A new blog post! Surprising, I know. Having a few days’ vacation time gives me an opportunity to catch up a little.
A most amazing thing happened in musical theater class a couple of weeks ago. I’m so excited to have a chance to tell you all about it!
A student took her turn a few minutes into the class, singing “Almost There” by Randy Newman.
She had nailed “All That Jazz” by John Kander just the week before, so I was anticipating that this would also be wonderful.
As it happened, she was anxious about something. When she began to sing, I could barely hear her. I wanted to get into it and play, but my sound would have covered her voice.
Why was she nervous?
It could have been anything.
- Was she coming down with something?
- Was she unprepared?
- Was she working on one aspect of vocal production rather than performing the song?
What was going on?
She was worried about the high note at the end of the first phrase, so she held back out of fear that her voice might crack. This is a freshman class. The students are shy about making a fool of themselves in front of other people, even in class. (I’ve been there myself so many times! As a freshman, I was so nervous in my first voice jury that I forgot every word after the title of a slow song in English! I changed my major immediately.)
The professor, who is also her voice teacher, identified the problem and found a way to deal with it. Among other things, she vocalized the student to a top note a third above the one she was concerned about.
On the fourth or fifth try, she knocked everyone out of their chair! She was SO GOOD!!! It was perfect.
The professor talked about how well the student had just performed, giving her kudos for her substantial progress this semester. She talked about how gratifying it was to witness this as a teacher, saying, “If I had my shoes, I’d throw them!” ++
She elaborated. In the African-American tradition, when something is “too good,” audience members throw their shoes! *
And then the professor burst into tears. It was so moving.
The student was in tears soon after.
And the class was speechless.
And that, for me, is what it’s all about.
++ Class is held in a studio with a dance floor. Everyone takes off their shoes so the floor remains grit-free. If a dancer were to trip on grit, s/he could sprain, dislocate or break something, putting him or her out of the game for a long time. So that’s why the professor didn’t have her shoes!
* Both professor and student happen to be African-American. After class, I shared with the professor that I worked in an African-American church in Brooklyn for quite a while, also performing in other venues with the music director, who is a wonderful singer. However, when things were “too good,” no one threw their shoes. So where did that come from? She said it’s a Southern thing. People even throw their shoes in church!
★ ☆.•*´¨`*•.¸¸.• ヅ★
Please take a look at my e-book!
Are you practicing well? Is your repertoire of ideas working for you? Are you making consistent progress?
My book will help you take a step back, save practice time, learn more music, and perform with confidence. Whether teaching, playing solo, or collaborating with other musicians, you will find many practice- and performance-tested suggestions here.
50% off!!! Absolutely NO JARGON! Even my non-musician little sister says so.
Click here for the book intro, table of contents, reviews, and reader comments.