hy•brid sing•er- (n). Refers to the vocal athlete who is highly skilled performing in multiple vocal styles possessing a solid vocal technique that is responsive, adaptable, and agile in order to meet demands of current and ever-evolving vocal music industry genres.
Through our years of professional singing, training, and performance (resulting in an evolution to become voice pathologists and singing voice specialists), we have encountered a transition in the industry demands and injuries of the 21st-century vocal athlete. Today’s commercial music industry demands versatility of vocal athletes who are now expected to be skilled in multiple styles of singing. Not only are these singers asked to perform vocal gymnastics on an eight-show per week schedule, these vocal athletes must also possess excellent acting skills and strong dancing ability to be competitive. These demands on the voice, body, and psyche necessitate a physically, vocally, and mentally fit singer who is agile and adaptable.
In a time when major opera companies are closing their doors, the commercial music industry boasts millions of viewers on a weekly basis through mainstream media outlets (e.g., “The Voice,” “American Idol,” “X-Factor”). Broadway shows grossed over $400 million dollars in 2012. And in the pop music market, in 2012 alone, physical albums, digital albums, and digital songs surpassed 1.65 billion units indicating a strong public desire and potentially lucrative business for commercial music singers. Yet, there are only two exclusively non-classical vocal pedagogy training programs in the United States as of this writing. Therefore, these vocal athletes learn their craft by relying on God-given talent, they make their way by imitation, or they study with a voice teacher who may or may not have experience or training in the commercial music genre. Some of these choices may unfortunately lead to vocal problems if they cannot withstand demands of the profession. By no means do we suggest that classical voice pedagogy is not a valid and proven effective method of vocal training. However, even though running is part of a gymnastics floor routine, it would be unlikely that an Olympic gymnast would train exclusively with a running coach when he or she is required to perform backflips on a balance beam.
Similarly, The Vocal Athlete (LeBorgne & Rosenberg. 2014) and its companion workbook The Vocal Athlete: Application and Technique for the Hybrid Singer (Rosenberg & LeBorgne, 2014) were developed to aid singing teachers (of all genres), voice pathologists who work with singers, and the singers themselves in their understanding of the vocal mechanism, specific care of the body and instrument, and the science behind how we learn and how we can maximize performance for longevity in a commercial music market.
Whether at the professional or novice level, or somewhere in between, there are limited resources for training commercial vocal styles relative to the number of singers who desire to sing. This book and companion workbook aim to provide scientifically based information without usurping the art of singing pedagogy to provide the 21st-century hybrid singer with a guide toward their goal of becoming a proficient and healthy CCM vocalist. This brings us back to the necessity for sound vocal instruction and technique to allow these singers to use their voices as safely as possible in order to promote vocal health in this group of singers who may already be at high-risk for encountering vocal problems. This is now more important than ever, as musical theater and other CCM styles will continue to raise the bar for vocal performance demands. Composers will continue to be commissioned to write shows that will make money, especially during current economic strains when there is less willingness to finance works that are not going to assure financial payoff. Therefore, singers will continue to be asked to “defy gravity” and generate more complex vocal acrobatics in order to stay employed. Ultimately, the CCM vocal athlete and teachers are charged with the task of providing voice students with a sound pedagogical technique that will (1) serve them well in their chosen vocal style, (2) allow the singer to cross over to varied vocal styles as demanded, and (3) promote vocal longevity and health.