University of Wisconsin - Green Bay

Research Council


Courtney Sherman

Courtney Sherman

Spring 2013

"American Musical Theatre Repertoire from 1943 to the Present"

Grant in Aid of Research

Final Report: "May 20-28, 2013, I served on the faculty of the IV Encontro Internacional de Música at the University of São Paulo in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil. In particular, the music faculty at USP were interested in including a musical theatre element to the festival that summer. While I was there, I learned that this was because their students showed an interest in the topic, and that this particular repertoire is not part of the typical academic curricula in schools and universities in Brazil. The GIAR funding I received was used to offset some of the travel expenses of this trip. One of the days of instruction at the festival involved an hour-long lecture on American Musical Theatre from 1943 to the present, during which I was able to expose the students to several examples of the repertoire highlighting the development of the genre in the US. The other days of the festival involved my giving one-on-one coaching to the Brazilian voice students on musical theatre repertoire in preparation for a public performance, and a daily group class on musical theatre performance practices. One of my colleagues from UWGB was leading a travel course that included participation at the festival. While I was not the instructor of record for that course, I assisted my colleague in organizational matters involving our students’ experiences at the music festival. Our American students, most of whom were very familiar and at home with musical theatre, participated in my group class alongside the Brazilian students, and that experience proved to be very insightful for both groups. In particular, the Brazilian students could learn simply through exposure about the musical/vocal style and expression of a genre that interest them, but is not part of their culture in the same way it is for the American students. In the same class, our students from UWGB, while at home with the genre, learned much about the experience of expressing oneself singing in a language other than one’s first language. They learned how important specific choices with diction are, when it comes to working in not only particular languages, but also in particular musical styles within a language. For instance, the way one uses one’s resonance space in formal art song repertoire or opera is different than what is required in musical theatre, and one reason for that is the use of the language and the shape of the vowels to create different tonal colors. In working with teaching these concepts to the Brazilian students, and observing our American students experiencing these concepts in a different format than usual has influenced adjustments to my approach when teaching these concepts here at UWGB to my voice students. Furthermore, it was a rewarding experience to bring something musical that is largely American in its roots to such an eager and appreciative international audience, both as a teacher and as a performer. I have been invited to go back, and hope to do so in the near future."