Once More, With Feeling

Once More, With Feeling

Anyone who takes a voice class with Professor Laurel Thomas knows that she wants more from students than talent and effort. To be honest, she’d like a little piece of their soul.

“I want to free students so that physically, emotionally, intellectually, and technically, they can do everything possible; they can find their utmost potential in what they’re doing as singers—and as human beings,” says Thomas, associate professor and chair of music at Saint Mary’s. “To me, nurturing them personally is just as important as nurturing their technique and their intellect.”

ThomasA passionate teacher of voice, vocal diction, opera, and stagecraft, Thomas says she knew the College would be a good fit when she arrived in 2001. “I went to a liberal arts college as an undergraduate and I always liked that kind of learning environment,” she says. “Also, when I interviewed here, I saw that everyone who would be my colleague was actively involved in his or her specialty outside the classroom.”

A gifted soprano, Thomas performs frequently as a soloist. Working closely with Saint Mary’s faculty colleagues, she directs a student opera workshop and participates in recitals and other campus musical productions. Like every other full-time professor in the music department she holds a doctoral degree—Thomas earned hers at the University of Texas at Austin.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of teaching at Saint Mary’s is the students, Thomas says. “They’re smart, they’re fun, they’re good people. The level of ethical integrity is really high. I teach a vocal performance class where the students all sing for each other. The climate is very supportive and they all make constructive criticism.”

Former student and music major Crystal Buck says that Saint Mary’s students are supportive because they follow their professors’ lead. “That’s one thing I’m never going to forget about this college,” she says. “They take what you have and they don’t tell you what to do with it—they help you understand what you can do with it. They show you how to grow, especially Dr. Thomas.”

Thomas explains that her goal as a voice teacher is to prepare students for more than a stage career. “I want them to experience finding their power in singing, in a way that can be translated to other areas of their lives. I want them to find moments of greatness within themselves. And they all have these moments—I’ve seen it.”