Arts & Entertainment

Budding Musical Theater Stars Learn Their Trade

Miss Timmie teaches students between the ages of 7 and 10 the basics of singing in her Explorations of Voice classes at Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Using the white board to learn about music notation and the scale is part of each class. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
The "Ball Game" involves singing the scale forwards and backwards while keeping in tune. Credits: Barbara Rybolt
Reading music isn't easy at first, but the students quickly master the task. Credits: Barbara Rybolt

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The old adage that it takes "practice, practice, practice" to make it to Carnegie Hall applies to Broadway, too.

Singing may come naturally to some, but most people need singing lessons to appear on stage. Fortunately, aspiring singers from tweens to adults can learn to sing at Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts.

Miss Timmie, whose formal name is Timothy Maureen Cole, is the Director of Musical Theatre Arts. She was busy teaching the Explorations in Voice class on Thursday, Sept.29, to a small group of aspiring singers.  The class, which is for youngsters from 7- to 10-years-old, lasts 45 minutes. During the class, they practiced singing the words, "I love to sing," while smiling, as Miss Timmie played the piano, then switched to singing the traditional scale, "Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do," with enthusiasm -- forwards and backwards -- in not quite perfect pitch.  Miss Timmie worked on correcting their pitch and volume, gently suggesting they use their "little mouse voices," while adding volume and attitude to the song. It worked.

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There were a few lessons on musical notes and symbols at the white board before she asked if they wanted to play the "ball game," which involved tossing a ball back and forth and singing the next note in the "Do, Re, Mi" song when they caught the ball. A few pitch corrections and it was time to pull out their binders and sing the chorus of "Naughty," a song from Matiilda. The class wrapped up after they began learning a new song, "I Don't Need Anything But You," from Annie.

They covered a lot of ground in 45 minutes, especially since it was only the third class, and no one seemed anxious to leave.

Timmie, who joined the school last year, is a trained classical singer, with a BA from Ithaca College, a MS in Vocal Pedagogy and Voice from Westminster Choir College. She called the Explorations Class a "good starter class" for youngsters, "especially since they are not great at reading music. (They) get used to it" after a while and are soon sight-reading the music.

"Anyone can learn to sing," she said. "It's mostly about listening."

Timmie also teaches Advanced Musical Theatre, a Musical Theatre Workshop and the school's only class that requires students to audition, the Musical Theatre Company, for children 10 years of age and older.  The next auditions for that class will be Nov. 19, between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m., she said and, if there is a conflict, arrangements can be made for another date and time.

Students will also be able to audition for the New Jersey Youth Theatre November/December production of  "The Christmas Carol" from noon to 5 p.m., Oct. 8, at Wharton, she said.

The program has changed a lot since last year, Timmie said. She now has a co-director and choreographer, Jessica Lombardi, for the Musical Theatre Company. There are now an Advanced Method class and workshop and there will be an audition workshop. "It's an exciting time," for the program, she said.

To find out more about Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts, located at 60 Locust Ave., Berkeley Heights, visit the website,, call 908-790-0700 or email

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