Breaking Down the “I Am” Song

A few weeks ago, I talked about the role of the “I Want” song in a musical. From that blogpost, I created a series of questions that the actor needs to ask themselves when preparing that song and gave it to my students for our studio class on the topic.

Tonight, we will be exploring the “I AM” song. This is the song that defines the character and establishes:

  • a character’s personality
  • role in the plot, and/or
  • motivations
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Like the “I want song,” it is often more effective sung than if it were done as dialogue. Also, it isn’t confined to being a song in musical theater. (The Beatles’ “I am the walrus” comes to mind.)

It can be a song specifically telling us who you are: “My name is Regina George…. and I am a massive deal” (Mean Girls) or it can be more subtle: “I miss the mountains” (Next to Normal).

Or a song telling us you are who you are despite what society thinks: “I am what I am” (coincidentally the name of the style as well as the actual song from La Cage aux Folles)

Or who you’re going to be: “Astonishing!” (The “I am becoming song” from Little Women, which, to me, is awfully close to the “I want” song, but …. )

It doesn’t have to be sung about yourself, necessarily. It can be about someone else – a “You Are” song. And it can be positive (“Gaston,” BATB) or negative (“You oughta know, Jagged Little Pill – the album AND the musical). The latter is what is referred to as “The Villain Sucks” kind of sung.

You don’t have to be the lead character. You can be the Hero, the Villain, or the Sidekick.

You just have to know who you are.

And maybe, just maybe, if you know you are in song, you can apply that to life.

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If you’re interested in breaking down your songs both technically and interpretatively, contact me to see what we can work out.

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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