Jenks Voice Studio

Crossover: The mostly one-way street

Published on October 17th, 2015 by Brad Jenks

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Following on the heels of my last post, regarding the nature of "classical training" and defending it as merely the development of skill with one's instrument, I feel compelled to share some examples of wonderful things that I have seen recently. I briefly mentioned crossover in my previous blog, and it is here that I believe I find a potent illustration of the points from my previous write-up.Recently a handful of operatic artists have taken a (sometimes literal) break from challenging operatic performances to casually toss out a popular tune.

And I cannot stress enough just how significant this is when discussing the skill, discipline, and abilities of performing artists. When training is downgraded in conversation to the merely stylistic, it ignores certain practical realities. And here, demonstrated, is one reality:

These artists, with ease, can toss out a popular tune. And you will never see crossover done with such facility in the other direction.

So, if I may be allowed what is perhaps an oversimplification in some measure; The "classically" trained are really only those who know how to play their instrument.* Whereas the stylistically trained are one- or two-trick ponies who have learned a part of their instrument only.

And this does not apply only to vocalists. 

Notice the comfortable swagger of the intrumentalists in the "All About The Bass" clip while they break from challenging operatic orchestral music to jam a simpler tune backstage. And if someone takes issue with the question of whether or not the classically trained soprano "sounds right" in the pop song, that is a discussion that will involve interesting factors like - appropriate keys, amplification options, and articulation choices. But the fact remains that she can sing it. And odds are, Meghan Trainor couldn't jump in for Angela Brown any ol' time. Not without risking injury, anyway. 

So, while the question of style, and the vocal investigations, observations, scientific inquiry and resulting pedagogical insight on the subject are all fascinating and offer wonderful input for the broader discussion...... let's not miss the forest for the trees and start to ignore things that are right in front of our face. It leads to bad thinking, and ultimately to bad singing.

*(disregarding the issue of good/bad training)