REFLECTIONS OF A VOCAL COACH
Since relocating from New York City to Long Island I've often had the opportunity to work with high school age singers. That puts me in the position of suggesting musical theatre rep to teenage girls. Based on what they're hearing in the pop realm, this can be a real challenge. It seems the non classical vocal world is upside down these days with the males being obsessed with falsetto and the females pushing the limits of the chest voice, even in Broadway music. Fortunately developing the falsetto is advantageous to young male singers while the opposite is clearly not true of the girls. We've all watched with consternation as a superstar belter destroyed her voice.
I've developed the practice of recommending a few youtubes when I give a new piece of music to my younger singers. I can weed out quickly what's worth hearing while they may be choosing the worst examples to listen to. When it comes to musical theatre I find it almost impossible to find clips that don't push the chest voice to the point of cracking, even among the most well known singers. While this may be stylistically correct in many instances and certainly effective in dramatic terms, it isn't what I want young singers, who can be such echo chambers, to emulate. It's hard to explain that when singers like Marin Mazzie, Patti Lupone, Bernadette Peters and Kelli O'Hara (even Gaga) belt, they have the benefit of good training, mature vocal chords and have mastered the art of mixing registers.
I'm sharing this because I find it very frustrating and would like to know about the experience of my vocal colleagues. Let's face it, even the most open minded young artist wants to sing something besides Mozart and Schubert. Besides, singing in their own language is important and though there is a wealth of American art songs, musical theatre is the best avenue for leading them gently to opera. So I ask the vocal teachers and coaches among my FB friends to please share your concerns and insights on this matter.