Mini-Grant Report: Dr Alexis Davis-Hazell gives voice masterclass

On Friday, October 23, we welcomed Dr. Alexis Davis-Hazell to our studio class, a weekly Zoom gathering of all the Sewanee voice students. Dr. Davis-Hazell, a professional mezzo soprano and Assistant Professor of Voice and Lyric Diction at the University of Alabama, worked with Sewanee singers Christian Braden, Ethan White, and Kennedy Uselton to improve their diction, enhance their resonance through vowel choice, and release tension in their technique. The other members of the 28-person studio observed, along with me and Visiting Instructor of Voice Erik Gustafson.

I’ve known Dr. Davis-Hazell since we connected as Arizona State University alumnae and National Association of Teachers of Singing boardmates in Phoenix, Arizona. We sang in the Arizona Opera chorus and taught together, and I was always impressed by her professionalism, warmth, and teaching excellence–in addition to her amazing voice! When I arrived at Sewanee in 2019, not long after she landed at Bama, I knew I had to get Dr. Davis-Hazell to the Mountain. For all the upset of Covid, it has normalized and enabled remote connections with colleagues at the click of a button, and it was easy to connect our guest with the whole Sewanee voice studio.

Watching a guest clinician work with one’s own pupils is both exciting and humbling. Training young musicians (and mature ones!) is a team effort, so it is crucial that Professor Gustafson and I bring outside voices to Sewanee to offer novel perspectives and fresh eyes. It’s also a refresher course for us teachers, bringing alternative approaches to familiar pedagogical issues. To the benefit of both the students and faculty, Dr. Davis-Hazell’s pedagogy of vowel and diction gave the Sewanee singers unfamiliar and compelling approaches to resonance and expressive communication through sung text. Her visit paid dividends in the voice studio, in that we are still invoking her teaching in lessons weeks later.

The singers and voice faculty are grateful to the Center for Teaching and Music department for their combined support of this enriching guest workshop!

Kerry Ginger, Department of Music

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