NATS Chat with Edrie Means-Weekly - April 6, 2008

This is the transcript from the April 6, 2008 NATS Chat with NATS member Edrie Means-Weekly of Shenandoah University with host, Matthew Hoch. Ms. Weekly is a professional crossover singer and a specialist in training singers for classical repertoire and all styles of contemporary commercial music (CCM).

[The Lounge]: eweekly has entered at 10:00 pm

[mhoch] 10:00 pm: Hi there, Edrie!

[eweekly] 10:00 pm: Hello All

[mhoch] 10:00 pm: Thank you so much for joining us tonight!

[eweekly] 10:00 pm: Thank you Matt for being the NATS Chat Host - - I am honored and pleased to be the guest for tonight's NATS Chat.

[eweekly] 10:01 pm: Pleased to meet all of you!

[mhoch] 10:02 pm: Let's get started! Edrie is going to talk to us a little about CCM stuff, and her role in making some important revisions to the NATS MT category in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Hopefully some of you were able to download the information on the NATS CHATS e-mail.

[eweekly] 10:02 pm: Thought we could chat a bit about the new Mid-Atlantic revisions to the MT category

[mhoch] 10:02 pm: Maybe some more folks will trickle in as time goes on as well...

[eweekly] 10:03 pm: Just had our Regional auditions this weekend -- new revisions were quite successful!

[mhoch] 10:04 pm: Great! This topic is very relevant to me. We just had ours last weekend, and some very strange things happened in our MT category. So many of our judges are simply not experienced enough with the MT style to deal with belters (especially).

[mhoch] 10:04 pm: Hi there, Craig!

[hpletsch] 10:04 pm: HI, Craig! Glad you came.

[eweekly] 10:04 pm: Is everyone familiar with our new revisions?

[ctompkins] 10:05 pm: I knew there was something else I needed to do for this chat.

[ctompkins] 10:05 pm: Let me see if I can do that now.

[eweekly] 10:06 pm: In a nut shell they are: 1. One Musical Theatre legit (Head Register Dominant – cricothyroid [CT] muscle dominant) selection premiered in 1960 or before 2. One Musical Theatre non-legit (Chest Register Dominant - thyroarytenoid [TA] muscle dominant) selection premiered in 1960 or before 3. Music Theatre works published from 1961 to 1990 4. Music Theatre works published from 1991 to present

[mhoch] 10:06 pm: The PDF's can be downloaded here:

[eweekly] 10:07 pm: The concerns obviously were with the requirement of TA dominant selection.

[mhoch] 10:07 pm: That's certainly much better than the system we have now in SER-NATS. We're actually using the same rubric as the classical category, which often inspires judges to hold MT singers to a classical paradigm.

[mhoch] 10:08 pm: What was the concern, exactly?

[eweekly] 10:08 pm: Thought the student needed to full out BELT

[mhoch] 10:08 pm: Did they, or could they mix?

[eweekly] 10:09 pm: Mix was encouraged

[eweekly] 10:09 pm: The revisions protect our younger High School singers by keeping them out of potentially unhealthy belt literature written post-1960

[eweekly] 10:09 pm: Most "non-legit" MT repertoire written prior to 1960 does not push chest register past an octave above middle C with only a few pieces up to a D

[mhoch] 10:09 pm: Was that a conflict-of-interest for MT singers who were truly ingénues and didn't have the "heft" that some of the belters had?

[eweekly] 10:10 pm: A bit

[mhoch] 10:10 pm: So, did the belters tend to win the category as a result?

[eweekly] 10:11 pm: No necessarily so

[eweekly] 10:11 pm: The better singer did

[ctompkins] 10:11 pm: That's encouraging.

[hpletsch] 10:11 pm: Sorry I had to leave because I couldn't see down to the bottom of the text/ Back now, and hope to stay that way!

[eweekly] 10:11 pm: In the past many students in the MT category belted all their selections

[ctompkins] 10:12 pm: Do you have many guys competing?

[eweekly] 10:12 pm: yes

[ctompkins] 10:12 pm: There is a huge scarcity of guys in all categories out here in Vancouver.

[mhoch] 10:13 pm: Our belters tend to not even place, no matter how healthy the belt. Judges seem to prefer "classical" singers who sing MT rep like "classical" singers. It's very frustrating and difficult to encourage belters to even go to the auditions.

[mhoch] 10:13 pm: I have a question, Edrie: is the rubric the same for all categories in the MA region, or is the MT rubric different from the classical one?

[eweekly] 10:13 pm: I judged the continuing ed MT male cat. yesterday --- I believe the winner was more a classical singer by the choice of rep. He did sing a darn good Will Parker "Kansas City"

[eweekly] 10:14 pm: My high school belter came in 2nd place in the Region --- we are working on her head register

[hpletsch] 10:15 pm: Doesn't it it pretty much depend upon the song being sung. A lot of songs are best if belted but there are also quite a few that would be better not belted, I think.

[eweekly] 10:16 pm: Belt songs are belt songs - the singer should not sing I Cain't Say No classically

[hpletsch] 10:17 pm: I certainly agree with you there, Edrie - can't imagine that !

[mhoch] 10:17 pm: What I'm saying is, someone who sings "I cain't say no!" is likely to lose to someone who sings "Out of my dreams!"

[eweekly] 10:18 pm: Not true ---

[mhoch] 10:18 pm: Is it the rubric that helps that... Or educated judges...?

[hpletsch] 10:18 pm: That could happen, I suppose depending upon the stylistic likes and dislikes of the adudicator.

[eweekly] 10:19 pm: There are those who have cross-trained their the vocal production muscles creating laryngeal flexibility - allowing them to sing The Miller's Son and Glitter and Be Gay back to back

[mhoch] 10:19 pm: Now that's impressive!

[eweekly] 10:19 pm: Educated judges indeed

[mhoch] 10:20 pm: I think the "educated judges" is the biggest problem in our region. Those of us who teach MT are not qualified to judge because we have students in the category!

[ctompkins] 10:20 pm: I think today, the kind of cross-training that Edrie is talking about is vitally important.

[hpletsch] 10:20 pm: That is impressive! I have a recording of Dawn Upshaw singing both Glitter and Be Gay and The Saga of Jennie!

[mhoch] 10:20 pm: Sorry, I meant "eligible," not "qualified."

[eweekly] 10:20 pm: That's a great recording

[hpletsch] 10:20 pm: I think so too - I really love it!

[eweekly] 10:21 pm: In our state we asked the members to let us know if they felt comfortable in judging this cat.

[mhoch] 10:21 pm: One of my belters did win 2nd at Regionals, though, with "Trip to the Library."

[eweekly] 10:22 pm: We also had the benefit of several teachers who have attended the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute

[ctompkins] 10:23 pm: Out here, the very few of us who teach MT are ineligible to adjudicate because we have students in the catagory. Same problem that Matt has, and I expect many other regions and districts.

[ctompkins] 10:23 pm: And I'm going this year!!!

[mhoch] 10:23 pm: It's a problem with NATS--same with undergrad/grad teachers!

[eweekly] 10:24 pm: Having the requirement of singing both a legit and non-legit helped many of our judges to listen for a difference

[mmcnulty] 10:24 pm: As Edie knows, I am much more comfortable judging the "classical areas of NATS" but this year I was on the panel to judge MT and I really tried to listen for "Healthy" singing. I really liked the fact that each singer was required to sing one "head" voice selection and the other one more "chesty"...I think our panel did very well in our selections and in our comments to the singers...It's awfully hard for me, however, since I am definitely coming from "the old school."

[eweekly] 10:24 pm: They were not only judging for beauty but also style.

[hpletsch] 10:25 pm: But, Craig, don't you have students in the classical categories. There are bound to be teachers who have students in both categories. Who could they choose to adjudicate, then?

[mmcnulty] 10:25 pm: That's right...Peggy

[mhoch] 10:25 pm: Edrie, sorry if I missed this, but do the judges use the same rubric for MT and Classical?

[eweekly] 10:26 pm: Yes the criteria is the same.

[hpletsch] 10:26 pm: Judging for both beauty and style and being aware of healthy singing in both seems to be to be the best way to handle it.

[ctompkins] 10:26 pm: Here in Vancouver, teachers can only adjudicate categories where the don't have students competing.

[mmcnulty] 10:27 pm: Yes, same in Virginia

[mhoch] 10:27 pm: I think that a lot of our adjudicators can't tell the difference between "healthy" and less healthy TA-dominant singing.

[mmcnulty] 10:28 pm: One thing that bothered me this year in judging MT was the fact that a couple of the singers used props...I'm not sure it added to the performance...Do you have an opinion on this? I guess I am changing the subject.

[hpletsch] 10:28 pm: That is fine, if there are enough teachers to go around. I don't like the idea of adjudicating one's own students at all, and at least in the past, I have seen that happen at various schools adjudications.

[eweekly] 10:28 pm: More education and good listening examples of healthy CCM singers is needed.

[mmcnulty] 10:28 pm: I agree

[eweekly] 10:29 pm: Props?? that's new

[ctompkins] 10:29 pm: I'm looking forward to training my ear this summer!

[mhoch] 10:29 pm: Yes, we don't have props at SER-NATS!

[mmcnulty] 10:30 pm: One student brought out a chair and sat...another had a dictionary for Adelaide's lament...I guess that's good... handkerchief as well...The chair seemed a bit too much.

[eweekly] 10:30 pm: Also comparing non-healthy examples to healthy examples --

[ctompkins] 10:30 pm: Some staging, choreography and the use of small props is encouraged here. I find that it gets in the way of the performance.

[eweekly] 10:31 pm: Well - expression and stage deportment is part of what we are judging

[hpletsch] 10:31 pm: I think an appropriate prop or two is a good thing. It helps the student to takee on the character he/she is portraying, for one thing.

[mhoch] 10:31 pm: Edrie, one thing that's interesting to me is the year 1960... Why is this the division mark in your revisions?

[mhoch] 10:31 pm: (And 1990 for that matter.)

[ctompkins] 10:32 pm: Costumes, props and staging throw too many variables into the equation IMO!

[eweekly] 10:32 pm: The region decided decades --- my recommendation was 1967 - Hair -- changed musical theatre - the first rock musical.

[eweekly] 10:33 pm: The region thought decades would be easier --

[mhoch] 10:33 pm: What are some other pivotal dates, in your opinion. (Not your Region's.)

[eweekly] 10:34 pm: up to 1942 ; Oklahoma

[mmcnulty] 10:34 pm: Sort of changing the subject but since I just judged MT, I could tell from the sound of several of the singer's speaking voices that they were not in good vocal health and I made these comments on the sheets.

[hpletsch] 10:34 pm: But if stage deportment, and expression is judged, why not something to help that along a bit assuming that everyone is allowed to use them or not as they wish.

[eweekly] 10:35 pm: 1943-67 ; 1968-1995; 1996 to present

[rmartin] 10:35 pm: In Calgary at our Kiwanis Festival- staging, choreography and small props are mandatory . We find the adjudicators have different strengths from year to year . First time being on a Chat room- is it possible to get a transcript of this discussion? May I recommend the following book- Field of Stars - Song of the Canadian Musical Theatre-thanks -Rosalyn

[mhoch] 10:36 pm: (1996 being Rent, I assume...)

[eweekly] 10:36 pm: yes

[ajohnson] 10:37 pm: Hi - sorry I'm late. I'm Aaron, from Wisconsin, recently from Chicago. I was just catching up on what's already been discussed. In Chicago, we had some hot debates about adding a MT category to our student auditions. It hasn't made it yet, primarily because of a concern about having qualified judges (or judges not feeling qualified). How has the response been from teachers in your regions?

[blee] 10:37 pm: Hi All, the two judges who judged MT with me this year were quite uncomfortable with the belt stuff

[eweekly] 10:37 pm: post- Rent --- Music Theatre productions encompass rock, jazz, blues, country and even rap all in one show as seen in the current Broadway production Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Frequently one character is required to sing equally well in two or three styles within the same show.

[mmcnulty] 10:38 pm: I felt much more qualified this year because of our new repertoire requirements thanks to Edie's work.

[mhoch] 10:38 pm: Same here, we have an MT category, but finding qualified judges is the biggest challenge.

[blee] 10:39 pm: Well the teachers sure don't know how to teach it! I'd say 3 of our 18 had it together to do the belt tunes without strain

[mmcnulty] 10:39 pm: That's too bad.

[eweekly] 10:39 pm: The response was mixed until the auditions --- some teachers found it easier to judge the category ---- There have positive/negative comments about the revisions. Students love the change because they are learning new music for their audition books. Teachers thinking the student would have to full out belt, which is a misunderstanding.

[ctompkins] 10:40 pm: I've suggested inviting a guest MT judge, but that didn't go over too well

[hpletsch] 10:40 pm: Our MT category in the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival is always well- attended and for the most part the students really do very well in it . Craig, you adjudicated here once, did you think that was so?

[mhoch] 10:40 pm: I don't think that's a bad idea!

[mmcnulty] 10:40 pm: Edie's great...Ask her to come out...

[blee] 10:41 pm: All of the 3 successful "belters" also had beautiful legit voices. I think this requirement exposes the fear of chest voice that is a problem in classical training as well.

[ajohnson] 10:41 pm: Well said

[ctompkins] 10:41 pm: Helen, I didn't hear the MT categories when I was there.

[mhoch] 10:42 pm: Well, I'm officially on my state exec board next year, so I'm going to try to push for some changes... We'll see if it works!

[hpletsch] 10:42 pm: Sorry, I thought you had. Maybe they had anothe adjudicator for that section -don't remember..

[eweekly] 10:42 pm: It is important to develop both the head and chest register to be successful MT singer

[blee] 10:42 pm: I agree wholeheartedly.

[blee] 10:43 pm: Even if the person doesn't do many legit roles

[eweekly] 10:43 pm: We will rooting for you Matt

[ajohnson] 10:43 pm: I think you can leave out the "MT"

[blee] 10:43 pm: amen

[mhoch] 10:44 pm: Edrie, some of my students seem to have a natural disposition, vocally, toward being an ingénue or belter. Would you recommend that I ignore that and make them do all styles with equal frequency?

[ctompkins] 10:44 pm: I have a couple of sopranos who have recently "discovered" their TA dominant voice. We are having a lot of fun learning how to use it.

[ajohnson] 10:45 pm: Do you have students singing in the classical and MT categories at auditions, and, if so, how are they handling rapidly switching styles?

[hpletsch] 10:45 pm: It would be good for students to learn to do both head and chest register well; they certainly would get father that way.

[eweekly] 10:45 pm: I certainly would feed into the natural style Matt

[eweekly] 10:46 pm: With that being said Matt - many of the musicals ask one singer to sing in many styles within a show

[mhoch] 10:46 pm: That's what I've been doing--Our school's theatre department is also very obsessed with "typing." If someone "looks" like an ingénue, it's often convenient if their legit voice happens to be their strength--they tend to get cast!

[mhoch] 10:47 pm: Sorry, "her" legit voice.

[ctompkins] 10:47 pm: Singers are expected to switch styles from Baroque to Romantic etc. so I think asking them to also include CCM in their stylistic suitcase is not a bad thing.

[eweekly] 10:47 pm: Yes I have students singing in both categories and doing well in both.

[blee] 10:48 pm: I'm sorry I came in late. Have you talked about the issues with men (especially tenors) crossing between MT and classical?

[eweekly] 10:48 pm: not yet

[mhoch] 10:48 pm: However (being devil's advocate), not every voice is a Verdian voice. Is a heavy belting role somewhat the same in that regard--not for everybody?

[ctompkins] 10:48 pm: I'm curious about that question too

[eweekly] 10:49 pm: I would agree - heavy belting is not for everyone

[blee] 10:50 pm: Tenors can get really messed up if they get into a "speechy" production, but maybe that can of worms needs to wait.

[hpletsch] 10:50 pm: Me, too. I certainly can see how some have lighter, more lyrical voices, and others are more of the Verdi or Wagnerian type of voice. In that case, "each to his own" so to speak.

[eweekly] 10:50 pm: There are very few real tenor roles in new musicals -- many bari-tenor

[eweekly] 10:52 pm: Recently one of my students auditioned for 3 Mo Divas -- had to sing an Italian aria

[mhoch] 10:53 pm: I have trouble finding character roles for men with low ranges... They seem to be written for tenors and baritenors. Does anyone have any ideas about rep for the character bass/baritone?

[eweekly] 10:53 pm: and at least three songs in different styles ( jazz, blues, Broadway, country, rock, etc.)

[mhoch] 10:53 pm: (Esp. if the student doesn't look very manly...)

[hpletsch] 10:55 pm: Matt, how about Jud in Oklahoma, if you can use an oldie-moldie type show!

[mhoch] 10:55 pm: For those audition songs (jazz, country, etc.). Should the student sing them a cappella? (Like on American Idol?)

[eweekly] 10:55 pm: Wonderful Town --- Pass That Football

[mhoch] 10:55 pm: Sorry.... He's not buff enough for Jud or Wreck!

[blee] 10:56 pm: I have a 15 year old doing a Huck Finn song from Big River that is great for a lower voice. Hi note is C#4 but I don't know about the rest of the role.

[hpletsch] 10:56 pm: That does make it difficult, doesn't it!

[mhoch] 10:56 pm: Yes, that's a good one!

[eweekly] 10:56 pm: Doolittle in My Fair Lady

[blee] 10:57 pm: There's also "The devil you know" from Urinetown that might not go to high

[blee] 10:57 pm: or maybe I heard it transposed

[eweekly] 10:57 pm: Kansas City

[hpletsch] 10:57 pm: Can't remember the range of the songs that Sweeney Todd singing in the show of the same name, but i think they might work.

[mhoch] 10:57 pm: Yep, we've done that one! I'll look at Urinetown...

[eweekly] 10:58 pm: Look at Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

[eweekly] 10:59 pm: a lot of character guy in DRS

[eweekly] 11:00 pm: "What do I really hear and what is in the ear of my mind? Which sounds are true and clear and which will never be defined? The sweetest sounds I'll ever hear are still inside my head." Richard Rodgers "The Sweetest Sounds" from No Strings

[eweekly] 11:00 pm: This is one of my favorite quotes ---

[mhoch] 11:00 pm: It's 11:00 PM--we'd like to thank Edrie for joining us tonight! Any final questions?

[eweekly] 11:01 pm: Good luck to all and thank you for tonight!!

[mhoch] 11:01 pm: Thanks so much for being our Guest Host, Edrie! We really appreciate it!

[hpletsch] 11:01 pm: Yes, thanks, Edrie, it has been a very interesting chat.

[ctompkins] 11:01 pm: I'm really looking forward to Shenandoah this summer! Thanks for a great chat everyone.

[mhoch] 11:01 pm: Take care, everyone! Good night...