Recording an Outreach Concert for the Detroit School of the Arts

Recording an Outreach Concert for the Detroit School of the Arts

Academic Year:
2021 - 2022 (June 1, 2021 through May 31, 2022)
Funding Requested:
Project Dates:
Overview of the Project:
I am a studio voice teacher in the Musical Theatre Department, and my goal is to train singers not only in the vocal technique of healthy and expressive singing across the entire gamut of styles, but also how to connect their art to the world around them. For that purpose, I allocate 20% of their semester grade to a “Humanities Project” that varies from term to term. For Winter 22, I have asked all the students to do some research about Detroit and pick repertoire that spoke to them personally as well as celebrated Detroit’s rich arts legacy. Out of that research we have created a concert called “A Love Letter to Detroit,” comprising songs that were created or popularized by artists from Detroit or have a connection to the cultural and historical importance of this great American city. Because of logistics and Covid safety issues, I would like to hire a video production team to make a high-quality video recording of our concert during the last studio class of the term, which I will provide to the students at the Detroit School of the Arts via their choir director, who is an alumnus of our own SMTD, for him to share it with his students at their convenience. I hope that through their research coupled with the empathetic act of performance, the students will be inspired to explore Detroit and more deeply appreciate the legacy of its outsized contributions to American song.
Final Report Fields
Project Objectives:

I wanted to encourage and foster student initiative into learning about Detroit, its music and its people. The city has such a rich history and has contributed so much to American song, including the repertoire that my students sing, and I wanted them to know where that legacy comes from. I also wanted them to use their talents to connect to high school students in the community (at the Detroit School of the Arts) so they get to know and provide models for young people who want to pursue a career in the performing arts.

Project Achievements:

The students took initiative and found their own “hooks” into Detroit by doing research, picking songs that reflected what they discovered, learning and performing those songs with the DSA students in mind. We had originally intended the program that resulted from their musical choices to be an in-person outreach performance at the DSA, but Covid intervened, necessitating the filming of their concert, and the filming was funded by this IDF grant. The students delivered introductory remarks to each song, which included a personalized message about what my students wanted the DSA students to take away from their song choices. This project fulfilled a requirement in my syllabus that I call their “Humanities Project,” for which the students combine research and performance to deepen their knowledge of cultures that they may or may not know much about. Outreach is also an important goal of the Department of Musical Theatre as well as the SMTD, so their work aligned with the goals of our greater UM community as well.

We hope to follow up with the students at the DSA by visiting the school in person next year to perform and have deeper discussions.
I actually hadn’t made plans to formally report on this project to my colleagues, but since we’re a small department it would be really easy to do. I will make plans to present at a faculty meeting in the upcoming year when we are preparing our in-person visit to the DSA.
Advice to your Colleagues:
I think persistence is the most important lesson I took away from this project. The students were so challenged by Covid and exhaustion at the end of the term, so much so that we didn’t get to rehearse the performance before we filmed it, but my students were actually very proud of themselves when it was all over, and the DSA students really loved the video and will share their questions for the UM students in the fall.