Inside the Vocal Studio

by Kailee Ortiz

Mr. Kirby, one of FSSA’s vocal teachers helps prepare students for November 4th’s Cabaret performance.

Every day the students at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts (FSSA) face the plastered magenta and orange words: “Get lost in what you love,” a virtue in the vocal room in the presence of vocal teacher Mr. Kirby. The “O” in the word “Lost” always is askew while the notes of the students singing are always rising.

The brightly lit room is surrounded by windows, the school day beginning with the schools’ Opera class as they warm up for 10 minutes before the students begin working on their parts with Mr. Kirby or mentally preparing themselves for their bi-weekly quizzes. 

The rest of the vocal classes follow within the first periods of the day. Chambers prepares for their next Open House performance, and Concert Choir mainly prepping for the senior song, the closing song for Cabaret, followed by Women’s Ensemble, Songbook, Vocal Technique, Songbook and Chorale being last. 

Preparing for this years’ Cabaret season, the vocal studio at FSSA is busier now than ever, students of all grades are supporting their peers while also competing for a spot in the school’s annual Cabaret performance. From disco to Disney, every year the genre of music as well as performance type differ. This year the studio will be hosting a Carole King and Billy Joel themed show. 

With their combined 621 written and co-written songs, the students have a great variety of music to choose from for their November 4th performance. The auditioning process can be nerve-wracking especially for the newer students, however as each student grows into everyday life as a vocal major, auditioning and performing under pressure becomes quite normal. 

The vocal Cabaret was originally established by vocal studio teacher, Ms. Best and according to Mr. Kirby, exposes students to the world of auditioning and what it means to truly perform. 

The students get to choose from more than 600 songs to perform this year.

“The Cabaret is a wonderful opportunity for students to research and explore songs of different styles and experience the art of performance as a soloist. To learn what it takes to audition and get it. Learn how to entertain an audience with their artistry and talent and instrument,” Mr. Kirby stated. 

Senior vocal majors like Mekaeli Cox should know by now the ins and outs of a good audition when she sees and hears one. Practice and confidence are virtues in the audition world.

 “A good Cabaret audition is an audition where you can see and hear the hard work that the people have put into their piece, a good song that fits whoever is auditioning and having a good stage presence is also important,” she stated.

Being able to exude confidence is almost as important as the sound the vocal students produce. Their talent draws people in, however their performance is what keeps their audience engaged, turning a student into a true good singer and performer. 

As the vocal students grow into their studio, their performance skills grow alongside them, learning quickly that their confidence and above all bravery is vital in order to be seen and overall succeed within the major as raw talent is always overflowing. They learn this quite fast however as at the beginning of every school year, students from all grades must perform a song in front of their entire class to see their growth as well as to aid the vocal teachers when placing the students within the different sections: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, or Bass, from highest singing ranges to lowest.

Everyone at the beginning of their journey gets fearful when performing in front of others. For some, it’s never easy, however, Dayven Martinez, senior vocal major hopes to instill some hope for FSSA’s future vocal students.

“I remember in 8th grade I was over here practically shaking when it came to singing in front of people and now I’m just so much more confident,” Dayven said.

“If it wasn’t for this school I probably wouldn’t be at the place I am now vocally and emotionally too because it preps you for a lot of outside things and above all confidence and self esteem,” he said.

Through supporting one another while also being asked to give constructive criticism, the vocal students help build each other up, connecting to one another with their love for music. It is notable though how many feel it can be competitive, especially first years at Sinatra where you are surrounded by talent at all points throughout your day.

“At first I did have a lot of imposter syndrome because you’re coming into a place where you know it seems like everybody else is better than you or you have competition but I think the classes I was in and still am in were really supportive so the imposter syndrome eventually faded away and I kinda started finding myself and my confidence within my voice,” Mekaeli said.

With last year’s Cabaret having a duet theme, the sophomores of 2022 experienced their first solo Cabaret as well as the solo auditioning process. Nathan Clarke, a sophomore vocal major vocalized the emotion. 

“It was my second time auditioning and I feel like this year, it was more fun this year because we got to do it by ourselves and the experience was obviously good because you get to sing your own song that you picked and sing it in your own special way,” Nathan Clarke, a sophomore vocal major shared. 

“Compared to last year, I definitely felt more confident this year. Since it was duets last year it was super hard to prepare because you gotta find a good song, especially a song that not that many people are doing. If you do a song that the majority is gonna do, they’re gonna pick the best one out of that majority and on top of that to get all the notes together; it’s hard,” he continued. 

Though each student has different strengths and weaknesses within their voice, Ms. Best assures students that though some are admitted at different levels, every student was admitted for a reason. When students are auditioning Ms. Best and Mr. Kirby not only search for talent, but for the potentially amazing students they can help develop. 

Get Lost in What You Love is one of the vocal department’s virtues.

“One kid can be very professional and polished and obviously have lessons and do very well and obviously they get a good score but then there’s others that are really rough but you hear something in their voice that is just, yeah I wanna work with that. I know I can work with that voice. There’s a real potential there. And sometimes the potential is every bit as good as the polish,” Ms. Best said.

“If you have a polished student or polished auditionee it’s not always the person you want to work with. It’s when you hear something in the voice that you want to bring that potential to fruition,” she added. 

Though not everyone in the studio will go on to perform music in the future, many of the students have a shared love and passion for the art form and will be able to relish the years they got to sing with the people they care about within their school community whether that’s in their first or last Cabaret, Winter or Spring concerts.

“The best part about being a vocal major for me at least is being able to study my passion everyday because ultimately this is what I want to do and doing vocal everyday is kinda showing me this is what I want my legacy to be,” Dayven said.