In addition to performing internationally as a countertenor soloist, leading the choirs and vocal music department at Chabot College, and debuting his solo Julie Andrews sing-along concert at Feinstein’s at the Nikko on October 19,William Sauerland is pursuing his doctorate degree at Columbia University.
His topic of study: The experience of transgender singers and their voice teachers.
It’s a field that has particular resonance for Sauerland, who finds opera and musical theater “extremely gendered and very sexist.”
When he was applying to conservatories as a teenager, an esteemed vocal music professor suggested that Sauerland should sing baritone, suggesting that the natural alto he’d sung in for years “might be unhealthy.”
“Voice instructors have historically taught as masters, shaping their students rather than collaborating with them on what should be a joint project. What does the student want and need?”
“For some trans singers,” says Sauerland, “matching their voice with their sense of identity is very important to them.”
In the end, says Sauerland, in addition to advocating for trans singers, he hopes that his studies can help inform changes in vocal pedagogy overall.
“In some regard, every voice teacher serves as a personal counselor: While a trans individual may be going through a heightened period of dysphoria, every 18 or 19 year old who goes into voice training is at a time in their lives where they’re trying to figure out who they are.”
Sometimes Maria is not a problem to be solved, just a situation to be accommodated.
Learn more about William Sauerland here