Master Class with Three-time Tony Award-winning Will Trice (B.A. Music ’01)
Students blend vocal strengths with stage savvy
Photographs by Cynthia Gu (B.M. in Performance/Piano; B.A. Political Science ’20) and Sean Burrows (B.A. Music; B.A. Computer Science ’18)
It’s an exciting day when vocalists get an audience with a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer. That day came for Meadows voice students on November 4 when alumnus Will Trice (B.A. Music ’01) returned to campus to teach a master class in performance, stage movement and audition skills. A crowd of students gathered in the choral hall to watch, listen and learn as six of their colleagues bravely took the stage, sang their hearts out and opened themselves up to professional critique.
Trice knows the trade. In addition to winning three Tony Awards while working as a producer for Broadway-based entertainment company Jeffrey Richards and Associates, Trice has also worked with the Metropolitan Opera and a New York City casting company. On top of the Tony accolades, he has won or been nominated for additional major industry awards such as Drama Desk and Drama League awards every year for the past five years.
Knowing that some of the students would be nervous, Trice set a relaxed tone, smiling and chatting with students before and during the session. Before the first student took the stage, he encouraged everyone to let go of worrying about singing technique and instead focus on what their character was saying.
Student Griffin Camacho (B.M. in Performance/Voice; minor, Musical Theatre ’19) sang If I Can’t Love Her, a dark and brooding number sung by the Beast character from the Broadway musical Beauty and the Beast. Trice listened intently, then offered his suggestions in small, concentrated portions. “This song is super powerful and emotional,” he began. “Try taking it more out of the ‘recital’ zone and more into the emotional part of it -- I’ve got to see the Beast’s anguish.”
He then asked Camacho to describe what was driving the Beast’s emotion.
“He has blown his chance,” said Camacho. “He ruined his chances with Beauty.”
Trice asked him to dig deeper.
“He is very sad; he loves this girl,” continued Camacho. “He’s ugly and nasty and disgusting. If he dies he loses her forever.”
Trice built on that description. “Just existing, for him, is humiliating,” he added. “He’s not just some dude who is heartbroken. He’s sad and mad, lost and devastated.”
Camacho sang the song again. His face became more dramatic, his arm movement more expressive, his posture more slumped as he paced the floor. By the end of Camacho’s turn on stage, noticeable improvements had been achieved. Trice smiled and the classmates applauded their approval.
“When I focused more on the story of the song,” said Camacho afterward, “the technique that I have been working on with my voice professors clicked in by itself and I was able to piece together more parts of my character and the music. I was able to be the character I wanted to portray. That was truly a rewarding feeling.”
Julia Durbin (B.M. Music Education; B.M. in Performance/Voice ’19) came dressed for the part as the character Ariel from the Broadway production of The Little Mermaid. Wearing blue leggings that looked like shiny fish scales, she sang Part of Your World by Alan Menken.
When she finished, Trice joined her on the stage and suggested she set the scene and her surroundings right from the start. “Once I created the world, I could simply live in it,” observed Durbin. Trice also asked her to examine her gestures and stage movement. “I tend to overthink the song and do a lot of gestures to try and help my energy come across,” said Durbin. “But he said that, in reality, too many gestures can distract from the story. He asked me to use fewer hand movements and to stand still; this moved my energy from my hands to my facial expressions and words.
“He also asked that I interpret the song more positively, that I focus on being part of the human world and less about being trapped under the sea,” she added. “This shift of focus made my face come alive and helped my overall energy. I also think it was more enjoyable for the audience once he asked me to be more positive.”
For all six students, Trice was judicious in spotting areas needing improvement, but always delivered his advice with reassurance and encouragement.
“It was an incredible opportunity as a vocal performance major to not only sit in on the master class, but to actually sing and receive professional feedback from a producer from the real world,” said Camacho. “It was an amazing and incredible opportunity. It was invaluable.”
Camacho was inspired that Trice, too, was once a Meadows student like him. “It is so great to think that he graduated from the same school and that he has been able to succeed in such major ways,” said Camacho. “He is an inspiration not only for me, but also for all SMU Meadows students.”
During Trice’s undergraduate years as a Meadows student, he took classes from Associate Professor Virginia Dupuy. “Will Trice is one of the most creative people I have ever known,” said Dupuy. “He dreams big and follows through. He produced high quality performances here that amazed, such as Ravel’s L’Enfant et les Sortileges, performed with the full orchestra. The Ravel was so impressive that we revived it for the National Association of Teachers of Singing convention the next year. I am so proud of what he has accomplished and how Meadows invested in his talent and entrepreneurism.
“This is a school that helps you take that step into the business, a notable and unique advantage in an institution of higher learning.”
Read more about Meadows alum, Broadway producer Will Trice, and the SMU Meadows Department of Voice.