Enterprise State Community College held a voical performance master class for its music students on March 1.
Graduate Coordinator in Music Voice Area at the University of South Alabama Thomas Rowell was the guest speaker.
Students took turns performing a piece for Rowell before he gave them tips and pointers on how to improve their performance.
“Knowing the big picture context of your song is really really important,” Rowell said.
He spoke about one technique that he picked up in a master class.
“When you have a long introduction (in a piece) and your collaborator or accompanist has set the mood for everything, you want to breathe as if you’re already singing,” Rowell said. “Instead—what we normally do is—we stand there thinking, ‘I’m about to start, I’m about to start, I’m about to start and I’m in.’ We take a shallow, quick panicky breath and then it’s over.”
He said that every musician and vocalist goes through stage fright and a certain ritual that helps them through it, but that the feeling never goes away. He also said that every performer forgets their lines every now and then and that it’s all about not letting the audience know that you forgot is the key.
ESCC Music Instructor Erin Smith said the master class was actually Rowell’s idea.
“Last year at our student auditions, Dr. Rowell asked me when he could come visit ESCC to work with our students, but it took a year for us to actually align our schedules,” Smith said.
Smith says that master classes such as this are important for the students.
“At ESCC I am the only voice teacher and we have one other choral teacher, Dr. Ken Thomas. This means that students do not get to work with other vocal teachers on a weekly basis,” Smith said. “By bringing in a clinician, we expose our students to other teaching styles and different terminology for the same concepts that we are already studying. It is also a great way for students to make connections with teachers at the larger universities and open their eyes to all of their options.”
She said that master classes benefit her as an instructor as well as the students.
“My favorite part of any master class is when I learn something new or learn a new way to teach a concept,” Smith “I loved hearing about the start of the ‘barf’ reflex to refer to low space in the back of the throat. It is new, and I will use it for the rest of my career. The real joy, however, comes from seeing my students blossom in front of my eyes as they work to make the adjustments asked of them.”