Yesterday was an extraordinary day. Our poster paper presentation was met with a great deal of interest. Many people were incredibly enthusiastic as they looked at a PDF version of the directory on two iPads. One voice teacher and student parked themselves on a couch behind our booth and spent at least a half hour with the hard copy of the directory, taking copious notes about songs to look up. It’s so inspiring to be among voice teachers who “get it” – who really understand the value of new music (as in brand new) and new music (as in new to them). The world need not fear for a lack of voice teachers for musical theatre students. Based on what I’m seeing here at the NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) Conference, we’re going to be sitting pretty for the foreseeable future.
In the rush of putting together the directory, making sure I honored the writer’s work and figuring out how the hell I was going to get my display board onto the plane, I hadn’t really paused to think about how moving it would be to watch teacher’s eye’s light up over music that I have fallen in love with in the last six months. What a gift to be the person to introduce smart, caring teachers to the music of passionate, sophisticated writers. I’m actually getting teary just typing this. Yes, I’m a mush.
As we were wrapping up the presentation, I got an e-mail from Clay Zambo, whose song “They Fly” is featured on the Top 25 Songs list (and rightfully so, I might add). He told me that he’d already receive an inquiry about purchasing the song. Ladies and gentlemen, a resource is born! And the darn thing works! Hallelujuah!
Below are several pictures Lorene Phillips and I took from the presentation site, for those who like visuals.
Last night was the first NATS National Music Theatre Competition. Six finalists (out of twenty-two semi-finalists who sang for judges earlier this week) presented about 20 minutes of material each – everything from Rodgers & Hammerstein to Andrew Lippa – showcasing a very wide variety of genres and singing styles within the musical theatre cannon. There was some considerable talent on display during the two hour presentation. There were also some performances that left many voice teachers divided. What exactly is being asked of musical theatre singers from a technical standpoint? What was the difference between some of the singing actors? Why was one perceived as being a stronger performer by the judges?
Regardless of how any of us feels, I think it’s important to applaud each of the artists who performed last night. We must never lose sight of the fact that what we do as performers is incredibly difficult. Bordering on the insane, really, when you stop and think about it. Each person on the stage last night took an incredible risk, and regardless of the outcome, they deserve the respect owed to anyone brave enough to put themselves on the line. I salute these performers (in order of appearance, as they say in the Broadway playbills): Matthew Edquist, Evan Wilson, Darcy Yellin, Billy Marshall, Jr., Linedy Genao and Jacob Keith Watson. The pianist for the evening was Julie Bearden.
The winners of the competition were:1st Place – Jacob Keith Watson 2nd Place – Billy Marshall, Jr. 3rd Place – Linedy Genao
It’s a very dangerous proposition to “talk turkey” about the artists and their performances, though I certainly have my opinions based on what I know of the New York musical theatre scene. For the most part, everyone I’ve talked to this morning had varying thoughts on the evening. Good. I think that’s healthy. It means we’re in dialogue. It means we can move forward and grow. To me, that’s the biggest gift of this competition.
I am thrilled that the board of NATS has focused this conference on musical theatre. As voice teachers, there’s so much we need to know. Did you know that musical theatre performers need to have about 20 different songs in their audition book, including operetta, legit, contemporary, pop/rock, folk, etc… (in 16 and 32-bar cuts)? Did you know there’s an expectation that the singer will know how to “act” a pop song (see a forthcoming interview with the wonderful Sherri Sanders on this subject)? Did you know there is an art to working with the accompanist and “slating” (telling the adjudicators your name, song you’re singing and the show it’s from)? And it’s different for different kinds of auditions?
There’s so much we need to know, and we need to continue leaning on professionals in the field who can really lay it all out for us. I hope this blog is a jumping off point for some of this information.
So, here we go, folks. It all starts here. Subscribe to the blog. Comment even. Let’s figure all this out together.
Please visit www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com for more information on over 150 contemporary musical theatre writers and 360+ songs, all searchable by voice and song type.