Voice Teacher: Marcelle McGuirk
Please welcome the newest addition to our staff: Marcelle McGuirk. Marcelle has been singing since a very young age. At 18, she recorded her first solo album, Echoes of Ireland. She studied Vocal Performance at Marywood University and then moved to Philadelphia to pursue further studies in opera performance. She is a cantor and section leader at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter & Paul. She is an active performer and has worked with many companies in the Philadelphia area, including: OperaDelaware, Poor Richard’s Opera, Russian Opera Workshop, Delaware Valley Opera Company, and Delaware ChoralArts. Marcelle says the following about her goals and style as a teacher:
“The foundation of my teaching is always breath management, body awareness and tension reduction, as well as musicianship. I try to arm my students with a “toolbox,” foundational techniques and exercises they can come back to if they’re struggling with a note or phrase, whether they’re singing Broadway, rock, opera, etc. I make sure students understand the purpose of exercises and how they relate to what they’re singing. Overall, I aim to help my students find their “voice” in a healthy, tension-free way.”
Continue reading for a full interview with Marcelle:
When did you begin singing, and why?:
I’ve been singing since I was really small. My parents tell this story about me being in the high chair at 6 months old while my Dad was cleaning the kitchen. He was singing something to himself, and I chimed in on pitch! Then it became this game we would play, where he would sing a note and I’d sing it back to him. I’ve been singing ever since!
What are your personal goals as a musician?:
My personal goal as a musician is to achieve complete freedom. This can only be achieved by hours spent practicing your technique, but the pay off is great. To achieve that freedom and flexibility makes the possibilities for communicating emotion endless, and essentially that’s what we do as singers. Communicate the depths and shades of human emotion through our voice.
Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked? Something you’ll remember forever?:
I used to really struggle with high notes. One day a teacher said to me, “You’re trying to ‘stick’ the note somewhere; to place it. It’s not about placing it. It’s about having the right SPACE for the note and keeping it flexible.” That changed everything for me.
What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
You’re only going to get out of singing what you put into it. Talent only gets you so far; it’s the hard work that makes you an artist.
What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
I was lazy as a kid, which meant I wouldn’t practice much, if at all. I just relied on the fact that I was a fast learner and had a pretty voice. This inevitably meant I would plateau and run into “brick walls.” I always knew I should be working harder, but breaking
myself of the habit of laziness was really tough.
What is your biggest musical achievement?:
My biggest musical achievement to date was singing in my first Professional, fully staged and orchestrated opera with OperaDelaware.
Favorite thing about teaching?:
My favorite thing about teaching has to be the “lightbulb moment,” which is when you see “Ah ha!” in your students’ eyes after they’ve grasped a concept. It’s such a beautiful thing, because you’ve helped them accomplish this intangible thing and no one can ever take it away from them.
What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
Listen. Your ears are your greatest asset. Even when you aren’t actively practicing your instrument, you can learn SO much just by listening to great musicians. Also, never stop asking questions.
Personal music projects: i.e. bands, groups, shows, recording, etc. (if any):
I’m currently on staff at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul here in Philadelphia, as a Cantor/ Soprano Soloist/ Soprano Section Leader. In December, I’ll be singing the Bach Magnificat in D with Delaware ChoralArts in Wilmington, DE as the Soprano Soloist.