Thoughts on Theses: David Ressler
Issue   |   Wed, 11/06/2013 - 01:07

Major: Music
Advisor: Jenny Kallick

Q: What is your thesis about?
A: My thesis is a vocal recital that explores an emotional journey about love through music inspired by William Shakespeare, including operatic arias from operas based on Shakespeare’s plays, musical theater songs from arias based on Shakespeare’s plays, and art songs featuring Shakespeare’s words set to music. It is fairly different from your standard recital in that I am introducing theatrical elements, such as lighting and staging, to elevate the drama and add to the story. The recital will also feature Professor Larry Schipull from Mount Holyoke on piano.

Q: Why did you choose this topic?
A: I have been performing from a very young age, so my love of music really stems from the dramatic and performance aspects of singing. To me, Shakespeare is the king of drama: his words are amazingly powerful and his stories are absolutely timeless. I knew I wanted a recital that explored various genres of dramatized music (opera, musical theater, etc.) and thought that this would be best explored through a common theme of Shakespeare. The beauty of making love the central focus is that we all experience love in so many different ways, such as romantic love, unconditional love, maternal/paternal love, brotherly love, or even self love.

Q: When did you begin to work on your thesis?
A: I started picking and learning different songs over a year ago, but the bulk of my work started this semester when I returned to school. You could, however, argue that I have been “working on my thesis” for almost a decade, since I have been performing since middle school, and this recital is really a culmination of my performance experience and vocal training at this point in my life.

Q: What have you done to prepare your thesis?
A: I have had weekly voice lessons with my voice teacher at UMass, weekly coaching sessions with my pianist at Mount Holyoke, weekly sessions with my adviser to analyze my repertoire and performance, and many, many, many rehearsals with my director to stage and play with the songs in the recital. I’ve been keeping a production journal to track the progress of my ideas as they have evolved into the dramatic concept for the performance. I’ve also been trying to get a lot of sleep and stay healthy — your body is your instrument when you’re a singer!

Q: When will your thesis be completed and/or presented?
A: My thesis is going to be performed this Friday, November 8th at 8 PM in the Buckley Recital Hall (Arms Music Center).

Q: Who is your thesis adviser? How has your relationship with him/her been?
A: My adviser is Professor Jenny Kallick. I have grown extremely close with Prof. Kallick as a result of this project (for example, we text). Prof. Kallick has taken such good care of me and has been integral in helping the project take shape. She has been nothing but supportive and open to my ideas, even the terrible ones that have since been cut! She has a great deal of experience in the opera and performing world, so I am extremely lucky to have her as my adviser.

Q: What advice do you have for students interested in writing a thesis, particularly one pertaining to music?
A: Make sure you do a thesis on something you are passionate about. I know basically every student considering a thesis has heard this at some point or another, but it really makes a difference. A thesis is a LOT of work, and there will be some nights where you want to just give up. If it’s something you’re passionate about, you’ll be able to overcome those obstacles and stick with the project. I’m lucky in that the Music Department is very open to ideas for theses. I knew I wanted to do a vocal performance thesis, but I also knew that I did not want to stick within the conventions of a typical lieder recital where one just stands in front of a piano and sings. The department embraced my idea with open arms, and I think (and hope!) the performance will be something memorable!