians who achieve high levels of success have described their early teachers as “warm, encouraging, and fun to be with.”7 Yet, the tasks of teaching are more nuanced than only being a warm, encouraging, fun teacher. If the goal is to develop young musicians with strong potentials to achieve success, music teachers must actively choose teaching practices that foster self-efficacy and motivation.8 Opportunities for singers to experience the positive emotions associated with success, pride, and autonomy should be offered as frequently as possible.9

The task of the teacher also extends to training their students to identify where their motivations lie on the spectrum between task or skill-involved and ego-involved 10 Those who are experiencing primarily task-involved motivation will identify the primary objective of practice as the development of a certain level of proficiency in a particular skill. This view allows the performer to experience a performance as a checkpoint in their progress toward proficiency. The positive emotional response comes primarily from the progress and the audience response is of lower importance. Singers who, on the other hand, experience primarily ego-involved motivation view performance as inextricably linked to external judgment of their skill level. Performances, then, provide opportunities to experience emotions ranging from elation to embarrassment. Where they land on this emotional scale is largely dependent on their perception of the audience’s response to the performance.11

Of course, no singer’s motivation is ever entirely either ego or task-involved. Also, note that both motivations

offer opportunities for the development of self-efficacy and confidence. What is valuable for singers in evaluating their position on this spectrum is the potential for this understanding to inform where they choose to place their attentional awareness both during practice and performance.


Regardless of where a singer’s motivations lie between task-involved and ego-involved, the response of audience members is of some degree of importance. There are multiple strategies that a singer might employ to use their performance to elicit the desired emotional response from their audiences. One strategy is for the singer to experience the intended emotion strongly enough in themselves as to coerce the audience into feeling it along with them. Music and education psychologist Roland Persson dubbed this approach “mood induction,” indicating that musicians may go as far as recalling personal memories that match the mood of the music.12 The next section of this article incudes a discussion that will highlight the danger for specifically singers of leaning too heavily on this strategy.

Another strategy is for singers to train their own ability to link emotional responses to producible musical techniques through a process of emotional monitoring. In this case, the singers may be monitoring their own emotional response to their playing or singing during practice periods, or they may monitor their responses to the performances of others. In either situation, the musicians must be attentive, not only to how they are feeling, but also to the techniques used in the performance that elicits those responses.13

Several studies around the turn of this century found that one-on-one instruction time is essential for the development of emotional monitoring capabilities.14 During this individualized instruction time, students must access their technical understanding of the mechanical/physiological principles governing their performance, as well as their own emotional reactivity to tie the two together into a technique for musical expressivity. Over time, students will develop techniqueresponse maps, upon which they can overlay memory cues that that they can access during performance to make expressively appropriate technical choices.15

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If emotional response to music is both a motivation to perform and an expectation of audience experience, it is unreasonable to imagine that a performer can make music in isolation from their own emotions. These emotions can be in response both to the music itself as well as to the situational context of the performance. As mentioned earlier, there are potential pitfalls for the singer who does not manage these responses appropriately.

When I was in graduate school, I was asked to sing at the funeral for a man in my church congregation. He had passed away after a difficult battle with cancer, leaving behind a wife and three young children. I did not know this man or his family well and I was asked to sing a song that I was more than capable of performing without much effort. I accepted the invitation and prepared well before the day of the funeral. I was confident and calm as the funeral proceeded and felt ready to sing when the time came. However, when I stood to sing, memories of an all too similar experience with cancer in my family flooded my mind and washed away my preparation. Suddenly, I was unable to divest myself from the emotional context of the situation and utterly incapable of singing. I had failed to navigate the challenge of focusing on the task at hand and the emotions of the performer had superseded (or at best, disallowed) the emotional response of the audience.

While this is an extreme example, many singers will have experienced an instance where the performance opportunity was so thrilling, or the music so moving that their autonomic nervous system triggered a ‘fight or flight’ response, overwhelming their preparation to the detriment of the performance. The goal should not be to eliminate this type of arousal altogether—there is an optimal level of arousal at which performance is enhanced.16 Instead, musicians must learn to balance awareness between the elements of the performance that trigger arousal and those which are more related to the technical execution of the performance tasks.17 Too much attention to the excitement of the performance and they risk over-arousal. Too little, and they risk a producing a technically solid, but inexpressive performance.

There is an additional consideration regarding emotional response that only singers must face. Because the voice is an instrument housed within the human body,

and highly connected to both the autonomic and central nervous systems, it is particularly responsive to changes in emotional state in a way that no other instrument experiences.18 An individual’s emotional state has been linked to changes in fundamental frequency, vibrato rate and extent, and intrinsic laryngeal muscle activity.19


It has been argued that most musicians participate in music making primarily out of hedonic motivation (gaining purpose by experiencing joy and pleasure). 20 The pleasure of performing is the reward that motivates the performer. However, more recent research is indicating that eudaimonic motivators (seeking purpose through experiences of personal achievement) are also likely at play.21 The path toward balancing these two motivators, satisfying the emotional needs of both the audience and the performer, is to design practice and instruction time that allows for a mixture of singing for joy and singing for improvement.22 Neglecting one will have deleterious effects on the other, but fostering both will facilitate the growth of an expressive musician, motivated to keep learning.


1. Gemma Cardona, Laura Ferreri, Urbano Lorenzo‐Seva, Frank A. Russo, and Antoni Rodriguez‐Fornells. “The Forgotten Role of Absorption in Music Reward.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1514, no. 1 (August 2022): 142–154.

2. Barbara Smolej Fritz and Andreja Avsec. “The Experience of Flow and Subjective Well-being of Music Students.” Horizons of Psychology 16, no. 2 (2007): 5–17.

3. Robert H. Woody and Gary E McPherson. “Emotion and Motivation in the Lives of Performers.” In Handbook of Music and Emotion: Theory, Research, Applications (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010): 401–424.

4. Michael Lewis and Margaret Wolan Sullivan. “The Development of Self-Conscious Emotions.” Handbook of Competence and Motivation (2005): 185–201.

5. Kent C. Berridge. “Evolving Concepts of Emotion and Motivation.” Frontiers in Psychology 9, no. 1 (January 2018): 1647.

6. Woody and McPherson. 402.

7. Jane W. Davidson, Derek G. Moore, John A. Sloboda, and Michael JA Howe. “Characteristics of Music Teachers and

September/October 2023 75 Mindful Voice

Lynn Maxfield

the Progress of Young Instrumentalists.” Journal of Research in Music Education 46, no. 1 (April 1998): 141–160.

8. Lynn Maxfield. “Incorporating Motivation Into Your Model of Motor Learning.” Journal of Singing 75, no. 5 (May/June 2019): 583–587.

9. Gabriele Wulf, Rebecca Lewthwaite, and Andrew Hooyman, “Can Ability Conceptualizations Alter the Impact of Social Comparison in Motor Learning?” Journal of Motor Learning and Development 1, no. 1 (March 2013): 20–30.; Lauren A. Leotti and Mauricio R. Delgado, “The Inherent Reward of Choice,” Psychological Science 22, no. 10 (October 2011): 1310–1318.; Baruch Eitam, Patrick M. Kennedy, and E. Tory Higgins, “Motivation from Control,” Experimental Brain Research 229, no. 3 (September 2013): 475–484.

10. Martin L. Maehr, Paul R. Pintrich, and Elizabeth A. Linnenbrink. “Motivation and Achievement.” In The New Handbook of Research on Music Teaching and Learning: A Project of the Music Educators National Conference. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002): 348–372.

11. Woody and McPherson. 411.

12. Roland S. Persson. “The Subjective World of the Performer.” In P. N. Juslin & J. A. Sloboda (Eds.), Music and Emotion: Theory and Research . (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001): 275–289.

13. Woody and McPherson. 413.

14. Petri Laukka. “Instrumental Music Teachers’ Views on Expressivity: A Report from Music Conservatoires.” Music Education Research 6, no. 1 (March 2004): 45–56.; Erik Lindström, Patrik N. Juslin, Roberto Bresin, and Aaron Williamon. ““Expressivity Comes from Within Your Soul”: A Questionnaire Study of Music Students’ Perspectives on Expressivity.” Research Studies in Music Education 20, no. 1 (June 2003): 23–47.; Robert H. Woody. “Learning Expressivity in Music Performance: An Exploratory Study.” Research Studies in Music Education 14, no. 1 (June 2000): 14–23.; Woody, Robert H. “Explaining Expressive Performance: Component Cognitive Skills in an Aural Modeling Task.” Journal of Research in Music Education 51, no. 1 (June 2003): 51–63.

15. John A. Sloboda. “The Acquisition of Musical Performance Expertise: Deconstructing the “Talent” Account of Individual Differences in Musical Expressivity.” In The Road to Excellence. (London: Psychology Press, 2014): 107–126.

16. Andreas C. Lehmann, John A. Sloboda, and Robert H. Woody. Psychology for Musicians: Understanding and Acquiring the Skills. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007): 87.

17. Aaron Williamon. “A Guide to Enhancing Musical Performance.”  Musical excellence: Strategies and Techniques to Enhance Performance (June 2004): 3–18.

18. Christy Ludlow. “Central Nervous System Control of the Laryngeal Muscles in Humans.”  Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology 147, no. 2–3 (July 2005): 205–222.

19. Miriam van Mersbergen and Elizabeth Lanza. “Modulation of Relative Fundamental Frequency During Transient Emotional States.” Journal of Voice 33, no. 6 (November 2019): 894–899.; Christopher Dromey, Sharee O. Holmes, J. Arden Hopkin, and Kristine Tanner. “The Effects of Emotional Expression on Vibrato.” Journal of Voice 29, no. 2 (March 2015): 170–181.; Leah Helou, J. Richard Jennings, Clark A. Rosen, Wei Wang, and Katherine Verdolini Abbott. “Intrinsic Laryngeal Muscle Response to a Public Speech Preparation Stressor: Personality and Autonomic Predictors.” Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research 63, no. 9 (September 2020): 2940–2951.

20. Persson, 2001.

21. Benjamin P. Gold, Ernest Mas-Herrero, Yashar Zeighami, Mitchel Benovoy, Alain Dagher, and Robert J. Zatorre. “Musical Reward Prediction Errors Engage the Nucleus Accumbens and Motivate Learning.”  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116, no. 8 (February 2019): 3310–3315.

22. Woody and McPherson, 410.

Lynn Maxfield, tenor, is the Director of the Utah Center for Vocology at the University of Utah. He holds a PhD in Voice Pedagogy and an MA in Voice Performance, both from the University of Iowa. In addition to his research activities, he coordinates and teaches at the NCVS’s trademark Summer Vocology Institute. At the University of Utah’s School of Music, he teaches courses in Voice Pedagogy and Vocology.

76 Journal of Singing

Consumption Et Alia

Throughout written history, the disease of tuberculosis has been present. We see examples of tuberculosis in the opera characters of Violetta and Mimi. Often overlooked laryngeal tuberculosis should be of concern to singers because long-term effects could end a singing career. In this article, the history of tuberculosis and the extrapulmonary disease of laryngeal tuberculosis is examined.

prov·e·nance (prǒv´ ə nəns) n. Place of origin, source. [Lat. Provenire, to originate.]

As consumers of the arts, we are active participants. There are times when we may casually partake in the arts—reading a Harlequin Romance novel, listening to music in the background, or watching a not-so-artistic movie to pass the time. However, there are times when audience participation is required to fully understand, digest, or appreciate the gifts being presented through the arts.

Whether it be Aaron Copeland (1900–1990) painting a picture of Americana with Appalachian Spring, Ottorino Respighi (1879–1936) taking us for a walk through the Pines of Rome, or John Cage (1912–1992) commanding we submerge ourselves into often unconscious, mundane sounds with 4’33, to actively participate in the arts requires us to dream—to be present.

Other times, we are asked to accept the implausible. Years ago, I heard the song “Your Daddy’s Son” from the musical Ragtime at a National Association of Teachers of Singing competition. I was transformed. The music was palpable, the emotions overwhelming. I could not wait to assign this song to a student (self-indulgent-perhaps, but truly a well-written song with vocal athleticism.) Then . . . I watched the musical. In the original novel, the character of Sarah is mute. In the musical, the observer is asked to accept this character as mute and yet she confidently sings throughout. One could claim that in the musical she was not considered mute, but I have found no evidence to suggest that the change was made exclusively for the musical. Regardless, there are countless times in the arts in which we are expected to accept the unexpected. More about this later.


Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 77–81

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

“Consumption” is a term used during the 1800s for the disease we now call “tuberculosis” (TB). TB has had many names over the years (thus the et alia in the title), but the use of the word “consumption” prevailed over a century as the name of the mysterious illness which was responsible for devouring the lives of so many. Throughout time TB has had other names:

September/October 2023 77
Kimberly Broadwater
Kimberly Broadwater

• In the Biblical books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus the term schachepheth is used and described as a “wasting disease.” In some translations schachepheth is labelled “consumption;” schachefet is still used as the Hebrew word for TB.1

• The ancient Greeks described phthisis; Hippocrates is often credited with coining this term.2

• Royal Touch or King’s Touch: In England and France, there was a time when monarchs were purported to have healing powers. Edward the Confessor (r. 1042–1066) was one of the first monarchs to claim the power of healing. Coincidental to the act (as he felt responsible for those he touched), Edward would take ownership of their care after the event thus helping to ensure success and belief in his power.3

• White plague: Through anemia due to blood loss, many fair-skinned people became extremely pale, thus ushering in the phrase “White Plague.”4

• Robber of Youth: During the 1700s there was a markedly higher mortality rate with TB in youth.5

• Captain of All These Men of Death: In the 1680 book The Life and Death of Mr. Badman , John Bunyan (1628–1688) wrote the phrase, “Captain of All These Men of Death.” The public quickly began using this phrase to describe deaths from TB.6

• Graveyard Cough: This term is self-explanatory7

TB is a highly contagious disease caused by the mycobacteriam tuberculosis bacteria. The origin of TB is unknown. Ilaria Barberis et. al., have written an exhaustive history of TB which can be referenced for additional information. However, I would like to highlight a few significant events from this history:

TB can be documented back to antiquity. The first evidence of the disease dates to around 17,000 years ago and was found in the remains of bison in Wyoming. Around 2400–3400 B.C., Egyptian mummies displayed evidence of the presence of TB.

• Writers from the ancient world such as Hippocrates, Aristotle, Celso, Aretaeus of Cappadocia, and Caelius Aurelianus spoke of a disease similar to TB which is now accepted as the same illness; Clarissimus Galen spoke of the symptoms of TB and suggested fresh air, milk, and sea voyages for treatment.

• 1600s: Girolama Fracastoro theorized that TB is contagious

• 1720: Benjamin Marten coined the term “Consumption”

• 1793: Matthew Baille coined the term “tubercles” to describe TB abscesses

• 1810: Gaspard-Laurent Bayle described extrapulmonary TB

• 1834: Johann Lukas Schoenlein coined the term “tuberculosis”

• 1854: Hermann Brehmer introduced sanatorium care for TB

• 1865: Jean-Antoine Villemin proved the infectious nature of TB

• 1882: Robert Koch identified, isolated, and cultured the tubercle bacillus in animal serum

• 1907/8 Clemens von Pirquet and Charles Mantoux developed the first test for TB

• 1921: Albert Calmette and Jean-Marie Camille Guerin developed a TB vaccine

• 1943: Selman Waksman, Elizabeth Bugie, Albert Schatz discovered the antibiotic Streptomycin providing front-line treatment for TB8


Treatment for TB through the years were guesses at best. Treatments varied from benign treatments such as rest, nourishing food, fresh air, cold air, hot air, sunbathing, and herbal concoctions to more invasive treatments including bloodletting, purging, inhaling hemlock or turpentine, or purposefully collapsing a lung. However, until the establishment of the understanding of the role of germs with TB, most “treatments” were anything but treatments.

Along with unconventional treatments came odd theories of how TB was disseminated. Some believed long trailing skirts would sweep up germs from the street and would be deposited in homes. Corsets were believed to exacerbate TB by limiting the movement of the lungs and circulation. Long fancy beards, sculpted mustaches, and extravagant sideburns were deemed dangerous.9

Some have concluded that the Industrial Revolution was responsible for a significant increase in cases of TB during the latter part of the 1800s into the 1900s in part because people flocked to high population areas in search of jobs, often not finding adequate housing; overcrowding became the norm. Cheaply made single

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room housing was constructed and if there was much ventilation, it was quite unsatisfactory. People used chamber pots, depositing the contents in cesspools between buildings which were then distributed in local waterways, polluting the drinking water. Malnutrition was the rule. Organized, well-functioning health regulations did not exist. Socioeconomic imbalance prevailed leading to two classes: the rich and poor. The rich were able to afford reasonable lifestyles, improving their odds of avoiding TB while the poor infected one another under squalid circumstances.

Symptoms of TB include, but are not limited to, coughing, emaciation, relentless diarrhea, fever, expectoration of phlegm mixed with bright red blood, and night sweats. There are three stages of TB:

1. Exposure

2. Latent: This is the period in which the body recognizes it is being attacked and tries to fight back. If the body wins, symptoms may never be experienced.

3. Active: Unable to ward off the disease, the body begins to experience symptoms. The time between the Latent stage and the Active stage progresses in a few weeks or years.

India is the world’s leader for persons with TB and TB related deaths.10 1.6 million people died from TB in 2021. The thirty countries with the highest levels of TB accounted for 87% of new cases in 2021.11 In the United States in 2021, there was a 9.9% increase of cases of TB compared to the year before.12


During the mid to late 1800s, many artists became infected with or had loved ones die from TB. Artists tended to be among the poorest, living in less than satisfactory housing conditions and often falling victim to TB more so than the upper class. However, the upper class found fascination not only with the arts themselves, but also with the artists. While there is nothing “romantic” about TB,, the idea of TB carried an air of mystery for those who were looking down at the artistic types, thus creating an air of romanticism. People with TB often presented with rosy cheeks, dilated eyes, and red lips associated with fever. The anemia that often accompanied TB would cause paleness in lighter-colored skins, and some women were so fascinated with the palor that

they would try to emulate the “TB Look” and went as far as chemically altering their skin.13

Frederic Chopin (1810–1849) died at the age of thirtynine. The cause? TB. (Note: there is some disagreement among pathologists stating the cause of death was pericarditis caused by TB.) Chopin experienced poor health throughout his lifetime. It is supposed that he contracted TB in his twenties, however, many of his symptoms from his teen years could suggest an infection at that time. His disease was brutal and he experienced significant diarrhea, shortness of breath, and weight loss. His treatments included bloodletting and purging. At the age of thirty-nine he died after a particularly difficult coughing fit. His death certificate stated he died of tuberculosis of the lungs and larynx.


As with many germs, TB infection is not limited to one anatomical location. The mycobacteriam tuberculosis is capable of invading most anatomical parts of the human body. Below is a list of the most common extrapulmonary TB anatomical locations in the human body:

• Laryngeal: of the larynx

• Lupus vulgaris: of the skin

• Genitourinary: of the kidneys

• Gastrointestinal: within the gastro-intestinal system

• Meningeal: of the spine

• Miliary tuberculosis: of the blood vessels and bone marrow

• Pleural: of the lining of the lungs

• Pericardial: of the lining of the heart

• Pott’s Disease: of the spine

• Scrofula: of the lymph nodes

You may ask, why am I spending so much time on the topic of TB? There is one type of extrapulmonary TB of great interest to the singer: laryngeal tuberculosis (LTB). LTB occurs when the mycobactirium TB bacteria is present within the larynx. LTB can be a primary infection of the larynx or be secondary, metastasizing from primary pulmonary tuberculosis. Less than one percent of all patients with TB will acquire LTB. LTB produces painful ulcers, wheezing, hoarseness, the expectoration of blood, difficulties in swallowing, and stridor. Severe LTB can cause complete closure of the larynx requiring

September/October 2023 79 Provenance

a tracheotomy. Long-term effects can be permanent, based on the severity of the disease.

Generally, the first symptoms of LTB are hoarseness and/or soreness from within the larynx. As the disease progresses, coughing, difficulty swallowing, fevers, weight loss, and fatigue will occur. Ulcerative lesions will be present within the larynx.

It should be of primary concern to voice users that the incidences of LTB have risen in recent years, along with other forms of TB. Due to the increasing numbers of people who are immunocompromised (HIV, lupus, etc.) and drug resistance to TB, cases of TB in the United States have increased. Additionally, due to the rarity of the disease and its propensity to mimic common respiratory illnesses and, more concerningly, symptoms of laryngeal carcinoma, LTB is not always diagnosed in a timely manner. The test for TB can take up to fortyeight hours. A fine-needle aspiration biopsy can be administered on the spot. The rareness of LTB may lead physicians to suspect carcinoma and immediately turn to needle aspiration, which may be needless.


Returning to the introduction: I stated that we are sometimes asked to accept the improbable as consumers of the arts. As it often does, art imitates life. In theatre, ballet, opera, books, and even the visual arts, one can find situations in which consumption is a main character. Alexandre Dumas (1824–1895) witnessed the ravages of consumption, and one such instance was extremely personal. Dumas had a romantic relationship with Marie Duplessis, a known courtesan (or “kept woman”) possessing great beauty. In her early twenties, Duplessis succumbed to TB. Dumas wrote the novel Le Dame aux Camelias loosely on the life of Duplessis. Guiseppe Verdi (1813–1901) wrote an opera, La Traviata, based on Dumas’ novel which features a main character with consumption. The musicals Moulin Rouge and Rent are partially based on Giacomo Puccini’s (1858–1924) opera La bohème, each having a main character with Consumption.

In the world of opera, we are asked to accept that Violetta (La Traviata) and Mimi (La bohème) are both stricken with consumption, yet are both able to sing glorious arias without the slightest sign of weakness.

In the opera, they are not consumed with the vigorous, exhausting bouts of coughing characteristic of TB. There may be gentile references to coughing, but nothing which represents the cough present in cases of TB. Their ultimate deaths are not representative of the horrific suffocation associated with death in TB.

Death resulting from TB is an excruciating, gruesome way to die. Victims will experience significant pain. The tubercle bacilli will invade the nerve tissue causing extreme pain. Fatigue progresses to torpidity. One’s chest feels as if it is imploding. Delirium associated with high fevers wax and wane. Uncontrollable diarrhea is present leading to weight loss. Extreme coughing can lead to broken ribs or ruptured lung tissue. Without treatment, a person would eventually succumb to suffocation. And remember, the patient is contagious and has probably become a pariah due to the disease; as such, caregivers would have abandoned the patient so the ill would hypothetically face these symptoms, and death, alone.

We are asked to believe that Violetta and Mimi are being ravished by TB although we rarely see genuine evidence of the disease in the operas. And we gladly oblige. We are part of the illusion. I am not aware of any “method” of controlled, violent coughing for the stage while allowing a character to maintain their stellar vocal performance. We know it is not possible, so we give composers, directors, and performers permission to defy logic in order to tell a story. One could say, we are part of the deception. I am willing to sacrifice logic to behold the exquisite beauty of Mimi’s voice as she lies dying.


1. Virginia S. Daniel and Thomas M. Daniel. Old Testament Biblical References to Tuberculosis, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 29, Issue 6, December 1999, pages 1557–1558.

2. Patrick K. Moonan. Tuberculosis-the Face of Struggles, the Struggles We Face, and the Dreams That Lie Within, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume24, Issue 3, March 2018, pages 592–593.

3. John F. Murrey et. Al. The King’s Evil and the Royal Touch, The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, Volume 20, Issue 6, June 2016, pages 713–716.

4. John Frith. History of Tuberculosis. Part 1, Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health, Volume 22, Issue 2, June 2014, pages 29–35.

80 Journal of Singing

5. I. Barberis, et. al. “The history of tuberculosis: from the first historical records to the isolation of Koch’s bacillus. Journal of Preventative Medicine and Hygiene. Volume. 58, Issue 1. March 2017.

6. SA Rubin. Tuberculosis. Captain of all these men of death, Radiologic Clinics of North America, Volume 33, Issue 4, July 1995, pages 619–39.

7. John Firth, Ibid.

8. I. Barberis, et al. Ibid.

9. Lindsey Pogue. Corsets, Beards, and Bustles: How Tuberculosis shaped Victorian fashion. 10 Aug 2021 https://www. Corsets%2C%20too%2C%20came%20under%20attack, corsets%20of%20the%20Victorian%20era. 1 Mar 2023.

10. Patrick K. Moonan. Ibid.

11. World Health Organization. Tuberculosis . 21 October 2022 tuberculosis 2 March 2023.

12. World Health Organization. National Data, 29 November 2022 national_data.htm#:~:text=Reported%20Tuberculosis%20 in%20the%20United%20States%2C%202021&text=In%20 2021%2C%20the%20United%20States,Mortality%3A%20 1953%E2%80%932021) 2 March 2023.

13. Michael Barrett. How a Generation of Consumptives Defined 19th-Century Romanticism, 10 April 2017 ideas/how-a-generation-of-consumptives-defined-19thcentury-romanticism 2 March 2023.

Dr. Kimberly Broadwater serves as an Associate Professor of Music at Mississippi Valley State University and as Music Coordinator, and serves as chair of its Institutional Review Board. Dr. Broadwater teaches private voice lessons, Vocal Pedagogy, Diction, and Class Voice. She is an active performer, and presents workshops and master classes.

As a researcher, Dr. Broadwater maintains an active pursuit of new data and historical information. She has presented “The Effects of Singing on Blood Pressure in Classically Trained Singers” and “Environmental versus Biological Effects of the Human Voice” at the Voice Foundation’s Annual Care of the Professional Voice Symposium, and “Video Conferencing in the Voice Studio: Is the Technology There?” at the Pacific Voice and Speech Foundation and UCLA Voice Center for Medicine and the Arts Voice Conference.

Hailed as a singing actress, Dr. Broadwater has performed in operas, oratorios, symphonic literature, and in recital. A native of Cleveland, Mississippi, Dr. Broadwater received the Bachelor of Music degree in vocal performance from Delta State University, the Master of Music degree in vocal performance from Louisiana State University, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in vocal performance with an emphasis in voice science at Louisiana State University.

NATSCast is the official podcast network of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. NATS is pleased to present this group of podcasts offering quality resources for voice teachers and singers. These NATSCast podcasts are produced by NATS members. See more at and check out the following podcasts:

The Full Voice, The Holistic Voice, New York Vocal Coaching, VocalFri, Too Many Frocks, and The Business Savvy Singer with Greta Pope.

NATSCast is the official podcast network of the National Association of Teachers of Singing. NATS is pleased to present this group of podcasts offering quality resources for voice teachers and singers. These NATSCast podcasts are produced by NATS members. See more at and check out the following podcasts: The Full Voice, The Holistic Voice, New York Vocal Coaching, VocalFri, Too Many Frocks, and The Business Savvy Singer with Greta Pope.

September/October 2023 81 Provenance

The Art of Collaboration

JANUARY 6–8, 2024


Embark on a transformative journey through the captivating realm of collaboration across classical, jazz, musical theatre and commercial music. Our exceptional lineup of musicians, insiders, and visionary collaborators will share their stories and strategies, empowering you to build connections and thrive in the ever-evolving music industry. PLUS, see collaboration in action at the semifinals and finals of NMTC and NATSAA!

More presenters to be announced!

Early-bird deadline: Nov. 15, 2023 | $249 NATS member rate ($299 after Nov. 15)

Register at
Warren Jones Collaborative Pianist Rachelle Jonck Bel Canto Bootcamp Ann Evans Watson Collaborative Artist

Margo Garrett: A Model of Mentorship

This column, renamed “Collaborations” and the first under the new editorship of the Journal of Singing, pays tribute to the groundbreaking contributions of the inimitable and indomitable collaborative pianist Margo Garrett. As an inspiration and role model for so many musicians, Margo Garrett has had a particularly significant influence on the fields of collaborative and vocal arts. The authors consider the pianist’s role as mentor, and celebrate the qualities that have made Margo Garrett such an exceptional model of mentoring with interviews of colleagues, performing partners, friends and former collaborative piano students.

Pianists have a special role in the world of voice; many roles, in fact, that operate simultaneously in any given situation. Amidst the routine partnering of pianists and singers in rehearsals, lessons and performances, there is a special camaraderie that often develops between pianist and partner, which, at its best, nurtures a safe space for musical exploration and expressive freedom. This camaraderie often extends from the music-making to personal encouragement, support, and even guidance. Pianists who coach have a more articulated and developed role dedicated to the nurturing and support of a singer’s talent, including advising on repertoire, refining language skills, guiding nuanced interpretation of text, and more. In addition to a pianist’s role in teaching other pianists, this interplay between musical partnership and coaching invites pianists into the realm of mentoring, and allows for a broad process by which many musicians grow.

In other words, mentoring is not only reserved for the primary studio teacher in a higher education setting. It is a collaborative journey that involves a range of teachers, partners, and experiences. We can, if we are lucky, cross paths with extraordinary human beings who help us see ourselves more clearly and who nudge us—warmly, encouragingly, firmly—on a felicitous path. There is an art to this, to mentoring. Thankfully, among pianist-coaches, we have some beautiful models.

Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 83–88

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

In writing our first collaborative column, the authors want to pay tribute to the groundbreaking contributions of the inimitable and indomitable Margo Garrett. As an inspiration and role model for so many musicians, Margo has had a particularly significant influence on the field of collaborative and vocal arts. In addition to her stellar career as a performing artist, the collaborative piano programs she directed at Juilliard, New England Conservatory, and the University of Minnesota established standards of teaching and curricula. Margo is also an impactful influencer through her way of being in this world; her work with artists and institutions sowed seeds of “integrity and discipline,” as characterized by soprano and longtime performance partner Dawn Upshaw.1 Her work inaugurating and authoring this column (hereto-

September/October 2023 83
Alison d’Amato
Elvia Puccinelli Alison d’Amato and Elvia Puccinelli

fore known as “CollabCorner”) among other initiatives, firmly founded a much-needed place for pianists within the NATS community. Through these activities, Margo has directly inspired the lives and careers of pianists and singers around the world and has been a model of gracious and generous mentorship.

In considering the pianist’s role as mentor, the authors spoke with a sampling of colleagues, performing partners, friends and former collaborative piano students about the qualities that have made Margo such an exceptional model of mentoring.2 The universal response was awe and gratitude for her musicianship, integrity, perceptiveness and directness, bound together with the care and respect for those with whom she worked. Pianist John Churchwell succinctly characterized her as “a quadruple threat: teacher, mentor and performer AND just a beautiful human being.” To what more can one aspire? Pianist Joel Harder, who describes Margo as “one of the greatest ambassadors to our field internationally,” spoke of the “combination of deep and profound sense of artistry with a grounded and pragmatic mentoring personality.”

This column celebrates this remarkable person and the components of the mentorship she embodied: stunning artistry, wide-ranging knowledge, impactful teaching, effective communication, generous approachability, and gracious humanity.

“You are a pianist first” (Joel Harder)

All those we interviewed cited Margo’s “exquisite playing,” as described by coach-conductor Pierre Vallet. Margo’s reputation as a tremendous pianist is well-established; J.J. Penna characterizes her sound as “warm, symphonic, generous, miraculously rich and diaphanous at the same time.” It should be noted that all collaborative pianists begin as solo pianists, and that is their first context for learning the technique, imagination, control, and discipline for crafting sound through their fingertips. As Kayo Iwama notes, applying that technique to text-based music requires a new understanding of structures.

There’s a certain kind of solo pianistic writing that just becomes part of us, and then we think it means the same thing on the page as it does in an art song and it doesn’t at all. The horizontal trumps the vertical: it guides the vertical.

The “horizontal” in a vocal work is shaping and movement that is informed by the idiomatic expression of the text, something both singer and pianist serve. Song collab oration requires an understanding of how phrasing is inflected through syntax as well as rhyme schemes, alliteration and assonance, and a range of onomatopoeic elements. While singers study languages to literally give voice to the words, pianists must take language into their playing in multifaceted and multi-layered ways. First, pianists need to know languages to play with the phrases being sung, with all the nuances of stress and texture that distinguishes the idioms. Second, the accompaniment to the words provides an atmosphere of meaning and sound to the poetry, often full of motives and textures with direct meanings to specific words and symbols. Margo has spent her career exploring and explicating the connections between words and sound, and her approaches as a pianist and teacher have raised art song collaborations to their highest levels.

Singers cherish the experience of performing with Margo. Soprano Jane Olian said that “singing with Margo was one of the greatest experiences of my life– I don’t know when I’ve felt that buoyed up and lifted up and transported.” Dawn Upshaw was “awed by her,” and said it was a “powerful experience as a young singer to perform with this woman” who was so “honest and open about the sensual . . . and this comes through in her playing and teaching.”

A teacher who is “fierce and demanding”



and “nurturing and empowering”

Margo’s long-standing reputation as a teacher and coach is of the highest order. John Churchwell says that, through his work with her, “I learned to trust myself. I learned to teach myself . . . [The work] catapulted me years ahead. Her mission was to empower you: ‘You can do this and you can help others to do this.’”

I love that she’s fierce as a teacher, that she’s demanding. She brings out much more than you ever thought you could do, that you had in you. That’s because she

84 Journal of Singing
Margo Garrett

has really high standards, and she doesn’t give you any baloney. She goes straight to the point. –

Margo was such an extraordinary teacher. Her love for the music and her passion for sharing it on—it just makes you want to dig deep and find that same sort of passion within yourself. –

Of course, how one prepares and makes music naturally informs how one teaches. When asked what specific teaching or playing approaches pianists learned from Margo, four key points repeatedly emerged:

1) Sound, texture and the importance of the left hand

All the pianists interviewed learned deep explorations of tone, resonance, and nuanced use of pedal, as well as what pianist JJ Penna described as “physical embodiment of the music.”

the sound and the counterpoint came from . . . She was never somebody who would sacrifice the music for the balance. I go back to some old recording of hers and, man, she plays out! There’s none of this ‘behind the potted plant’ kind of playing.

Soprano Jane Olian recalled a story that illustrates the priority of the left-hand in Margo’s own playing: Margo’s audition to play for soprano Kathleen Battle.

Margo got a call from Kathleen Battle’s agent, and she went to the apartment on Central Park West and said ‘well, I don’t know what good I am to you, since I can only play with my left hand.’ This is probably the only time I’ve known her to be on some sort of physical therapy . . . she had developed some injury and she was not supposed to use her right hand. And Kathy said that’s fine, and she sang a spiritual and had Margo just chord it with her left hand. And Margo said ‘I don’t know what this is telling you,’ and Kathy said ‘you’ve shown me all I need to know.’ And she hired her.

2) Awareness of text

Particularly sound, touch, color . . . those are the things that we focused on most. And it was mostly about maximizing the resonance of the instrument. That was something at the front of her radar, how we build sound from the bass up. Using the resonance as it’s notated in the score to its maximum effect . . . it really mirrors her personality– this gentle approach that can still be firm and formed and detailed, but that invites listening, that invites the warmth out of the instrument. -

I learned how to see myself as ‘a real pianist’ but also sensitive to sharing within a musical partnership . . . She unlocked so many things in my playing. Orchestral colors now were easier to find. [I became] comfortable in my body again . . . using weight, color and sonority . . . and pedaling with sensitivity. – Joel

Sound and nuance was how she breathed . . . Margo really connects to the atmospherics of what we do. She has a way of turning the ‘sacred notation’ into a sensation, something holistic. To be connected in that way to layers of sound and sound-making is something I just associate with Margo all the time. – JJ

The left hand has a heightened importance in collaborative playing and it was something Margo emphasized in both her teaching and her own playing. In addition to giving him “permission to play,” Joel Harder affirms that Margo “woke up my left hand.” Lydia Brown said She always told me to play from the left hand, and I still tell my students that. She always told me that was where

Margo’s love for art song and languages built long-standing relationships and teaching principles that became cornerstones of her work. Tim Lovelace recalls that song repertoire courses were “at the heart of her collaborative piano programs,” and that she would consistently bring in language specialists to teach classes with her. He recalls the specific way of addressing the “stress and release” of language to effect inflection, and how the rhythm of the text influences the rubato. Donna Gill has stories of her booming “voce di coce,” often singing “Somewhere over the Rainbow” to demonstrate “gooey consonants and enunciation.”3 By claiming language as the domain of both the singer and the pianist in a duo, Margo strengthened partnerships and elevated the field of vocal collaboration.

I felt like Margo was of the same world which I was, which was to come to a song via the text. She was a mentor of mine from the beginning and then we performed many years together. The very first project she chose for me at Tanglewood was Rachmaninoff op. 38, and she was asking a lot of me—I had never sung in Russian. Her love for languages, really making a point to better understand how to best express one’s self in the language, in the life [of the language]. – Dawn Upshaw

September/October 2023 85 Collaborations

3) Musical leadership

Lucy Shelton remembered meeting Margo in 1980 at the Naumburg Competition, and subsequently doing many “very precious” concerts with this “amazing woman” and building a “partnership and beautiful friendship.”

Margo said to me many times, ‘You know, Lucy, you taught me something: Don’t follow so much! You must understand your leadership. Put down the music strongly, and don’t wait for your singer to join you.’ That was one of our best learning dialogues that made a difference. And she always gave her most, and it was always beautiful. – Lucy Shelton

In addition to learning “heightened awareness and unending openness” from Margo, J.J. Penna talked about the concept of “handing a full cup” to a singer, giving them “something fully formed rather than waiting for them to tell you.”

4) Dedication and discipline

One aspect of a collaborative pianist’s career is that every project demands adaptation of skills to a new musical partner and personality. Each singer brings their unique sound and artistry into the collaboration, and there is a corresponding sound world for the pianist to create. Margo met every partnership with “integrity and discipline” (as described by Dawn Upshaw), building the foundation of the work on “what exists in the music instead of what you think you should do with it,” as Laura Loewen expressed.

Her artistry didn’t come from any sort of magic, but from really hard work. She practiced like a demon. She wasn’t afraid to show what was behind the curtain, and that was incredibly valuable. Because when you’re a student you don’t always see the path to your teacher’s level that they have attained; It’s like a magical realm that they inhabit. She showed there were steps, and a pathway–extremely hard work and sacrifices. – Kayo Iwama

Recognizing the individual: “She has that way of seeing people” (Erika Switzer)

She was not only a great teacher and coach, but a “birther”—she gave birth to people’s talent in a most respected way. She had the talent of seeing the future of people, the talent beyond the talent, and the growth beyond what singers thought they would go to . . . I

learned from her that our job as coaches and mentors is to see where the talent can go. – Pierre Vallet

Perhaps the greatest gift and challenge for collaborative artists is to meet the spontaneity of each experience with a grounded understanding of self and one’s own tools. Dawn Upshaw has seen first-hand that Margo’s “wonderful self-esteem and faith in herself” helped students find their own path. By all accounts, she was fully present with whomever was in the room, and created a space that was at once caring, demanding, humorously engaging and deeply respectful.

She made you feel as though she was creating this dialogue specifically for you at that very moment, and it was related to both you and your relationship with the instrument. – JJ Penna

She was a different teacher with everybody. She understood at some very deep level what you needed to hear and how you needed to hear it . . . Because she respected us, because she believed in us, she could tell us anything, and that respect laid a path of openness and ease. – Laura

I thought that Margo saw me as a whole human, not just as a music student . . . I arrived at her studio from Germany and I’d had some difficult times there. She identified that in a heartbeat and set a boundary, and said ‘Here we’re going to work on the music, and then you’re going to go to counseling and you’re going to work on everything else.’ It made me realize that she saw all of me. That was a pivotal moment, that really tells the story of the way that she expresses care . . . to our community, which is one of the hallmarks of her impact.

Leading with “graciousness and humanity”

(Kayo Iwama)

Margo’s generous and authentic presence has been an empowering force for generations of pianists, and she has had a profound impact on innumerable collaborative artists and on the musicians they now teach and coach. The collaborative piano programs she designed are among the strongest in the world, and they have produced artists that are impacting music and education in myriad ways. According to John Churchwell, Margo’s goal “was to teach herself out of a job” by teaching her students to trust and teach themselves.

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“Mentor” is exactly the right word because there is music there, but there’s a kind of guidance all along towards this sense of being led towards a better version of yourself through her care and through her vision. –

She didn’t shy away from the hard conversations. In the world of the vocal coach, there was a lot of condescension to singers. Margo never, ever did that. She always led with kindness. Nowadays we have meditation apps and podcasts to remind us of that, but she just did it naturally. It was a part of her. –

She taught the way she wanted us to be . . . I remember once a lesson when a singer walked in and she complimented her on her shoes and got a smile from the singer. And went on to tell her what beautiful eyes she had, and how she needed to use those eyes to communicate. It always felt like she meant everything she said, and because of her genuine character I saw that she got responses from people that always came from a real place. She was on both sides of the spectrum—critical and complimentary, but always from a place of honesty. –

She showed me how to deal with stuff with grace, respect for everybody and an understanding of where everybody was coming from. I’ve got this model of this woman who showed me that you can be strong and respectful–you don’t have to fight people. You meet them where they’re at. And you meet them with the same amount of energy that they’re giving you, but your own energy. –

She really taught us all about just being a human being, how to work with other people, to respect people. I absolutely would not be who I am today without her. –

Among the many privileges of making music is the opportunity to empower those we work with and the responsibility to carry knowledge from one generation to the next. In exploring the attributes and methods of this remarkable artist and mentor, the authors humbly hope to further extend her influence by allowing her model to offer us all a path by which we can increase our own ability to lift up those we meet in art and in life. Or, more simply put, as J.J. Penna said, “ . . . if everybody tried to be more like Margo . . .”

The authors of this column share the admiration, respect, awe and gratitude our interviewees universally expressed, and we extend sincere and heartfelt gratitude to Margo Garrett whose pioneering efforts created and developed a much needed and deeply valuable focus on pianists and coaches within the NATS community. For this, and for so many other things, Margo—Thank you!


1. Personal communication with the authors.

2. The authors wish to thank the following colleagues for their time, their reflections in interviews, and their permission to be quoted for this article:

• Lydia Brown: Chair of Collaborative Piano, The Juilliard School; Vocal Program Coordinator, Marlboro Music Festival and School

• John Churchwell: Director of Music (Vocal Institute), Music Academy of the West; Head of Music Staff, San Francisco Opera

• Donna Gill: Vocal Arts Faculty (Evening Division), The Juilliard School; Precollege Faculty, Manhattan School of Music

• Joel Harder: Assistant Professor of Collaborative Piano, Binghamton University

• Kayo Iwama: Associate Director of Graduate Vocal Arts Program, Bard University

• Laura Loewen: Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programs, Desautels Faculty of Music, University of Manitoba

• Tim Lovelace: Head of Collaborative Piano program, University of Minnesota

• Jane Olian: Vocal Arts Faculty (Evening Division), The Juilliard School; Precollege Faculty, Manhattan School of Music

• JJ Penna: Vocal Coach, New England Conservatory; Lecturer in Voice and Opera, Yale School of Music

• Lucy Shelton: Contemporary Performance Program faculty, Manhattan School of Music

• Erika Switzer: Assistant Professor of Music, Bard College; Co-Founder, Sparks and Wiry Cries

• Dawn Upshaw: Head of Vocal Arts Program, Tanglewood Music Festival

• Pierre Vallet: Conductor, Metropolitan Opera

3. Note: pronounce the |o| in the nonsense word “coce” to rhyme with the Italian word “voce” (voice) in order to understand the meaning, which is “exaggerated singing of the coach to demonstrate an idea.”

September/October 2023 87 Collaborations
* * *
Pianist Dr. Alison d’Amato (she/they) is Associate Professor of Vocal Coaching at the Eastman School of Music. She has been working for

more than twenty-five years as a collaborative pianist, teacher, and music director. Known as a trailblazer in the field of art song, she directs her passion for song’s rich history towards generating new music and merging its past with its present.

Dr. d’Amato’s breadth of artistic experience has made her a valued partner in creative projects and an effective leader in several organizations. She is Artistic Co-Director of Florestan Recital Project, one of the earliest organizations to champion art song performances, recordings, and mentoring. She is Program Co-Director of (art) Song Lab, an intensive which brings together writers, composers, and performers to create new art songs. In 2022, she assumed the role of Program Director for ArtsBridge Summer ArtSong.

Dr. d’Amato attended Oberlin College and Conservatory, and earned a double Master of Music degree in solo and collaborative piano from Cleveland Institute of Music. She received the Grace B. Jackson Prize from Tanglewood Music Center acknowledging her ‘extraordinary commitment of talent and energy.’ In 2007, she received a DMA in Collaborative Piano from New England Conservatory.


Deeply committed to nurturing a collaborative and inclusive culture in our world by fostering the collaborative ideals of partnership, participation and presence, pianist Elvia L. Puccinelli is a recognized leader in connecting collaborative pianists, supporting their needs and elevating their voices. Founder and President of the International Keyboard Collaborative Arts Society, a professional association for collaborative pianists (www.ikcas. org), she is also Founder and Artistic Director of CollabFest, a professional conference devoted exclusively to collaborative piano.

A dedicated educator in the field of collaborative arts and a specialist in vocal literature, she is vocal coach and director of the Collaborative Piano program at the University of North Texas College of Music, where she has served on the faculty since 2004. A published author on topics of song literature and collaborative piano techniques, the Tanglewood alumna has served as faculty or clinician at universities and training programs throughout the world, including over a dozen years with Ann Baltz’s OperaWorks. Currently also serving on the NATS Journal of Singing Editorial Board, Elvia holds the MM and DMA in collaborative piano from USC, under the mentorship of Alan Smith.

Alumni Lucia Cervoni, Clarence Frazer, Joel Ivany, Adrianne Pieczonka, Michael Schade, and John Tessier exemplify the success of our program.

88 Journal of Singing
Alison d’Amato and Elvia Puccinelli
Performance BMus in Music Education MMus in Performance
in Voice

To watch the full interview on YouTube, scan the QR code at the end of the article or go to and search for “Leslie Holmes.”

A Conversation with Leslie Holmes

Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 89–91

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

The world is full of friends y ou haven’t met yet.” Little did her father know, but this advice would serve Leslie Holmes well over her twenty-four years of interviewing some of the greatest performing artists of our time. In a recent tally, Leslie counted interviews with sixty-five artists, most of whom were singers. She began her illustrious journey as an interviewer with WCRB FM Classical Radio Boston, and then began this very column, “The Vocal Point,” in 2000. Regular Journal of Singing readers know the fruits of her labors well. Her interviews with some of the biggest names in classical music can be accessed via the Journal of Singing Index and all readers are encouraged to explore this treasure trove of vocal wisdom.1

Leslie credits her own understanding of the voice, being a singer herself, as the key to connecting more deeply with the artists she interviewed. She has been a soloist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the Opera Company of Boston, the Chorus Pro Musica, the MIT Choral Society, the Wellesley Choral Society, the Wellesley College Choir, and the Wellesley Symphony Orchestra. An avid recitalist, she has presented many recitals of music by women composers, French composers, American songbook composers, and cabaret composers.

One memorable moment in Leslie’s career as writer of “The Vocal Point” column was her interview with Kristin Chenoweth, a captivating artist who shot to stardom for originating the role of Glinda in Wicked and has since become a household name. 2,3 Ms. Chenoweth told her manager that the interview with Leslie Holmes stood out as the best interview experience she had ever had. Leslie recounted the interview experience.

I was told by her manager that the interview would be fifteen or twenty minutes, and I

September/October 2023 89
Leslie Holmes discusses memorable moments of her twenty-four year tenure as associate editor of “The Vocal Point” column. She shares tips for interviewing the greatest performing artists of our time. Melissa Treinkman Melissa Treinkman Leslie Holmes

thought, well, okay, that’s better than nothing. Well, an hour later she said, ‘I’d really better get ready.’ But she told her manager (and this will sound like I’m tooting my horn, but I’m not). . . . he told me she came out after I left and she said to him, ‘Sit down, come sit. That was the best interview I have ever had.’ And I think it wasn’t because I was so great, it was because I’m a singer and we talked about the voice as your soul and your inner being, and I don’t think anyone had ever broached that kind of a subject with her before.4

Leslie attributes the depth of their discussion to the fact that they, as two like-minded singers, connected on a more profound level than might be expected in a traditional interview. Perhaps her ability to connect on a soulful level was the reason Leslie often ended interviews feeling as if she had made a new friend.

After twenty-four years of experience, what are Leslie’s top three tips for capturing an exceptional interview?

Number one: Be real. Number two: Know as much as possible about the person you are interviewing. Number three: Have a sense of humor. One might notice that these three tips could also be good “rules of thumb” for excellent relationships of any kind. Teachers of singing could also extrapolate these tips to the craft of voice teaching. Great singing teachers should be open and honest with their students. They should know each student as a unique individual and seek to deeply understand the student’s specific goals. And finally, there is immense value in incorporating humor and fun into voice lessons. Leslie also commented on the importance of truly listening and being present to the person you are talking to, instead of having an agenda or thinking about the next thing you will say. Leslie comments, “It’s kind of a funny comparison, but it’s like a newscaster. You can tell which newscasters are kind of reading their script, looking for more questions and which newscasters are really listening and being moved by what they hear.”5 Again, great voice teachers would probably agree that this characteristic of being intensely present and open to the unknown path a lesson may take creates an optimal environment for results in the voice studio.

Moving forward, “The Vocal Point” will retain its overarching goal of giving readers a glimpse into the lives and artistic processes of elite artists. In addition, this column will include interviews with both classical and musical theatre singers, to showcase this very vibrant

community and serve the large number of Journal of Singing readers who teach both singing styles. The column will continue its mission to inform readers about the realities of a high-level singing career and offer inspiration to those wishing to follow such a path, or mentor others to do so. One exciting change is the new hybrid format of this column. Starting in this very issue, readers can scan the QR code found at the bottom of this article and will be able to view an edited portion of the live interview. The addition of the video interview to the existing written format serves to expand the audience for the Journal of Singing, allows NATS members to hear artists speak in their own voices, and creates a unique historic record of the artists of our time.

We thank Leslie Holmes for her tremendous service to NATS and the Journal of Singing. In addition to her associate editorship of “The Vocal Point” column, Leslie also served NATS as a past New England Regional Governor, a testament to her unfailing support and love for the organization. Her interviews served to inform, entertain, and inspire readers for the many years she helmed the “Vocal Point” column. She certainly made a “point” of giving artists the space to share their hearts so intimately.


1. The the Journal of Singing Index can be accesed at https://

2. Holmes, Leslie. “A Conversation with Kristin Chenoweth, Part 1.” Journal of Singing 74, no. 3 (2018): 349–352.

3. Holmes, Leslie. “A Conversation with Kristin Chenoweth, Part 2.” Journal of Singing 74, no. 4 (2018): 461–465.



Melissa Treinkman is an assistant professor of musical theatre at the University of Southern California, where she teaches applied voice and vocal pedagogy. She earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from USC and was the recipient of the Thornton Vocal Arts Outstanding Graduate Award.

Dr. Treinkman has presented at the National Association of Teachers of Singing Conference, the Pan American Vocology Association Conference, the Association of Popular Music Education Conference, the Fall Voice Conference, the Northwest Voice Conference, and the Voice Foundation Symposium. Her publications can be found in the Journal of Singing and the Journal of Voice. Dr. Treinkman was the 2020 recipient of the Voice

90 Journal of Singing

Foundation’s Sataloff Award for Young Investigators and was the first researcher to win the award in the category of vocal pedagogy.

As a mezzo-soprano, Treinkman has sung with Chicago Opera Theatre, Sarasota Opera, Opera North, Utah Opera, and Cedar Rapids Opera. At Los Angeles Opera, she sang in the featured ensemble for the GRAMMY award winning production of The Ghosts of Versailles , performed the role of the Vendor in Carmen and performed the role of a Noble Page

in Tannhäuser. She is also a member of the LA Opera Chorus. www.

Scan this QR code to watch Melissa Treinkman’s full Leslie Holmes interview on YouTube .


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• PURPOSE: NATS discretionary funds are intended to assist NATS chapters and regions in sponsoring master classes and lectures, recitals, workshops, and other activities that enrich the professional life of students and teachers. Preference will be given to requests from organizations that have not previously received NATS discretionary funds and those sponsoring groups for whom NATS discretionary funds will permit the offering of quality events not otherwise possible.

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September/October 2023 91 The Vocal Point

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Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 93–94

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing


A listing of recent theses or dissertations as listed by ProQuest in 2023. Each citation includes the ProQuest/Author Abstract and a citation to locate the full-length document online.

The following list of recent research in singing is a brief sampling of dissertations/theses published during the last year. It is by no means comprehensive and reflects only a small fraction of the available documents. If you have published recent research in singing, voice pedagogy, voice science, vocal repertoire, pedagogic methodology, or other topics of interest to the membership of NATS, please send citations and abstracts to Donald Simonson at for review and possible inclusion in future columns.

Lani, Maisha, “A Praxis Lens: The World Through Music Practice.” M.F.A. Thesis, Mills College, 2023, 44 pages; ProQuest 2804975080.

“This thesis explores the different ways that the concept of practice is defined, interpreted and implemented for a group of ten musicians. By allowing the word practice to take on an expanded meaning, I investigate the essential facets of these musicians’ practice rituals. Learning the impacts that having a practice has had on this group is what leads me to considering Aristotle’s elucidation of the word praxis and this then guides me to expounding upon one of my own practices: composition. Through my research I examine how an artist’s praxis can become a pillar of support and inspiration.” (ProQuest/ Author Abstract)

Maddava, Karuna, “Engaging Improvisations: Conversations with Jazzwomen.” M.A. Thesis, Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, Graduate School—Newark, 2023, 300 pages; ProQuest 2801818687.

“This project is the interweaving of two stories: women in jazz and the power of improvisation. A performance in three acts, Part I explores the history of women in jazz through an intersectional lens followed by an examination of jazz and interviewing as improvisatory arts. Part II presents interviews with six contemporary female jazz instrumentalists: two saxophonists, a pianist, a bassist, a trombonist and a violinist. Conversations are viewed as improvised duets in which I perform as a member of the ensemble, bringing my own voice, rhythm and musicality to play. Interviews are interspersed with post-performance commentary to complete each arrangement. Part III deconstructs common themes from these conversations, discusses the current status of women in jazz, and contemplates the promise improvisation holds in a broader context.” (ProQuest/Author Abstract)

Russell, Regan Heather, “Love in a Life: The Art Songs of Gena Branscombe.” D.M.A. Dissertation, Boston University, 2023, 294 pages; ProQuest 2753279039.

“Gena Branscombe (1881–1977) was a Canadian American pianist, composer, conductor, educator, and advocate for music by women and American com -

September/October 2023 93
Donald Simonson

posers. In her day, she was well-known as a conductor of her own works and regularly performed the music of her contemporaries with her all-women’s chorus, the Branscombe Choral. Although she published hundreds of pieces for piano, voice, violin, orchestra, and mixed voices—among them the 1929 choral drama  Pilgrims of Destiny—Branscombe’s music was largely forgotten in the mid- to late-twentieth century amidst a cultural moment in the arts that was dominated by men, those of European descent or training, and post-tonal compositional trends. This research project aims to revive Branscombe’s life, legacy, and music by examining her songs for voice and piano, both tracing their compositional development and suggesting song sets appropriate for recital performance. The paper analyzes dozens of original manuscripts, describes connections between texts and their musical settings, and explores Branscombe’s artistic purpose through her own words, from speeches given at various club meetings to letters written to her publishers. In these materials is revealed an incredible woman who was wrongfully lost to American classical music, a woman who deserves to be reintroduced to the music classroom and to the performance stage.”

(ProQuest/Author Abstract)

Shoemaker, Hayley K., “ Defining Micro-Opera: A New Operatic Genre.” D.M.A. Dissertation, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2023, 147 pages; ProQuest 2801909824.

“In nearly every era of opera, smaller forms have developed alongside their larger counterparts. In the baroque and classical eras, there were the  intermezzi. The romantic era saw the development of one-act opera and operetta. In the 20th century, modernism inspired the birth of Germany’s Zeitoper and the rise of chamber opera. Today, we have micro-opera. Although there is an ever-growing body of work, this art form has yet to be cohesively defined as a genre.

“This document defines micro-opera as a sub-genre of 21st century opera, though it is a descendant of 20thcentury modernist operatic forms. From these forms, it drew two of its most evident features: intimacy and brevity. These short, intimate operas gained further

identity in the 21st century as librettists and composers centered on topical plots and situations. While eclectic in style, there is a uniformity of post-tonal harmonic and melodic techniques employed, deepening the connection between micro-opera and modernism. As a highly adaptable genre, the sets are often simple and practical, allowing for easy travel and a modest budget. The genre’s practicality is furthered by the small amount of required personnel. These factors all lend themselves to digital performance, a trend that became prevalent with the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Though there are similar vocal forms (chamber opera, one-act opera, monodrama, etc.), micro-opera’s unique combination of characteristics necessitates its designation as a distinct operatic sub-genre.

“Micro-opera’s unique qualities have spawned the interests of several opera companies, festivals, and initiatives. Many have commissioned and performed these works in recent years, examples include Minnesota Opera, Cleveland Opera Theatre, OperaVision, and One Ounce Opera, among others. Several academic institutions have also benefitted as the genre serves as a useful pedagogical tool as well as an economic performance option. Micro-opera composers, producers, and performers agree that the genre will continue to be a relevant performance option in the 21st century it inspires diversity and vitality within the operatic community.” (ProQuest/Author Abstract)

Donald Simonson is an Emeritus Morrill Professor of Music and Theatre at Iowa State University. There he taught voice, voice pedagogy, and conducted music theater and opera. He has served NATS at all levels, first as chapter auditions chair, secretary/treasurer, district governor, and regional governor. In 1998 he conceived and coordinated the first ever call for papers for a NATS Conference. He continued in that role until he assumed the position of Vice President for NATSAA in 2006. In 2008 he was elected to the position of NATS President Elect, moving to the role of President in 2010 and Past President in 2012. His service to NATS includes numerous designations as a Master Teacher for the NATS Intern Program. In 2015 he was elected to membership in the American Academy of Teachers of Singing. In addition to his NATS activity and teaching, Simonson has been active in the research lab, with the results published in scientific journals and presented at conferences and symposia both here and abroad.

94 Journal of Singing

Debra Greschner reviews three recent publications. Perfect Italian Diction for Singers: An Authoritative Guide by Timothy Cheek and Anna Toccafondi (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2022) is highly recommended as a guide to achieving accurate Italian lyric diction that is informed by current practice and pedagogy. The text includes an overview of the language and insight into its salient features. Musical Theater Voice Pedagogy: The Art and Science by Christopher Arneson and Kirsten S. Brown (Gahanna, OH: Inside View Press, 2023) provides information to classically trained pedagogues who wish to begin teaching musical theater singers. The book discusses musical theater pedagogy from perspectives of both voice science and artistry. Uniting Music and Poetry in Twentieth-Century Spain by Nelson R. Orringer (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2021) proffers a study of nine pairings of twentieth century Spanish composers and poets.

Cheek, Timothy and Anna Toccafondi. Perfect Italian Diction for Singers: An Authoritative Guide. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2022. Paper, xix, 228 pp., $45.00

ISBN 978-1-5381-6341-2; eBook

Journal of Singing, September/October 2023

Volume 80, No. 1, pp. 95–97

Copyright © 2023

National Association of Teachers of Singing

$42.50 ISBN 978-1-5381-634142-9

At first glance, the use of the adjectives “perfect” and “authoritative” in the title of this volume appears to be (to use a word with appropriate Italian antecedents) braggadocio. However, the titular use of these terms is addressed in the preface by authors Timothy Cheek and Anna Toccafondi. Although perfection is unattainable, the volume is intended as a guide for singers to achieve such prowess in Italian lyric diction that they can serve as models for others. Moreover, the volume is authoritative because it balances pronunciation rules with information about the history and character of the language. The authors do not represent the book as a treatise on Italian linguistics, but rather a resource that draws upon current Italian practice and pedagogy.

Cheek and Toccafondi lay the foundation for accurate, expressive lyric Italian diction with elucidation of the roots of both the spoken and written language. Significant influences on the development of the language include the Roman Catholic Church, literary works that codified the vernacular, and the Accademia della Crusca. This latter institution, which was founded in 1583, is dedicated to the study and pronunciation of Italian. The text traces the connection between the Italian language and the development of opera, and explains how Standard Italian, which is being used more widely, differs from regional dialects.

The authors present the rules for pronunciation in a methodic way, as well as guidance in stress and length, double consonants, and phrasal doublings. A chapter is devoted to the pronunciation of e and o, both stressed and unstressed, and readers are warned of pitfalls and

common errors. However, the authors move beyond mere pronunciation rules. One of the most noteworthy features of the volume is its detailed advice about reference tools. The authors delineate how specific dictionaries indicate stress, how to interpret symbols used in each volume, and whether pronunciation for conjugated verbs is included. Another notable feature is the inclusion of numerous audio and video examples accessible with QR codes.

Cheek, who teaches lyric diction at the University of Michigan, is the author of several books, including Singing in Czech (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001; reviewed in JOS 58, no. 5; [May/ June 2002]: 450–451). Toccafondi is Professor of Collaborative Piano at the Conservatorio Luigi Cherubini in Florence; she has worked extensively as instructor of Italian vocal repertoire and diction in both her native Italy and abroad. The combined expertise of the authors is evidenced by the thoroughness of this volume. Singers, coaches, and anyone committed to perfecting their Italian lyric diction will find this book an indispensable tool. It is highly recommended.

Arneson, Christopher and Kirsten S. Brown. Musical Theater Voice Pedagogy: The Art and Science. Gahanna, OH: Inside View Press, 2023. Paper, xii, 148 pp., $50.00 ISBN 978-1-7335060-5-2 www.

Although there is a burgeoning demand for musical theater voice teachers, many pedagogues hesitate to venture into the genre because they were trained exclusively in classical singing. Moreover, most of the resources that discuss musical theater

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BOOKSHELF Debra Greschner

singing are addressed to performers, not instructors. In this volume, Christopher Arneson and Kirsten S. Brown offer guidance to teachers who want to expand their knowledge of the field. The volume presents pedagogic principles that are informed by both voice science and the artistic demands of musical theater repertoire.

Voice pedagogy, assert the authors, exists at the intersection of art and science. The art of singing requires knowledge of repertoire, style, and the authentic manner of communication emblematic of the genre. To this end, the authors provide a brief overview of the history of musical theater, with particular attention to the style of singing representative of each era.

The science of the singing voice is illustrated by a flowchart comprised

of seven fundamentals: alignment, breathing, phonation, support, registration, resonance, and articulation. The authors devote a chapter to each of these components, from both a general perspective and for the specific demands of musical theater singing.

For instance, Arneson and Brown define support as “the singer’s use of exhalation,” but they acknowledge its myriad of meanings. In musical theater, they explain, support issues often stem from a discrepancy between the style of support and the style of music. Simply put, different genres of music require different kinds of support.

Similar distinctions are made in the chapter devoted to registration. When explaining traditional belting, the authors caution that although chest voice is exciting for both the listener and the performer, the belt voice cannot be one dimensional. “(T)he belt voice must have a variety of loudness, weight, and the degree of openness of the vowel,” (page 85). Belting, which is described as a phenomenon of both registration and resonance, must be founded on an efficient mixed sound. The text proffers a step-by-step approach to belting.

The volume does not include lists of vocalises. Although the authors include sample exercises, such as semioccluded vocal tract (SOVT) exercises and those that explore the ‘call’ in the voice, they encourage the reader to choose exercises that correspond with the principles outlined in the text. In addition to pedagogic advice, Arneson and Brown offer directives for vocal health and suggestions for extended vocal techniques, such as growls and creaks. They also touch upon other issues, such as type casting, ageism, and the pressure inherent in the current musical theater market. Finally, they proffer counsel on training programs.

The text is clear and concise, and augmented by more than two dozen diagrams. The volume is an excellent reference for voice teachers who wish to teach musical theater singers; it is also a helpful resource for pedagogues who want an accessible overview of voice science in general and how it relates to different styles in particular. Pedagogues will find this a useful addition to their studio library.

Orringer, Nelson R. Uniting Music and Poetry in Twentieth-Century Spain. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2021. Cloth, xvii, 255 pp., $110.00 ISBN 978-1-7936-3048-3; eBook $45.00 ISBN 978-1-7936-349-0

In vocal literature, it is a truism that music and poetry are inextricably linked. However, it is not an understatement that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; that is, when masterful poetry is set by masterful composers, the resulting synergy transcends both literature and music. Much attention has been given to collaborations between poets and composers, from Schubert and Heine to Poulenc and Apollinaire. Nelson R. Orringer, who is professor of Spanish and comparative literature at the University of Connecticut, proffers a study of nine pairings of twentieth century Spanish composers and poets.

The book focuses on seven composers: Manuel de Falla and Joaquín Rodrigo (whose works are the subject of two chapter each), Joaquín Turina, Frederic Mompou, Eduard Toldrà, Xavier Montsalvatge, and Rodolfo Halffter. The listing of poets is more extensive; some of the poets, like Cervantes, are familiar names, while

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others are lesser known. The songs range from early works of de Falla to the nostalgia expressed in Canciones sobre Marinero en tierra by Halffter, a proponent of the Spanish Silver Age. Each chapter is a richly detailed discussion that skillfully weaves musical and poetic threads with geographic, socio-political, and anthropologic highlights.

In the introduction, Orringer acknowledges the contribution of frequently cited sources on Spanish song; namely Art Song Composers of Spain: An Encyclopedia by Suzanne Rhodes Draayer (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2009; reviewed in JOS 66, no. 2; [November/December 2009]: 223–225) and The Spanish Song Companion by Jacqueline Cockburn and Richard Stokes (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2006). However, Orringer cautions that these texts contain errors in pronunciation, translation, and Spanish verse form.

Readers interested in the synergy between poetry and music will find this book fascinating. Orringer provides insight into the ‘song-poem.’ He describes both verse and music

in a knowledgeable manner, and his affection for the genre is apparent throughout. The volume is highly recommended.


Listing here does not preclude review in future issues.

Ashbaker, Susan Shiplett. The Vocal Coach Approach: When Practice Makes Perfect. Gahanna, OH: Inside View Press, 2022. Paper, xi, 137 pp., $30.00 ISBN 978-17335060-4-5; eBook $25.00 www.

Svard, Lois. The Musical Brain: What Students, Teachers, and Performers Need to Know. New York: Oxford University Press, 2023. Cloth, xiv, 270 pp., $29.95 ISBN 9780-19758417-0;

Thom, Paul. Opera as Art. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2023. Cloth, ix, 206 pp., $100.00 ISBN 978-166691-423-8; eBook $45.00 ISBN 978-1-66691-4234-5 www.rowman. com

Debra Greschner, soprano, is a member of the voice faculty at Lamar University and founding member of its Vocology Certificate program. She holds a Bachelor of Music in Performance and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, and a Master of Music from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV).

Before joining the faculty at Lamar, Greschner taught at UNLV, and was a member of the Nevada Arts Council’s Artist in Residence roster. She is a member of the Pan-American Vocology Association (PAVA) and served as president of the Greater Houston and Las Vegas Chapters of NATS. Greschner has appeared as soloist with the Nevada Symphony, Symphony of Southeast Texas, Nevada Opera Theatre, Las Vegas Lyric Opera Company, Las Vegas Symphony and at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall.

In addition to serving as Associate Editor (Book Reviews) for Journal of Singing, she has written book reviews for The Opera Journal and Italica. Her article “The Mélodies of Félix Fourdrain” was published in Journal of Singing Volume 73, No. 5 (May/June 2017), and she authored the entry for Fourdrain in the Grove Music Online . She was a presenter at the International Congress of Voice Teachers in Vienna in 2022.


Members: Keeping your contact information up-to-date ensures that you won’t miss any of our member benefits or upcoming events.

To make updates, log on to your Member Home Page (your email address for NATS correspondence is your Login). Then, click the “My Profile” link on the right.

You also can call the NATS National Office at 904-992-9101 for assistance.

September/October 2023 97 Bookshelf

MUSIC REVIEWS Kathleen Roland-Silverstein

This column includes reviews of two women composers, American Gwyneth Walker (b. 1947) and Pole Grazyna Bacewicz (1909–1969.) The song anthologies presented are Walker’s “No Ordinary Women!” and Bacewicz’ twelve songs, the only ones published. The opera aria anthology series OperAria has released a new book in their series for lyric tenor, an important new collection that combines arias and range, fach , libretto information and provenance, performance history, and descriptions of the vocal/technical and stylistic.

This review offers an opportunity to become acquainted with the work of two composers, both women, who have been voices of change in the United States and Eastern Europe. Graz̄yna Bacewicz and Gwyneth Walker are both acknowledged as important composers in the twentieth and twentyfirst centuries, but remain somewhat marginalized. Walker’s publisher, E.C. Schirmer, has done yeoman’s work in bringing her work to the fore. It is hoped that as the work of women composers continues to be highlighted and promoted by singers and voice educators, Walker’s beautiful songs are programmed more frequently. Only

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twelve of Bacewicz’ songs have been published, but her complete ouvre is an important feature in the musical growth of Poland in the twentieth century. Her songs are exquisite miniatures that demonstrate an interesting compositional arc and sensibility in a field dominated by men. Lastly, the most recent anthology in a superb scholarly series addressing opera role and aria preparation has been added to the OperAria collection, published by Breitkopf & Härtel, and whose earlier entries have been reviewed in the Journal of Singing.

informs her empathetic approach to Clifton’s texts.

Walker, Gwyneth (b. 1947.) E.C. Schirmer, 2020. No Ordinary Woman! For soprano, clarinet and piano. “Bones, be Good!,” A3–A5, ossia to B ♭5; “Turning” C4–G5; “Homage to my Hips,” A3–B ♭5; “Homage to My Hair,” A4–A ♭5; “Interlude” for piano; “The Thirty-eighth Year,” C4–A5.

Gwyneth Walker is certainly one of our nation’s premiere composers of vocal music, both choral and song. Her sound world is quintessentially American, and is often built on jazz and folk elements, here incorporating poetry that draws on a uniquely American story, that of a Black woman and descendent of enslaved peoples. The poetry of Black poet Lucille Clifton (1936–2010) in No Ordinary Woman! draws on themes of women’s strength, and a woman’s clear-eyed estimation of her own body. Gwyneth Walker’s Quaker faith, an integral part of her world view, includes a strong egalitarian streak and admiration of womens’ agency and independence, and

Walker first set Clifton’s poems for soprano and piano in 1997, followed by settings for mezzo-soprano and piano (1997), for soprano and string orchestra (2004), and most recently, for soprano, piano, and clarinet (2020.) The addition of the clarinet in this most recent version is a spot-on augmentation of the overall musical ambience of the songs, highlighting the jazz elements inherent in the poetry and brought to life in Walker’s music. Both Clifton’s texts and her life story are engaging and fascinating. Her poetry, imbued as it is with concepts of Black pride and feminist ideals, is clear, fresh and spare, evenly matched by the composer’s settings, who uses jazz and other American idiomatic musical language to effectively communicate the texts. Clifton’s own lineage narrative, proudly passed down from generation to generation, comes from an African people known as the Dahomey, whose women were renowned for athletic prowess and physical strength.1

These songs require that the singer speak of deeply personal things, of being Black, and being female, and of coping with age and the protagonist’s comfort (or lack thereof) with her own body. The range for all five songs is broad, with lofty, lyrical phrases and staccato arpeggios ascending above the staff, and frequent excursions into mode 1/chest voice, both sung and spoken. “Bones, Be Good” integrates tap-dancing rhythms, percussive sounds and scat-singing duets for both singer and clarinetist. “Turning” begins with an

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effective, moving duet for the clarinet and piano with motivic material that reflects the title of the piece. The melancholy, bluesy character of the song effectively colors the line at the end that speaks of the singer, “turning on a stem like a black fruit in my own season.” “These Hips . . . need space” is a beguiling tango, with Walker’s very chromatic melodies shared by clarinet and singer, and with subtle ornaments added throughout. “Homage to My Hair” is a true anthem of appreciation for Black hair, its erotic and kinesthetic qualities, and for a woman that “the grayer she do get, good God, the blacker she do be.” The last poem in the cycle builds a strong thread from mother to daughter, and on to the daughter’s daughters. It is really an aria of Puccini-like proportions, with the clarinet another very independent voice, functioning on a par with the soprano.

Walker’s sensitivity to Clifton’s extraordinary poetry, and her formidable compositional command of American musical techniques, makes this song cycle a wonderful addition to under-represented musical and literary voices in our libraries, voice studios, and recital halls.

D #4–A5; “Mów do mnie, o miɬy” (Speak to Me, Beloved), D#4–F5; “Rozstanie” (Parting) E ♭4–G ♭5; “Oto jest noc” (The Night is Here), D4–B ♭5; “Smuga cienia” (A Shadow’s Trail), E4–B ♭5; “Nad woda wielka i czysta (Above the Wide, Clear Water), D4–F #5; “Dzwon i dzwonki” (A Bell and Little Bells), D4–G5; “Boli mnie gɬowa” (My Head Aches), E4 –A ♭5; Sroczka (The Little Magpie), F #4–A5.

Bacewicz, Grazyna (1909–1969.)

Piesni zebrane na glos i fortepian (Collected Songs for voice and piano) Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne, Krakow, 2020. “Róẑe” (Roses) E4–G5, ossia to A5; Trzy pieśni do sɬów arabskich z x wieku (Three Songs to Arabic Words from the 10th Century), “Mamidɬo” (Delusion), E ♭4–A5, “Inna” (Different), F4 –A ♭5, “Samotność” (Loneliness),

I first became acquainted with the graceful and lyrical songs of twentieth century Polish composer Bacewicz through a recently released recording, “Akwarelle,” featuring soprano Joanna Freszel and pianist Bartɬomiej Kominek. 2 Bacewicz’ songs are lyrical, sensitive and varied in approach to their chosen texts, and are in turn, erotic, passionate, and comic. Her songs have been discussed before in this journal; reviewer Gregory Berg reviewed the recording, Women of Firsts: Art Songs by the First Important Twentieth Century Women Composers from the Czech Republic, Poland, United States, and France. Daniel Weeks, tenor; Naomi Oliphant, piano. (Centaur CRC 2966) in the November/December 2009 issue of the Journal of Singing. The composer and her songs are also referenced in the book, Singing in Polish: A Guide to Polish Lyric Diction, by Benjamin Schultz.3 Singing in Polish contains phonetic and English translations for six of the songs in this anthology, and is an important resource for all singers wishing to explore the genre.

Graz̄yna Bacewicz is a remarkable musical figure in a country and within a musical tradition that includes Fr é d é rik Chopin, Karol

Szymanowski, Henryk Górecki, and Witold Lutosɬawski. Her compositional style evolved through a time of unprecedented political and cultural turmoil in the country of her birth. She is considered to be quite possibly the most important woman composer of the twentieth century in Poland. Bacewicz was a marvelous violinist, music for which formed a large part of her oeuvre as a composer. Unfortunately she was forced, both before and during World War II, to avoid public performance, as were many of her contemporaries, who instead performed in salons in private homes. She was one of the many important composers who had the privilege of studying in Paris with Nadia Boulanger, which certainly informed her style. This style has been described as neoclassical, sometimes impressionistic, with forays into folk music and serialism late in her career. All these elements can be heard in this collection of beautiful songs, spanning the years between 1934 and 1956, and comprising the entirety of Bacewicz’ published songs. One can trace the evolution of Bacewicz’ approach through the songs, with the songs of the war years being more conservative in style, followed by a decided turn toward a more adventurous, avant-garde sensibility with “Rozstanie,” written in 1949. All the songs call for a strong middle voice, with frequent leaps above the staff. The later songs incorporate decidedly more recitative-like sections, with challenging harmonies and a spare texture in the piano.

The songs include settings of Arabic poetry from the 10th century, and two poems by Rabindranath

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Tagore (all the latter in Polish translation from the original languages), demonstrating the composer’s fascination with “orientalism” during her early years. The two comic song settings,“Boli mnie gɬowa,” (with words by Bacewicz, who was also a published author and poet) and a folk poem, “Sroczka,” are rollicking miniatures which provide contrasts to the more lyrical songs.

The composer’s biography is included in this collection, in both Polish and in English; unfortunately, no English translations are included. Although the scholarly research for this composer’s work is scant, like the work of many women or other under-represented composers, an excellent resource for performers is the Polish Music Center at the University of Southern California (, and the diction book mentioned earlier.

OperAria: Das Repertoire für all Stimmgattungen in 16 Bänden, Volume I: Tenor Lyrisch. Ling, Peter, editor. Breitkopf & Härtel, 2022. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “Konstanze! dich wiederzusehen/ O wie ängstlich“ (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), “Dalla sua pace“ (Don Giovanni), “Il mio tesoro intanto” (Don Giovanni), “Un’aura amorosa” (Cosí fan tutte), “Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön” (Die Zauberflöte): Carl Maria von Weber, “Was ich dann tu’“ (Die drei Pintos): Gioachino Rossini, “Languir per una bella” (L’italiana in Algeri), “Ecco ridente in cielo” (Il barbiere di Siviglia.); Gaetano Donizetti, “Una furtiva di lagrima” (L’elisir d’amore), “Ah! mesa mis”

(La fille du régiment); “Povero Ernesto!/ Cercheró lontana terra” (Don Pasquale), “Favorita del Re!/ Spirto gentil” (La favorita); Vincenzo Bellini, “A te, o cara” (I puritani); Otto Nicolai, “Horch, die Lerche singt im Hain” (Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor); Friedrich von Flotow, “Ach,! so fromm” (Martha); Giuseppe Verdi, “Questa o quella” (Rigoletto), “La donna è mobile” (Rigoletto), “Lunge da lei/ De’ miei bollenti spiriti” (La traviata),“Dal labbro il canto estasïato vola” (Falstaff ); Charles Gounod, “Quel trouble inconnu/ Salut! demeure chaste et pure” (Faust); Édouard Lalo, “Puisqu’on ne peut fléchir/ Vainement, ma bien aimée” (Le Roi d’Ys); Léo Delibes, “Prendre le dessin/ Fantaisie aux divins mensonges” (Lakmé); Georges Bizet, “Je crois entendre encore” (Les pêcheurs de perles); Pjotr Iljitsch Tschaikowsky, “Kuda, kuda” (Evgenij Onegin); Jules Massenet, “Instant charmant/ En fermant les yeux” (Manon); Benjamin Godard, “Cachés dans cet asil/ Oh, ne t’éveille pas” (Jocelyn); Giacomo Puccini, “Addio fiorito asil” (Pinkerton) from Madama Butterfly, by Giacomo Puccini.

This is the latest in the excellent series by German scholar and coach/ repetiteur Peter Ling. The Repertoire for all Vocal Genres in 16 Volumes, reviewed here in the Journal of Singing in 2015 and 2017. 4 As in earlier volumes, Ling has amassed a wealth of information, including links to audio file recordings of all aria texts, spoken by native speakers, and links to pdfs of the German and English translations. The elements which make this particular series rise above other operatic anthologies are the editor’s meticulous instruc-

tions for the performer (in both German and English) regarding range, fach, libretto information and provenance, performance history, and descriptions of the vocal/technical and stylistic challenges. Here are Ling’s suggestions for “Ah! mes amis!,” Tonio’s aria from La fille du regiment;

“The role, and in particular this aria, undoubtedly requires a very high tenor voice with a resilient passaggio; although a light voice is expected, there is one reservation. If the voice is too light, it will not do justice to the character of the young Tirolean lad and soldier, nor will it manage the high tessitura in the passaggio and will tire easily. The ideal voice would be a truly high, radiant tenor, combining lyrical qualities with sufficient metallic projection and the ability to display a perfect, freely flowing legato . . . The aria is therefore more suitable for the youthful, yet technically more mature singer.”

The piano parts are based on authoritative editions, and some are “newly written or revised . . . with the aim to achieve a transposition of the original sound that is as faithful to the score as possible, while remaining easy to play” (preface.) A brief appendix of alternative cadenzi is included. No less an august personage than tenor Siegfried Jerusalem has written in the foreword to this volume, “If a reliable basis for acquiring the most appropriate tenor repertoire exists at all, then this is it.”


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1. Preston, Ebony Darshay, “A Performers Guide to Gwyneth Walker’s Settings of Poetry by Lucille Clifton- No Ordinary Woman! And Three Songs for Lucille.” DMA dissertation, LSU doctoral dissertation, 2011.

Kathleen Roland-Silverstein

2. Freszel, Joanna and Bartɬomiej Kominek, Akwarelle. March, 2022. DUX1776. https://www.prestomusic. com/classical/products/ 9320389 akwarelle

3. Schultz, Benjamin, Singing in Polish: A Guide to Polish Lyric Diction and Vocal Repertoire. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).

4. Roland-Silverstein, Kathleen. November, 2015. “Music Reviews,” Journal of Singing 72 no. (2015): 2: 257–259 and Roland-Silverstein “Music Reviews” Journal of Singing 74, no. 2 (2017): 249–251.

Kathleen Roland is a highly regarded concert soloist well known for her interpretation of the music of the 20th and 21st century. She has been a featured singer with many music festivals, including the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, the Britten-Pears Institute and the Tanglewood Music Festival, and has

performed with many prominent conductors, including James Conlon, Kent Nagano, Reinbert de Leeuw, James Mauceri, and Oliver Knussen. Dr. Roland has been a frequent soloist with the Grammy award-winning Southwest Chamber Music Society of Los Angeles, with whom she has garnered critical acclaim for her performances. Recordings include a CD created with American composer Libby Larsen of her song cycle, Songs from Letters, from Calamity Jane to her daughter Janey , and Aura, for orchestra and soloists by Grawemeyer award-winning Cambodian composer Chinary Ung. International appearances include a tour with Southwest Chamber Music in Southeast Asia, featuring the music of Chinary Ung, and at the Tonhalle in Dusseldorf with conductor Robert Platz and mdi ensemble milano. Recent performances include the premiere of Chinary Ung’s Spirals XII with the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Hall, and as soprano soloist in Verdi’s Requiem and Mendelssohn’s Elijah with the Los Angeles Korean Philharmonic . In 2011–12, the soprano will reprise Ung’s Aura

with the celebrated Jacaranda concert series, and will premiere a new work by American composer Charles Wuorinen with the Southwest Chamber Music Society.

Her 2007 Fulbright award and a 2003 American-Scandinavian Foundation grant have made possible continued research on the vocal music of Sweden, as well as performances and master classes of American art song in Sweden. As a result of this research, her anthology of Swedish art song for English-speaking singers is due to be published in 2012. Roland has been an lecture recital presenter for NATS, the College Music Society and in 2009, was an invited presenter at the International Congress of Voice Teachers in Paris. She holds a doctorate in voice from the University of Southern California, serves on the board of the National Opera Association, and is editor of the organization’s newsletter, NOA Notes. Dr. Roland holds joint appointments at the University of California Santa Barbara, the University of Southern California and Pepperdine University.

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There is something truly remarkable about the many and various ways in which the opera world is seeking greater relevance and presence in the cultural landscape of the twenty-first century. Many of those efforts are motivated by fear that this cherished four hundredyear-old art form has become irrelevant and dangles on the precipice of extinction. Some of this is indeed about opera’s survival, but there is much more to the story than that. Despite impressions to the contrary, opera has never been a static, immovable institution irrevocably bound to its own traditions. It has undergone repeated and significant transformation over its history, and opera has often been the catalyst for change in other kinds of music. The innovations we see on the current scene are in many ways just the latest chapter

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in a story replete with dynamic change at nearly every turn.

Streaming media has been a profound engine of transformation in nearly every facet of the performing arts and entertainment as a whole. Thanks in large measure to the aggressive initiatives of the Metropolitan Opera under the leadership of Peter Gelb, opera has been leading the charge toward streaming ahead of just about every other facet of the classical music world. Happily, this field that was once completely dominated by the Met is now dramatically energized by the presence of other opera companies vying for a place at the table. No other opera company has anything approaching the enormous archives that the Met has at its disposal, but there are plenty of offerings outside of the Metropolitan Opera that are well worth exploring.

The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, Great Britain’s leading opera company, took its time in entering the realm of streaming. In fact, its current streaming service was not launched until the fall of 2020. Presumably, they were galvanized (as all performing arts organizations were) by the challenge of maintaining their connection with the public at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic made standard public performance all but impossible. Whatever hesitancy they might have initially had, the ROH has wholeheartedly embraced this technology and implemented it with an impressive attention to detail.

For the modest price of £9.99 (approximately $12.60) monthly or £99.00 (approximately $125) yearly, one can gain access to a fairly substantial sampling of performances

from both the Royal Opera and Royal Ballet. Officially, the site promises its subscribers “unlimited access to our library of over 45 extraordinary operas and ballets,” but at a glance less than half that many works seem to be available. What is key is knowing where to look. Beyond the official lists of available operas and ballets, there is a drop-down menu cryptically titled ‘A-Z’ where one can find a more comprehensive list of everything that can be viewed by subscribers. Here is where the true treasure hunt begins. As of this writing, twenty-nine complete operas performances as well as thirty-three complete ballet performances are available for unlimited viewing by subscribers.

It is an impressive array of offerings, but as of this writing, one will look in vain for anything earlier than a Carmen performance from 2006. Telecasts from Covent Garden before that time included such landmark performances as Peter Grimes with Jon Vickers, La fanciulla del West with Carol Neblett and Placido Domingo, Der Rosenkavalier with Kiri te Kanawa, and the Romeo and Juliet production where the world first met and fell in love with an unknown, fresh-voiced tenor named Roberto Alagna. There is also the Die Fledermaus performance in which the second act party scene served as the final bow for Dame Joan Sutherland, joined by two friends and colleagues named Luciano Pavarotti and Marilyn Horne. That these and other noteworthy treasures from late in the last century should be completely absent from Royal Opera Stream is nothing less than maddening. One hopes that this

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This review contains a survey of the Royal Opera House stream, a review of a new collection of art songs performed by soprano, cello, and harp and a look at the muchdiscussed Decca release “Jessye Norman: The Unreleased Masters.”

puzzling situation can be rectified before too long.

In the meantime, there are all kinds of marvelous performances of which to partake, including striking productions that allow one to experience such treasurable impersonations as Michael Fabiano’s Faust, Sonya Yoncheva’s Mimi, Nina Stemme’s Brünnhilde, Jonas Kaufmann’s Andrea Chenier, Karita Mattila’s Kostelnicka, and the sparkling Marie and Tonio of Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez in La fille du regiment, to name just a few. For all-star casting, one performance not to be missed is the 2011 Tosca directed by Jonathan Kent that captures Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel in superlative form. It is grand opera at its very best.

Although quite a number of the operatic productions presented here are visually adventurous in one way or another, the vast majority of the operas themselves are from the heart of the standard repertoire, in stark contrast to the Met’s recent predilection for presenting brand new or nearly new works. As of this writing, only two of the twenty-nine operas in the streaming archives were composed during the last several decades. From 2011 comes the searing Anna Nicole, with Eva-Marie Westbroek’s astonishing portrayal of the troubled celebrity Anna Nicole Smith, brought vividly to life in Mark-Anthony Turnage’s rhapsodic, free-wheeling score. Also available is 2013’s Written on Skin , an avant-garde collaboration between composer George Benjamin and playwright Martin Crimp blending a 13th century love triangle against a

backdrop of 21st century angels. It is a daring score and fascinating work.

Beyond the complete performances are a plethora of marvelous features that frankly make the Metropolitan Opera (and for that matter, any other opera companies in the streaming business) pale by comparison. The most distinctive offerings are those programs that are known as “Insight Events.” Each presentation lasts more than an hour, which allows for the topic at hand to be explored quite thoroughly and inventively. One of the most recent Insight Events was crafted as a preview to an upcoming revival of Covent Garden’s current production of Verdi’s Aida. It begins with host Flora Willson’s illuminating interview with Robert Carson, (director of this production) which underscores the element of war in the story. After that, Willson speaks with Elina Garanca and Seokjong Baek, the Amneris and Radames for this production, and asks them far more thoughtful and intriguing questions than one hears in the predictable backstage chats that occur during Met HD simulcasts. From there, conductor Mark Elder and language coach Matteo Dalle Fratte explain how they work with singers on a work like Aida before demonstrating it with real-time coaching of the aforementioned Seokjong Baek as well as bass Blaise Malaba, the King of Egypt in this production. It is a fascinating exchange.

One of the most striking differences between these conversations and those that occur during Met simulcasts is that the ROH interviews pay much more attention to matters related to vocalism. For

example, Baek is asked about the transition he made from baritone to tenor, a change he actually accomplished largely on his own because of the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a fascinating story but exactly the kind of topic that almost never comes up in Met interviews. It is telling that these ROH interviews are entrusted to professional journalists rather than to singers a production decision that makes an enormous difference in the quality of the outcome.

Similarly formatted programs are available for Fidelio, Carmen, Rigoletto, La Traviata, Cosi fan tutte, Samson and Delilah, Norma, Theodora, The Barber of Seville, The Magic Flute, Cendrillon, Don Pasquale, La Boheme and Tosca Unlike similar presentations from the Met that are typically captured with a single stationary camera at a distance, the Royal Opera’s presentations are expertly filmed with multiple cameras and with crystal clear clarity. Other Insight Events include masterclasses; current offerings include masterclasses with Joyce DiDonato, Lisette Oropesa, Pretty Yende, Angel Blue, and Juan Diego Florez.

The Royal Opera House is to be commended for achieving such a high level of excellence with their streaming. One can only hope that they will manage to reach a little deeper into the company’s archives in order to enrich what are already enticing offerings. More information about the Royal Opera House Stream is available at

Cantilena—Works for Soprano, Harp and Cello. Gillian Zammit, soprano; Frank Camilleri, cello;

104 Journal of Singing

Britt Arend, harp. (Navana NV6293; 59:44.a0)

Claude Debussy: “Beau Soir.” Henri Duparc: “Chanson Triste.” Gabriel Fauré: “Notre Amour.” Jules Massenet: “Élégie.” Francesco Tosti: “Pour un baiser!” “La Serenata,” “Sogno,” “Tristezza.” Luigi Tedeschi: “Elegia.” Richard Strauss: “Das Geheimnis,” “Die Nacht,” “Allerseelen,” “Morgen,” “Kling!” Heitor

Villa-Lobos: “Aria” (Bachianas

Brasileiras No. 5). Alex Vella Gregory: Tluq: “Vistu,” “Ma Hallejt Xejn Warajk,” “Meta titghallem Titlaq.”

Gillian Zammit, Britt Arend and Frank Camilleri are the gifted soprano, harpist and cellist who comprise the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra Trio. Strangely, the recording at hand fails to bill them as such, and that is not the extent of the minor missteps one finds here. The subtitle of the release, “works for soprano, harp and cello,” seems to imply that these pieces were conceived with this combination of timbres in mind, when, in fact, everything here is an arrangement. Moreover, we are given absolutely no information whatsoever about who is responsible for these arrangements or whether or not any of them were specifically crafted for these musicians. The liner notes, while competently written, offer only general comments about these songs without the slightest reference to the transformation which they have undergone. Lastly, there are no texts or translations included in the booklet. A link for accessing more information leads to a dead end, and text and translations can only be found if one searches the Navona Records’ website for the album and follows the link for notes.

The frame may leave a bit to be desired, but the actual performances

contained therein are exemplary. Zammit’s voice is a silvery, radiant wonder that she deploys with seeming ease and unfailing musicality. Her singing is impressively assured in French, Italian, German, Portuguese and Maltese. Arend is her very capable partner in all of these songs, masterfully masking the intricate difficulty of what she is doing. Camilleri’s beautiful songlike cello playing figures in only seven of these nineteen songs, and one is left wanting to hear much more from him.

The great rarity here is the song cycle Tluq , which the liner notes tell us represents a journey from estrangement to reconciliation. The title, by the way, is Maltese for ‘take off,’ although nowhere in the liner notes or website are we told that. These three poems by contemporary Maltese writer John Aquilina certainly do begin in an emotional abyss of sorrow and hurt, but the final poem is actually about acceptance of what has transpired rather than a move towards reconciliation. Alex Vella Gregory’s pungent music is vividly evocative of these texts’ wrenching emotionality but couched in an idiom that is vocally gratifying and eminently singable.

The balance of this disc is largely devoted to familiar art songs conceived for voice and piano. While the shift from piano to harp works beautifully in some instances, in other cases there is a sense of loss. With all due respect to the world’s fine harpists (and Arend certainly is one), it is impossible for the harp to equal the piano in terms of expressive range, especially in songs that call for a wide scope of dynamics or where the harmonic texture is exceptionally intri-

cate. Nevertheless, the French songs with which the recording begins are beautifully suited for the harp, and one might actually prefer harp over piano in a song like Debussy’s “Beau soir” or Duparc’s “Chanson triste” that call for the utmost delicacy. The loveliest performance in the French set is Jules Massenet’s “Élégie,” in which Camilleri offers up a cello obbligato of melting beauty and tenderness that sounds very much like a second vocal line.

The four songs by Francesco Tosti are more of a mixed bag, but the harp works better with these tuneful confections than one might expect. The first of them, “Pour un baiser,” is actually in French and is among Tosti’s prettiest pieces. Zammit caresses its supple melodic lines with great care and sensitivity. The six songs by Richard Strauss are the great revelation here. “Kling!” is among the composer’s most dynamic and exuberant songs, and harp would seem to be the last instrument one would associate with such music. Miraculously, it works quite well, and the increased transparency of the accompaniment allows the vocal line to shine with even more brilliance. A gentler song such as “Allerseelen,” by contrast, sounds as though Strauss might have envisioned it from the beginning for harp. An exquisite atmosphere is created and Zammit responds in kind with some of her most poised and tender singing. “Morgen” is largely effective as well, but the countermelody on cello leaves one longing for the crystalline, soaring beauty of the violin one hears in the orchestrated version.

The finale of the disc is the beloved Aria from Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas

September/October 2023 105 The Media Gallery

Brasilieras No. 5 and the combination of voice, cello, and harp is absolutely ideal for this small masterpiece that was originally scored for soprano and cello ensemble. Zammit cannot equal the sheer perfection of Bidu Sayou, the soprano for whom this was originally written, but this performance has much to offer. Another highlight of this recording is Tedeschi’s “Elegia,” a sweet and soothing duet for cello and harp that is a welcome addition to this disc.

All in all, this is a compelling release that leads one to hope that we will hear much more for this skillful trio.

Jessye Norman —The Unreleased Masters. Jessye Norman, soprano; Hanna Schwarz, mezzo-soprano; Thomas Moser, tenor. Kurt Masur, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig; James Levine, Berlin Philharmonic; Seiji Ozawa, Boston Symphony Orchestra. (Decca 4852984; 163:17.)

Wagner: “Prelude,” “Westwärts schweift der Blick,” “Frisch weht der Wind der Heimat zu,” “Weh, ach wehe! Dies zu dulden,” “Wie lachend sie mir Lieder singen,” “Isolde! Gelibte! Tristan! Geliebter!” “Doch es rächte sich der verscheuchte Tag,” “O sink hernieder, Nacht der Liebe,” Einsam wachend in der Nacht,” “Unsre Liebe? Tristans Liebe?”

“So starben wir, um ungetrennt,” “Mild und leise,” (Tristan und Isolde.) Wesendonck Lieder: “Der Engel,” “Stehe still,” “Im Treibhaus,” “Schmerzen,” “Träume.” Haydn: Scena di Berenice: “Berenice, che fai?” “Non partir, bell’idol mio,” “Me infelice!” “Perché, se tanti siete.”

Berlioz: La mort de Cléopâtre: “C’en et donc fait!” “Ah! Qu’ils sont loin

ces jours, tourment de ma mémoire,” “Grands Pharaons, nobles Lagides,” “Non! . . . non, de vos demeures funèbres,” “Dieux du Nil.” Britten: Phaedra: “In May, in Brilliant Athens,” “My Lost and Dazzled Eyes Saw Only Night,” “You Monster! You Understood Me Too Well,” “Oh Gods of Wrath,” “My Time’s Too Short, Your Highness.” Strauss: Fier Lietzte Lieder: “Frühling,” “September,” “Beim Schlafengehen,” “Im Abendrot.”

It is safe to say that no classical singer in the second half of the twentieth century loomed over the cultural landscape as Jessye Norman did. She was a towering presence on opera, concert and recital stages around the world, singing a broad and adventurous range of repertoire while defying easy or convenient categorization. She was also the singer to whom the world turned time and time again when a major singer was needed to mark an important milestone or event. She was called upon to sing for two presidential inaugurations, the opening of the centennial summer Olympics, the 200th anniversary of the French revolution, the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the opening of the Metropolitan Opera’s centennial season, and any number of similarly significant occasions. She achieved this level of remarkable fame and standing despite her consistent refusal to pander to audiences for the sake of simplistic entertainment. Instead, she was steadfastly devoted to the highest artistic ideals and to relentless exploration of her formidable gifts. Her death in 2019 at the age of 74 is still difficult to comprehend.

By the time this review sees print, Jessye Norman—The Unreleased Masters will have been available for nearly ten months, but chances are

that the intense debate surrounding its release shall not have subsided. These particular master recordings were withheld from the public specifically because Norman did not want them to be released. The decision by Decca (with the blessing of her family) to disregard her wishes and issue them anyway is what has prompted such spirited discussion. Adding fuel to the rhetorical fire is the fact that these masters are not merely alternate takes of recordings already in the public’s hands. Most of these recordings constitute something altogether new, which in turn makes them all but irresistible, even to Norman’s fans who would have preferred that her wishes be honored.

One of the three discs is comprised of recordings Norman made with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony in 1994 as a collection of three works devoted to queenlike characters. One would not expect Franz Josef Haydn’s Scena di Berenice to be a comfortable fit for the soprano’s remarkably plush voice, but she manages to deliver the composer’s lean, intricate melodic lines with surprising grace and clarity, complete with a sweetly delivered high C! Benjamin Britten’s Phaedra (a cantata written for Dame Janet Baker in 1975), was the last vocal work he completed before his death less than a year later. The recording Baker made in 1977 caught her at the height of her expressive powers, but Norman’s singing is even more tonally opulent, and the text at times is more clearly articulated, than Baker’s. The crowning glory of the disc is Berlioz’s La mort de Cl é opâtre, in which one gets the uncanny impression that Berlioz somehow knew

106 Journal of Singing

Jessye’s Norman voice and crafted this especially for her. The way she rides Berlioz’s unpredictable melodic lines with sovereign ease is nothing less than astounding. Reportedly, the soprano’s objection to this particular recording had nothing to do with the musical performance as such but rather with technical matters related to how the sound of the orchestra had been mixed. Whatever was wrong with that initial mix has certainly been fixed; this recording may be the most gorgeous-sounding item in Norman’s entire discography and more than a worthy competitor to the much lauded version she recorded with Daniel Barenboim some years earlier.

The second disc is in some ways the most expendable because it hearkens back to other recordings made by the soprano earlier in her career. It includes a thrilling live performance of Richard Strauss’s Fier Lietzte Lieder with James Levine and the Berlin Philharmonic made in 1989, seven years after her bestselling studio recording with Kurt Masur. The live performance from Berlin is a bit more energetic than the earlier studio recording and the soprano’s voice has a brighter shimmer to it that serves the music quite well. The Strauss is paired with a live performance of Wagner’s five Wesendonck Lieder made with Levine and the same Berlin forces in 1992. The soprano had already made studio recordings of both the original piano-accompanied version as well as the orchestrated transcription, but the performance with Levine achieves an even higher level of eloquence.

It is on the first disc of the set that we are presented with the most anticipated of all of these unreleased masters: the soprano’s 1998 attempt at recording the role of Isolde in its entirety. The conductor of this project, Kurt Masur, was someone with whom Norman had successfully collaborated in the aforementioned recording of Fier Lietzte Lieder (widely regarded as her finest single recording) as well as in a magnificent studio version of Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos . Just what went wrong on this occasion is impossible to say, but rising tensions between the two eventually caused the project to be abandoned. The liner notes tell us that there had been hopes for the project to resume, but it never did; plans to release what had been recorded as a highlights album met a similar fate. We are presented here with a large swath of act one (including Isolde’s Narrative and Curse), the act two love duet, and the Liebestod. It is a fascinating document of a singer grappling with one of the most formidable roles in the repertoire and conquering its challenges—but just barely. There are a number of passages in which Isolde’s agitation begins to intermix with the agitation of an aging soprano being taxed to her very limits. It is both thrilling and troubling to hear the soprano in this state. Much of the performance is beautiful and courageous, but one is still left with the distinct impression that Norman perhaps should have done with Isolde what she did with the role of Brünnhilde and left it alone, at least at this late stage in her long career. (This recording was made thirty years after her staged opera

debut in Tannhäuser .) Norman’s two vocal partners are a mixed bag. Hanna Schwarz’s Brangäne is by far the weakest performance heard in this recording, with worn and wan vocalism and an inability to spin a smooth line. In contrast, Thomas Moser delivers an assured and accomplished performance, and one wishes it would have been possible for his efforts to have come to completion. (Eight years later, Deutsche Grammophon released a live Tristan und Isolde with Deborah Voigt in which Moser’s singing is far more effortful and almost completely devoid of poetry.) But with all due respect to Moser, it is the soprano’s Isolde that leaves the deepest impression here.

Whatever one may feel about whether or not this release should ever have been issued, it is a glorious reminder of what made Jessye Norman so utterly unique and so completely irreplaceable. May it be a source of comfort and inspiration for the soprano’s family, friends and devoted fans.

Gregory Berg is Associate Professor of Music at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI where he teaches private voice, accompanies the Carthage Choir, and coordinates the school’s Opera Workshop. He has composed several one-act chamber operas for the school, including Black September, Birds of a Feather: a Magic Flute Sequel, and Women and Children

First: a Story of Titanic Survivors. A professional church musician for more three decades, he has had several choral compositions published by Hal Leonard. He has served as music director for more than thirty-five different musical theater productions for the Racine Theater Guild, and remains an active soloist with area ensembles. He hosts and produces a daily interview program for NPR affiliate WGTD.

September/October 2023 107 The Media Gallery


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The Journal of Singing is a peer-reviewed journal that focuses on research in voice pedagogy, history, literature, diction, science, technology, medicine, and psychology. Submissions encompass an array of music genres and performance styles, including but not limited to Western classical music, world music, music theater, jazz, pop, and rock. The Journal also serves as an historical record of the National Association of Teachers of Singing.

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NATS National Student Auditions are headed for Knoxville!

The excitement continues with a national round of competition and prizes at the NATS National Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, June 28 – July 2, 2024.


Audition in YOUR Regional Event. Five singers from each regional category with a national category equivalent will advance to National Online Screening.


Friday, April 12, 2024 - Deadline for online digital submissions.


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All singers ages 30 and younger as of your regional audition date (no lower-age limit).


– NEW –FOR 2023–2024!

Expanded categories for more ages and genres. See for full details.

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See complete rules, regulations, and repertoire information at

Journal of Singing National Association of Teachers of Singing 9957 Moorings Drive, Suite 401 Jacksonville, Florida 32257

Created by one of the most recognized teachers in the world of “Extreme Voices”, Nicolás Hormazábal (NYVC Vocal Distortion Specialist) in collaboration with New York Vocal Coaching presents one of the most cutting-edge courses on Rasp & Distortion, serving Voice Teachers who want to learn in depth about the practice and teaching of Vocal Distortions.

Taught by New York Vocal Coaching’s Senior Vocal Associate Andy King, “Foundations of Music Theory” will provide you with a strong foundation in the basics of music. Topics range from rhythm and pitch notation to understanding chord progressions, as well as sight-reading and ear-training. By the end of the course you will have a deeper understanding of how music theory works and be able to break down sheet music on your own.

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