CCM Institute 2018

The CCM Institute at Shenandoah University has become my home away from home. Since my first summer there in 2009, I've fallen in love with the people and the work. I went there to study contemporary vocal pedagogy, but I started my path as an artist there, too. 

On the surface, it is simply a place to learn how to teach popular music singing styles (the vast majority of academic programs don't touch them). But in the process of teaching how the voice works in these styles, the vast world of music is also being valued and affirmed as something beautiful and important and diverse and accessible. The teachers who attend are surprised to find themselves opening to the possibility that they've really wanted to sing this music all along, but weren't given the opportunity or the encouragement by their teachers. They open up. They try new sounds. They learn how to foster authenticity in singing and in artistic identity. They learn how to hold a safe space for developing artists, including themselves. By the end of the week, the connections are strong and plentiful. 

I was fortunate enough to be asked to join the faculty last summer. It's crazy to me that my name appears beside the vocal pedagogy giants on this team. They're so knowledgable AND so warm. After 10 years together, we're truly a family.  

The Faculty (L to R): Tom Arduini, Jackie Zito, Wendy LeBorgne, Julie Dean, me, Matt Edwards, Marcelle Gauvin, Edward Reisert, Kathryn Green, Marci Rosenberg, and Edrie Means Weekly. 

The Faculty (L to R): Tom Arduini, Jackie Zito, Wendy LeBorgne, Julie Dean, me, Matt Edwards, Marcelle Gauvin, Edward Reisert, Kathryn Green, Marci Rosenberg, and Edrie Means Weekly. 

Faculty Q&A

Faculty Q&A

Artistic Director Matt Edwards carries the bulk of the teaching for the week. Executive Director Kathryn Green works behind the scenes to make sure all of the logistics work. It's a gargantuan amount of work for both of them. I'm amazed by how they make it happen. 

The rest of the faculty teaches segments on their specialities (science, pedagogy, styles, improv, etc.) while also running breakout sessions and teaching private lessons. My responsibilities for the week included teaching breakout sessions on vocal function, giving private lessons, playing piano for all masterclasses and open mic nights, co-teaching a class on rock/pop styles, and co-teaching a session on commercial gigs, songwriting, and running a private studio. When we're not learning together, we're all hanging out, catching up, and getting to know each other, usually out by the pool at the hotel. It's a crazy, non-stop 9 days, but it's a blast from beginning to end. The collective energy keeps us going.

L to R: Julie Dean, me, Jackie Zito

L to R: Julie Dean, me, Jackie Zito

The Institute made a shift a few years ago to being a place where many contemporary singing approaches are recognized and discussed. Artistic Director Matt Edwards is passionate about the field being one where we learn from each other for the sake of the craft. The Institute began giving the Lifetime Achievement Award last year to people who've made major contributions to the contemporary vocal pedagogy field. 

This year, we honored the amazing Mary Saunders-Barton with that award. Mary teaches at Penn State, and started Bel Canto Can Belto, which was one of the first vocal cross training programs in the world. She also recently published a great book on vocal cross training with Plural Publishing. She was SO lovely in every way. Great teacher and wonderful person. Learned so much from her.

Mary led a wonderful master class with Institute participants.

Mary led a wonderful master class with Institute participants.

Happy faces after great dinner and conversation with Mary Saunders-Barton. 

Happy faces after great dinner and conversation with Mary Saunders-Barton. 

We also had Dr. Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock as our guest speaker on roots music. In addition to her great lecture, she led us in singing in African and African-American styles. 

For the first time, we had group singing as a part of each open mic night. It gives the participants a chance to just sing for fun. We're not always great about that in it was a breath of fresh air to do this with peers and colleagues. Thanks to colleague and dear friend Julie Dean for making that happen this year. Here's one of our group sings:

I was over the moon to meet vocal jazz composing/arranging/everything giant Greg Jasperse, who was a participant this year. The WV All-State Chamber Choir did one of his pieces a few years ago under the direction of Mike Engelhardt. The Institute got to experience Greg's amazing piano playing at the open mic nights and jazz masterclass, and he sang and played a beautiful reharm of Skylark at one of the open mic nights.

I also got to meet participant Carla Stickler, who plays Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway. Elphaba is always used as an example of extreme high belting in our videos, but this year we got to hear Elphaba in person, off-mic when Carla agreed to sing for usIt was eye-opening (ear-opening?) for everyone to hear what the voice is doing with and without amplification in "Defying Gravity."

And it's always a blast to serve as pianist for Sheri Sanders' master class. LOVE that woman. Her work in diversity and healing through the medium of musical theatre is astonishing.


It's tough to put into words all that makes that week great, but I hope that gives you a glimpse. The Institute is really special to me, so I wanted to make sure I shared it with you guys. :) Hope you're all having a great summer! 

Spring and Summer Preview

Here's what's on the docket so far for spring and summer:


Apr 22: Songs at the Center TV Taping

I'm so honored to be sharing the stage with Todd Burge, Bob Thompson, and Eric Gnezda for a taping of Songs at the Center, which is viewed on over 150 American Public Television stations. We'll be sharing originals in the round. This performance is free and open to the public, thanks to the Ohio Arts Council, and is part of the new Brick Street Arts Bash that's happening that weekend in Marietta. More info here.

May 20: Soloist with River Cities Symphony Orchestra

I'll be the guest soloist for the River Cities Symphony Orchestra Pops Concert, singing some hits from mid-century musical theatre.  

Aug 23: Jess Baldwin Quintet at Lakeside Chautauqua 

My quintet will be performing at lovely Lakeside Chautauqua! I'm excited to be performing again with Sean Parsons, Ryan Kennedy, Andy Hall, and our newest addition, John Inghram.


Columbus Sessions

I'll be in Columbus the second weekend of each month. If you're a gigging singer in the Columbus area, click here to schedule a spot.

May 16: 1 Year Anniversary of Commercial Voice Resources Launch

May 16 will mark a year since the launch of my website Commercial Voice Resources, which is for teachers who work with singers in commercial and popular styles. I'm excited about the great master teachers slated to write guest blogs and do interviews for the coming year. 

June 4: Presenting at Voice Foundation Symposium

The Voice Foundation is an international organization made up of voice scientists, doctors, therapists, teachers, and other professionals. At its annual Symposium, I'm presenting the results of two surveys I'm conducting with Kat Reinhert and Matt Edwards. Through this research, we hope to....

  • encourage the study and performance of popular genres of music.
  • help high school and private music educators better understand the programs when advising college-bound music students.
  • help post-secondary institutions better prepare future educators (particularly voice teachers) to teach in the programs.

June 14-17: Presenting at Association for Popular Music Education Conference

APME exists to empower music educators who include popular music in their curriculums. I'll present the two popular music program studies at this conference, and I'll also be giving a vocal technique workshop.

July 15-20: Teaching Assistant at The New CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute

The CCM Institute provides a foundation of instruction for people who sing and teach voice in contemporary commercial genres of music (non-classical music). Most college programs only teach classical singing, and the CCM Institute is one of the few programs where the science and voice function behind other genres is taught. I've studied at this institute since 2009, and I'm thrilled to be a part of it this year.