Learning from the master

ELIZABETHTOWN - A group of students interested in music and theater were treated to a special learning opportunity Jan. 17 when a Tony Award-winning Broadway actor shared his perspective.

George Hearn, who played the title role in some of the earliest productions of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, offered feedback to students from SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music as they performed selections from the show at Willsboro Central School in front of more than 40 students and community members.

The event, organized by the Willsboro Central School Drama Club, featured performances by Rob Mellon, Cathryn McGowan, and Kyle Parker, Crane students who had rehearsed the showtunes for a college recital.

After each of the four songs, Hearn commended the singers for their vocal ability. He offered his professional insights to the Crane students, giving tips on singing, stage movement, and even how to have success as a theatrical vocalist.

"Musical people have a lot more fun than opera singers," quipped Hearn.

Recalling his days playing Sweeney Todd, Hearn told of his interactions with the show's writer. He praised Sondheim's ability to write music with excellent vocal instrumentation and dramatic quality.

"Every note he wrote had psychological impact," said Hearn. "Every word he wrote had psychological impact."

Later on, high school students in attendance got a chance to have their performances critiqued by the Crane students, who frequently encouraged them to be more comfortable and confident when singing.

Jennifer Moore, who is the music director for Willsboro Drama Club and a graduate student at Crane, helped organize the event for the benefit of Willsboro students.

"Especially in a school without a formal vocal music program, I think it's really important for them to see what they can do if they continue in that interest; to see the next step in the process," she said.

Moore expressed appreciation for Hearn's participation in the workshop.

"He's always been willing to share his wisdom and experience openly in the community," she said. "He's a magnificent person to have here."

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