From concerts, to theory classes, to private lessons, music students at Weber State University are used to practicing, but for students like Dustin Shuler and Coulter Neal, preparing for a student vocal recital redefines the word “practice.”
“I’m doing 11 songs tonight,” said Shuler, a music education major, before his junior vocal recital Thursday night. “I’m doing a lot of Romantic period music, one Bach piece, and some modern pieces.”
A typical junior recital like Thursday’s involves two singers, each of whom are expected to prepare at least 25 minutes of solo music. The key to preparing for the recital process, according to Shuler, is for singers to pick pieces they enjoy.
“I really like a piece I can get into,” he said, “especially Bach. He’s so great. Also, Schubert, who does more romantic music.”
Neal, also a music education major, sang alongside Shuler Thursday night, and gave advice after the concert to other music majors preparing for their own recitals.
“Relax, and don’t stress too much about it,” Neal said. “Just memorize your stuff, learn your music, be comfortable with it, and it goes right along.”
Of the 10 songs Neal prepared, only two were in English. Though he said he enjoyed singing in Italian, German and French, his favorite number, “A Bit of Earth,” comes from a popular American musical, The Secret Garden.
“I just connect to that song,” Neal said. “I do really enjoy musical theater, but that’s probably why I like it the most.”
Chelsea Cummins is preparing for her senior recital, a performance in which she is expected to prepare at least 50 minutes of solo music. Her husband, Michael, said the preparations for her recital, which comes next week, have been “a process.”
“It’s been a long time coming,” Michael Cummins said, “so there’s been some moments that are stressful. It depends on the day. Sometimes, she’s just fine, and other days, she’s a little stressed because her singing isn’t going so well.”
Chelsea Cummins said she is trying not to become too stressed, since that only makes working with a “fragile instrument,” like the human voice, more difficult.
“Mostly, I’ve just been focusing on singing at least some of my stuff, at least half of it a day,” she said, “so when it comes to the recital, my voice won’t feel fragile. I’ll have that extra gumption.”
Rawson Butts is also preparing for his senior recital this semester, and said he is stressed at the limitations of the human voice.
“Unlike an instrumentalist, you can’t practice more than an hour a day,” Butts said. “You can, but that practice has to come from studying your music and not any actual singing of it. Thankfully, I’ve known a lot of the music for a long time, but some of the pieces I’ve just learned in the past three months.”
Butts combats the stress by not over-preparing. By getting ready for his performance ahead of time, he can “sit on a few of his songs,” knowing they’re already ready.
“Some of the songs, (putting them away) helps, but you really have to work on them a lot beforehand to do that,” Butts said. “Like a good wine, there’s a fermentation period with music. So, hopefully, it’ll be ready to drink by the time the recital comes.”