Spotlight on Student Christianne Roll: Professor, Performer, Student ☆

Christianne, what inspired you as a child to be involved in musical theater?

I was always interested in singing, and was surrounded by music from an early age.  My parents met in their college choir.  My brother was always singing and is now a music professional as well.  My mother was a private singing instructor so there was always singing and music in the house.

I should add, “Thank you mom!” for forcing me into those piano lessons.  Knowing piano is so helpful for career music.  I can accompany myself.  I accompany my voice students.  It’s a great tool to have.

So, tell us the secret to ‘getting the gig’, both on Broadway and in academia.

Well, for both, it is a combination of three things:  confidence, 100% preparation, and a bit of luck.

On Broadway, that confidence has to be backed up with talent and the ability to sing, dance, and act.  Plus you have to fit just right in a costume.  And luck has to be backed up with perseverance:  you’ve got to be inspired to get up and go to auditions—sometimes daily when you are starting out.  The performances are the easy part.  It is the auditioning that requires the work and preparation.

In academia, you must be prepared for the interview process.  Know the philosophies of the institution and what you are talking about inside and out.  And luck here equals the right fit:  I knew that Emory & Henry was the right fit for me.  It is a small, liberal arts school with a tremendously nurturing quality.  The atmosphere of the college is similar to the small town I am from in Pennsylvania, so the fit was there.

The fact that you were the Music Director for the theatrical production shows for Norwegian Cruise Lines just jumps out of your resume.  You must have endless stories!

Working for NCL was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.  I actually met my husband on a cruise.  He and I worked together for about two years, though he was not involved in theatrical productions.  And yes, my parents called it “The Love Boat”.  But seriously, I tell my students that working on a cruise ship is a really great experience.  The music is amazing:  nice jazz standards, Broadway ballads, plus, wonderful costumes.  And the audience is the best. You have two or three thousand captive people. They are from all over the world, have saved all year for this vacation and you really want to deliver your best.

There comes a time, though, that being on a cruise ship feels out of this world, like it’s not reality.  For instance, we did this great show—a Bob Fosse review—for one and a half years straight.  We would do three productions per cruise, and the Fosse we did once per week.  There were two seatings, so…

That’s 150 Bob Fosse productions!

Exactly.  I can do it in my sleep.

How long have you been teaching at Emory & Henry and how would you describe your dual experience as both a professor and a performer?

I arrived at Emory & Henry in the summer of 2008, and apart from teaching voice students for my TC Master’s training, this is my first turn at academia. Here, my students are majoring in Theater or Music Education, so their goals are totally different than my TC students.  Now the focus for my students is professional:  how to sing higher, breath support, audition songs to get the job.

And performing connects to my teaching: Dr Goffi-Fynn told us that if you want to teach, you need to keep performing, or the things you teach will not be relevant. So, currently, I’m performing “Love Lost, Love Gained: An Afternoon of Musical Theatre Love Songs” and I’m directing “Agnes of God”.

Tell us about and your current path at TC—Summer Doctoral Cohort.

This is an ideal Doctoral program, designed specifically for music faculty, with the majority of coursework done over summer sessions.  I was at TC last summer and will be back again this summer for ten weeks.  Perfect for me because I get my New York City fix!

You are one of two recipients of the Merrill Ostrus Staton Music Scholarship.

Yes, and I am grateful.  After chipping away at student loans, this is my first scholarship.  I am so appreciative of the Staton’s generosity.

(Merrill Ostrus Staton was a TC Alumnus and music professional who made his mark on a myriad of musical fronts: from backing up Elvis and singing with Toscanini to revolutionizing children’s music and music education.  For more on Merrill Staton and to hear a sampling of his music, visit

What did TC give you that you couldn’t get anywhere else?

Quite simply, I applied for my Master’s at TC because it was one of the best in the field.  But it’s funny, I imagined it as students sitting around in cardigans just taking notes, notes, notes.  But once I arrived, what really surprised me was the focus on student-centered learning.  Teachers were actually asking the students how they wanted to learn and what they wanted to learn.  I got this from TC.  It is a method I use, and one that motivates my students and allows them to trust me.  Teaching and learning this way is a collaborative experience.  And it is this model, this method, which is why I decided to pursue my Doctorate at TC.

Christianne Roll serves as the Assistant Professor of Theatre and Music at Emory & Henry College, where she teaches voice, aural skills, music for children and directs opera workshop and musical theater productions.  Christianne is a current student in the Doctoral Music Program and she received her Master’s of Music degree in Music Education, with a vocal emphasis, from Teachers College. She received her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theater from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.  As a singer, Christianne has soloed at Avery Fisher Hall and Carnegie Hall.  She lives in Emory, VA with her husband and daughter.

Christianne (top, second from left) and her Norwegian Cruise Line cast

Performing in a cruise ship show

The Emory & Henry Women’s Ensemble

Christianne conducting the "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" at Emory & Henry

A scene from "25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Christianne with her husband and daughter

For a sampling of Christianne’s music, please click:

I Got Lost in His Arms (Irving Berlin)

Taylor the Latte Boy (Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler)