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7 Things I Learned Teaching at AMDA NY

  1. The incredible depth and breadth of Musical Theatre Repertoire
    • Before I started teaching voice at AMDA NY in 1998, I would have said my knowledge of Musical Theatre was fairly comprehensive. How terribly wrong I was. There are SO many wonderful musicals out there, and so many of them have been unjustly forgotten and/or sadly discarded. I discovered fabulous songs that have rarely seen the light of day since they were written. (Of course, I also learned of obscure musicals and rejected songs that really should stay that way.) This is why I am especially keen on exposing my students to the full scope of Musical Theatre repertoire, not just the handful most popular of the current moment.
  1. I learned to teach every voice type, gender, vocal problem, temperament, and musical style.
    • I taught sopranos, mezzos, soprano belters, mezzo belters, sopranos how to belt and belters how to sing soprano; tenors, bari-tenors, baritones, basses, and baritones who wanted to be tenors; dancers who had never sung before and actors who had never sung before.
    • I worked with smokers and those trying to quit, acid reflux sufferers, kids with nodes, allergies, weak voices that needed strengthening and strong voices that needed refining. Head voice, chest voice, mixing, belting: you name it, I taught it.
    • I taught classical and rock, Golden Age and contemporary, famous and obscure, ballad and patter; from Bach to Bacharach, Gershwin to Guettel, and Mozart to Miranda.
    • I taught the laid back, the high strung, the intelligent, the dumb; silly and serious, humble and arrogant, lazy and hard-working, musicians and non.
    • I taught students to be brave, to be calm, to be patient, to be hopeful. (And they in turn taught me those things too.)

 

  1. Far too often in the Musical Theatre world what you look like often matters way more than how you sound.
    • This was, and is, very difficult for me to accept. I still fight against it. It’s really quite absurd since voice type, vocal range, tonal color/weight do NOT necessarily correspond to outward physical attributes. Just because someone might “look like” a tenor, doesn’t mean their voice, their physical vocal instrument, will follow suit. And what does that even mean anyway? What does a “tenor” look like? A soprano? A baritone? A belter? Every voice type comes in all shapes and sizes, colors and personalities. The diversity of humanity is what makes life interesting!

 

  1. You cannot teach instinct for the art form. You can teach everything else, but not that. You either have it, or you don’t.
  2. However, all the talent in the world will not get you to where you want to go. You must have a strong work ethic, patience and persistence!

 

  1. Dancing is everything in Musical Theatre these days. If you can dance, you are halfway there. If you can dance well and sing decently, you will at least get a callback. If you are an extraordinary singer and can’t dance… learn to dance.

 

  1. I learned that everyone has a story, everyone is scared of something, everyone has a dream, and everyone deserves to give those dreams their best shot.

 

See also:

Proud of my girl

A Cautionary Tale

Sing out, Louise!



4 thoughts on “7 Things I Learned Teaching at AMDA NY”

  • In regards to #3, I remember being told I would never work because I looked like a soprano but sang like an alto. And it was for Cats. In Cats, you are dressed as a cat! Never mind the insanity of the whole look-like-a-soprano thing, YOU ARE DRESSED AND MADE UP LIKE A CAT!!! Casting directors!

  • Nice post. Short and to the point.
    Regarding #4: You’re right — you cannot teach the _instinct_. You can, however, bring out those instincts in students who have them, but have left them untouched. (It took time for me, as a college student, to find a piano teacher who understood that. The others were trying to make me more musical; this teacher just taught me how to play the instrument efficiently, and all the other stuff just came out.)
    And regarding #6: An old friend of mine had attended Northwestern University as a musical-theatre major, and came to New York intending to try for Broadway. But this was circa 1980, when all the big Broadway hits were dance-based! She ended up resetting and studying as an opera singer, with moderate success here in town (but no significant regional gigs, alas).

    • Regarding your first point: that is absolutely the teacher’s job- to bring out their inherent instincts and hone them, bolster them with technique. That is the most satisfying and rewarding part of my job.

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