I Am the Very Model of a Modern Two Year Repertoire

By Gerbi, Elizabeth | Journal of Singing, March/April 2020 | Go to article overview

I Am the Very Model of a Modern Two Year Repertoire


Gerbi, Elizabeth, Journal of Singing


AS INCREASING NUMBERS OF STUDENTS ATTEND One of OUr nation's 1,200 community colleges with the ambition of either earning a transfer credential or immediately entering the music theater workforce,1 it becomes increasingly imperative that we consider the unique needs of the late adolescent performer who may endeavor to synthesize voice technique, movement, and casting suitability within a much smaller time frame than in generations past. In fact, many of these performers may effectively be creating their personal "brand" after only a handful of lessons. Pedagogically advisable or not, the diverse body of students who have historically relied upon two-year schools for financial, academic, or personal reasons-students of color, first-generation college students, differently-abled performers, and, most notably in the last few years, trans students-is of growing interest to established baccalaureate programs in the post-Hamilton and Deaf West Spring Awakening era. If Ali Stroker's sensational triumph at the 2019 Tony Awards is any indication, a new, even more inclusive age of casting is well nigh. And, where better might talent representatives and conservatory scouts find fresh voices and faces to capture the spirit of the innovative, "nontraditional" theatrical scores being conceived even as I write?

In addition, I safely assume that many readers of this column are developing instructors who, in order to obtain academic experience, may very well be settling into their first applied studio position within one of the country's growing number of accredited two-year music and theater programs. As a Departmental Part-Time Supervisor and Lesson Coordinator, I have mentored several of these instructors. Part of that process has been to compose a "real-world" repertoire list based on my decades of experience as a musical director-and, perhaps more critically, my personal access to the closed-door comments of creative teams and casting directors-as well as my adjudication of, at last count, approximately 1,000 music theater students in state and community college programs, hearing again and again the distinction between what "sounded like good ideas" and what became truly effective in realization. This "predetermined system of progression" 2 is not intended as a panacea or even a literal model, but allows the new instructor, particularly those who are new to the music theater genre, a point of effective departure when considering the whole performer-voice, body, emotional age, ethnic - ity, movement style, and gender-in order to create an individualized plan for each student.

The following presents a series of four semester benchmarks that allow individual performers to explore their unique assets within a carefully scaffolded body of literature, specifically designed with the vocal hygiene of new and developing singers in mind. These selections also were chosen to capture typical emotional and social concerns of late adolescent performers, featuring thematic texts and subtexts in which they might explore their holistic theatrical "voice."

Music theater auditions generally require contrasting pairs of the following four categories: 1) register (classical "legit," mix, and belt); 2) tempo (up-tempo and ballad); 3) overall interpretive tone (humorous and dramatic); and 4) chronological period ("Golden Age" or earlier and contemporary). By the third semester, students should be able to present all eight categories within two selections; for example, a Golden Age, uptempo, legit, humorous work paired with a contemporary, ballad, belted, dramatic work, with an additional two works selected on the basis of specific technical or interpretive requirements. By graduation, students also should have included at least one work from outside the music theater canon (NFM), which may include but is not limited to R & B, rap, country, alternative, rock, and folk.

The pieces recommended here are classified with these designations:

* L: Classical/ Legit, CT-dominant, Mode 2

* HM: Head Mix, CT/TA, Mixture of Modes 1 and 2

* ВТ: Belt, TA-dominant, Mode 1

* UT: Up-tempo

* B: Ballad

* H: Humorous or light in tone

* D: Dramatic

* PG or G: Pre-Golden Age or Golden Age

* C: Contemporary

* NFM: Not from a musical

* (*): Authentic period style, written in one era but categorized as another (e. …

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