Performing Arts department works to remove voice lesson fees

Pictured+above%2C+Performing+Arts+Department+Chair+Bob+Colby.

Photo: The Berkeley Beacon Archives

Pictured above, Performing Arts Department Chair Bob Colby.

By Carlee Bronkema, Staff Reporter

Incoming first-years will no longer be required to pay for voice lessons starting in the fall 2020 semester.

Performing Arts Chair Robert Colby said the Musical Theatre Department is restructuring their curriculum with the hope of eliminating the $5,500 average that musical theatre majors pay to obtain their degree by including voice lessons in the classes.

The change is happening gradually so the school has the chance to budget for it. This year’s freshmen still have to pay the extra money to take their voice lessons as a zero-credit class because there is not enough room in their schedules, according to Colby.

Colby said students already in the musical theatre major will still follow the system they started under.

“We’ve tried to be clear and schedule some extra meetings with the first year students,” Colby said. “I’ve received at least one phone call from a parent saying that this was an unexpected $1,100 charge. We are really sorry that happened. There has been some confusion with the transition.”

Students must take eight semesters worth of voice lessons in order to receive their degree in musical theatre. Current students have two options for their mandatory voice lessons: Either pay $1,100 and have them considered a zero-credit class, or use two of the 16 credits already paid for with their tuition for the voice lessons.

Freshman musical theatre major Lauren Dodds said many musical theatre students choose to do the two-credit classes because they do not cost extra. Dodds said they also like taking their voice lessons as a class so that they get graded on their work. 

“It would be more beneficial to me as a student and as a performer for them to grade us and track our progress,” Dodds said.

Colby said he wishes the system would change overnight and that students would no longer have to pay extra for voice lessons. 

“As chair, I am going to argue next year to see if the college can afford to move immediately to that option and fold that into the courses,” he said.

The information about the charge was included in the 2019 Musical Theatre Student Handbook which was not emailed to the first-years until Sept. 7, but Dodds said she doesn’t mind the extra charge. 

“It doesn’t annoy me because $1,000 a semester is probably what I would pay for voice lessons at home,” Dodds said. “I really like that the MT staff is really in our corner about getting the lessons to be free because it is required. I love the program, and I am happy that they are trying to do what is best for us.”

Senior musical theatre major Taylor Wade said her graduating class has always known they would have to pay extra for voice lessons.

“We didn’t have to pay extra money till our sophomore year,” Wade said. “It was expected of us that we would continue to pay for it sophomore to senior year, every semester.”

The choice between having voice lessons as a zero or two-credit class also affects upperclassmen. 

If upperclassmen take voice as a two-credit class, they must pair it with another two-credit class. Usually, musical theatre students take a dance class, from which Wade said there are plenty to choose. Generally, seniors have more freedom to decide which classes they want to take, but they are restricted by having to take the two-credit classes to not have to pay extra. 

“I don’t think it is being explained well to the freshmen,” Wade said. “It barely was explained to us and we are still confused about what is happening, but it doesn’t matter to us because we are seniors anyway.” 

After complaints from students, the Performing Arts Department, Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, the School of the Arts Dean, the Provost, and others in the Registrar’s office worked together to re-evaluate the situation. 

In the meantime, the school has removed the former maximum of only taking four two-credit classes so that it is possible that students never have to pay additional money for voice lessons. 

“It’s a good idea that they won’t have to pay extra and [the classes] will fit into their schedule,” Wade said.