Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Trading Lessons With Mark Thress - Contemporary vs Classical Voice

Turning vocal insight over with Mark - always pure joy!
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As I listened to my new friend introduce himself and his work over coffee one morning, an insistent thought running through my head broke through to became a question. Would Mark Thress be interested in trading an hour vocal lesson of his classical training for an hour of my contemporary vocal training? Just once, you know, for fun? 

It was about a year ago that we had that first lesson exchange. Now we trade lessons for 2 hours almost every week, and we both learn something new all the time. My head register gained a step of vocal range I've never had in my life and my middle voice feels all the better for it. Mark is vocally nailing John Legend songs now and tells me he even notices more richness and control in his classical voice. Our respective students have also gained from our collaboration as we trade our singing and vocal training secrets and insights with each other. We decided to share some of the fruits of our vocal exploration to the village at All Things Vocal!

This blog post will contain 2 videos... one of our interview and one with our vocal lesson exchange.

Some topics we covered: 

  • How we met and our intention behind trading lessons.
  • Similarities and differences between the genres of classical and contemporary singing.
  • How all art is about effectively and authentically communicating a message to the one heart.
  • Subtle technical differences in formal and contemporary genres in performance focus, creating volume, using self-compression, facial expressions, vowel lengths, vibrato, the need for mic technique or to fill the hall acoustically, conveying emotion without pushing.
  • How “less is more” in contemporary music, while continuity in sound is important in classical music.
  • How cross training can benefit both contemporary and classical voice.
  • What issues students typically have when trying to cross these genres and perform them authentically.
  • Using tools such as a trampoline or bosu ball to loosen the body and increase access to breath and tone, as well as a coffee straw or balloon for warming up.
  • How 'pulling' helps both contemporary and classical singing.
  • How both coaches have improved each other's voices.

The Interview 

The Lesson Trade 

About Mark:

Mark Thress, MM, MA, is an accomplished operatic and studio vocalist with a demonstrated higher education teaching history, and his work in vocal research has helped carve a unique path of innovation and vocal science in the Singing Health Specialization.

As an opera singer, Mark is experienced with both the Operatic and Operetta Repertoire. Roles he has performed include: Rodolfo, La boheme, Prunier, La rondine, Tamino, Die Zauberflöte, Nemorino, L’elisir d’amore, il Messaggero, Aida, as well as Ralph, H.M.S. Pinafore, Frederic, The Pirates of Penzance, and Nanki Poo, The Mikado. He currently performs with the Nashville Opera. Mark was awarded First Place in the inaugural NATS National Competition held in Boston, MA. He won an Honorable Full Scholarship to the Cornish-American Song Institute, where he performed Art Song recitals and toured England. Mark is the featured soloist on the album 'Whispering of Fields Unsown', by Andrew Boysen, Jr., and 'If My People Pray', arranged by Phillip Keveren.

Mark has an extensive background in vocal health, voice science and research. Under the tutelage of Dr. Scott McCoy, he worked as research assistant in the Helen Swank Research and Teaching Lab. He worked as assistant in the Head and Neck department of the Eye and Ear Institute in Columbus, OH. He helped lead therapy sessions and customize vocal exercises for patients in the Speech Pathology Clinic of the Martha Morehouse Outpatient Care facility. He is slated to travel to Hangzhou, China to develop and implement an elite vocal research lab for the purpose of diagnosing vocal pathology in classical singers.

Mark currently teaches at Belmont and Lipscomb University, and is the owner and founder of Vocal 360 Global—an artist coaching and mentorship program. His clients have performed Internationally, as well as on National Tours, Broadway, and several have received recording contracts. It is my honor and pleasure to work with him, pick his brain and call him friend!

Find and Contact Mark on...
  • Facebook (Mark Thress Music)
  • Instagram (@MarkThress)
  • Website  (www.MarkThress.com)

What about YOU?

What do you think about contemporary and classical vocal training? Have you had an experience with cross training? What helped or didn't help you? I'd love to hear from you... Your comments and reviews are the oil that keeps this blog running!

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  • At February 20, 2019 at 5:57 PM , Anonymous Ron Calabrese said...

    Judy, I just finished listening to your podcast with Mark. Some of the exercises remind me of the old days at the Sherwood Conservatory in Chicago. If you could get through the exercises without tiring, singing some arias was easy. The use of a straw was new to me and I'll have to try it. Would you agree, some classical training would help all singers who wish to sing contemporary music? So many rock singers have little or no concept of head voice and unless you're a Wagnerian, transitioning from chest voice to head resonance is a necessity. Even Lauritz Melchior, the most famous Wagnerian tenor of his era, knew how to transition from the middle voice to the top. He defined the term, dramatic tenor, had vocal chords like ropes and would sing 3 operas in a single day!

    I recall when the train was "on the tracks" at D, E, and F above middle C, I couldn't wait for those notes above the staff. It took awhile to realize singing too loud on those middle notes was detrimental to clear high notes with proper registration. Mark alluded to that fact a few times in his comments which gives me hope for modern teaching techniques! Thanks, again for an educational blog.

  • At February 21, 2019 at 11:14 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Hi Ron,

    I appreciate your input on the podcast! It's been a wonderfully enlightening experience collaborating with Judy. So much can be said about cross-training your voice using both commercial and classical technique.

    Re: your comment about Lauritz Melchior... What a voice!! I couldn't agree more. Almost seems like he had some sort of divine intervention. Extremely powerful, and well-mannered. And, there was no way that he would have been able to do the things he was known for, without a solid foundation in his head voice technique.

    Enjoyed reading your response. Thanks again for your comment.



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