How to talk to a tenor (or any singer)…. some thoughts

I went to a pre-conference workshop (Pedagogy Saturday) on March 26 and attended a session with the above title. It was run by two teachers, one piano, one voice, and was intended to foster communication between singers and pianists, especially those who are young and not used to collaborating. Also some things about playing for students if you’re not really a pianist (hello!) or coaching singers if you’re not really a singer.

There were some good things about it – some things that reinforced what I am already doing in my own studio, some good ideas – but what bothered me was 
1. The title. Kind of reminded me of Ann Coulter’s How to talk to a liberal (if you must), which advises her readers to be deliberately combative and never see an opposing point of view as having any validity. (If you agree with her, don’t share it with me. I’d rather continue to think of anybody reading this as being gracious and open-minded.) It seemed to play up the “Us vs. Them” mindset or, more specifically, “Musician vs. Singer.” 
2. At the end, they addressed “what if the pianist is wrong?” by telling us that the singer should take the blame.  “I didn’t get that pitch – could you play that opening again?” 
That … is … so … girly. 
And it made me think that maybe I need to do some writing about collaboration – from a singer’s point of view, from a woman’s point of view, from a pedagogue’s point of view. How do we work together without becoming subordinate to our collaborator? Or making them feel like they are “wiggling their fingers in the background” while we take center stage? (Great perspective on that – see Ben Moore’s song “Content to be behind me,” about a diva who dismisses her pianist’s prodigious chops as being all for her.)
Hm. This is something to think about.

Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

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