Teach Through Music – Artist collaboration (1)

I’m so grateful to TTM for giving all the Fellows an opportunity to work with an artist. My initial priority for such a collaboration was to investigate opera writing for children. Getting a new post during the TTM year meant my priorities changed; I would be the musical director for Into the Woods at my new school. I needed to get to know this fascinating musical – one way was to see a brilliant performance by the American Musical Theatre Academy students, and the other was to meet with Mary King and discuss the musico-dramatic preparation for each role and the bigger vocal issues I would be dealing with.

Session 1 with Mary was today. I’ve had lessons with Mary before and she is nothing but inspiring and direct, not shying away from being unrelenting about technical matters. I’ve discovered over the past couple of years since starting my vocal journey that singing teachers are by necessity very physical and teach holistically. You are your instrument and it needs immense sensitivity and a warm, encouraging approach to foster good working relationships between singer and teacher. Vocal health assessment was my first concern today and I sang some Handel (Rodelinda / Act 2 – Prigioniera ho l’alma in pena). As someone who doesn’t hear me sing too often she has that objectivity to check up on vocal health and technical things; it was good to be reminded of 360-degree breathing and highlighting any pharyngeal tension. So useful as always and good to spend time on ensuring the homogeneity of tone by removing consonants and focussing on how the jaw is involved in articulation. Useful things for me to consider and to listen for when I’ll be coaching the company this autumn at my new school.

Talking through Into the Woods was the primary concern (post vocal health assessment!) and what I really appreciated from Mary is that insight into the requirements of the roles, holistically; not only the vocal demands but the acting necessities and the attributes that will help to bring the character to life in a convincing way. We talked through each role picking out some of the vocal requirements – patter being essential for Cinderella and Red Riding Hood for example – and considering casting implications.

Looking forward to the next session and getting into more detail about the show as I begin to plan for the autumn.

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