Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

School of Music

Sub-Department

Conducting

First Advisor

Birgitta Johnson

Abstract

While transgender rights and issues are gaining an increasing amount of attention in both pop culture and, to some extent, in the education sector, little information is available for the choral conductor that provides pedagogical tools for transitioning voices. This document provides conductor-educators with both a brief look at the transgender experience and also tools to create safe learning environments, from gender-inclusive language to vocal exercises to encourage healthy vocal transitions in transgender singers

Twenty-first century choruses are not the first institutions in the realm of Western art music that have faced visual, aural, and enigmatic conceptualizations of gender and stereotypical gender roles. This document bridges centuries of gender nonconformity found in Western art music spanning Renaissance churches, to Baroque theatres, to the choral rehearsal spaces of the 21st century. Both sonic and visual gender presentation are examined as well as the points at which these two seemingly diverge and intersect.

The study of transitioning transgender singers’ voices is emerging research. However, Western music history does offer several examples of both visual and sonic blurring of gender presentation, such as boy choirs, castrati, pants roles, and popular music styles like Doo-Wop where high falsetto singing is a key element.

A review ofcurrentliterature concerning transgender issues in music education and speech pathology is discussed. Additionally, this document is built upon a survey of 154 singers, both cisgender and transgender. The survey respondents share both positive and negative experiences relating to interactions with choral conductors and the rehearsals in which the singers engage. Their experiences are case studies on the impact of the conductor-teacher’s use of language during rehearsals.

Language, especially the use of gendered pronouns and gendering entire sections within the chorus, can be psychologically damaging to both cisgender and transgender singers. The document examines ways in which conductor-teachers can avoid using gender altogether when addressing members of the chorus. In addition to language misuse, transgender survey respondents who are undergoing physical transition identify vocal hurdles due to the introduction of artificial hormones and thus, undergoing (for many) a second puberty.

By comparing FtM and MtF vocal transition to cisgender male and female puberty, one can extract the similarities that both singers will face in terms of developing a healthy new voice. The document will offer a series of exercises designed to help transgender singers transition into their new voices with maximum success. Finally, the document will offer two methods by which conductors can be inclusive of transgender singers in the programming choices of choral repertoire. The first type aids transitioning singers in being successful with a new voice with an ever-changing range. The second type of repertoire is that which champions the work of transgender composers or whose text is concerned with transgender persons, thus normalizing the transgender experience and creating opportunities for educational discussions within the chorus.

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