Monday, August 4, 2008

Vocal Beauty Boot Camp: The Night Before

A few people have expressed interest in finding out about my experiences about Vocal Beauty Boot Camp. For those who don't know, VBBC is a four-day program where a group of people learns to sing beautifully. It's basically like a four-day group voice lesson, held at Brigham Young University. It is administered out of the division of continuing education, which means that anyone can register.

I first heard about VBBC when I saw the program called "Beautiful Singing: Not Just for the Chosen" on BYU-TV. It's a short program that is designed to demonstrate the principles of beautiful singing, as shown in the improvement of the students at the camp. I really enjoyed the program and wished I could go to the camp. However, shortly after I found out about it, I learned that the main professor, Clayne Robison, would be going on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with his wife, and therefore would not be holding the camp that year. I was sad to think that I had missed my chance. Therefore, when I found out that Prof. Robison is offering the camp again this year, I signed up.

There were a number of assignments that I had to prepare in order to attend the Vocal Beauty Boot Camp this year. Here they are:
1. Watch the program "Beautiful Singing: Not Just for the Chosen".
Well, I'd seen this program at least three or four times already on BYU-TV, but I decided to watch it again with the perspective of preparing to go to the camp. It was pretty fun to look at what they were doing on the video and say to myself, "That's gonna be me!" By the way, the DVD is available at the Salt Lake City Library.
2. Read the book Beautiful Singing: "Mind Warp Moments".
This was an interesting book. It is actually a collection of pretty disjointed chapters. If I had to summarize the book, I would say it's basically everything that Clayne Robison has to say on just about any subject. It includes autobiography, scientific studies of vocal acoustics, voice pedagogy, spirituality and even a discussion of the relationships among the voice faculty at Brigham Young University.
3. Memorize and prepare to sing the following songs from the collection Sabbath Song II: "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty", "Guide Me to Thee", and "Weepin' Mary".
This is an assignment that I unfortunately put off until tonight. It's a good thing that I have at least heard all of these pieces before. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the only arrangement of "Weepin' Mary" that I've heard before is the one that I will be singing. I started with "Guide Me to Thee" because I thought it would be relatively easier than "Praise to the Lord, the Almighty" but actually it took me much longer to work on that one. I think it's because the words of the latter are more familiar, I guess. Both are in the hymnbook that we use at church but I suppose I hear/sing "Praise to the Lord" more often. All of the arrangements are relatively simple, but all also have quirks like different rhythm or key changes that you have to be careful about. The book is supplemented with a CD of the accompaniments to all songs in the book so you can practice singing along with the CD. This is helpful. Perhaps needless to say, my memorization of the words of the pieces is still pretty shaky. "Weepin' Mary"'s words are the easiest because there is only one line that is different in each of the verses. I ripped the three tracks from the CD and put them on the memory card on my phone so I can practice them on the drive down to BYU tomorrow. So if you hear about a Corolla that caused a wreck on southbound I-15 tomorrow because the driver was distracted, that would be me. :S

Here are some questions you might be asking about my boot camp experience:
Are you going to stay in Provo the whole time?
No, I am going to drive back and forth. I know that with today's gas prices, a 45-minute to one-hour commute to and again from BYU every day isn't going to be light on the wallet, but I'd much rather sleep in my own bed than in some BYU dorm or on one of my friends' floors for three nights.
How long does the boot camp last?
Four days, Tuesday through Friday, August 5-8. The boot camp is 9:00-5:00 on all these days, but tomorrow there is registration/breakfast at 8:00 that I will have to show up to. We get a lunch break from 12:00 to 12:55. Also I am allowed to go to a conducting workshop on Tuesday night, a hymn-sing on Wednesday night, and a field trip to a Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearsal on Thursday night. So far the conducting workshop is the only one that I think I will attend.
Where can I see videos of what happens at Vocal Beauty Boot Camp?
As already mentioned, you can see the program "Beautiful Singing: Not Just for the Chosen", which is available on DVD. Also, on Prof. Robison's website,, you can see a few interesting videos that appeal to both the musician and the phonetician in me.
How much did you pay to attend Vocal Beauty Boot Camp?
Tuition was $325, plus I bought copies of the two books mentioned above. I kind of doubt that I'll get my act together to pack a lunch or dinner tomorrow either, so I guess I'll be buying some kind of fast food at the BYU campus.
How much money to you have in your checking account now?
Let's just say I'm gonna have to be careful when I put gas in my car to make sure I have enough for lunch tomorrow too. But it's gonna be worth it. And I think I'm getting paid tomorrow, or if not then then hopefully in a couple of days.

I plan to post about my activities at Vocal Beauty Boot Camp every night after the day's learning. If I understand correctly, each student will get a video copy of his/her progress in the boot camp. Awesome.

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