January 26, 2015 | By John Cooper Lawton, Courtesy of The Daily Mississippian
Lippa is a composer, lyricist, playwright and performer. His works include writing the music and lyrics for “Big Fish“ and “The Addams Family,“ writing “The Wild Party“ and “I Am Harvey Milk“ and being the music director for Kristin Chenoweth.
The Living Music Resource (LMR), a program that “takes a 21st Century approach to classical vocal music research,” was honored to have the Tony and Grammy nominated artist as a guest.
“It’s huge for our students to have an artist of this caliber,” said Nancy Maria Balach, associate professor of music and the creator and head of LMR. “He’s going to go down in the history books as one of the composers of this time period.“
Living Music Resource featured Lippa in many different ways, including a Q&A with students, the program’s interactive online show “The Beat,” and a public master-class called “Between the Bar Lines.”
“There may be one person who needed to hear what Andrew Lippa had to say today,” Lippa said. “And, if there’s one person, wow, what a thing. Who knows what the imprint moment is going to be?”
Lippa’s main point throughout all the events of the day was to be yourself and sing what the song was truly about. He said that songs are dialogues, not monologues. He said he does not want singers to sing for themselves but rather sing with the intention of singing it to someone.
“Andrew Lippa wrote half of the song,“ Lippa said. “You write the other half.“
The day culminated with the new segment “Between the Bar Lines.” This master class gave eight singers the opportunity to be coached by Lippa. One of the singers was Meagan Kennedy, the daughter of UM men’s basketball head coach Andy Kennedy, who will play the role of Wednesday Addams in Oxford High School’s upcoming production of The Addams Family.
“It’s not often, particularly in this part of the country, where high school students actually have the opportunity to speak to and work with the composer of a musical that they’re performing,“ said John Davenport, Oxford High School’s theater director. “Who better to know about the music, about the character and about the choices that were made originally than the person who created them?“
“The Beat” featured Lippa as he fielded questions from Twitter, Facebook, Living Music Resource’s website and the live audience. Two viewers had the opportunity to get advice from Lippa over FaceTime after Lippa viewed the videos they sent in of them singing.
UM students and Oxford High School students joined the crowd in asking Lippa questions. After the show, the cast of Oxford High’s The Addams Family was able to speak to Lippa one-on-one.
“That was invaluable to get criticisms and critiques from the composer himself,“ Meagan Kennedy said. “It’s going to be really helpful in the long run because he totally helped me connect with the emotions of the character, and I think I can play that into so many different things.”
Balach started Living Music Resource in 2006. In the past year it has taken off and now reaches 15 states and four different countries. It has featured composers, singers and actors including William Bolcom and Mary Donnelly Haskell.
“There are tons of things on YouTube, but there’s a lot of junk,” Balach said. “Teachers find themselves frustrated by their students just finding the first thing on YouTube. Why not create a resource that teachers can tell people to go to? Why not create a program that is in real time that people anywhere can interact with these acclaimed artists?“
Balach wants Living Music Resource to become associated with UM. She said she does not believe Hollywood should be the only place that can attract stars and ask them questions. She said she wants academia and UM to be able to do that too.
“Why can’t learning be fun? Instead of getting something secondhand, we can get the information right from the source,” Balach said. “How cool would it have been to actually hear Mozart talk about what was happening the week he wrote the Susanna Aria in ‘The Marriage of Figaro?’”