Photo of Lisa Sain Odom, assistant professor of vocal studies and musical theater, working with a voice student.

Lisa Sain Odom, assistant professor of vocal studies and musical theater, works in her studio with Caleb Pearson, a performing arts-music major with a concentration in voice. Image Credit: Clemson University Relations

Prompted by growing student interest, the performing arts department is boosting its commitment to musical theater and vocal studies at Clemson University with the recent appointment of Lisa Sain Odom, assistant professor of vocal studies and musical theater.

Students can expect more courses devoted to such topics as Broadway history. They can also look forward to a fully staged musical every year. In the past, the department has produced a musical every other year.

“This is about serving our students,” said Odom, who recently completing her first semester in her new academic role. “Students have said they want more opportunities for singing and performing musicals.”

Odom will serve as the music director for all musicals on campus and she hopes to create a musical theater and opera workshop in the future.

She is proud of the performing arts department’s “open door policy,” meaning students from other majors across campus can participate in plays and musicals.

“We are so excited that Lisa Odom is focusing her energies on musical theater in her new role,” said Becky Becker, chair of the performing arts department. “Because the Department of Performing Arts includes three concentrations — audio technology, music, and theater — having someone in the music concentration whose specialty is musical theater creates a natural bridge between our disciplines.”

The increased emphasis on musical theater will help ensure that theater students are trained to be versatile.

“This will ultimately serve our majors well since musical theater is a viable professional option in the wider performing arts world,” Becker said.

Odom served 11 years as a lecturer in the performing arts department and will continue many of her former duties, particularly voice lessons for performing arts students. Odom works one-on-one with several vocal students to help them become “healthy and authentic vocal performers, whether that’s in musical theater or in the classical music world,” she said.

As a singer herself, Odom, a soprano, performs occasionally on campus. She will offer a recital of classical and Broadway songs on Jan. 28 in Room 117 of the Brooks Center. Pianist Anthony Bernarducci, director of choral activities at Clemson, will accompany Odom.

Odom will also serve as music director for the University’s production of the Steve Martin and Edie Brickell musical, “Bright Star,” Feb. 20-23 at the Brooks Center.

Lifelong passion

Singing has been a lifelong passion for Odom.

“I sang my first church solo when I was 5,” she said.

She took voice lessons in high school and was cast at age 15 in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“At the time, I had other plans for my life,” she said, “but after a few weeks of rehearsing, I said, ‘This is the thing.’”

A native of Landrum in Spartanburg County, Odom earned a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in vocal performance from the University of South Carolina. She also earned a master’s degree in music (vocal performance) from Converse College and a bachelor’s degree in music (vocal performance) from Bob Jones University.

Odom’s research focuses on how modern theater practitioners should approach the controversial elements of classic music theater.

“Some classic music theater treats marginalized people in a problematic way, and yet we love these musicals for their nostalgic stories and beautiful melodies,” she said. “Should we remove the classics from the canon altogether, or is there a way to teach and perform these musicals in a social responsible way?”

Odom maintains an active performing schedule outside of the University with The Blonde, The Brunette and the Redhead, a trio she helped create 10 years ago. The group performs arias and songs from both opera and musical theater.

As an opera and concert singer, Odom has performed with such arts organizations as the South Carolina Philharmonic, the Foothills Philharmonic and Opera Carolina. Her long list of opera and musical theater credits includes Papagena in “The Magic Flute,” Musetta in “La Boheme,” Julie Jordan in “Carousel” and the Baker’s Wife in “Into the Woods.“ In addition, Odom has appeared in several commercials and industrial films.

Odom and her husband Chad are the parents of Archer, 10, and Lily, 7.