As an artist who sings in both fields, I treasure my classic technique along with my ability to crossover. What is the correct balance for a young singer? If a student wants to sing theatre or pop music, this question is much more vague than in the classical world. And what about the ones who don’t know yet where they would like to end up?
There are set standards to sing opera and oratorio – the voice must be strong enough to be heard in the back of the house and over the orchestra. Idiosyncrasies and character of the voice must be smoothed over and sanded down for beauty’s sake. Accurate pitch is a necessity, and freedom from tension an absolute. Line is a necessity. Superb breath support and full body engagement and support are key, as is maximum relaxation and minimal involvement of any extraneous tension or small muscle groups.
Theatre, pop and rock have different requirements. Popular music including country and rock music desire and even promote vocal idiosyncrasies whiled desiring great range and stamina. Character voices and pop singers take Macy Gray for instance – an R&B singer with such great character to her voice who hardly sings on pitch – need to maintain their “character” and uniqueness.
Subsequently I opt for teaching “classic” technique to all of my singers unsure of the style they decide, to sing to a point. There comes a “fork-in-the-road” moment when we are beginning the “point of no return” where I stop and reassess their new path. I talk to my singers about how we can proceed, classical, character, theatre, pop, again ask them what there feelings desires, and dreams are, and then share with them which road I feel is more available to them, if I have an opinion at that point. We then move forward based on the information gained at that discussion.
I will discuss several students I have had this discussion with next month. Meanwhile, I believe a prime example of a good mix of “organic with technique” is seen in the vocal prowess of Kristen Chenowith. She has great flexibility with her classic training yet her ability to also sing country, theatre, and pop sublimely. Listen to her meld several styles on “This Moment” by John Buccioni – and follow it up with a gander of her singing Leonard Bernstein’s “Glitter and Be Gay” from Candide. Zowee.