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Caleb Grochalski

Musical Theatre Practicum


Singers Self-Reflection
As a child in a small, rural farm town on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, I very distinctly remember growing up listening
to a great deal of country- western music. It is what my parents grew up with and loved listening to from the beginning, so
naturally I listened to that particular genre too. I dont really know what made it so instinctual; I always must have thought
these singers must be having a good time expressing themselves in such a beautiful way, so why shouldnt I? In grade
school I was very involved and passionate in my music classes, and in playing in the school band. I loved music. When I had
become too vocal in the house, my mother naturally thought to place me in our churchs childrens choir. I did a great deal of
vocal work there as well as at the Pittsburgh CLO Academy, where I took dance, acting, and group voice classes from 3 rd to
5th grade. I eventually left due to a tight financial situation at home. Regardless, I still sang, danced, and was just a generally
theatrical and dramatic person. I had to do something theatrical with my time or my parents would go crazy, so this
eventually led to performing at a local community theatre for about three to four years. Up to that point the only voice
instruction I had was in general music class, choir, and group voice at the academy. I had never privately studied until late in
high school with voice teachers provided by my performing arts high school which I began attending in the 8th grade. The
musical theatre department that I was a part of required me to take repertoire classes or group vocal coaching sessions, but it
was up to me to take the initiative to get private voice instruction. I never really understood the purpose behind private voice.
Wasnt it just going to be the same as my rep classes? I knew how I sounded, and it hadnt failed to get me cast, so why did it
matter?
Finally taking the torch, I got a private voice teacher through the music department of my school. These private
voice lessons were about 30-45 minutes weekly off and on (if I remembered to go) during an academic class, if the teacher
allowed. Mr. Jones was my first voice teacher, and we first worked on some minor issues I had at the time, to keep me up on
average with the other students my age. We did a great deal of work on my placement, trying to make the sound more
brighter and more forward. He mostly tried to get to aim my sound out of my cheekbones and the back of the front teeth. I
used to be very tense while I sang, which was partly due to prior training with my Musical Theatre teacher who made very
sure that we would stand still and not move during our first year. I was very tense in my neck and shoulders from that, and he
tried his best to break me of that. Collectively, I never really cared for him as a teacher, but I understood some things that he
was trying to go for. He also told me that instead of a standard vibrato, my voice instead has a nervous quiver which

sometimes seemed like a vibrato, just a very forced and unnatural sound. I think what I wanted most was that pretty vibrato
that every other singer had but me. I still do. I really felt like once you had a vibrato in your voice, you were a REAL singer.
He never really got to the root of why that never happened for me. After I had worked with him for a few months, I stopped
going to my voice lessons because, as I said before, they were at the discretion of my academic teacher, and also I really
didnt care for him.
The next year I began taking lessons from a woman (also provided through my school) who was my good friends
mother, Mrs. Jen Miller. My experience was much better with her than I had with Mr. Jones. In studying with her, my range
broadened, my tonality improved, and I knew a lot more about the mechanics of my voice. My breath support and control is a
constant work in progress for me at every lesson. Mrs. Miller and I worked extensively on it every class, and it has definitely
gotten better in terms of taking low breaths from the diaphragm rather than the lungs and shoulders. I honestly think I got that
bad habit from being in the chorus of a lot of very heavy dancing shows and being placed on the highest male vocal line.
Naturally, I was only ever told to do whatever I can to sing my part as loudly and as accurately as possible, which often
meant that I would throw technical stuff out the window and do as I was told. Often during my high school career there was a
constant push for professionalism which basically meant shut up and do what youre told regardless if its good for you or
not. So thats what I did for years. I would do a ridiculously long tap dance or production number and there of course is a big
finish to it where the top tenors have to scream out a high G or A, AND in the adrenaline rush of the show, you really dont
think of proper breath placement (especially when youve never been properly taught). I definitely have a long way to go
from this moment to where Id like to be as a singer.
Over the next four years I would like to improve upon the technical base of my singing, because I feel that Ive had
a lack of very technical training. Most of my vocal knowledge was either self-taught or very vague in my high school years. I
look forward to an in depth study on my vocal health and knowledge of solid technique. Id also like to explore how to
handle the energy of a large production number without jeopardizing my voice in the end. I also know that my goal later in
life is to become a director/choreographer and maybe have a musical theatre program of my own at a college. Therefore, a
very solid knowledge of every possible situation that musical theatre singers might be in would be very beneficial. Right
now, my mind is a sponge, and I am looking forward to soaking up as much as I possibly can.