A Champion for the Contralto: Piper Pack-Smith Explores The Lowest Female Singing Voice

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by Piper Pack-Smith

I started teaching at PVCC in 2014 when I moved back to my home city of Phoenix after 20 years of being away. PVCC enriches my understanding of the voice because of the incredible diversity of students I've encountered. Often the students come in without their own voice classification which prompts me to wonder about how teachers assign voice types.

I have also had the pleasure of teaching theater classes (Voice & Diction and Music Theatre Workshop) both of which have inspired me to think about how we think about character in relationship to voice — a critical part of my exploration of Rossini recently published in the Opera Journal of the National Opera Association.

Women with lower voices were able to play characters that had more gravitas, heroism and intelligence, as if they were "part male.”

He wrote in an age where women had very few options. Women with lower voices were able to play characters that had more gravitas, heroism and intelligence, as if they were "part male.” The hardest part of exploring the topic was finding and reading through texts from the 1800s. There is some modern writing on the subject but most of my research involved reading through old comments and letters, sometimes in Italian.

The most surprising part of this research was learning how different opera careers could be, and how short! It emphasized the importance of teaching technique for longevity, knowing that these pieces were written for singers who often had careers that lasted fewer than 10 years.

Rossini, who wrote more operas for lower-voiced women than any other composer, saw a difference between the mezzo-soprano and contralto.

I explored the composition process, reading the entertaining stories of the singers and composers of that era. It brought me joy to explore a different but exciting culture of singers and musicians. The thesis of my paper is that Rossini, who wrote more operas for lower-voiced women than any other composer, saw a difference between the mezzo-soprano and contralto, despite modern casting that interchanges those two voices.

I am interested in our hesitation in modern voice teaching and singing to call people contraltos, usually opting for mezzo-soprano because the term is "safer." And yet at one time the professional singing world was flooded with contraltos. Was that because of taste, terminology or marketing?

Rossini had a love for the contralto and spoke about the voice type quite a bit. He is also a primary part of the opera "canon," whose operas were popular in 1813 and still are in 2019. Thus, he remains a champion for the contralto to this day!

Rediscovering the Unique Role of the Contralto in the Operas of Gioachino Rossini by Piper Pack-Smith


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Dr. Piper Pack-Smith joined the PVCC faculty in 2014. She currently teaches Voice & Diction, Music Theatre Workshop and Individual Voice Lessons, as well as masterclasses and workshops in auditioning and accents & dialects. As a performer, she has consistently impressed audiences with her rich mezzo voice and natural stage presence.  She has appeared with a number of arts organizations across the country, including the Los Angeles Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, the Phoenix Symphony, Opera Memphis, Opera Pacific and the Bronx Opera. Piper has performed in national sold-out tours as Ruth in Pirates of Penzance and Buttercup in H.M.S. Pinafore. Following her move to New York in 2003, she created the role of Mama in the new Off-Broadway production Valentino. In 2018, Piper completed her DMA at the University of Arizona. She also holds degrees from UCIrvine and Pepperdine. She has received awards including a PVCC Arty, and an MONCA award.  In 2018 she was invited to present her research on Rossini and the contralto at the Hawaii International Conference on the Humanities and is slated to be published in the June issue of the Opera Journal, a publication of the National Opera Association. 

Oz: The Land That Time Forgot

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It’s been almost one hundred years since anyone from the outside world has stepped foot in Oz. In that time, things have changed for the worse….a new ruler, the Demented Dodo, has overthrown the Ozian government, and he cannot be stopped. Meanwhile back on earth, Clea has been elected student council president, and the new principal of Gale Junior High is making ridiculous regulations in a student handbook he has written. As a thunderstorm rages on, Clea and the school mascot, Ferret-o, are transported to the land of Oz. Can Clea and her pal Ferret-o save Oz and also make changes for the good at her middle school? Who will stand with the Dodo? Who will stand with Clea? Featuring a wide variety of characters from all of Baum’s Oz tales. World Premiere. Appropriate for family audiences.

June 21, 22, 28 and 29 at 7:30pm; June 23 and 30 at 2:00pm
$15 adults; $12 seniors/staff; $10 students/military; $8 children
*4 additional ticket fee at the door 1 hour prior to performance.

Click here to purchase tickets online: https://bit.ly/2XfO0gf

No Experience Necessary: Free Summer Music Workshops at PVCC

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Welcome to NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY, the Summer Music Education Series at Paradise Valley Community College.

Presented by the Commercial Music Program, all events in this series at FREE and open to students, staff and community. Reservations are not required but are recommended. Call 602-787-7738 to reserve your space.


 MONDAYS

Summer Sing-along

Mondays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, CPA 115 music room, Instructor: Phil Goldblatt

Join us every Monday evening in June to sing a wide variety of musical styles in a choral setting. Attendees will learn proper breathing and vocal technique as well as simple harmonization. 

  • Monday, June 3rd - Selections from The Beatles

  • Monday, June 10th – Selections from Broadway

  • Monday, June 17th – Selections from Disney

  • Monday, June 24th – Selections from Billboard Top 40


The Art of Audio Mixing and Remixing

Mondays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, CPA 120 Electronic Music Lab, Instructors: Brett Reed and John Keenan

  • Monday, June 3rd – Mixing Foundations: Bass and Drums in Acoustic Music - Brett Reed

  • Monday, June 10th – Using Samples: Modern Drum Sounds for Stage and Studio - Brett Reed

  • Monday, June 17th – How to Remix: Christina Aguilera, Demi Lovato, U2 - John Keenan

  • Monday, June 24th – Making Beats for Radio Friendly Songs - John Keenan


TUESDAYS

Brazilian Drum and Dance Workshops

Tuesday, 6:30pm-8:30pm, KSC1000, Instructors: Joseph Goglia, Samuel Peña and special guests

Join us every Tuesday in June to explore the hand drumming rhythms, songs and dance from Brazil, Cuba and Puerto Rico. Be sure not to miss June 11th for a very special Bomba masterclass with Beto Torrens from Puerto Rico.

  • June 4th, June 11th, June 18th, June 25th


 Collaborative Improvisation and Music Composition

Tuesday, 6:30pm-8:30pm, CPA115, Instructors: Josh Bennett and Elizabeth Kennedy Bayer

Join Oh My Ears (OME) administrators Elizabeth Kennedy Bayer and Josh Bennett to discover and experiment with modern music making techniques. This class will explore how collaborative improvisation and composition can yield exciting musical creativity. We will investigate group improvisation, graphic score composition and analysis, group composition, electroacoustic experimentation, and more! Bring your axe and an open mind!

  • June 4th, June 11th, June 18th, June 25th


WEDNESDAYS

Music Technology Workshops

Wednesdays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, CPA 120 Music Lab, Instructor: Tony Obr

  • June 5th -  Introduction to Modular Synthesis- Learn the basics of analog modular synths, including tips on      how to set up your own modular system. Noprior experience necessary.

  • June 12th -  Intermediate Modular Synthesis- Learn about more advanced analog modular synthesizer topics, including how to connect a modular synth to other gear and recording a modular in a DAW. No prior experience required, but participation in the previous (June 5th) workshop is encouraged.   

  • June 19th -  Interactive Multimedia Art- Learn about creative coding and build audio reactive visuals in programs like Processing and Nodebox. No prior experience necessary.

  • June 26th -  DIY Low Power Synthesizers and Circuit Bending- Learn the basics of handmade electronic music. Have fun building your own low power synthesizer! Participants are encouraged to bring a 9volt battery. No prior experience necessary.


 Singer/Songwriter Open Mic

Wednesdays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, CPA 115, Instructors: Michael Ferraro and special guests

Please call 602-787-7738 to signed up to perform each week. Performers should prepare two songs each week.

Piano, Amps and PA system will be provided.

  • June 5th – Co-Hosts: JAM and Summer Welsh

  • June 12th – Co-Hosts: TBD

  • June 19th – Co-Hosts: Janae Dunn and Lois Zozobrado

  • June 26th – Co-Hosts: TBD


THURSDAY

Film Scoring Analysis and Live Film Scoring 

Thursdays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, CPA 120 Music Lab, Instructor: Josiel Perez

During this workshop, the participants become familiar with film scoring genres such as comedy, horror, mystery, adventure, and action. The participants will also have the opportunity to score live by using their primary or secondary instrument during the session. This technique fosters creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking in solving problems because of the opportunity to score a scene on the spot.

  • June 6th -  Comedy -Alan Silvestri

  • June 13th -  Horror - Charles Bernsteine

  • June 20th -  Action - James Newton Howard

  • June 27th -  Source Music

Concert Week at PVCC: April 29th - May 3rd, 2019

Join us for for four nights of free music performed by our Spring ensemble students. This week at 7:30 p.m. in the Center for Performing Arts, it’s Spring 2019 Concert Week!

Spring 2019 Festival of Tales - Free Storytelling Event for Families

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Festival of Tales is a fun day of reading, literacy and cultural activities for children and families that includes storytelling, arts and crafts, games, face painting, live music, food trucks and much more!  PVCC’s Art of Storytelling classes, Education Program, the Division of Fine & Performing Arts, and the Commercial Music Program present this free event for children in the community.

For information, visit www.festivaloftales.com

Songwriting Tips From The Trenches

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Join us for the final installment of our spring series of guest artists as PVCC Music welcomes songwriters Jon Iger and Randy Brown. Jon and Randy will present Songwriting Tips From The Trenches, discussing songwriting tips and techniques, resources for songwriters, and the Arizona Songwriters Association, a group started by Jon in 1977.

Wednesday, April 24th
5:30pm-7:00pm
CPA 115
Free Admission | Open to all

Jon and Randy, Arizona Songwriters Association members, have had songs placed in many movies and TV shows with major label cuts on MCA and Capitol Records and have taught songwriting at the annual Arizona Songwriters Gathering, the Musical Instrument Museum and are co-hosts of the ASA Songs in Progress Workshop, happening the 3rd Saturday of each month at the Glendale Public Library.   

I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (Musical Comedy)

In the form of a series of vignettes, I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change covers everything you have ever secretly thought about dating, romance, marriage, lovers, husbands, wives and in-laws, but were afraid to admit.

Book and Lyrics by Joe DiPietro
Music by Jimmy Roberts
Directed by Andrea Robertson
April 12th, 13th, 19th, 20th @ 7:30pm
April 14th and 20th @ 2:00pm
$15 adults; $12 seniors/staff; $10 students/military; $8 children
*4 additional ticket fee at the door 1‐hour prior to performance

Click HERE to purchase tickets