The human voice is capable of creating a wide spectrum of truly amazing sounds through song, but switching back and forth between certain styles of singing can be detrimental to the voice. Kate Rancka’s freshman year as a VCU voice student has brought her to a fork in the road that may determine the rest of her undergraduate and graduate career.
Rancka’s life was saturated with music from a young age. With a father who studied vocal music and a mother who studied music education, Rancka was reading music, playing piano and in voice lessons all before she was 7 years old.
The choice to pursue music as not only a passion, but as a potential career, seemed obvious, and Rancka has never questioned her choice. Instead, her real struggle has been determining which musical path to follow.
“It’s kind of gone back and forth,” Rancka said. “Occasionally I’ll have bouts of, ‘I’d rather do musical theater’ or ‘pop music’ (as opposed to classical) because I like it.”
During her freshman year, Rancka participated in The Commonwealth Singers and Women’s Choir, which count toward her major requirements. She also participated in the VCU opera production of “The Magic Flute.” In addition to the more traditional outlets, Rancka won a contest with Songwire Studios that will allow her and friend Jessie Dunnavant, who attends James Madison University, to record an album this summer.
Furthermore, Rancka recently had the opportunity to audition for Theatre VCU’s production of Hairspray, which will take the Mainstage next fall. Rancka played protagonist Tracy Turnblad twice in high school and decided to try for a third time. While she received a callback, Rancka did not receive the role.
However, Rancka views this not as a loss, but as a blessing in disguise.
Had Rancka received a role in “Hairspray,” she would have chosen to forego her voice lessons in VCUarts, which are composed of classical music, to focus on “Hairspray” and preserve her voice.
“It gave me an opportunity to think about it, what it would do to my voice if I took a semester off from classical singing,” Rancka said. “And in a way I’m kind of glad I didn’t get it … (because) that would detrimental to a classical career.”
With the end of the year fast approaching, Rancka finds it difficult to believe that her freshman year is over and that she has learned so much. Rancka said that her first year as a voice student was challenging, but ultimately rewarding because of the steady growth of her voice.
Rancka’s studies will most likely carry into her graduate school career directly following undergrad, which will end in 2016. While there have been moments throughout the year where Rancka questioned her choice to attend VCU, she is confident that VCU is right for her. Without an official graduate program for voice, the undergraduate program at VCU is structured like a graduate program, which will be helpful to Rancka after she graduates and continues her studies.
“In the classical voice world, if you want to sing opera, they don’t take you seriously unless you have at least a master’s degree,” said Rancka. “Undergraduate is just a stepping stone. If you plan to go into vocal performance, it’s never going to be the end of your education; you have to go on.”