Loyola University Chicago

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In Conversation with New Faculty Member

In Conversation with New Faculty Member

Music Marketing Associate and senior Music major Christian Pratt spoke with Professor Colette Todd to discuss her recent experiences as Loyola's newest Instructor of Voice and her involvement as an actress in Chicago musical theatre. Todd has been nominated for five Jeff Awards with three wins for her performances in Honky Tonk AngelsPassion, and Next to Normal

CP: How did you start teaching at Loyola? 

CT: I became aware of the open position through a close friend of mine over the summer and was thrilled to be selected to join the voice faculty at Loyola. 

CP: What institutions have you taught at prior to Loyola? 

CT: I have worked with several other institutions. Early in my career, I established myself as a music teacher and choral director in the public schools, teaching choral music for over a decade at both the elementary and high school levels. Since then I served as Adjunct Professor of Music Education at Carthage College, and was the founding director of the Carthage College Vocal Jazz Ensemble at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI. Most recently, I’ve taught music within the Theatre Conservatory of the Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) at Roosevelt University here in Chicago. In addition to my teaching publicly, I am the founder of Star Music Studio, my private vocal studio, where I have been teaching voice privately for over fifteen years.

CP: What do you enjoy about teaching at Loyola so far?

CT: The people at Loyola are of the upmost character and heart. I have been warmly welcomed by the faculty and my students are intelligent, passionate, and committed to their art.  It is a pleasure to be part of the Loyola community.

CP: How did you become so involved in Chicago musical theatre? Was it something you anticipated doing as an undergraduate?

CT: I had never seriously considered becoming an actor or professional singer in college. I was told I didn’t have "it” and believed those people. So I happily pursued both my bachelor's and master's degrees are in music education - not theatre. When I stopped teaching in the public schools, on a whim, I decided to audition for a community theatre production of Oklahoma! at the Woodstock Opera House where a dear friend of mine was going to be directing. I missed performing very much after a decade of primarily teaching.  I was cast and that performance led to a string of community theatre productions. A year or so later, I decided to begin auditioning professionally in Chicago. I started working consistently in the non-equity store front Chicago theaters and within three years I was proudly vested into Actors’ Equity Association. Since then I have been honored with three Joseph Jefferson Awards and have had the privilege to work at theaters such as Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, Drury Lane Oakbrook Theatre, Theatre at the Center, Mercury Theatre Chicago, and Writers Theatre.

CP: How does your work and training in musical theatre affect your approach to vocal instruction?

CT: I was classically trained from childhood throughout both my degrees. On that solid foundation I began to build the contemporary techniques needed for a career in music theatre. I have witnessed how versatility, creativity, and healthy vocal technique are key in creating a reputation for success in the Chicago theatre scene. Students in my studios are grounded in legitimate vocal technique first and then are introduced to mix, belt, and pop/rock/jazz techniques as required for their career. This approach underlines the need for vocal health and wellness in a vocally ever more demanding field of belters on Broadway.

CP: What advice would you give to students looking to pursue musical theater?

CT: Bring your unique essence and personal story to every audition. So many young actors try to change who they are to fit into each show or role. This usually results in generic and flat out boring auditions to casting directors. YOU are interesting, authentic, multidimensional and real. Audiences want to see real characters they can relate to on stage. Bring aspects of your own life story to the character. Audition everywhere, educate yourself in your craft, and present who you really are in your auditions. 

Keep up with Colette Todd and other Loyola music events by visiting our Facebook page.