"Like some people, I didn’t know what I wanted to do immediately after college. I knew music was still going to be a big part of my life but I never expected it would become my full-time occupation.
I now work as a Guitar Soloist for Carnival Cruise Lines. My job requires me to perform about 4 hours a day, 6 days a week. It requires me to be away from friends and family for several months at a time (not much different from college) but the time away is worth it. I get to meet people from all over the world and travel to places I never thought I’d get to see. I love my job and knowing that it brings joy to others makes it immensely gratifying.
As a vocalist, the biggest challenge I face is trying to stay healthy, which can be difficult in the confines of a ship out at sea. It’s very important to stay hydrated and well rested because whenever I start to feel a bit under the weather, my voice is always the first thing to go. Without my voice, I cannot perform and I’m at risk of being sent home.
Sarah Cullins and David Neiweem were crucial to developing my vocal health, technique, and stamina.
I studied Classical Voice with Sarah Cullins for 3.5 years at UVM. Sarah was the first teacher to show me how the voice worked as a physical instrument. Rather than using metaphors, Sarah was able to pinpoint what was physically causing the problem areas in my voice and always came up with a way to help me fix them. She taught me how to self-diagnose my vocal problems and made me “a better mechanic to the perfect machine." She also taught me how to internalize the meaning of a song (even if it was in another language) and how to communicate it to an audience. She made me into a better vocalist and a performer. Without her guidance, I wouldn’t have been able to sing in a contemporary opera and I certainly would not be doing what I’m doing now.
Additionally, I sang as a member of the Catamount Singers under the direction of David Neiweem for 3 years; he also served as my advisor. One semester I was also a part of Concert Choir and our rehearsals were back to back, which meant we were singing for about 2 1/2 hours. As a young tenor, this was quite exhausting at first. I’d go back to my dorm with a headache and loads of tension in my jaw knowing that I had done something incorrect vocally. Over time, David’s instruction alleviated my tensions and allowed me to sing for long periods of time with little fatigue. He showed me how to sing the notes rather than “hit” them - how to release the notes rather then “cut” them off.
Good vocal technique and stamina are critical to the longevity of my work. I’ve seen people in my position who were great performers be sent home because they blew their voice out singing improperly. Seeing this happen more than once forces me to remember that my job is a marathon, not a sprint. Sarah and David’s training gave me the skills to finish that marathon.
Another teacher once told me that “fortune favors the prepared”, and I believe the skills I’ve learned from the UVM Music Department have prepared me for anything."
Tom will be setting sail on the Carnival Vista out of Miami, Florida this Fall. He also works as a guitarist / vocalist for The Sultans (Jerry Bennett Entertainment).