Voice students get one-on-one advise from master

Patrice Michaels works with soprano Elise Ybarra. (Claire Cote)

Claire Cote

Those lucky enough to attend the Vocal Master Class with guest instructor Patrice Michaels, soprano, last Wednesday received a real treat. Not only did Michaels work one-on-one with each student performer, she brought an undeniable energy to the room, eliciting excitement from the audience, whose attention she could not shake. Micheals visited the Saddleback College campus to facilitate a special Master class for voice majors.

“It’s a great honor to hear you all,” said Michaels, clad in tattered black cowboy boots and a long purple tunic.

The program consisted mostly of sopranos, whose styles ranged from pure soprano to a rich mezzo. Joelle Teeter, mezzo-soprano, began the class with a tune by Ned Rorem and quickly captivated the room.

Michaels allowed each performer to sing for one minute in what she called “audition style” so she could note their positive points as well as the areas that need further work. She then invited each singer to the front of the room for some one-on-one time, instigating exercises that ranged from weight-distribution and trust building to breathing exercises that even had one student lying on the floor.

Michaels also offered creative tips and tricks to the singers.

“You have a wonderful speaking voice and great personal energy,” Michaels encouraged Elise Ybarra, soprano. “You should allow yourself to move when you feel as though you should stand still.”

Daniel Choi, a 27 year-old baritone, was the token male at the program and brought a new energy to the room. His force and confidence were obvious, and after working just 10 minutes with Michaels, he showed great promise.

Michaels created a very relaxing and fun atmosphere in the room and really seemed to connect with each student, bringing out the reserved ones and reigning in the overly animated. She spoke of how many students tend to fall into a pattern of negative self-talk, which can only hurt a performance, and encouraged each singer to think only positive thoughts before walking onstage.

“I tell myself I need to give the audience as much enjoyment as I can. Whatever it takes to get me out of my worries,” Michaels said. “At least I want to have fun, and I want the audience to have fun, too.”

Michaels serves as Associate Professor of Opera Theater and Studio Voice at Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisc.

Daniel Choi, 27, works on breathing exercises with Michaels. (Claire Cote)