Pioneer Spotlight: Dr. Susan Savage Day
Dr. Susan Savage Day serves as an associate professor of voice and vocal area coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. In this position, she teaches Applied Voice, Bodyworks for Musicians, Vocal Pedagogy, Concert Choir and Music Appreciation. She also serves as musical director of UW-Platteville’s musical theatre, where she has collaborated on the musical productions “Drowsy Chaperone,” “Company,” “Godspell,” “Guys & Dolls,” “The Secret Garden,” “Into the Woods,” “Cabaret,” “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Anything Goes” and “Another Opening, Another Show.” She has worked at the university since fall 2013.
An alumna of UW-Platteville, Day earned a Bachelor of Arts in music then continued her education at UW-Madison, earning a Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts. A founding member of Kassia, a vocal ensemble at UW-Platteville, she has performed numerous recitals on campus and throughout Wisconsin and Iowa. Trained in opera, she has played many musical theatre roles the past three summers as a member of the Heartland Festival, including Miss Andrews and the Bird Woman in “Mary Poppins,” Sister Mary Regina in “Nunsense,” Fruma Sarah in “Fiddler on the Roof” and Humpty Dumpty, as well as other roles, in “Shrek: The Musical.”
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
The students. For me, teaching is all about the students and what is best for their education. My goal is to help students grow and support them in their years at UW-Platteville. In my voice studio, I strive to teach each student, assessing his or her learning styles, presenting challenges and stretching his or her awareness of possibilities. I believe in my students – I believe in their abilities and do my best to cheer them on toward new discoveries that open up more possibilities for them. I believe in being kind and telling the truth. Being honest with students is very important for me, as they are here to grow.
What do you like most about performing with Kassia?
Performing with Becky Demaree and Sharon Jensen. We have collaborated on more than 26 programs since the beginning in 2006 and we have always supported each other as friends and colleagues. The three of us have such a great time exploring new music, finding new ways to perform traditional music and collaborating. We laugh, make music and are a huge support system for each other. Twenty years ago, I never would have thought that this was possible, but look at us now.
What do you enjoy about directing Opera Workshop and Musical Theatre?
Opera Workshop will not be offered this fall, but I will continue to be the musical director for the spring musical, “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying,” in 2017. I love the students. They dedicate themselves to working and learning roles that stretch them and that is great to see. It always brings a smile to my face when the show opens because I’ve seen their learning process for weeks and what they have accomplished. I am so proud of them.
I enjoy working alongside our musical theatre team of Connie Furlan, Ann Farrelly, David Schuler, Jeffrey and Sarah Strange and, for the last two years, Danny McMullen as lighting designer. My first musical team of David and Connie (“Anything Goes”) were reunited this past spring (“Drowsy Chaperone”) for David Schuler’s final show. We have created a very supportive musical theatre family and it’s wonderful.
You have extensive training in body-awareness techniques and approach singing with a holistic awareness. Why is this so important?
I have been trained in Massage, Reflexology, CranioSacral Therapy, Somato Emotional Response and Reiki. When I began my training many years ago, I had no idea that I would be led to study other types of bodywork. My voice teacher and mentor, Dr. Thomas Houser, trained with F.M. Alexander’s niece (The Alexander Technique) and Feldenkrais (Feldenkrais Technique). I studied voice with Thom for many years, learning voice via various bodywork modalities, so I am passing it on to my students. These modalities offer helpful ways of releasing tension in the body so one can more easily sing or play an instrument. Private institutions like Viterbo and Julliard offer classes in the Alexander Technique. The coursework for my Bodywork for Musicians class is more diverse due to my training. I offer my students a variety of experiences in hopes that they will find one thing that will help them in their lifetime.
What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Professionally: Coming back to musical theatre as a performer in 2013, learning to dance again, taking dramatic/vocal risks onstage and just going for it. You don’t know if it is possible until you totally commit. If it doesn’t work out, make another choice. You keep exploring until you find the truth of that character. Never give up. I didn’t know that I could dance again, but I was successful because I had a strong support system at home as well as my musical theatre colleagues. Connie Furlan always believed that I could do it. Her skill as a choreographer and support as a colleague and friend gave me the confidence to overcome my fears and go for it. I am so grateful for that opportunity.
As a teacher: watching my students as they overcome obstacles and perform from their hearts with a sense of pride and ownership.
As a person: my children and my family.
Interview conducted by Laurie A. Hamer, UW-Platteville College of Liberal Arts and Education. To nominate someone for the Pioneer Spotlight, email email@example.com.