Ship life + Performing! Is this reality?

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Monday, 27 February

I’m typing from a breezy cafe in Nassau.  It’s sunny and very hot outside, and two of my friends have joined me for some tea, a little chit chat… and much needed wifi 😉  I’ve been on the Disney Dream for a month and a half now and things are finally starting to feel normal!  The cruise itself is such an incredible experience for the guests – there truly is something for everyone, and I’m surprised by how many adults come on a Disney cruise without children!  My life here – though not all vacation – is certainly surreal – at times wonderful and at times crazy…  It’s so much fun to perform our shows, and the Walt Disney Theatre is an amazing space in which to perform!  The beautiful auditorium seats 1400 guests and boasts Disney’s most technically-advanced stage, which is fully utilized in our shows – multiple lifts, pyro, flying, lasers – if it can be done on stage, it’s probably happening in our shows!

We opened our shows about a month ago, and it’s amazing how they have grown!  I love my cast and crew mates – we have a wonderful team, and I think the next months are going to fly by…

The first two and a half weeks on the ship were killers – we worked about 80 hours a week rehearsing and training (safety classes/certifications, ship policy, etc.), and by the end of it, we were all exhausted – and about half of us (including yours truly) were sick…  Opening each show was exciting, but not nearly the thrill I’d anticipated because I was so tired!  Now that we’re working a more normal schedule and almost everyone is healthy again, it really is exciting each time I get ready to step on stage.  That’s what I love most about performing – no matter what your day has been like, when it’s your turn to go on stage, everything else fades away and you just get to have the best time entertaining people!

Ship life has definitely been an adjustment.  Things are very up-and-down – sometimes life is great, sometimes it’s not.  I feel very fortunate that our cast is so close and supportive of each other – and that my husband has already been able to visit 🙂  Having him be part of my life here has made me feel renewed and much more at-home on the ship, even though he’s far away now.  My cabin is small, but I’m so glad that it’s all my own, and located close to the theatre, on a deck with outdoor space!

So, how do I pass my days on this glorious ship and in the beautiful Bahamian islands, you ask?  Here are some basics…  We begin each cruise in Port Canaveral, FL – my first “role” is as Assembly Leader for one of the guest evacuation stations.  We have a brief drill, then the guests head to our “Sailing Away” party – while I generally take a break before the show.  Fight call comes first – we go through any potentially dangerous blocking before each show, then shortly after, begin show #1 of “The Golden Mickeys”!  Between shows, I usually grab dinner or skype with my husband if the ship internet is working fast enough.  Show #2 can be interesting, as by that time, we’ve entered slightly rockier waters – so you never quite know what may happen 😉  After the show, we may have a company meeting/notes, some character greeting (we escort the famous Disney characters during various meet and greets throughout the cruise, about 7 hours per week), or just time off.

The next day we dock in Nassau, Bahamas – one of my favorite stops because it gives me a chance to use free wifi… and sometimes buy something new from the MAC cosmetics store nearby…  We have to provide our own stage makeup, so you can see why this is essential 😉  There are some beautiful parts of Nassau, so I try to explore when my schedule permits.  Our greeter schedule changes from day to day, but our performance schedules are almost always the same – so on Nassau night, we perform our second show, “Villains Tonight!” – again, beginning with fight call for our sword work, and then putting on 2 shows.

Our current itineraries are 3 and 4 night cruises, so Day 3 changes a bit.  On 3-night cruises we perform “Believe”, and on 4-night cruises, we have the evening off.  Right now, we’re doing understudy put-in rehearsals during the day (I’ve already performed 2 of the 6 roles I understudy!), but once we’ve finished those, we’ll typically have most of the day free to enjoy gorgeous Castaway Cay – Disney’s private island!  Even if I don’t have time to go to the beach, I always make sure to get outside for a bit – the island is absolutely stunning!

Believe” day – even though the busiest – is my favorite.  I love performing the show – both because of the show content in general, and because it’s the day my best friends appear – Mary Poppins and Mrs. Potts 🙂  We perform one matinee and 2 evening shows, and it really is a joy to do!  The last day of the cruise also has quite a few meet-and-greets, so our character friends are very busy, and we usually do greeting before the first or after the last shows – but in spite of the long day, it’s always rewarding 🙂

Well, my time in Nassau today is drawing to an end…  Thanks for following my journeys and I hope I’ll be able to coax you onto a Dream cruise soon 🙂 🙂

Whirlwind

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Sunday, 1 January

Did someone change the date on all of my calendars?  Because it doesn’t feel like it could possibly be the first day of a new year – and the end of my time in Toronto – already!  Although… when I think of the many intense-but-fulfilling rehearsals, cast activities, and holiday trips we’ve squeezed into the 3 weeks since my last post, it seems that surely several months must have passed…

Only 2 rehearsal days remain before our cast heads to Orlando for further training (and DISNEY WORLD!) and boarding The Dream!!  A week from now we’ll begin our 2 weeks of rehearsing on the ship before taking over from the current cast on the 22nd.  It’s unbelievable, exciting, a little nerve-wracking, and generally amazing to think what we’ll be doing so soon!

Rehearsals have been very challenging, but have become increasingly fulfilling as we’ve begun rehearsing our final show!  “Believe” is my personal favorite of our three shows, both because of the wonderful roles I get to portray in it and because of the content – so many of my favorite characters and songs are in this show, and the storyline is quite heartfelt/Disney magical 🙂  We ended our rehearsal day yesterday with our first run of it, and though the day was quite full and tiring, it was absolutely exhilarating!

We’ve also thoroughly enjoyed our holiday season here – from Christmas room decorating contests to Secret Santa (so much fun!), meals and plenty of Disney movie watching together, and a trip to the local Christmas market, it’s been a fun, festive season, even though I’ve spent it far from those I love the most…  I’m so glad we were able to get a group together to sing and play at Kensington Gardens, a local retirement home!  Even though we sing and dance most of the day, it’s a refreshingly different experience to do it in this capacity, and for people who might not otherwise be able to have live holiday entertainment.  I had a wonderful time, and I think the residents and other performers did, too 🙂

We had 4 days off for Christmas vacation, and although it passed way too quickly, it was a much-needed and mostly wonderful break!  It was so therapeutic to be with my husband again and have a little bit of “normal,” even though we were in the middle of a cross-country move.  Although it was quite hectic balancing time to relax, unpack, and celebrate with my husband’s family nearby, it was worth it – and now I have a picture of what our life will be like there.  It was so nice to cuddle with our kitties in our new home and do ordinary things again!  I really enjoyed exploring our beautiful new neighborhood and visiting some of our favorite paintings at the National Gallery of Art…  I know I will continue to miss life in San Diego, but I’m looking forward to the many good things Washington, DC, has to offer.

It was very hard to say goodbye again, but this week back at work has been so fulfilling professionally.  The separation is definitely the hardest part of this contract (although Skype at least helps) – but I really love what I’m doing…  Ideally, I’ll be able to combine home and performing in the near future!

I rang in the new year back in Toronto and enjoyed spending it with friends.  After a cast get together, a small group of us went to an elegant restaurant nearby for a scrumptious dinner, a little dancing (hard to keep up when your friends are professional dancers… ;)), and excellent company!  It was a lovely end to a wonderful, eventful year and a positive start to the next!  I can’t wait to see what it holds…

Ups and Downs

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Wednesday, 7 December

As I’m sure you’ve gathered from my lack of posting these last couple weeks, things have gotten BUSY here!  Today is one of those wonderful days where I have a big break between rehearsals, so I’m attempting to catch up…  Highlights from the last 15 days:

Work
We finished learning our first show (Villains Tonight) and have run it several times.  Cleaning and polishing continue 😉

Now rehearsing our second show, The Golden Mickeys.  I’m on ensemble track for that, so doing lots of vocals and some choreography.  Understudying Cruella de Vil in this show as well, which is a really fun part!  My friend who is the principal Cruella is quite a good dancer, so u/s’ing her track for the rest of the show is quite a challenge for me… but I’m working very diligently off to the side and after rehearsals, often assisted by one of my incredibly-talented and lovely-in-general dancer friends 🙂

More sword work.  I am almost a convincing pirate now.

After being squeezed into my harness tighter than Scarlett O’Hara into her corset, I got to do some more flying – this time higher and faster!

I reached my 30-day employment mark, got my Disney cast id card, and am now entitled to receiving those discounts I’ve told you about 😉

Play
More fun cast events, including a homey and tasty Thanksgiving potluck, a crazy trivia night, the most hilarious surprise birthday party I’ve ever attended, and kicking off Secret Santa 🙂  Christmas shopping with a friend, spending some time singing with her, too, and planning out duets we want to work on!

Enjoyed quite a bit of practicing for fun – singing through some of my favorite songs, challenging myself vocally, treating those times like voice lessons – I miss my teacher back in San Diego!

First snow of the season – one week ago today!  In spite of my greatly preferring warm weather, it was actually kind of nice – big, wet flakes.  Still doesn’t feel like Christmas, though – partly because I’m not rehearsing Christmas music for the first year in a long time 😉

Read the entire Hunger Games trilogy in about 4 days… (maybe that’s really why I haven’t been blogging – I pretty much rehearsed, read, and occasionally slept those days).  Great series, though!  I’m a little embarrassed to say that I also went to Breaking Dawn part 1 and liked it… cheese and all 😉

Spiritual/Personal Growth
Feeling motivated to be more giving in general and to set goals, so I’ve spent some time recently thinking about what I want for this contract, and life in general.  Who I want to be, what I’d like to achieve – and working on setting some short and long term goals.  Recent services from our San Diego church that I’ve listened to online and our cast Bible study here have reinforced that feeling, so a lot of us have been trying to help our community in small ways – like giving a yogurt to the homeless guy in front of Starbucks on the way to rehearsal.  Just trying to be the best person we can be in general.

One of the projects I’m motivated to do right now is organize music for a retirement home here.  I love doing that – and since I’m surrounded by such talented, like-minded people, I think this will be the perfect way to share our gifts and spread some holiday cheer.  A friend and I visited 2 places this past weekend and are working on organizing it 🙂

A few days last week were tough for me – combination of rehearsals and outside things, like severing those last ties to San Diego – it’s still hard to say goodbye to our home there.  Fortunately the funk has passed, but I’m sharing it because I think it’s important to remember that even when you get your dream, there are still rough times that you’ll have to work through.  For me, it was feeling dull and unimportant – not getting a chance to shine/be praised when other people did.  Sounds silly and selfish, especially if you’re not a performer, but I think it happens to all of us…  Since we’re not rehearsing my solo parts yet, I felt like I wasn’t contributing (and of course, began to feel like maybe they don’t think I’m any good…), but was constantly trying my hardest to do things that I’m not very good at – or that no one saw (understudying scenes).  Long choreography rehearsals for the numbers I’m understudying made me feel overwhelmed and discouraged, which is funny, because I’m actually getting it pretty well – much better than I would have if I hadn’t taken dance all summer/fall.  And the people here are so helpful and positive, and believe I can do it – I just need to believe I can, too!  It’s always stressful for me when I don’t excel at something (thus, my antipathy to sports) – especially if I’m still not great no matter how hard I work – or when it takes me a long time to grasp something that other people are just somehow able to do! 😉  Even if it took them years of training to master it.  I’m not sure what the solution is, but rational thinking and my usual positive outlook on things have returned, and this week is off to a very good start, choreography and all 🙂

Switching gears… in case you’re still reading – and interested – here are some of my first impressions of Toronto that I’m finally getting around to posting:

I’ve never seen so many coffee shops!  In our area, there’s at least one on every corner, often more than one.  Some places even have multiple Starbucks on the same block!  Pleased to report that Tim Horton’s are almost as frequent… and consequently, I’ve had more doughnuts since I’ve been here than I have in probably the last 5 years combined… but at least I’m dancing a lot!

Where are all the dogs?

It’s so expensive!  Average price for cereal: $6.59.  Lots of fun, unusual stores here, but…

People here are very fit – it’s refreshing coming from the US!  Maybe it’s because the food is so expensive? 😉

Rehearsals and Holidays

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Saturday, 19 November
Understudying is hard work!
Company meeting, brunch with friends at Cora’s (a local favorite, for obvious reasons!) and back to work!  Today’s rehearsals were cool, but most of it was for the roles I’m understudying – hard work since you don’t get many opportunities to practice with the other scene members, in the rehearsal space, with props, while the director’s there…  It’s especially tricky u/s’ing 2 people in the same number…  Practice, practice, practice…

Sunday, 20 November
It’s beginning to look alot like Christmas!
Toronto’s Christmas season officially began with today’s Santa Claus Parade!  I decided to watch it on tv from the comfort of my room…  After some rehearsing, a friend and I (and quite possibly the entire population of Toronto) headed to Eaton Centre for some shopping.  I’ve never seen a mall so packed!  It was fun (and productive) in spite of the crowd, and a scrumptious dinner at Milestone’s was a nice finish to the day 🙂

Whee!

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Friday, 18 November

Up where the air is clear
Morning scene work, then in the afternoon I had my first chance to fly!  A few of us trekked to the Toronto School of Circus Arts on the outskirts of Toronto where we had our first training session.  It was pretty cool – just sit back and enjoy the ride!  The harness is pretty substantial and has to fit quite snugly, so that’ll take a little getting used to, but otherwise my part is easy – just pose and let the operators bring me in 🙂  It’ll be so exciting once I’m in costume and on the ship – apparently I’ll be coming in at twice the height we did in the studio!

That night, a friend and I went to the touring production of Mary Poppins, which happens to be in Toronto right now… seemed only fitting 😉  It was a great show and very well done – but the Julie Andrews movie will always be my favorite version of the story…

Whew!

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Thursday, 17 November

Whew!
Today was action-packed and mentally tiring, but generally fun – and now I can relax!  It began in earnest with 3 1/2 hours of understudy choreography.  I’ll keep it simple by saying that my brain did not explode (although it came close), I did better than I thought I would (thanks in part to the dance classes I’ve been taking since my Disney callback casting director recommended them!)… but I still have ALOT of practicing to do!

Later came 2 hours of sword work, which though also mentally/physically challenging, was quite exciting!  Clashing steel is really cool!  My day ended with a couple hours of u/s Cruella choreography, though this time much easier since Cruella’s part in this number is mostly blocking.  Thank goodness!

Tomorrow comes yet another exciting new experience – my first flying lesson for Mary Poppins!!!

Disney Magic!

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Wednesday, 16 November

What it’s all about…
…both as a Disney performer and as the person I want to be – I’m grateful that I experienced it today.  My weekly room-cleaning happened while I was in my apartment during a rehearsal break and the lady who came was really sweet.  I continued to go over my music while she cleaned and we just chatted off and on.  She really liked my humming, so I asked if she’d like me to sing something for her.  I ended up singing a few songs and by the end, I think we were both almost ready to cry 😉  She told me it meant so much to her that I took the time to talk with her, and then to have a real Disney princess sing to her – she’d been having kind of a bad day, and I’d made her feel better…  I don’t say this to make myself sound good – but just because it meant so much to me.  That’s what I strive for as a person – just to be nice to others and be the best person I can be.  It’s also what I love as a performer – sharing something I can do that makes people happy.  It’s also partly the Disney effect – and this one little moment reminded me so much how thankful I am to be here!  I wonder if she knows that she encouraged me, too…

The rest of my day was lovely in general – I had the morning off, so a friend and I went to a Grace Kelly exhibit at a nearby museum and lunch.  Then, a few hours of scene work and back to practice some more on my own.

Work and Play

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Tuesday, 15 Nov

Sunday-Monday
This weekend was relaxing, productive, and all about getting to know friends better!  Late night girl chats and renewing spiritual time with some of the cast made for a good start to a busy week!

Tuesday, 15 Nov
Costumes and sword fighting!
Today I was transformed into some of my favorite characters!  Or at least partially – some will be custom made for me 🙂  Consequently, I found out some of my much-anticipated casting for the other 2 shows!  It’s subject to change (and I also have alot of smaller ensemble roles), but the ones I’m most excited for are:
Mary Poppins (woohoo!!), Mrs. Potts, u/s Aurora, u/s Belle, u/s Cruella (she’s in 2 of our shows) 🙂

After that excitement came my first foray into sword play!  Steel sabers are a Disney pirate’s choice of weapon.  There’s alot to learn, and every new challenge reminds me how wimpy I am physically – but between sword work and puppetry, I’m going to have a really toned right arm by the end of the contract 😉

The rest of my day was vocal work, including understudy coaching.  My track is pretty full, but it’s a good challenge for me.  In case you (like me) don’t know what that involves, it means I have my own part, which I will normally perform (for this show, it’s my pirate part, puppet work for my Fate character, and ensemble singing offstage).  I’m also u/s’ing 2 girls (Cruella and Evil Queen), which I thought meant that I just learn the songs/scenes those characters are in – but instead, it means that I learn everything that both of those girls do in the show.  So, if I go in for Cruella, I will not do any of my normal parts (even if it’s in a number I’m usually in), but will perform all of her roles instead.  There’s alot of carry over, but there’s some extra choreography, a couple of vocal songs, and a different puppet for one of my scenes.  It’s tricky keeping straight who says/sings which part!  Understudying the choreography is the hardest part for me, though, since you don’t get to use the actual props/practice spacing and such with the other dancers…  Fortunately, we’re only a week into rehearsing this show and I’ve become good friends with one of our swings (she learns every dance part) 😉

Shakespeare: Queen Margaret

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from Henry VI, Part III ~ Act 1, Scene 1

Today’s #WeeklyWednesday comes straight out of the #NYU Acting Lab! We’re working on Shakespeare this semester and I’m loving it! We’ve only coached these twice (and just performed them today), but I thought I’d show you my progress so far. I really love this monologue!

From Henry VI, Part III, this is Queen Margaret’s first monologue (Act 1, Scene 1). It’s 1455, and England is in the bloodbath of the War of the Roses, with rival families vying for power (King Henry VI, House of Lancaster, versus Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York). Recovering from the loss of a battle, King Henry attempts to appease the Yorkists and maintain the crown for himself, by agreeing to cede the crown to the Duke of York upon Henry’s natural death. Upon hearing this news, Queen Margaret storms into the Parliamentary Chambers to confront the king and to find a way to reinstate their son (Edward) as heir to the throne.

I’ve been playing around with my delivery a bit and included a portion of this monologue in a different style (starts at 2:10). And apparently, I just love monologues about queens! 👸🏻 If you’d like to see a contemporary comedic one, check out Queen Lucy (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown) 😉

I hope you enjoy this monologue! I’m so grateful to Jessica Bashline for her excellent instruction and coaching! If you’re looking for private or group coaching in NYC, you should contact her!

Thank you for your support 💜 

Linguistic Anthropology: Speech Community

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“A Description and Analysis of the Crossover Classical Vocalist Speech Community”

University of California, Irvine, 2017

[Assignment prompt: using only your personal experience as a source, identify, document, and analyze a speech community that you participate in as a part of your daily life, per John J. Gumperz’s 1968 article “The Speech Community,” International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.  New York: Macmillan, pp. 381-6.]

“eeeeEEE ooOOO!  Whoop!  Whoop!  Bzzzzz…  Zuh!  roAR!”

Newcomers are often surprised by the cacophony of vocalizations that greet them upon entering one of my community’s primary domains.  While strolling through orderly rows of small, semi-soundproofed, glass-fronted enclosures, visitors may observe a single subject lying on the floor, flopped in half like a ragdoll, standing, arms raised in victory, or possibly manipulating the face: nose pinched, tongue sticking out, cheeks smushed…  This description clearly orients us in the jungle of a musical community – specifically, a college practice room hall, filled with budding singers.

This paper provides a basic description and analysis of one sector of the larger musical arts and entertainment industry, which I term the Crossover Classical Vocalist Community (CCVC).  Despite close interaction with related communities, I propose that the CCVC is a distinct speech community based on specialized verbal repertoire, comprising dialectical variation (especially in the form of technical jargon to express in-group concepts) and superposed variation – namely, speech events that occur exclusively within this group.

Crossover Classical Vocalists (CCVs) are singers trained in and skilled at performing classical music as well as musical theatre and other non-classical repertoire (crossover genre).  Kristin Chenoweth is one of the best-known examples of a CCV master.  Training is essential for this group not merely to develop vocal technique; it is also the primary way singers acquire the language that makes them members of the speech community.  CCVs will continue to use this language throughout their careers in diverse speech events.

When considering shared, unique language usage and regular interaction as the basis for a speech community (Gumperz), one realizes that the CCVC also comprises members who are not CCVs (though CCVs form its core and are the focus of this paper).  Others, such as conductors, vocal coaches, and enthusiasts, may indeed have sufficient training in group concepts and language to actively use its verbal repertoire and to participate in CCVC speech events.  These members occupy different roles within the community and may have limited participation in certain speech events.  Conversely, there may be proficient singers who do not share significant linguistic features of the group (e.g., self-taught, non-classically trained), and thus would not be considered CCVC members.  Members often interact in ways that further a common goal: to develop skills that enable CCVs to perform diverse material publicly.  It is through language and practice that skill is primarily achieved.

Membership is not limited by geographical boundaries, native language, ethnicity, gender, or socio-economic conditions, though those circumstances may affect a person’s access to the community.  Geographically, CCVs are most prevalent where there is a thriving musical theatre community: namely the USA and UK (though Germany and the Netherlands also have significant musical theatre opportunities).  Musical theatre is one of the most common crossover domains, since many musical theatre styles require skill in or familiarity with classical technique (consider Phantom of the Opera, works by Sondheim or Rogers and Hammerstein).  There is also significant demand for CCVs in concert settings (including vocalists in some military bands, who are expected to deliver excellent performances in a wide range of genres, often within the same concert).

The CCVC developed to meet the changing demands of the music industry.  Membership is most defined by the training necessary to develop its specific skill set of vocal flexibility, which has resulted in a distinct dialectical language variation.  As classical music is arguably the most technically and vocally demanding, it is common for a CCV to begin training as a classical singer and then crossover to other genres.  While members are often initiated into the community in a similar way – private voice lessons in youth, followed by college and/or advanced degrees in music performance – it is possible to enter the community in other ways.  What is essential is exposure to and eventual fluency in the CCVC verbal repertoire and mastery of technical skills so that one may participate in group speech events.

With their shared foundation in classical technique, the CCVC is most closely related, especially linguistically, to the broader community of classical singers.  CCVs diverge when they acquire additional skills and language from other communities, such as those of musical theatre, jazz, and pop.  The crossover singing variety will likely have significant differences in technique and jargon, and singers must learn and adapt to these new forms, while still retaining their classical skills – and especially, be able to switch between styles and verbal repertoire quickly.  This breadth of interdisciplinary knowledge is key in differentiating CCVs from members of other groups.

Much of the CCVC’s verbal repertoire belongs to the common language, but has been appropriated to communicate something specific – often a concept non-members would find difficult to interpret without significant training, practice, and experience.  Examples are elaborated in the glossary.

The CCVC draws knowledge and terminology from various domains (a variety of musical genres and more distantly-related communities like acting and dance) to create an expansive verbal repertoire.  While some of this terminology is unique and exclusive to each source community, occasional overlap can create confusion.  Additionally, some elements of classical training may impede the understanding of certain crossover concepts, requiring an alterative semantic approach to a crossover genre from that of a singer native to the community.  This results in some conceptual modification, incorporating both classical and crossover-genre terminology.  All of these elements combine to create the CCVC dialectical variation. 

For example, “speak-singing” technique exists in both classical and musical theatre genres – but indexes a completely different meaning in each group.  In musical theatre, that direction points to a very “natural” delivery, little-to-no vibrato, sound somewhat thrown away; in a classical context, it indicates a “typical” full, supported sound, but greater flexibility for personal interpretation of timing, and minimal accompaniment (as is common in operas and oratorios in the form of recitativo and Sprechgesang).  The CCV is aware of both meanings and their associated applications.  Linguistic variation appears in the concepts used to teach each technique.  In this case, a new term is not invented; the distinctions are understood based on the context.

As previously stated, training is the primary means of acquiring CCVC language, which frequently takes the form of a speech event called a private voice lesson.  The private instructor is one of the most influential figures in a singer’s growth; singers frequently receive private training throughout the entire span of their careers.  It is vital that student and teacher have compatible communication styles.

The voice cannot be approached like another instrument, which can be seen or touched.  Verbal communication is paramount to vocal development, as visual imagery is the primary means in which technique can be shared.  Nearly all singing technique is taught through expressions that guide a student to desired physical sensations. 

Variation in singing technique can be the most difficult aspect to learn without a knowledgeable instructor, though the necessary stylistic modifications are often simple to understand and produce.  The most essential cross-genre elements of technique are breath and placement (specific techniques vary).  When teaching a student how to better manage breath stamina and smoothness, an instructor may ask the student to “imagine that the breath is a very long, silk thread that you continue to pull and pull very slowly and evenly throughout the entire phrase.”  Concepts stemming from financial advice like “saving and spending” are also common: “You always want to save your breath first to make sure you have enough to last through the phrase – then at the end you can spend what’s left!  If you spend too much early on, you might not have any left later.”  In terms of placement, a CCV instructor would often refer to color variation and mouth shape – modifying the typical tall, round mouth shape desirable in classical singing to a flatter, more closed mouth for musical theatre and pop genres.  Plugging the nose can assist with this modification to accentuate forward placement. 

The above concepts and many more foundational skills are taught and reinforced in a private voice lesson.  Skills relating to CCV technique (especially the language used to convey particular instructions) are expected to be firmly grasped before a CCV engages in other types of common speech events which may be more formal in tone, including group rehearsals, private coachings, and auditions.  An opera director or choral conductor may make artistic requests for “longer phrasing” or a “brighter sound,” but would not anticipate needing to explain how to do this to the CCV (and may be unwilling or unable to do so).  Similarly, a coaching is a private session designed to work on artistic interpretation rather than technique, as the coach is not required to have vocal-specific training.

CCV auditions (somewhat similar to a job interview) are often crossover domain events: they take place in a source community (e.g., a musical theatre, opera, or acting audition) – thus, CCVs need to pay careful attention to norms and terminology of the specific community in which they are presently participating.  Norms are not always clarified on an audition posting; at a singing audition, a CCV must know the difference between singing “16 bars” and a full song, and that it is inappropriate to ask an accompanist to transpose a piece.  Additionally, it would not be acceptable to arrive at an audition involving dance without specialized footwear and clothing, or to not know the difference between “marking” and performing “full out.”  Terms from acting, including blocking and choices need to be understood and accessible.  Tech staff should not need to explain their directions surrounding microphone checking and usage to a CCV (though they may to a classical vocalist).  CCVs need to transition effortlessly between the many communities in which they participate.

The CCVC holds a unique position in the broader musical arts and entertainment industry.  Its goal is to prepare singers to perform in a demanding range of genres and contexts, and linguistic elements play a vital role in achieving this goal.

Based on all of the preceding, I assert that the CCVC is a unique speech community.  CCVC members interact frequently to perform a variety of activities, including but not limited to speech events, such as those that promote training (voice and group lessons) and those that refine music (rehearsals and coachings), culminating in performances, where content is shared publicly.  They use common language aggregated (and sometimes modified) from various source domains, to communicate group-specific concepts.  The CCVC’s verbal repertoire is distinct because those contributing domains contain subsets, but not the entirety, of the CCVC’s.

Glossary

All of the following are selections from common CCVC verbal repertoire, but as it is the skill of classical singing that unites the group, I have chosen the majority of these terms from that domain.  Terms 1-11 would frequently be used in speech events such as private voice lessons, though they may also be heard at group rehearsals for classical repertoire (e.g., operas, choral ensembles, etc.), in which another party who is well versed in vocal technique instructs or directs a singer.  It would be unusual, though possible, to hear terms 1-10 in crossover settings, such as musical theatre rehearsals.  Terms 12 and 13 would almost exclusively be heard in crossover, rather than classical, settings. 

Breath:

“You need to support it!”

  • Support (verb, noun):

Refers to the breath, especially its function in creating and sustaining the voice, which is foundational to healthy singing.  Training the body to support the voice with the breath requires consistent and life-long practice.  Mastery of this technique is essential for performing classical repertoire, but also highly advantageous for crossover situations, as it promotes greater stamina and vocal longevity.

“Don’t collapse.”

  • Collapse (verb):

Also refers to the breath, particularly when sustaining a long note or singing a descending passage of notes.  One must maintain and often increase energy in the breath and tone, fighting the natural urge to relax, let go, and collapse the openness of the ribs and chest cavity.

Placement:

“Place it [higher]” or “Put it in the mask.”

  • Placement (noun; “place” and “put” are both used as verbs to indicate placement):

Refers to where a certain pitch/es should be produced in the skull for optimal resonance, ease of singing, and effect/artistry.  Since the voice is not an instrument that can be seen or touched (like a piano), much visual imagery is used to describe technique.

  • Mask (noun):

Area in the front of the face around the nose and cheekbones, where many notes should be placed, or felt.  Except for occasional artistic effect, singers strive for “forward” placement (forward, referring to being “in the mask”).

“Pay attention to how you’re attacking that.”

  • Attack (noun, verb):

The initiation of a note, or the technique employed when one begins singing a note.  This could include anatomical references (e.g., a glottal attack) or instructions regarding placement (as in pinpointing, defined below).

“Pinpoint the note.”

  • Pinpoint (verb):

Refers to a placement strategy of attacking a note, often a pitch that is high, quiet, and/or difficult to sing.  The singer imagines the note in one tiny, specific area and initiates it very softly and precisely to establish proper placement.  Once placement has been homed in, the singer can crescendo to the desired volume and more easily and efficiently produce the note.

“Don’t let it drop.”

  • (Let) Drop (verb):

Allowing the placement of a sustained note or connected passage of notes to change – particularly deteriorate (to get “lazy,” similar to collapsing, due to lack of energy or concentration to sustain the ideal placement).

Miscellaneous:

“Create a consistent timbre.”

  • Timbre (noun):

The unique sound quality of an individual’s voice (also used to describe other instruments).  One desires a consistent timbre across the entire voice (as opposed to varying degrees of development in certain areas, such as strong lower notes and under-developed higher notes).

“It’s in my passaggio.”

  • Passaggio (noun):

An area of transition between vocal registers (areas of the voice, including “chest voice” and “head voice”).  Notes that lie in a passaggio area are more difficult to produce and require additional practice to develop an even timbre.

“Connect the top and the bottom.”

  • Connect (verb):

Refers to both breath and placement technique to keep a consistent sound over a wide range of notes (particularly when there is a large interval leap between notes in the same musical phrase).

“Try coloring that differently.  Give me a [tall/flat/round/open/dark/bright] sound.”

  • Color (noun, verb) + [adjective]:

A tone’s color describes its affective quality: a “dark” sound may convey age or sadness, while “brightness” could denote youth or happiness.  Coloring relates to both artistry and placement, as variations are generally achieved by altering mouth shape.  The bracketed adjectives above are examples of imagery used to create different vocal colors (a “round” tone would sound more classical – or perhaps, pompous or proper – whereas “flat” placement, which creates additional brightness relative to the degree of flatness, would almost exclusively be used in musical theatre or other crossover performance). 

“Try that again with a different choice.”

  • Choice (noun):

An artistic approach to presenting material; the unique way a performer portrays a character.  This may apply to delivering spoken dialogue, a musical passage, or physical action.  Frequently, a director asks an actor to try contrasting approaches to see their range at auditions or experiment with a scene at a rehearsal.  One word alone (e.g., “Okay”) could be played to convey love, disgust, eagerness, or fear, based on an actor’s choice.  This particular terminology chiefly pertains to the acting community and would rarely be heard in any classical music setting (including opera).  “It was a choice” is often how actors jokingly describe an attempt that went poorly.

“From the top!  A 5, 6, 7, 8…”

  • “5, 6, 7, 8” used as a count in/cue (noun, verb):

Many performance communities use a form of counting in (or counting down) as a cue to begin some action.  The “5, 6, 7, 8” language of counting in applies exclusively to dance, as dancers often group choreography in “counts” or sections of 8.