Students look to local coaches for singing lessons

By Emily Birnbaum, Contest Manager

With their ears still ringing with the sound of post-Blast buzz, students may ask themselves the question: “Do I want to try out for Blast next year?”
If the answer to this question is yes, then the question after that is even more difficult to answer: “How do I prepare?” Some students turn to the world of vocal coaches for their answer.
According to CHS students, three of the most popular vocal coaches in the Potomac
area are Kristin Halliday, Cheryl Stafford and Chrisselene Petropoulous.
Kristin Halliday
Professional actress and soprano Kristin Halliday is a Potomac native and a CHS alumna. She is the founder and director of the Academy of Performing Arts, her own independent school, that features a roster of over 40 singers.
Lessons with Halliday are held at her home in Potomac.
Currently, she coaches senior Alex Levenson, junior Genny Austin and sophomore Chani Wereley, all of whom are members of Blast and the CHS Choral Music Department.
“If you have a problem, she will help you with it,” Wereley said. “She gives me songs that help me express the emotion
I’m feeling and it really helps. She’s a great person.”
Halliday does not have one lesson plan for all her students, but instead personalizes
her lesson plans to individual student’s needs.
“Voice lessons are tailored to the specific needs of the individual singer,” Halliday said. “However, my focus is always
to protect a young singer’s voice by building a solid, healthy technique while still challenging and inspiring the singer to reach his or her maximum potential.”
According to Levenson, having a vocal coach has really helped her with Blast and Showstoppers.
“It always helps to have another opinion,”
Levenson said. “It gives you a shot of confidence. She helps guide you.”
Cheryl Stafford
Soprano soloist Cheryl Stafford has either choreographed, performed in or directed over 350 productions in the last 30 years. She teaches private voice lessons at the Musical Theater Center in Rockville.
She currently teaches senior Michelle Markowitz and freshman Ellie Rabinovitz,
both of whom are in the CHS show choir Simply Irresistible and Blast.
According to Markowitz, having Stafford as a teacher has helped her in many ways.
“I’ve become stronger,” Markowitz said. “I’ve learned theory, I know keys, and I’m learning how to sight read.”
According to Rabinovitz, Stafford uses many techniques to help expand her own technique and ability.
“She’ll sing with me in her operatic, professional voice if I’m singing something
off,” Rainbovitz said. “She lets me know what I’m doing wrong so I can fix it.”
Stafford’s focus is on expanding her students’ knowledge of the voice, including
things such as vibrato, range, chest voice, head voice and technique.
“She has a ton of experience, so she knows how it feels to be in my place right now,” Rabinovitz said.
Chrisselene Petropolous
Performer, author, public speaker, professor and 1971 CHS alumna Chrisselene
Petropolous has traveled across the country to speak about her technique to master healthy singing and overcome vocal challenges. She has also written a book, Performance Mode and The 10 Technical Commands to Vocal Mastery.
According to Petropolous, her theory is that after mastering the 10 Technical Commands, which deal with how to use the body to claim control over one’s voice, a person will have guaranteed high notes, the ability to sustain long phrases, a two-octave range and more.
She is currently the teacher of junior Laura Dromerick and sophomore Chrissy
Lorica, both of whom are members of Simply Irresistible and Blast.
“In the first half of a lesson, we review how to perform—how to be objective onstage,”
Lorica said. “It’s important that we don’t take things personally so that we can do our best technically.”
According to Petropolous, the ability to take criticism in a non-personal way is called “performance mode.”
“In the second half of a lesson, we work on breathing techniques and proper singing,” Lorica said. “If I’m not working on a song, we choose one that would benefit my voice.”
According to Dromerick, having a singing teacher has helped her a lot.
“The vocal warm-ups really do help build and strengthen my voice and helped me get roles,” Dromerick said.
According to Petropolous, students usually come in once a week, but sometimes
they find the lessons so appealing that they come up to three times weekly.
“There is nobody who I will not teach,” Petropolous said.
According to Lorica, Petropolous is more than just a teacher.
“I’ve grown so much as a performer and as a person because of her, and she is both my teacher and my friend,” Lorica said. “I’m really lucky to have Chrisselene as my teacher because she is a model for all of her students in ways ranging from how to sing healthily to how to accept mistakes as a learning experience.”