Introduction to Singing Contemporary Commercial Music: Application & Strategies


Fall MECA Online Courses
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are generally held from
Sept. 20 through Dec. 12, 2021,
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Introduction to Singing Contemporary Commercial Music: Application & Strategies

September 20December 12, 2021

The field of vocal pedagogy faces a transformation as we move further into the 21st century. There has long been a demand for vocal training that addresses the needs of the contemporary singer and the music of our times. More and more, music educators are programming a wider variety of repertoire that includes popular music. The majority of professional vocalists are expected to be highly versatile in a variety of contemporary commercial music (CCM) styles in order to be marketable and gainfully employed. However, the majority of choir directors and vocal teachers in the U.S. have not been trained in how to teach, much less perform, popular styles of music. This has left a considerable void in the knowledge and methods necessary to effectively train singers in CCM styles. An awareness must be cultivated not only to genre and style, but in the implementation of vocal technique that is congruent with these same elements.

If you’ve felt insecure or apprehensive about the prospect of teaching more CCM/popular music styles, or you’re ready to expand the programming of CCM genres into your choir or voice studio, this course will lay the groundwork for new skills that are essential to teaching singers and music outside of the realm of traditional classical styles. 

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Gain knowledge of the main genres falling under CCM including jazz and musical theatre
  • Gain insight into the historical and cultural roots of gospel, blues, jazz and rock music
  • Identify the distinction between classical vocal training and functional vocal training
  • Understand the scientific definitions of chest and head register as they relate to contemporary singing
  • Practice and sing a piece of repertoire from a CCM or popular music genre
  • Incorporate extended methods for teaching CCM repertoire through use of new technology
  • Gain knowledge for using a basic sound system for student performances (i.e., mic, monitors, speakers)
  • Gain awareness of established methodologies for CCM singing as well as current research in voice science

Instructor: Michele Thomas

Michele Thomas is an American jazz musician, vocalist, songwriter and educator from Chicago, IL. Born the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher in the Church of God In Christ, Thomas grew up on a steady diet of gospel music. The impact it had on her, even at a young age, was profound. 
These feelings, along with her innate talents, led to Thomas arranging and conducting her church’s choir while she was still in her preteen years. Her continued cultivation of those skills rewarded her with a position in the Chicago All-City Choir and a scholarship to the Sherwood Conservatory of Music. This ultimately led to her attending North Park University, graduating with a BA in music, and establishing the first-ever gospel choir in the university’s history. Thomas’ cultivation of the choir program caught the eyes of community choir leaders in Sweden and in 1996 and 1998, she was invited to teach and perform gospel music for Scandinavian audiences. These collective experiences furthered her dedication to music education and in 2004 she formed the Soulstream Music Studio of Contemporary Voice.
Thomas furthered her studies after college, attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst Jazz In July Workshop under the tutelage of Sheila Jordan. She began study of the Somatic Voice Work-The Lovetri Method in 2011 and has recently reached Level III Certification. 
Thomas has taught voice and choir at Claredon Hills Music Academy, Merit School of Music, Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church and the Maywood Fine Arts Association. She was a featured clinician focusing on CCM singing for Mark S. Hubbard’s (former president of the Grammys' Chicago Chapter) Chicago Made Music Collective, and Next Showcase Chicago. She currently teaches jazz voice and is the director of the DePaul Vocal Jazz Ensemble at DePaul University. 
Thomas has performed both jazz and gospel music regionally and abroad. As a bandleader, she has appeared at such prestigious Chicago venues as the Green Mill, Winter’s Jazz Club, Pete Miller’s and Green Dolphin Street, as well as featured performances at the Jazz Showcase, Constellation, Chicago City Winery and Andy’s Jazz Club. She has also been invited to perform at concerts and festivals presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, Little Black Pearl Workshop, the Edgerton Arts Council, the Evanston and Wicker Park Chambers of Commerce, and Northwestern University. In 2017, Thomas was a featured performer at the Chicago Jazz Festival.

Introduction to Singing
Contemporary Commercial
Music: Application
& Strategies

Course Code 6351

Michele Thomas

3 Graduate Credits

$1,065, due in full with registration

Chat Sessions


Required Text(s)

Software/Hardware Requirements
Access to a Mac, PC or Chromebook, connected to the Internet. Audio interface, microphone, or USB microphone recommended.

MECA Online
is powered by Schoology

Schoology is a learning management system that allows you to interact directly with your instructors, fellow students, and members of the greater VanderCook community.

Fall 2021 MECA courses officially begin on Monday, Sept. 20. Soon after you register, be on the lookout for an email from Schoology with log-in instructions. Once you receive credentials, visit to login. On the morning of Sept. 20, you'll have access to your classroom and course material.

Some courses have specific online chat meeting times (please see course descriptions), while others have a flexible meeting schedule. You can expect all courses to meet together in a live online chat. If a live meeting time doesn’t work, you can work with your instructor to make other arrangements.

Online grades will be reported by mid-January. If you need a transcript, please visit the online transcript request page. For faster turnaround time, please submit the transcript request to the registrar prior to the end of your course(s).

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