Teaching CCM Styles, Finding Your Voice, and Appropriating Styles…and Yourself // Dr. Trineice Robinson-Martin

Dr. Trineice (creator of Soul Ingredients® and author of So You Want to Sing Gospel) shares some fantastic wisdom with us about the ways academia can helpfully structure programs for singers of CCM genres, how she found her own voice and helps others find theirs, and ways we can be mindful of potential appropriation.

Transcript:

Jessica Baldwin:
Hey everybody. I am Jess Baldwin, and this is Singing in Popular Musics, and I’m so happy to have Dr. Trineice Robinson-Martin with me today talking about Singing in Popular Musics. Just a little bit information about Trineice, she dedicated her career to performing and developing resources for teaching jazz and gospel and Christian and R&B, rock, country, pop, singing styles and private voice lesson settings. She completed her doctoral work at Teachers College, Columbia University. She holds a master’s degrees in music education and jazz studies from Teachers College and Indiana University Bloomington respectively. Her BA is from San Jose State University, and she’s a Level III Certified Instructor in Somatic Voicework The LoVetri Method.

Jessica Baldwin:
She holds faculty positions at Princeton University as the jazz voice instructor and director of the Jazz Vocal Collective Ensembles one and two. She serves on the national faculty in the academic division of Gospel Music Workshop of America, serves as the Executive Director of the African-American Jazz Caucus Incorporated, and is a member of the distinguished American Academy of Teachers of Singing.

Jessica Baldwin:
Dr. Trineice has authored for Journal of Singing, has a chapter on gospel music pedagogy in the book Teaching Singing in the 21st Century and authored the book, So You Want to Sing Gospel as part of the NATS book series. Also, based on her graduate research, Trineice developed Soul Ingredients, a teaching methodology for developing a singer’s musical style and interpretation in African-American folk based music styles, such as jazz, gospel, R&B, blues. This methodology shows students how to take their personal experiences, musical influences and models, and execute the different components in a manner that is personal to the singer and performer’s own personal expression. 

Jessica Baldwin:
So, welcome, Dr. Trineice.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Yay, hi.

Jessica Baldwin:
So happy that you joined us today to chat about this music.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Thank you so much for inviting me and making the time to talk. How about that?

Jessica Baldwin:
Of course. Absolutely. Ditto, thanks for making time for us today. I’m just going to jump straight into the topic that you mentioned you were passionate about discussing today, which is how voice teachers use the term CCM and what that means to different people when it’s spoken. How have you heard it used and how would you prefer it be used?

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Well, one of the things that we like to, or we sometimes forget when we’re using the term CCM is we forget the context from which it was presented. It was presented from the context of academia being primarily composed of classical music, and then some music theater and then some jazz. But because most of the pedagogy and voice science was always centered in classical music, whenever they would deviate from that topic and try to include other styles of music, they would just say non-classical music. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
But what happened, I think, is that because the second largest or maybe even the largest, if you call it vocal music, but the second largest type of music that is taught in academia is music theater, then it became almost anonymous as if CCM was a thing. Almost like there’s a lot of people that get frustrated that music theater isn’t a thing, right? It’s a collection of styles, it’s a collection of representations.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
But because in the academic dialogue, it’s either classical or it’s music theater, I think what happens is there are people from other cultures and other music cultures that will be like, “Well, that doesn’t represent me or that doesn’t… ” I think that they’re taking it too much out of the context. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
With acknowledging why the term was provided and acknowledging that, in some way there’s still going to be some classical on this in everything else, we can move to say that well, understanding that within academia, particularly right now, classical music still dominates the majority of academic programs. As a result, it is classical voice music, classical voice performance, classical voice pedagogy, and then the small group of other styles that are represented, which is not synonymous with industry. It’s not synonymous with real life, or life outside of academia. Which is where the confusion is caused.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Understanding that and understanding what the term is and what it’s intended for and why it’s used, that helps me not, number one, take offense to it, at some of my other colleagues are like, “No, this is not gospel music, it’s not commercial.” And I’m like, “I actually disagree.” But one of the things, or one of the ways that I have been really trying to articulate what contemporary commercial music is, is when we’re talking about contemporary I’m delineating it, or bringing it down to the focus of 20th century, 21st century musical styles. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Usually, when I’m using it, I’m using it as 20th and 21st century styles that’s represented in American music. Yes, it can include all of these different styles and yes, all American music styles include all the influences from all cultures, from many, many, many cultures. But in terms of me to saying, okay, well, let’s focus. Let me focus this term on what makes sense for my demographic and what makes sense for American music, which is where my particular specialty is. That if I say, okay, I’m going to narrow this down to folk-based music, folk, or folk-based music that was developed in the US, in the Americas during the 1900s and 2000s, that has its roots in music developed before 1900s. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
This is why, when you’re talking about your American music, we are talking about, it’s developed through slave songs, work songs, spirituals, ring shouts, all of these different styles of music that was brought and developed in the new world, if you will.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
But when we start talking about the contemporary aspect, we’re talking about those things that developed in the 1900s, that started in 1900s and continued to move forward. That’s how I consider contemporary. Commercial, to me, I don’t think about it saying made for profit, but what I say is, can I go on YouTube or Spotify and find this music? 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Some music was not intended to make money off of, but it’s available for wide dispersed dissemination. I can get it, it’s accessible. I can go on YouTube right now, I can go on iTunes right now, and get an Athan, which is an Islamic prayer. It is not intended for commercialization. However, I do pay my little 99 cents or $1.29 to download that track. Just the same thing with gospel music. While it’s intended to be music for ministry, just like a podcast, or just like all of these things it’s intended for dissemination.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I do have to pay for it and I do have to make sure that I’m financially supporting the art form, or the ministry. That’s where that term… That’s how I’m interpreting commercial, it’s available. It is not kept within a particular culture that is not available to anyone outside of that culture. Then music, I’m delineated to, and I’m probably not using that word correctly, but I’m using that to mean vocal music. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I’m not necessarily… In my context, when I’m using it, I’m talking about vocal music specifically, and how the many different ways that the voice is used and its function and the colors that presents itself. When I put all of those together, it becomes encompassing, not one specific style. But I think what happens is when vocal pedagogy is created, and academia particularly emphasizes the assessment aspect of this what you want to achieve, this is the process to achieve it, and this is how you will be assessed on whether or not you acquire these things. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
The problem is, that when we take that kind of concept, then we are not acknowledging the cultural differences and the cultural measurements that occur per cultural style. If we take this Eurocentric classical music, these are the parameters that you need to have, and you try to apply them to styles of music or cultures of music that those particular parameters are not even in a discussion of what constitutes validity, that’s where you’re getting the problem. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I think because we’re trying to make it easier and we’re trying to make it stay streamlined, that we’re falling into this trap of trying to synthesize everything and homogenize every style into these standard parameters.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Where I am right now in my pedagogy and my desire to spread my ideas about what CCM pedagogy means, is I want to get rid of that system that says, this is how you assess. But create the expandable system that says, this is the greater thing, and these are the things that you’re looking for would change depending upon the culture or the style that you’re in. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I think CCM vocal pedagogy, I think CCM teaching means identifying the voice for the voice. I think it means the belt being the voice for the function, not for the style. I also think that it means that when you’re looking at establishing style and you’re nursing someone’s ability to communicate within a cultural musical dialogue, that it’s specific to that dialogue, and you’re creating parameters for technical acquisition, that’s based on what needs to get those specific students the ability to be able to comfortably articulate themselves.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
When we’re looking at it from the standpoint of like folk-based music styles, we have to acknowledge that folk music is music of people. It sounds like the people that, that music represents, it sounds like the way they speak, it sounds like the way they emote, it sounds like the way they’re passionate, it sounds like the way they’re talking about things. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
When we are trying to condition singers to be in that space, number one, we want to make sure that that’s a space that they feel comfortable in. This idea of appreciation versus appropriation, it blends all into this because I think we are in the idea of saying, well, you are successful if you can do this, this and this. A lot of times, we’re not allowing for the space to each person to give permission to themselves to explore this culture when it’s not their own, to explore, well, what does that mean? So that I’m not giving my approximation. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
That’s what I say, appropriation is approximation. I’m giving approximately what I believe this culture represents. I found one person that I can identify with, and then I just called the whole culture this thing. So, it’s approximation, where appropriation to me is acknowledgement that says, I acknowledge what it is that constitutes this music, the people that brought this music, what the music was functionally intended for, all of these things, all of those nuances, it’s acknowledgement. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I think CCM vocal pedagogy or CCM vocal teaching in general is how do I, as a teacher start to organize this material in a way that’s going to allow me to bring the validity and justification and acknowledgment of every culture that I’m teaching and how do I help the student, like in Soul Ingredients, how do I let them have their own voice? Because at any point that they are feeling like the way they express themselves, that’s not good enough, the way that their natural voice sounds like it’s not good enough because that’s not how you get an A, then there’s going to be some disconnect, there’s always going to be some appropriating, and they might be appropriating themselves. This is what I think I’m supposed to sound like, because so-and-so said that that’s what it should be. Whether that’s a person or whether that is a societal belief.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I think that, that’s where there needs to be a shift in the way that we teach, and it’s now time for us to start redefining what that means, redefining that platform, redefining, all right, okay, so this means A, B, C, and D. It does not mean I don’t train my singers, because I want them to sound like themselves. No, I just want them to explore all of the colors of their voice that presents itself when they are naturally communicating. Because I guarantee when they’re in passionate speech, they do not stop to figure out what mix their in. They do not stop to figure out am I supporting my tone? Because it’s about what it is that I’m trying to say. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Trying to condition that aspect of their development so that their voice is ready to support their emotional utterance. Is your body ready to support your emotional utterance over an extended time? The difference is, am I going what? I’m hitting and quitting. But if I had to go, what, that’s a whole nother thing, then I have to be like, oh, okay, let me see if I can get this machine to help me out.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
But it’s not me saying, this is the sound that you need to make in order to be perceived as valid. I think, for me, when I hear CCM, when I hear CCM pedagogy and particularly because I’m coming out of academia and on the private teaching side, I’m coming from this standpoint of like, nope, it’s time to rewrite it. We done all recognize this year that we have been not acknowledging the full truths of people and community and process. We’re starting to acknowledge that maybe everything that I was taught was not accurate. Maybe we’re starting to see all these implicit biases that we have, and I am starting to recognize that the same way. I’m starting to recognize how pedagogy and all of the research that I’ve done over the years has instilled some implicit biases.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
There was a time when I would get singers that do a lot of runs, like [sings] I would say, because that’s how I was taught, that you need to open your mouth and you need to make the sound balance. Where I realized, number one, it’s harder to do that. Two, if the person is concentrating on their placement, then they’re not concentrating on their flow. Three, that is not even the balanced sound that we’re conditioning as voice teachers from the Eurocentral standpoint is not even something that if you’re in the culture, that’s not even something that you’re thinking about. You’re not listening to Karen Clark Sheard, you’re not listening to Jasmine Sullivan, you’re not listening to these people going, “Oh, their voice is not clear. Oh, if she’d just put a little bit support underneath that.” It does not happen in real life.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
These are those kinds of things that I had to retrain my own self, because I drank the Kool-Aid too, right? To the point that now I’m looking at people that did not go into a formal training that are successful. Formal training, as we define it, and looking at certain aspects that they have in common, like the fact that a lot of the contemporary people do runs with their mouth closed, not open. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
What I do change now in my teaching is I don’t like them to my students. You can sing with your mouth closed, meaning they’re not open, and closed is relative too, because depending on the size of your face, there’s still a whole lot of resonating space that you can use inside your mouth with your mouth closed. Now, I’m not so much about how open is your mouth, more so, I don’t want you to use your jaw to change pitches, because that’s where my course, when science meets to soul, I want you to recognize that you don’t have to use your jaw to go [sings].

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Some of my singers with habitual tendencies that will get in the way, that’s when I correct. What is your habitual tendency that’s probably making it harder for you to do what it is that you’re trying to do? What is your habitual tendency that takes you too far out of your natural voice, and makes it too hard for you to get back into it? 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
These are things that you can only really correct when you know the person and you know the style. You can make those judgment calls and be like, “I like how you flip. I love the color that you were using, but you’re so far outside of your voice, that you don’t sound like you. You don’t sound like you being tired, because I might be all my boys, but I still sound like myself, and I can come right back into my speaking voice because I never left me. It’s just a different degration of who I am in a particular context.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
If you want to talk about magic wands, if I can wave a magic wand to the voice community, that’s what it would be. Let’s start, let us together start redefining what that means. What does that mean? What is the process? Because I do believe process is help, help you understand, help you coordinate, help you organize, processes, figure out what your goals are, what are you training for, all of these different things. But I do think that we have to start acknowledging the many variations of what that success looks like. I’m sorry, I’m talking too much. You go ahead-

Jessica Baldwin:
Oh, man, that was fantastic, please.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
When you ask me about a question that I’m passing, I’m going to be like, “Girl, let me tell you.”

Jessica Baldwin:
That’s why we’re doing this interview so we can hear what you’ve got to say about this. Fantastic. That’s great. Voice teachers remembering… This is a term voice teachers made up, this is not… Jeanie LoVetri in particular created this term because she was tired of non-classical being a word, right? Let’s stop defining this music by what it’s not. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Right. 

Jessica Baldwin:
It’s a great term that has so much value and it is not a genre of music, it is an enormous umbrella of genres.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Correct, and it’s literally just a term that we’re using in the dialogue until the dialogue expands, the academic dialogue expands so that we are talking about music as that’s a cultural delineation. It will change… We will not have to use CCM as a larger catalog when I go look up degree programs, and voice performance is not a synonymous term for classical voice. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Until we can be more inclusive in how we’re naming things and naming them what they are, this is music theory. No, this is music theory for classical music. This is… Those are those things that we have to acknowledge does exist, and to say, “No, I don’t like that term, go back to… ” What do you want me to go back to?” Non-classical because at the same time, if I want to make a point, a greater point, that there are multiple singing styles that are necessary for a culturally viable performance, then for me to sit there and try to name all of the styles that I’m talking about, it’s helpful to have one term.

Jessica Baldwin:
Right. It was sort of a way to open the door, wasn’t it?

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
It was.

Jessica Baldwin:
It was a way to say, look, we have to create something to begin distinguishing the fact that classical singing is not all singing, and that classical singing is not the standard. I’ve been reading the Ibram X. Kendi book, How To Be an Anti-Racist, and he’s got a chapter on cultural racism, and he talks about how cultural racism, he defines it as there being a cultural hierarchy or a standard that is based on one particular culture and cultural anti-racism is saying each culture is its own thing and can only be measured according to itself. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
That’s right.

Jessica Baldwin:
That was the major value CCM was trying to say was like, look, this is, albeit a vast universe of cultures, but we can no longer classical music to be the cultural standard and hierarchy, because we can’t measure all of these other things based on this one thing.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Right, and we don’t want to, because as you’ve seen, the people that do try to measure, they either disregard it, or they poorly execute it. It’s like straight cultural suicide. Trying to manage and master these particular parameters. But I even think it’s debilitating in one’s own ability to communicate themselves. Our generation, particularly… I’m saying our generation in the sense that we may have a little less of that, it’s only my mother’s generation, it was still very much white is right. Our generation is a little bit more, okay, now that we are not necessarily making all of the changes that we do, we at least know. We’re starting to be like, there’s some cool stuff that’s missing right now, and we’re acknowledging, and now it’s up to us to refigure out, well, how do we rename it? What do we do, because this has been in existence for 100 years or more.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
How do we acknowledge it? We’re in a great place. We, as teachers are in a great place to start to redefine what that means, to start to redefine what does a healthy voice mean? To redefine, well, what is the proper or the appropriate, what is the appropriate path for each singer, based upon their culture and based upon what they want to do with their voice, and how they plan to use it.

Jessica Baldwin:
It’s so interesting. A lot of my clientele are voice teachers who went through classical training and a lot of white voice teachers, and they are… It’s so interesting, you talking about appropriating yourself because so many of them are having to overcome this confusion about who they are as singers and really negative messaging around music that they loved when they were younger, music that they love now, but feel very… All the negative stereotyping we have around doing anything to classical music, and they have a long path ahead of them to even figure out what their voice is, who they want to sound like, what cultural influences they have and how to be… It’s such a… I love that term, because that it’s not just damaging to people of color it’s damaging to everyone.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
That’s so, so, so true, and that’s exactly all of the teachers that I’m teaching, it’s about trying to get back to the center self, who am I? You have extremely skilled singers that are like, I can sing anything you put in front of me, but I have no idea what I sound like. You’re like, oh, and you can always tell when you’re like, all right, let’s do A, aaaaa. Then like, okay, now, do you want that? It starts off, do you want that, like a classical one, or do you want that like a bright… Or are you thinking about that? 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Those are those telltales that, okay, I’ve been approximating, I’ve been trying to fit into a mold so much that I’m not in tune to who I am. I’ve been starting this process for my own self, in terms of giving myself permission to… I used to actually be… The word is, I think I used to be just really insecure that I was never… I felt like I was never 100% anything. I felt like I was good enough at a lot of things, including my own culture’s music. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
In other words, when I sang gospel music, I was considered more trained, and I felt like I didn’t really, really, really sing gospel like my cousins, like the people that I grew up around who take it to a whole nother level. I also felt like I didn’t sing jazz in the same way that all the people that I was academically raised around and hearing on the recording.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Even my teachers would be like, “Oh, I can hear that gospel.” Not in a bad way, but they would just say. Then when I think R&B, my colleagues would say, and this is outside of academia, mind you. The feedback is people outside of academia, would say, “Wow, you sound very jazzy. You’re sounding… ” Sometimes be that in a bad way. Like, “Okay, you sound too jazzy.” Or if I’m singing pop, “Why are you articulated the word so much? What are you doing? Why are you… ” 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
As a result of being in this, I’m not 100% this, I’m not 100% this. IN my classical voice, of course, what’s a whole nother thing because it was then… Number one, I’m singing in a different sound that is nowhere near the way I speak. Two, I’m singing in a language that is different from what I speak. Then the idea of what constitutes virtuosity in terms of the technical acquisition was very different from the cultural context that I was associating with emotion.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
What came out is I sounded as the late Paul [inaudible 00:29:45] like Sarah Bond trying to sing [inaudible 00:29:48] which outside, it may not be a bad thing, but in academia or in the culture, when you’re not approximating your idea of what it’s supposed to be, it was not appropriate. But instead of being insecure about it, I started to be like, no, I am this and I am this, and I am this too, and I am that too, and I do that too. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
That only happened like maybe five years ago. I was just starting this journey, compared to how long I’ve been singing. Five years ago means, I had all of my four degrees in 2010. When we talk of 2015, that I’m like, what the heck? I’m not serving myself.

Jessica Baldwin:
Yeah.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Will, the real Trineice please stand up, and the real Trineice just say it, please, so that I can not feel… It was that moment when you realized that, oh my gosh, I’m not judged anymore. There’s no more juries I have to make, even though granted, you know when you’re on this platform, you are being, “judged” by other teachers. But there’s a sense of, I need to let go that says, I’m going to flip here, and it might come out classical. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
That’s what it did today. That’s what my voice did today, and I’m okay with that. Or I might be doing this and it might not be the mix that I was looking for, because I wasn’t looking for a mix at the same time that I was willing to accept whatever came out. That’s a whole nother process, it’s been a journey for me, and I think that that has been why it’s been my journey with working with other teachers. Particularly other teachers and other teachers sing and being like, okay, come on, let’s rewrite the books. Come on, what do we sound like? What is it? Let it be. What happens if we take the pedagogy that occurred in the world outside of academia where people don’t go into academia or don’t go into formal lessons because they feel like their natural self is going to be removed. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
But when you grow up in the church and you grow up learning that it’s acceptable to sing your whole self without control perceived, without saying, “I’m going to fit into this box because the message, and the conviction and the assertion is what’s dominating.”

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I have a new slide that I’ve been using that says soul music is the unapologetic expression of who you are and what you believe and what you have to say. That’s what soul singing is, and it sounds different, depending upon who was saying. But I’m unapologetically me. I am not going to let the society or your idea of what dignified is, determine what and how I should communicate and how I should express myself. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
What we are hearing from the people that we look at as soul singers, is that they are unapologetically themselves and they are unapologetically singing their soul, their truth with assertion, with conviction, because it’s something that they believe and it’s something that they want to share. What happens if we take that model and we put some science behind it and support the singer in that way, to say, let me grow you, let me grow your ability to just communicate on these pitches that are happening, in this cultural context that you already are a part of, so that you’re not feeling like you have to match the person on the recording in order to be assessed appropriately. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I’m sorry. I told you, I told I keep-

Jessica Baldwin:
Please, bring it on. It’s fantastic, and it’s true. To me, I think that’s what we as teachers, even if it is classical music, every music… I started using this hyphenated word, when I write about this now called genre culture, because genre lives inside of a culture. It cannot exist outside of a culture. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Right. 

Jessica Baldwin:
I think those of us who’ve been in academic settings think that’s possible only because we have so often pulled a genre out of its culture and try to study it in an academic setting. It seems to people who’ve been in that world that that’s possible, but somehow we can do that in an effective way. Then when you get out into the culture itself, it’s like, no, you did learn a culture, you learned an academic culture, you’re singing the genre in an academic-

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
That’s no what we’re doing, or you thought we were doing. 

Jessica Baldwin:
Right, yes. Beginning to have the understanding that if we really want to stop approximating and start really learning what a genre fully is, we’ve got to step out of academia a lot more, because it’s not there.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
But then also understanding that it’s not just about race, because I think that’s another thing that people confuse when we talk about appropriation, because some of my black colleagues that were raised in a very, what we would consider dignified environment, all they know is, that is the culture that they live and belong in, and if they came to a foot stumping charismatic church, they’d be like, “What is going on? What kind of craziness is this?”

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
That’s one of those things that we want to just be careful to not even create this idea that cultural appropriation is based on race, it’s based on culture that can be made up of many races. It depends. I was talking about Yebba the other day, the artist that’s going by Yebba, Abi, who is… To me, she’s born and raised in West Memphis, Arkansas, which is a very white, black… I think it’s almost 50% black and 40% white. It’s a very mixed culture. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
She acknowledges that everything I know, everything I know about singing, I got from the Clark sisters. You don’t hear contemporary people saying that. They’re like [inaudible 00:36:48] and I said, I got it from Whitney Houston. I’m like, “Come on, do you know where Whitney Houston got it from? Stop.” But she is obviously of this culture to me, of this culture… In another interview that I had given that was international base, and the question was, for people that are writing, how do they know? Because there’s so much culture on the radio and there’s always this hybrid thing happening, how do I know if I’m appropriating or not? 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
My answer to them was, if you cannot sit in a room all day with the people of that culture and feel at home, you are probably approximating. 

Jessica Baldwin:
Yes. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Again, that’s not race. I said, “Because when I sit into a room with a bunch of musical theater people or classical people, and I think we’re going to just throw down about how much we love opera or musical theater, I’m going to sit there like this for a while.” I’m going to be like, “Okay, I’m just going to enjoy your company because I have nothing to add to this conversation. This is not where I’m coming from.” 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I guess, which is the difference, because there’s some people that’s like, I’m not going to even try. Some people, I’m going to sit in this conversation knowing which is where I am, I’m going to sit in this conversation wanting to hear you talk. Not because I want to add, because I’m still trying to absorb this culture. I’m still trying to understand what it is that you’re valuing. I’m understanding what it is that you’re saying. What you’re saying is good, and what you’re saying is not good, and why? I’m in a learning mode.

Jessica Baldwin:
Yes.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
As a result, I’m not going to record a CD of all of these art songs or record this CD of all of these music theater songs. Talk about, this is what I play because this is what I am. No, I’m not going to do that.

Jessica Baldwin:
Right. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
But it doesn’t mean that I can’t aspire to, it doesn’t mean I can’t train to, it doesn’t mean that I can’t, as I’m learning more material, which I am, I can start to figure out, oh, okay, this is who I am in this place, as I’m bringing it back into my own repertoire, African-American art song, I want to know who I am in this place, not who somebody else tells me to be. If I decide to delineate from that, and I ended up being now, Sarah Vaugh singing a heart song, I wouldn’t know that’s what I’m doing, but choosing to do, and being able to say, “Hey, kids, I’m doing something different. You want to know, I’m going to need you to look at… ” That’s what I think the process is, and I know that we should be scared. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I don’t think we should be scared because we’re exploring cultures. But at the same time, we also shouldn’t tout ourselves with the attitude that we know what it is that we’re doing.

Jessica Baldwin:
Yes. Right. Investing in a culture, spending time in it, becoming more comfortable over time. What we learn is just how many differences there are within a music culture from individual to individual. Even trying to say, in this genre, we always do this, we always do this, we always do this, we always do this. If you really spend time listening to all of the different people in that genre, might you be able to go, okay, this feels like it might be under the gospel umbrella, for instance, but these people are doing something different. Every single one is doing something different. 

Jessica Baldwin:
For me… What the danger is, if we don’t spend enough time, we start to just pick out some of the things that feel common, but then the more time we spend on it, we’re like, actually that’s not true. Every single person is doing this a little bit different. If that’s the way I approach this, what I end up sounding like is just a bad imitator, rather than someone who’s really lived in it enough to absorb it and start to make it part of who I am and then let it come through me when it’s time.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I think that that’s even where I would love to see classical music pedagogy go. Because I think our idea has became the dominant of this is what you’re supposed to sound like. It wasn’t until I was in those circles, like I said, where I’m listening, where I’m like, “Oh, you don’t like to sit back there by the sound like sound like. You don’t like that. There’s a music theater “sound” and everybody’s coming out training like robotics sounding the exact same with the exact same mix.” It’s like I would’ve known that outside. I’d just be like, man, they all sound like, oh my God, I’m going to Disney, and I think. Like, what the heck? 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
But I’m telling you if my dream/article would be pedagogy from a cultural perspective, but one that is talking about even classical music, because I feel like in so many ways, classical music has been approximated. The folks that have been able to study it at advanced levels have sometimes been able to do that based upon their acquisition of the skill, not understanding of the culture. Again, this is me from the outside. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Somebody can be like, “No, Trineice, that is wrong, but I don’t know, I’ve been in academia for a long time. I’m in academia for a long time now, and I’m in a lot of juries that are mixed. I just wish… I done heard hallelujah saying a bunch of times and I’m like, “Does anybody know what this is about?” Does anybody know the function of this in music? Is this meaningful to someone other than “a beautiful piece of music that I just enjoy singing, but have no idea why?” Those are those kinds of things that I would like to see and to read about for even my own self. 

Jessica Baldwin:
Yeah. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
What does that mean? What does this mean more? How can we start teaching performance and practice, history and practice? That’s my new vision for me, in a sense of how I’m trying to cultivate classes now. Next semester I’m teaching the improvisation interpretation class in African-American folk-based music, but I want it to be history in practice. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
It’s a performance class, but it’s a very strong history component because all of this stuff, all of the information that we need to know about culture of music, it’s written, it’s just in the history department. While we learn in different languages, we don’t learn different cultures from a cultural perspective, from a social perspective.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
That’s one of the things that I’m trying to do this spring in figuring out, what does that mean now? What is the balance? I know it’s going to be like a challenge, but at the same time, we do these styles courses and we’re only hitting the surface anyway, at least let’s give them some cultural, historical substance to go along with it. 

Jessica Baldwin:
Yeah. I know we’re just at the beginning of schools even considering having what a lot of them are calling a CCM degree or a CCM major or focus or concentration. My hope is that instead of that being what we have academia, that we will actually have different genres, more specific genres that people can focus on in different places. I don’t know, what are your thoughts on that? Is CCM focus functional? Is it helpful? Do we need to really just be focusing on genres?

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
It’s really funny that you say that because at the beginning of the summer, a colleague was saying that they were doing just that, they’re opening CCM segment in their voice department by concentration. She was having a hard time trying to figure out, well, what is a freshmen, sophomore, junior, what is advanced? I was stumped because that is forcing me then to put everything together and homogenize it as if it’s one genre, because what’s advanced in one genre is something else in another genre. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
You’re almost like, well, it depends. That’s why I’m saying I’m at this point where, okay, we’re going to have to redefine what that means. We got to be able to read it. Actually, to me, at the advanced level is you being able to create your own arrangement and vocally whether it’s a cover or your own music. I think any genre that would be advanced.

Jessica Baldwin:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Kat [Reiner 00:46:51] her dissertation on popular musics programs in higher education of which singing is like an element of a much larger skillset that people are having in terms of writing, producing whatever. There’s some intersection with that popular music education world, I think, with this stuff too, that we’ll be exploring. Just for the viewers to get, because we’ve been talking in a lot of generalities, for instance, in gospel music, what are things that are currently used in academic evaluations that are helpful or functional and what are things that need to be different or are not part of how things are evaluated that gospel music really needs in terms of showing progression?

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Right. Well, I think one of the things is and this is actually how I’m laying it out in the CCM styles course that I’m doing for [inaudible 00:47:51] I feel like there’s phases. I feel like there’s phases of learning. Which means, in phase one is imitation. Just like every language you have to learn an imitation. It’s the singing along, it’s that being able to make sure from a vocal standpoint that you can actually match and sustained pitch, it’s making sure that you can tell stories, even if it’s in the way that the person is saying. How can you recreate this journey for you? On the pitches that the person, can I start figuring out, well, how can I identify with this? 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
The second phase continues to be imitation, but it’s imitating more advanced singers. For example, if phase one is learning congregational music, praise and worship, or hymns, depending on the church that you go to, then phase two, you might be starting to transcribe someone like a Yolanda Adams or like a Tasha Cobbs, or like a Karen Clark Sheard who will force the voice to go in a bunch of different directions, trying to emulate the fact that their voice can go in different directions. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Then I think phase three is, your re-interpretation of you understanding and being able to articulate, now, this is me telling this story this way, because this is what I believe with these influences. That’s why we have so many people able to sing the same hymn, able to sing the same song, and it sounds completely different. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
It’s where you are, particularly in gospel, this is where you are really focused on your own ad-libs, you’re really focused on what scriptures, what personal experiences, what aspect that you are really talking about and who you’re talking to. What are those things that you’re saying that’s going to resonate with the audience that I’m talking to? I don’t mean audience in terms of congregation, I mean, is it youth? Is it older folks? Is it traditional folks?

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
It’s not that you’re creating a different person, but it’s just like in real life, I’m going to have a different mannerism when I’m talking to my kids’ friends than I do when I’m talking to my contemporaries that are the same age as me, than I do with the reverence that I have when I’m talking to my elders, but I am still me. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I think that that’s more about what it is, which is harder to assess, I think, which is why people have shied away from being like, oh, what’s this, this and this? In jazz, phase one is you’re looking at more traditional pop. You’re going to look at a traditional pop singer that’s not going to go too far off the melody. Then you’re going to look at a traditional pop singer that’s heavily steeped in the black tradition, like a Nancy Wilson who is going to help you to figure out, oh, okay, this is what this idea of phrasing and back phrasing means, and this is how it’s interpreted in context.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Then your repertoire is going to expand in phase two to more complex singers that are maybe using more notes and maybe using more colors, that are maybe demanding more things. You’ll probably be transcribing a lot more solos to create more colors. You probably will be doing songs that are just harder, like Peacock. There’s a song called The Peacock, which a lot of people are doing now, it’s become more popular, but it’s a beautiful, beautiful song, but the melody is not easy. You’ll start to be pulling that repertoire like that. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Whereas you’re at the advanced level, again, you’re going almost back to the beginning where you’re saying, okay, what is really my interpretation of this? What is it that I want to say, what is my sound? What do I have to say, and how do I want to say it, and what does that mean? Really having the support, which typically doesn’t happen until after you graduate, because you spent the whole time in school trying to do what the teacher said, instead of letting the teacher help nurture the direction that you actually want to end up going, or at least want to be in for this first season of your professional career?

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
To me, I think everything, it should feel different. That’s strategic, there’s a point if I say phase one, phase two. Okay, I got phase one, I can duplicate this. Okay, phase two, I can duplicate this. Now, how do I put it together so that I can really maximize what my instrument can do? Developmentally, from a vocal standpoint, I am making sure that the singer has the fundamental function that they need to use all of their voice freely all the way through this whole process. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Because I don’t teach function with rep, that’s why it’s sometimes hard to be like, no, well, this rep is going to make you elicit a head voice, and I’m like, “Well, that’s not necessarily the school that I come out being a somatic person, somatic voice work person, but I’m not at all throwing shade at anybody that has that path. Hey, do you, booboo.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
But just understand that, that’s why I can’t feed you that kind of information, because that’s not the process that I’m coming from. I think that that’s the overall structure of phase one, phase two, phase three, or stage one, stage two, stage three means different, and you can take that model and apply it to R&B, or electronic music, with the understanding that terms like indie, electronic, trap, emo. Like, emo what? Emo rap? Indie what? Indie soul? Or was this trap soul, or is this-

Jessica Baldwin:
Yep. Yeah. I find in my… Once I decided I was going to focus on teaching popular musics in my studio, it was interesting because different people seem to come in at different phases. I have some people who come in and even from a young age, they’re already trying to figure out what their voice is and who they are. We have to backtrack a little bit and do a little more imitation in addition to the function stuff, because they’ll tell me… I’m like, “Okay, well, what are you trying to do?” Almost always, they have a mix in mind. They’re like, “I’m trying to sound kind of like this person and this person and this person and this person.” I’m like “Sweet, okay, let’s do some more specific imitation of those people, and then let’s see what happens and how that shows back up in your voice later.”

Jessica Baldwin:
But the people who come in having no idea really about who they want to be, which is a lot of the voice teachers that I’ve worked with, who’ve come through a program, have no idea who they want to be. But can be some beginning singers too. It’s true, there’s phases of imitate, imitate some harder stuff. Now, let’s figure out how that shows up in you, who you are with your voice.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I have a senior that came in, an artist… I call them, emerging artists. Those are the people that are beginner, their instrument may not be as well diversed, but they’re really set on like, no, this is what I do, and this is what I do well, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I’m just trying to get it more, whatever. I have this one singer who she can imitate everything, but cannot initiate anything. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
It shall be limited into… My path with this particular singer is, is an imitation, but in more so trying to get her to recognize that she can do certain things. I have to be like, “Okay, now go up.” Over a track that’s already playing, but I cannot make her go [inaudible 00:56:46] Nope. She was like, “Wait, where’s the note?” [inaudible 00:56:52] But if I’ve go [inaudible 00:56:54] she’ll be like [inaudible 00:56:57] I’ll be like, how can you not get a freaking five note scalar that I just got finished doing?”

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
But if I do it, then she got it. But that’s another level, that’s a level of a beginner, that also has this… She definitely has a sound. She is definitely using her own voice. She just doesn’t quite know how to really maximize it yet. That’s what we’re nurturing on. Just like you said, at the end of the day, you want to say, “Oh, we can do this, this, this, and this.” Then somebody comes into your studio and you’re like, “Yep, you can’t do any of that. Let’s make something up just for you, because this is what you need in your life right now.”

Jessica Baldwin:
I know from my personal journey, what was interesting is that as someone who was singing some different things pretty well, I didn’t really know me, who I was until I started writing. Then when I wrote, I was like, oh, I don’t use that when I write, I don’t use that when I write, I use this when I write. I like these, this is what my voice tends to want to do, or if it started to do something in… I would listen back to a recording and it would maybe sound a little more classical in a moment or sound a little more musical theater in a moment, or sound a little more jazz in a moment when I wanted something a little more R&B in that moment. Then I was like, oh, I’m now figuring out what I really want to sound like. 

Jessica Baldwin:
It was an interesting pathway, and I really appreciate the value of writing your own music now in terms of helping figure your literal voice out, that figurative songwriting voice. At least for me and multiple people I’ve worked with, it was an interesting shaping tool that was helpful when I was like, I don’t know. Where am I going? Who am I? 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
It’s funny because that’s exactly why I use the… Whether I’m using [inaudible 00:58:56] Pro or using a track, I have them speaking and talking to me over the track on pitch, but more talking and just letting the voice move, because what I want to condition is your ability to think musically, to think, not be thinking about what you have to do with your voice while you’re trying to think musically and thinking about what you’re trying to say, that’s just way too much stuff to think about. I want you to be just as comfortable with your voice in the same way as when you’re speaking and your voice goes up when you emote. I want it to do that, and I want you to hear your voice like, oh, okay. This is me talking. What, this is me talking up here. Oh, okay. Then now guess what happens when I go down here. But then I can go back up? What?

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
That’s right, because that’s part of who I am. I didn’t stop to go, wait, am I supporting right now? Is my pharyngeal shape space? But at the same time, if I allow my body to emote in the same place, my face expressions are going to provide for me a pharyngeal space that’s going to help my energy and my body because I woke up lit, right? I’m like, “Hey, how are you doing?” It’s going to play on that. But at the same time, if I have to do something that’s really soft or just intimate, it took a while for me to realize that I didn’t need a big breath for this. I did, because you’re always like, no, you have to support your sound.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Because support was a full body that… This became very, very difficult, because it was over-pressurized and learning to be like, nope, let’s go back to where am I? Where am I when I’m in this place? What is the sound of my voice? I’m not whispering. Is it not the resonance that you’re looking for? But guess what, when I’m talking, I’m not thinking about your resonance, I’m in this place because I’m feeling something that is just… And I’m trying not to get mad at you. I’m trying to be like Tinder, and I’m trying to be like… I don’t want to scare you, but I’m now whispering because sometimes I’m a whisperer, but that’s for a different reason, but I’m not whispering, I’m just talking low, but intentional because don’t think you’re just going to come up in here and think you’re going to run me. I’m not going to get mad, but coming here again and we’re going to see what happens.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
That’s my, I’m nice and I’m calm voice. That’s just what I sound like. That’s not me pretending to be that, that’s me spending time, literally spending the last three years of this five-year journey so far, recognizing that I am an animated person, that the pitch of my voice goes up all the time and I’m not thinking about it. So why the heck… Because these is moments when I’m struggling to find a mix and it’s because terms are put out like that in academia as if it’s one thing, like it’s one sound.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
No matter how much, folks will be like, no, it’s functional. Okay, well, if physiologically speaking, everything’s a mix. Then why you’re like, I got to get my mix. Are you just talking about, I need to establish a wide range of set of colors that I can use in my middle voice? Is that what you want me to do? And you want me to do that freely without my throat closed and then collapsing on me because I’m trying to… So, okay. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
But I had to figure out what that meant for me, and the only way I could figure out what that meant was to recognize that, oh, there’s some sounds that I’m making anyway. That whole self… Like you said, it’s a journey. This whole thing is a journey, and then you can start to hear, “Oh, this is what I sound like.” Or you can start to hear it that I don’t emote like that. I’m approximating myself anytime I sing above C anyway, because I just stayed down in this place, and I’m like, ah, that’s funny.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Of course that sound like something melts inside of my head. 

Jessica Baldwin:
Yeah. I love it. Man, this is such great information. Thank you so much. Man, your appropriation, I’d love for you to say that again, the way you really know you’re appropriating something is if you can’t be comfortable in a space with that culture for a day.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
For a day, and I feel like I’m awkward and I’m out of place, or do you feel like you’re at home? In the same way again, when you go and visit your relatives, or you sit with your grandparents, that’s a different space, but you can still be yourself. When you go to school or work, that’s a different space, but hopefully you can still be yourself. With friends, that’s a different space. You travel, and you be like, “Where am I?” Okay, because sometimes you’ll get to a place, and you’re like, “This is cool. This is super weird. This is cool.” Or you get to a place and you’re like, “Wow, this is so familiar, even though I’ve never been here.” That’s what [inaudible 01:04:30] feels like to me.

Jessica Baldwin:
How interesting. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Yeah, it feels very familiar, but weird. In the sense that it feels like America until you cross the street and then you’re on the other side of the street and you’re like, “Oh, I’m about to get hit.” But that’s what I remember feeling like, whereas when I go to Spain, I feel like I’m somewhere else visiting, until I’m with my peoples, and then I’m like, “Okay. Yeah. Well, let’s go inside.” Then when I’m in their home, I’m with my people, so then I’m feeling relaxed.” 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I’m saying that it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be up, or have to be all the way entrenched in that culture, but there’s definitely… you know. If you’re honest with yourself, that don’t mean you have to say it to nobody, but you know what level you are.

Jessica Baldwin:
That’s great. Thank you for that wisdom. Thank you for all the wisdom you’ve shared today. Oh, it was wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
I’m so glad we’re able to do this-

Jessica Baldwin:
I know.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
… because I haven’t been able to hang with you in a minute. What? [inaudible 01:05:52] Okay, sorry. I apologize.

Jessica Baldwin:
Well, thank you so much, and for people who are new to Dr. Trineice, her website is drtrineice.com. How can people learn from you and do your Soul Ingredients training course, where’s that available to people?

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
That’s available through the LoVetri Institute for Somatic Voiceworks at Baldwin Wallace. Every year, I teach the When Science Meets Soul Course. When you take level I and level II of somatic voicework, and then you can take my, When Science Meets Soul course. That’s a three-day weekend that we did online last year. We’ll see how the lord leads us this year, but it might be back online again, or it may not, we don’t know.

Jessica Baldwin:
There’s some great stuff and some not great stuff. CCM Institute was a bummer that we couldn’t have people there, but at the same time, people who couldn’t have come were able to participate. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
That’s exactly right. It’s funny because I have some people that took the class over and they actually thought it was better online, than it was in person, even though they enjoyed being in person, because obviously we were doing different things, but they found that the online format forced us to shell out some things in a different way that kept them engaged. I’m like, oh, that’s good to know. I’m glad that either way, people are growing and people are able to really assess themselves because that’s what that course is, this course is intended for people that are already teaching singing. Because it’s more of a self-reflection. It’s more of the, these that are tools to start the journey, to find out who you are, how do you take all the stuff you done learned, all the things that you can do and then reapproach it from a place that’s uniquely you. That’s the whole weekend about. 

Jessica Baldwin:
That’s awesome.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
You can always find that again on Baldwin Wallace University, so bu.edu/lovetri, all of the LoVetri Institute stuff comes up. Again, the requirement, you do have to take level I and level II, which is necessary because without that, I would have to include level I and level II in my whole-

Jessica Baldwin:
Right, you have as a foundation.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
… in the foundation. You really do need to make sure that you’re able to hear from a functional standpoint before going into this particular type of work from the way that I’m teaching it. Because otherwise you’ll miss the ability to be able to help a student to nurture the sounds because you won’t be aware of what you’re listening for. 

Jessica Baldwin:
What’s going on in there.

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Yeah. 

Jessica Baldwin:
Awesome. Cool. Well, thanks again, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Thanks for your time. 

Trineice Robinson-Martin:
Thanks. Bye.

Jessica Baldwin:
Bye.

2 thoughts on “Teaching CCM Styles, Finding Your Voice, and Appropriating Styles…and Yourself // Dr. Trineice Robinson-Martin

  1. I have been teaching privately and in school for decades in Italy and the US in many of the genres here mentioned. I found it very interesting to hear similar approaches to getting personalized sounds from my students, and myself of course. Although I focus highly on technique, breathing, tone, etc. I enjoyed hearing about this purely expression based approach. I’m planning on following up by getting more information on this process of teaching.

    Like

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