American Soprano Alicia Gianni had the opportunity to both explain and demonstrate the range of her voice Wednesday as part of a special appearance for the ongoing Arts & Resilience Program – a series of events designed to link the arts and humanities with medicine at McGovern Medical School.
Gianni sang several songs, including an aria, At Last by Etta James, Fly Me To The Moon, and finished with Over The Rainbow. Originally from a small town just north of Seattle, she has had a successful career including recent performances such as a role debut as Giannetta in Houston Grand Opera’s L’Elisir D’amore and a debut as Adina in Opera Birmingham’s production of L’Elisir D’amore. She spoke about the technical side of singing, talked about her experience singing across genres like opera and jazz and how she teaches her own students.
Gianni said one of the keys to projecting a voice like an opera singer’s is resonance, which is also a method of avoiding vocal fold fatigue. Singing with a great amount of resonance isn’t fitting for all types of music, however.
“I could sing a jazz piece like that but it would sound ridiculous,” Gianni said.
She focused on the importance of controlling the soft palate and coordinating the movement of the tongue. While feeling out the soft palate can be challenging, Gianni said that lifting the soft palate and allowing vowels to have more space allows the singer to carry a different sound with their voice. Gianni also demonstrated the impact that harnessing the pelvic floor muscles can have on breath support.
“The thing about the human voice is that it’s the king of all instruments,” Gianni said. “You are your instrument, and it’s a very hard thing to teach, learn, and apply, so I do a lot of demonstration.”
Gianni admitted she is a bit nervous when it comes to demonstrations, but said she was very happy to make an appearance at McGovern Medical School.
“It’s a good thing for me to not only explain what I do, but show what I do,” Gianni said.
The next event in the Arts & Resilience Program will feature musician Roger Wood covering folk, blues, and jazz at noon March 21 in the Fifth Floor Gallery (MSB 5.001). The program is sponsored by the Dean’s Office in collaboration with the McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics.