In the room where it happens: teaching musical theatre and contemporary and commercial music (CCM) singing

PhD Thesis


Cox, Dale. 2020. In the room where it happens: teaching musical theatre and contemporary and commercial music (CCM) singing. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/5pj0-1c87
Title

In the room where it happens: teaching musical theatre and
contemporary and commercial music (CCM) singing

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorCox, Dale
SupervisorHickey, Andrew
Forbes, Melissa
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages507
Year2020
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/5pj0-1c87
Abstract

The vocal demands placed on today’s professional music theatre performer are considerable. In addition to singing in the more traditional music theatre styles of legit, mix and belt, current industry trends require that performers be adept at a vast range of other Contemporary Commercial Music (CCM) genres. Singing teachers of aspiring musical theatre performers therefore require an understanding of CCM genres when preparing performers to work in the highly competitive musical theatre industry.

This study explores how CCM voice function and style are currently addressed in musical theatre voice studios in select universities in the United States. The United States was chosen as the study site as it is the traditional home of musical theatre, and training for musical theatre performers is well-established within the university system. Employing multi-sited focused ethnography, data were collected using participant observation, interviews, observations, reflexive journaling, and videoing of one-to-one lessons during field visits to six universities in the United States over a ten-month period. A primary analysis of the data was conducted using reflexive thematic analysis. A secondary analysis was performed using the conceptual framework for this study. This framework combines Shulman’s (2005) concepts of signature pedagogies with Bourdieu’s thinking tools of habitus, capitals, and field to establish the signature pedagogies of musical theatre vocal pedagogy and to explain dissonances observed within the field.

This study explores how CCM voice function and style are currently addressed in musical theatre voice studios in select universities in the United States. The United States was chosen as the study site as it is the traditional home of musical theatre, and training for musical theatre performers is well-established within the university system. Employing multi-sited focused ethnography, data were collected using participant observation, interviews, observations, reflexive journaling, and videoing of one-to-one lessons during field visits to six universities in the United States over a ten-month period. A primary analysis of the data was conducted using reflexive thematic analysis. A secondary analysis was performed using the conceptual framework for this study. This framework combines Shulman’s (2005) concepts of signature pedagogies with Bourdieu’s thinking tools of habitus, capitals, and field to establish the signature pedagogies of musical theatre vocal pedagogy and to explain dissonances observed within the field.

This study makes a number of contributions to the field of musical theatre singing voice pedagogy. First, it provides an example of the use of multi-sited focused ethnography in the study of one-to-one music teaching. Second, it identifies the signatures of musical theatre singing voice pedagogy, using Shulman’s theory of signature pedagogies. This theory identifies the surface, deep, and implicit structures of a pedagogy in order to understand how a pedagogy develops. In addition to these structures, signature pedagogies can identify, through omission, that which is excluded in the delivery and activation of a pedagogy. Thus, the surface, implicit and deep structures provide the foundation for the use of Bourdieu’s thinking concepts of habitus and capital to illuminate the exclusionary practices and hierarchical relationships within the field of voice pedagogy in the United States.

By identifying the signature pedagogies, exclusionary practices and structural dissonances of musical theatre voice pedagogy, this study revealed the impact of classical dominance of academic music training in the United States on CCM and musical theatre voice teachers. Findings indicate there is a need for academic programs specialising in CCM voice pedagogy to meet the demand for suitably qualified and experienced teachers. Singing teachers moving from a classical music background to working in music theatre must transition from enculturation in the aesthetic of the classical voice pedagogy to a working knowledge of musical theatre and CCM singing. Participant teachers reported that their classically based academic training left them ill-equipped make this transition. Currently such teachers must seek out specialist professional development (usually at their own expense) to fill gaps in knowledge and experience. There is therefore a demonstrated need for increased specialist graduate training in CCM and musical theatre voice pedagogy to ensure that undergraduate teaching of these styles prepares students to be competitive in the musical theatre marketplace. Whilst this was an ethnographic study based in the United States, the global nature of the musical theatre industry means that findings, although not directly transferable due to different pedagogical cultures, may be of interest to musical theatre voice teachers in other contexts, including the UK and Australia.

Keywordsvoice pedagogy, musical theatre, singing, contemporary commercial music, ethnography, Bourdieu
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020360304. Music performance
390101. Creative arts, media and communication curriculum and pedagogy
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Humanities and Communication
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Related outputs

Introducing multi-sited focused ethnography for researching one-to-one (singing voice) pedagogy in higher education
Cox, Dale and Forbes, Melissa. 2022. "Introducing multi-sited focused ethnography for researching one-to-one (singing voice) pedagogy in higher education." Music Education Research. 24 (5), pp. 625-637. https://doi.org/10.1080/14613808.2022.2138842