Cross-Training in the Voice Studio: A Balancing Act

First Edition

Norman Spivey, Mary Saunders Barton

Details: 151 pages, B&W, Softcover, 6" x 9"

ISBN13: 978-1-63550-037-0

© 2018 | Available

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Cross-Training in the Voice Studio: A Balancing Act is an innovative resource for teachers and students of singing in today's evolving professional landscape. Saunders Barton and Spivey offer an inside view of their applied studios and the results of the cross-training process.

As vocal performance demands continue to change, singers must adapt in order to stay competitive in the job market. The authors address this challenge and provide a practical technical approach to developing the most flexible and resilient singing voices - the essence of their philosophy of "bel canto can belto," embracing classical and vernacular styles.

Key Features

  • In-depth chapter on resonance/registration for voice building
  • Cross-training in the academic vs. the private studio
  • Cross-training with repertoire
  • Coverage of multi-disciplinary training: how acting, speech, movement, and dance support studio effort
  • PluralPlus Companion Website with student recordings to enhance concepts within the text

Cross Training in the Voice Studio: A Balancing Act is a must-read for anyone in the singing profession seeking insight on cross-training.


Read an interview with the authors published in "The Singer's Library" section of Classical Singer here.

Mary Saunders Barton and Norman Spivey join the VocalFri Podcast to discuss their diverse backgrounds, their collaborations while teaching together at Penn State, and their book's tremendous contribution to contemporary voice pedagogy. Listen here.


"Classical and musical theater voice teachers will find this book a resource to understand the need of crosstraining in the voice studio. Evidence-based conclusions grounded in both research and personal experience provide ways to teach multiple styles in the studio. Practical methods and exercises on technique provide a step-by-step way to teach registration changes. The authors also highlight many experts in the field of contemporary styles for further resources of the “how to” of contemporary commercial music teaching and pedagogy and the companion website is an excellent addition. The collegiality and positivity encouraged by Spivey and Saunders Barton is inspirational for teachers who may be tentatively wading into uncharted waters by crosstraining the voice. Overall, it is a great read for those new to the concept of cross-training the voice." 
—Lauren M. Weber, in VOICEPrints (March/April 2019)

"If pedagogues who did not recieve this type of training are reluctant to adopt the cross-training model in their studios, they are advised to read this volume. Spivey and Saunders, who are both classically trained singers, present a clear and nonthreatening pathway to teachers to widen their pedagogic philosophy. The final sentence of this volume summarizes their phillosophy: 'If we allow ourselves to keep sharing, learning, and growing, the best lessons we teach will be the ones we teach tomorrow.' This book is highly recommended." 
Debra Greschner, in Journal of Singing (March/April 2019)

"Cross-Training in the Voice Studio: A Balancing Act, takes the bold stance that singers can learn to create a range of sounds that work for both classical and musical theatre performance. Pedagogically speaking, their ideas simply make sense. In the same way that dancers know the importance of using muscles evenly to prevent repetitive strain, singers may consider a similar approach to the interaction of the laryngeal muscles. The book, therefore, focuses on 'the intersection of stylistic training' and 'the actual balancing act of cross-training' to strengthen the mixed voice that the authors call the 'Holy Grail' of vocal technique. ...They reference a cultural shift in recent years that has been encouraging the union of classical and musical theatre 'in a way that enriches both, while maintaining the valuable distinctions between them.' They further state that it is becoming increasingly difficult for classical voice teachers to insulate themselves from the coexistence of both styles. Certainly, there is much technical insight to be gained from the book, as should be expected from distinguished pedagogues with the successful track records Spivey and Saunders Barton have. But the tone of inclusion and open-heartedness with which they both approach their work is arguably the book’s most important message. Both authors speak lovingly about their past teachers and influences, their colleagues, and their students as ideas are shared without the slightest hint of ego attached. Although the techniques presented constitute a major contribution to the field, it is the authors’ spirit of collaboration and open-mindedness and their deep desire to learn from others that provides an inspirational model for modern voice instruction."
Brian Manternach, in Classical Singer (Jan/Feb 2019)

"This is an important book which draws attention to not only the importance of training in more than one style, but also the rewards. It is extremely user-friendly, specific in detail, and has the additional bonus of providing examples in the companion website. I believe there are "many roads that lead to Rome," but the goal must be to provide young singers with tools that lead to healthy and efficient vocal production. After almost 40 years of teaching, I can attest to the fact that if singers have a dependable recipe for the various qualities they need, the risk of injury will be minimal. However, these tools must be based on evidence-based vocal pedagogy. This book fits the bill."
Joan Lader, MA, Voice Therapist/Teacher, New York, NY (June 2018)


Chapter 1. How Did We Come to This?
Chapter 2. Cross-Training vs. Crossover
Chapter 3. The Balancing Act of Registration and Resonance
Chapter 4. Cross-Training Through Repertoire
Chapter 5. From the Ivory Tower to the Trenches
Chapter 6. It Takes a Village
Chapter 7. The Way Forward

Appendix A. Additional Exercises for the Balancing Act of Registration and Resonance*
Appendix B. Sample Jury Sheets
Appendix C. Other Publications by the Authors

*The Exercises From DVD tutorials found in Appendix A are provided to augment Mary Saunders Barton’s DVDs Bel Canto/Can Belto: Teaching Women to Sing Musical Theatre and Bel Canto/Can Belto: What About the Boys? Both are available for purchase through Mary’s website.

Norman Spivey

Norman Spivey, DMA, MM, BM is professor of voice and voice pedagogy at Penn State, and also maintains a large private studio. With Penn State musical theatre voice colleagues, he co-teaches the workshop Bel Canto/Can Belto: Learning to teach and sing for musical theatre. He is a recipient of the Penn State College of Arts and Architecture Faculty Award for Outstanding Teaching, and is a member of the distinguished American Academy of Teachers of Singing. Currently serving as immediate past president of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, his affiliation with NATS has included offices at the chapter, district, regional, and national level, participation in the Intern Program (as intern, local coordinator, master teacher, and director), the Van L. Lawrence Fellowship (in partnership with The Voice Foundation), and contributions to the Journal of Singing.

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Mary Saunders Barton

Mary Saunders Barton, MA, BA is a Penn State Professor Emeritus, currently residing in New York where she maintains a professional voice studio. While at Penn State, she created an MFA in Musical Theatre Voice Pedagogy with colleague Norman Spivey to meet the growing demand for voice teachers who specialize in vernacular singing techniques. In recent seasons her students have been seen on Broadway in Book of Mormon, Newsies, The King and I, Beautiful, Chicago, Kinky Boots, Mamma Mia, School of Rock, Wicked, Sunset Boulevard, Bandstand, A Bronx Tale, and Miss Saigon among others, and in many tours and regional productions. Mary is frequently invited to present her workshop “Bel Canto/Can Belto” in the U.S and abroad. She has produced two DVD tutorials “Teaching Women to Sing Musical Theatre” and “What about the Boys?” Mary is a 2018 recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Contemporary Commercial Music Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah University. She is a member of the American Academy of Teachers of Singing.

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Purchasers of this book receive complimentary access to supplementary materials hosted on a PluralPlus companion website.

To access the materials, log in to the website using the URL and Access Code located inside the front cover of your copy of Cross-Training in the Voice Studio: A Balancing Act.

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