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. 

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!

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.   

Over $5,000 Raised For PVCC Fine Arts Students

PVCC's 2019 scholarship fundraiser ROCK 'N' ROLL SYMPHONY raised over $5,000 for student scholarships in the Fine and Performing Arts. The show featured 17 classic and modern rock songs and was performed by 30 musicians including PVCC music faculty, PVCC students, PVUSD high school music faculty, PVUSD high school students, members of the North Valley Symphony, and adult musicians from our community. 

If you missed the show but would like to donate to the Fine And Performing Arts Student Scholarship Fund, contact Jessi Wright, PVCC's Director of Development & Community Relations.

See the show’s encore, Stairway to Heaven, recorded by Monty Scudder:

Rock N Roll Symphony Fine Arts Scholarship Fundraiser

Join us at Paradise Valley Community College as we celebrate A Rock 'N' Roll Symphony!

These events support the Fine & Performing Arts Scholarship fund that benefits students in our award-winning Dance, Music, Performance, Creative Writing, Art, and Theatre Arts programs.

This year’s goal is to raise $12,000, which will provide five students with Fine Arts Fellowship Awards to cover their tuition for the 2019 - 2020 academic year. 
The Union32 All Stars Rock Band and very special guest vocalists will perform.

The show features classic rock hits with a full rock band and 30-piece string orchestra.

ROCK N ROLL SYMPHONY AT PVCC
March 1st and 2nd @ 7:30pm

$25 adults; $20 seniors
$15 Staff/Alumni/Mim/Military
$10 students
$8 children. 
*$4 additional ticket fee at the door 1-hour prior to performance

Center for Performing Arts
Paradise Valley Community College
18401 N. 32nd Street
Phoenix, AZ 85032

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE

Celebrate Jazz with PVCC Faculty at The MIM

Indulge your love for all things jazz with live performances of West Coast jazz, bebop, and Latin jazz; screenings of episodes from the Ken Burns film Jazz; and a workshop on the art of scat singing.

PVCC Faculty Josiel Perez’s Afro-Cuban All-Stars kick off the first performance of the weekend with a set of vibrant Latin jazz tunes, a fusion between Afro-Cuban dance music and bebop of 1940s New York City. Hear the next generation of local jazz musicians in Paradise Valley Community College’s Latin Jazz Ensemble.

PC: Joseph Burg

PC: Joseph Burg

Event Details

Saturday, February 23, 2019 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

Sunday, February 24, 2019 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.

Included with paid museum admission; free for members

Latin Jazz Performance:
1:15–2:00 p.m. Saturday


Late Start Songwriting Class Begins March 18th

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Looking for a late start class? Try Songwriting Techniques (MTC 113 #29722) with Michael Ferraro. Held on Mondays and Wednesday from 3:30-4:30pm, Songwriting Techniques is an introduction to pop melody writing and harmonic settings. Develop your ideas into complete songs with this eight week in-person course.

Songwriting Techniques

MTC113 #29722

March 18th, 2018 — May 5th, 2019

Monday & Wednesday 3:30pm - 4:30pm

N101, Michael Ferraro

Register here


No Experience Necessary: Free Music Workshops at PVCC

The music department at Paradise Valley Community College is pleased to present an exciting series of hands-on musical opportunities for students, staff and members of the community. All events in this series are FREE and only require an interest to learn something new and have fun.

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MONDAY EVENINGS: COMMUNITY SING!

6:30 - 8:30 pm | CPA 115 Music Room | June 4, 11, 18, 25

June 4th: The Beatles

June 11th : Selections from Broadway

June 18th: Selections from Disney

June 25th: Selections from Popular Music


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MONDAY EVENINGS: THE ART OF AUDIO MIXING AND REMIXING

6:30 - 8:30 pm | CPA 120 Music Lab | June 4, 11, 18, 25

June 4th: How to do a remix featuring remixed by Beyonce, Katy Perry & U2 - John Keenan

June 11th : Mixing acoustic instruments - Brett Reed

June 18th: Production elements and beat-making for radio-friendly songs - John Keenan

June 25th: Modern drum sounds: mixing with samples - Brett Reed


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TUESDAY EVENINGS: BRAZILIAN DRUM AND DANCE

6:30 - 8:30 pm | KSC 1000 | June 5, 12, 19, 26

Learn to play, sing and dance to the exciting rhythms of Brazil. All drums provided.


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WEDNESDAY EVENINGS: MUSIC TECHNOLOGY

6:30 - 8:30 pm | CPA 120 Music Lab | June 6, 13, 20, 27

June 6th: Analog and Modular Synthesis I

June 13th: Analog and Modular Synthesis II

June 20th: Interactive Multimedia Art and Handmade Electronic Music 

June 27th: Introduction to Sound Design for Film and Video Games


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THURSDAY EVENINGS: FILM SCORING ANALYSIS

6:30 - 8:30 pm | CPA 120 Music Lab | June 7, 14, 21, 28

June 7th: The origin of film music. Why music?

June 14th: Diagetic vs. non-diagetic sound

June 21st: Hollywood sound: John Williams (film scoring analysis)

June 28th: The use of leitmotifs as both narrative and structural device (music-dramatic)


For additional information about the NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY events and workshops, please call (602) 787-6596 for information, or e-mail music@paradisevalley.edu.