Melissa Crowhurst

Major: Music
“Old Italian Singing”

Melissa Crowhurst

This research seeks to study Old Italian Singing (OIS) and its pedagogy in order to explore the use of natural voice as a teaching method for choral students. Originating in Italy during the 19th century and spreading throughout Europe, OIS is the method in which one is able to sing and explore repertoire with a natural and most efficient vocal sound featuring the inherent qualities that are unique to an individual voice. Focusing on qualities such as vocal color, texture, and emotion, this vocal method is best understood in comparison to modern vocal pedagogy. Modern vocal instruction tends to ‘sculpt’ the voice into a preconceived category, producing a “corporate voice.” As a method of vocal instruction, OIS is not an established vocal pedagogy practiced in the United States. As such, this work will take place in Florence, Italy, where I will take daily private voice lessons at Florence University of the Arts with Ms. Susanna Piccardi, who is both a product of the Old Italian Singing School and a specialist in its instruction. Being able to witness her teaching methods will provide a further vantage point in knowing how to teach my own students the OIS method. I plan to become proficient in OIS in order to have another pedagogy method in my repertoire as a youth choral teacher. I will also create an information session for UMBC vocalists that demonstrate the difference between various vocal methods.

How did you find your mentor for your research, scholarship, or artistic project?
I thought about the faculty members who knew me well, along with who would have an interest and be knowledgeable in my field of research. My voice professor, Janice Jackson and my Music History professor, Dr. Joseph Morin, were excellent mentors.

How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?
I knew Italy would be the perfect place to study voice. My mentor, Dr. Morin helped me do some research into particular topics that I could research while studying voice. I began reading a book on Old Italian Singing and quickly realized how interesting the technique was. I was excited to research a technique that wasn’t commonly known or taught in America.

Do you get course credit for this work?
Yes, 3 credits.

How much time do you put into it?
I had an hour voice lesson each day for three weeks in Florence, Italy. To prepare for my vocal lessons, I was required to practice for a few hours a day. In addition, I spent time reading books about Old Italian Singing and vocal techniques. I also kept a journal on my findings. My overall study and research took several hours a day.

How did you hear about the Undergraduate Research Award (URA) program?
Through my mentors and the Linehan Artist Summer Study Award.

What academic background did you have before you applied for the URA?
I am a rising senior studying Choral Music Education. I am a Linehan Scholar who has maintained a 3.95 GPA.

Was the application difficult to do?
To do the application properly, it takes time and research. Making sure your facts are presented neatly and with enough detail. In addition, one must carefully plan out their budget.

Melissa Crowhurst

How much did your mentor help you with the application?
Explained particular parts of the application along with helping in the editing process.

What has been the hardest part about your research?
Reading and recording my findings. It took a lot of time to carefully read the many books that Florence University of the Arts had for me to research. It was a lot of information but all very useful.

What was the most unexpected thing?
My voice teacher. I expected I would learn a lot, but I did not anticipate how amazing and knowledgeable my teacher would me. I am in awe of how much I’ve learned. The experience was very valuable.

How does your research relate to your work in other classes?
I am able to use my findings to better my own vocal technique and help other beginning vocal students at UMBC. In addition, as a future music teacher, I can use the learned techniques in my classroom.

What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Make sure to keep a journal or diary of your findings and experiences. Once you return home it can be hard to remember it all. Keeping a daily log will help you remember important details and data.

What are your career goals?
Become a music teacher in Maryland Public Schools. In addition, I hope to continue to perform. She sang the National Anthem before a sell out crowd at Orioles Park at Camden Yards on June 29th, 2013 before the Orioles/Yankees game!

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