In May, Tony Award-winning actor, singer and musician Michael Cerveris led master classes with both Musical Theatre and Vocal Music students. The Vocal students were preparing their performances for the Classical Music Singers Competition in Chicago. Excerpts from that class are below.
“In truth, technical correctness brings everyone to the same level. What part of yourself you put into a performance is what distinguishes you. The elevating force is what you bring, because nobody else is you,” Michael Cerveris said to students as they worked on the arcs their characters take over the course of an aria.
Level III Vocal student Joel Dyson was working on Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro.” “You have to find a way to descend into desperation as the song progresses, which takes us on the journey too,” Michael began. As a girl transforming into a young woman over the course of just 12 lines, “you are realizing that if you can love this much, you can also feel this much pain. Most of acting is what we do all the time. We know how to act and talk until we put ourselves on the stage.”
While covering technique – using the percussive elements of voice, understanding nuances of delivery, knowing a whisper can be really intense as well as loud or gentle, bringing a different emotion to a lyric that is repeated twice – Michael encouraged students. “You’re just working, it’s not going to be wrong. Acting is a profession that is uncompromising and unkind; you develop a thick skin when facing rejection. Yet the exact opposite is required to be an artist. You need to be open, a blade of grass can move you emotionally. But beyond your technical training, you want to live, to go to places you haven’t been, to meet people you don’t know. An artist is a mirror. The more experiences you have, the more from which you can draw. Remember, all it takes is someone really gifted, following their muse, to change everything.”