It’s part of being a tenor. There are more places to be than the number of me to be there and there is always more to do than time to do it. I am reminded of Economics as taught by my favorite big brained thinkers. They teach that what we desire is most often more than we...Read More
I arrived back home from Torino just in time to see our North Country trees alight with color. Along with putting things in Snow ready order, it also seems good to me to continue delineating the syllabus that Garcia’s writings suggest to me. Reading and pondering his writing...Read More
I made it to Torino and am hard at work with eight singers and enjoying the company of three auditing onlookers whom I hope will receive something useful from our work. The final concert is coming tomorrow, Saturday 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm, and I think I should explain to everyone...Read More
So let’s get down to basics. Is there a problem? Yes. What is the problem? Apparently we are suffering shrinkage of opportunities for singers and musicians to make a living. The arts as a jobs program is getting very weak in the knees, and a search for leg braces seems to...Read More
Tonight at E. Glenn Giltz Auditorium in Hawkins Hall the Master Class participants with whom I have been working will be giving a concert. It is a free concert that will begin, August 16, 2014, at 7:30 pm. Sorry that our organizers thought to put a price on the tickets and had...Read More
Not but a few days ago my wife, Debbie, and I crossed our little lake to visit my favorite mother in law. After various shopping activities, we landed at one of my favorite eateries. The food was superb, plentiful and more than we could manage. While our waiter prepared the...Read More
The Book is open, but only just. I took a stab at updating one of my vanity pages a few days ago and decided to google Matthew Epstein for another innumerable time looking for a link to embed with his name. What I found is a Gold Mine. Tim Page titled his lunch report “The Book...Read More
I’ve been chewing on a bit of Ha, Ha trivia I received in recent light conversation (Remember, I’m not so young, so “recent” is a relative term given my 63 years of hanging about). I have a friend, well plugged into the World of Opera, who described for me an unbelievable...Read More
Remember the Water Walk in White Christmas? That white ice is still mostly there. We just need a little snow to refresh the attractiveness of that walkable water, and our Frozen North would again look pristine. Some other northerners up here wish for Spring while I pray for...Read More
What a trick question.... Voice is first.
It’s part of being a tenor. There are more places to be than the number of me to be there and there is always more to do than time to do it. I am reminded of Economics as taught by my favorite big brained thinkers. They teach that what we desire is most often more than we can afford. At this moment I have two places to be and one of me. One tenor equals one location occupied by that tenor. It is a hard truth for a tenor to accept. That’s why tenors often used to collect contracts for two Opera productions in the same period. I think things have changed a lot.
It is unlikely that tenors will change between the ears, but lots of them would seem desperate to have enough contracts on their calendars to pay their bills these days.
As usual, I want to stay home but I will ignore that desire and soon go down the airport access tunnel, after turning in my boarding pass, to take my seat on the aircraft that will take me back to Italy. The reason for the trip is almost the same as my visit to Torino. Young singers are what the future of Opera and Classical Singing is made of. My desire to see that future be as bright as the past in which I lived my professional life keeps my studio doors open to students and pushing me out the door of our little house to exit the North Country.
This trip will bring me to Rovereto, Italy. It would be wonderful to find singers who can make conferring the Premio Ferrari a difficult decision because of how good they all are. If you are a Soprano or a Baritone, and you think you have what it takes to help make the future of Classical Music bright, come to Rovereto on the twenty first of this month to make judging the competition difficult, or, if you are really outstanding, you might make it easy.
On top of seeking out talented singers to promote through the Premio Ferrari, I will also be doing my Master Class best to help anyone, Tenors and Mezzo Sopranos included, who want to come to Rovereto for advice. Even if you are among the contestants, I know I have something for you. I always find something in my tool bag for everyone who asks me to help them improve their ability to sway their audience. There are lots of things in my tool kit to help resolve vocal difficulties. I’m ready for anything and everything you bring with you. Please come. Please win.Read More
I arrived back home from Torino just in time to see our North Country trees alight with color. Along with putting things in Snow ready order, it also seems good to me to continue delineating the syllabus that Garcia’s writings suggest to me. Reading and pondering his writing leads me to believe in these torturously small steps.
In Torino, a Master Class participant handed me an opportunity to apply these tiny Garcia steps. I used exactly what I described in Lessons 1, 1.001 and 1.002. The lesson material needed to be well packaged for a Master Class participant of long vocal experience. He wanted answers to the nagging question for which many vocal students never find even one answer:
“Why can’t I sing as well as so many other singers are able to sing.” This particular answer seeker has a vocal instrument worthy of consideration, but his sound was terribly encumbered by many, varied, extreme and extremely contradictory adjustments. He allowed me to suddenly situate him inside Garcia’s starting gate. I knew Garcia’s principles would work if I could ease this singer into accepting them. He accepted and they worked. His voice began to reorganize and the faulty phonation gave way to a sound production much easier to listen to, even pleasant and promising to become reliable. My hope is that he will have the force of character, attentive ears and good taste to continue the work, and keep improving.
I feel the need to talk about just one more thing before leaving Torino for today. I repeated myself in that Master Class on many things, but I made tatters of the words: “Impose the rhythm of the language of the text on the composer’s music!” Composers have the pitch prerogative. Singers, however, can successfully play with the accent and syllable duration to make the composer’s vocal line correspond with the language. Language is made up of many components, but the most important characteristics of the words are pitch and rhythm. Even film writers are aware of the importance of pitch in elocution. So when we give that tool to the composer we should be under high motivation to resort to using the equally important tool, rhythm. Tempo Rubato is not evil.
Now I’m ready to return to basics, and add another pitch to the scale. There is no room for any of the deficiencies or defects I discussed in the previous lessons. The singer travels one pitch higher. The result should be that the basic quality of the sound on the lowest pitch remains on all three pitches with only the slightest diminution of weight or some might say heft or darkness or others might call it caliber or warmth or, or, or,,, Yes, these vocal issues are just as invulnerable to my linguistic description as they were to Garcia. Garcia knew what he wanted to hear, as did just about everyone in the “Italian” School back then. One day I hope to include at least one successful example from one of my students, but, until then, we will have to put up with the limitation of language.
As I passed through this .003 lesson stage with my Torino Master Class participant, I was reminded of a difficulty. Singing an ascending three note scale can be a challenge in itself, but singing down the scale can be an even more difficult voyage. It is common to attain victory in ascending the scale, and then to be unable to return to the original sound on the lowest pitch. Remember, the sound quality remains with each higher pitch, but the apparent weight of the sound should become progressively lighter as the voice ascends the scale. Going down the scale successfully will necessitate a reversal of this sonic sliming of the voice. The goal is to have the most beautiful sound on the first pitch which stays just as beautiful if almost imperceptibly slimmer on each higher pitch, and then to find the way back down to that starting pitch displaying all its fulsome glory. A student failing to find that initial fullness of sound at the bottom of the descending scale and not being able to discern any difference for himself or herself, is displaying either a tin ear or total inattention. The hearing system can be trained, and the singer can give more attention to the project. When the student can get this little hurdle behind him/her, we have confirmation that the student’s ear is developing the ability to observe his or her own voice as it operates.
It may have been revealed that Garcia himself suffered in his youth from something like the above difficulty when some of the history of his lessons with his father was reported by his biographer:
The monotony of the first portion of this training evidently became very wearisome in time, for Señor Garcia would afterwards recall how one day, after being made to sing an endless variety of ascending scales, his desire for a change became so great that he could not resist bursting out, “Oh dear! mayn’t I sing down the scale even once?”
Mackinlay, M. (Malcolm) Sterling (2011-09-07). Garcia the Centenarian And His Times Being a Memoir of Manuel Garcia’s Life and Labours for the Advancement of Music and Science (Kindle Locations 365-366). Kindle Edition.
Can you imagine what his daddy might have said?Read More
Recently, I was a happy guest at the Sheraton Malpensa airport. I had an early enough flight to catch to make overnighting there a comfortable alternative to getting up in the wee hours in Torino for the two hour trip to Malpensa. Oh! How I love to travel.
I decided to try the restaurant, and found a wonderful acoustic space. Restaurants are usually really good for intimate conversation which means something like the environment talkative children tend to create when the “Shut up and go to bed!!!” order arrives from parent central. With a blanket and a flashlight an intimate conversatoin acoustic is found and parent central may never know. The space in which Il Canneto Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner is a marvel of friendly warmth…… But not the blanket type.
My fun began when I noticed an entertaining mistake in the wine list which I pointed out to my server. A little while later, during my meal, a young man came to my table to thank me for the proof reading work I had done for him. We struck up a conversation, and with young singers still fresh in my mind, I asked if he had ever thought to have live singing in the restaurant. The answer was no, but he was willing to bring the idea to the attention of the administration. His superior joined our conversation and admitted to being a La Scala subscriber in her student days, but had to give it up when she lost her ability to acquire a student discounted subscription. She also expressed interest in the idea of live singing in her restaurant. They wondered how they would be able to know who was good and who was not. I left my card with them and asked them to please let me help if classical singing was something they decided to fit into their marketing plans. An audience for a young singer is essential. Who cares where you find it?
My favorite futurist sent me more relevant quotable stuff just in time for this blog. While Greg Sandow talked about his “Speaking about Music” communications course he is teaching at Julliard School, he let a big cat out of the bag. The first sentence I quote makes reference to a “that”, and here is the full meaning of his “that” in just two words: “self-promotion”. He contracts twenty five words in his blog with “that”:
Now students know they’ll have to do a lot of that on their own, and that they’ll have to do it in new, lively, communicative ways. Of course this is tied to the new stress on entrepreneurship in conservatories, Juilliard included. Classical musicians in the future will be much better off if they can create careers on their own, and being able to engage people about what they do is a central part of that.
This is really rich. Mr. Sandow is looking into a future that seems distant but familiar. He sees a future in which highly educated, heavily indebted graduates of his university will be better served by finding work outside the traditional classical music outlets. Does he believe that the future will look like the middle ages when guys with guitars or lutes would sing for change in market cities? Of course those future troubadours will need to take his “Speaking about Music” classes to learn how to use their hand-helds and smartphones to market themselves on Face Book and Twitter. Does he consider that the income level of such pursuits would never be able to pay off the debt to which an un-rich student needs to enslave himself or herself in order to pay Julliard tuition? Maybe Julliard is just looking for a way to stay relevant. In the retail business, I’ve heard it said that when demand is down Advertise, Advertise, Advertise. I guess someone at Julliard overheard one of those conversations. Business is business, but I thought Julliard was a music school. Anyway, Mr. Sandow sounds bearish on the music business when he blogs.
My eyes are always open for opportunities allowing youngsters to cut their teeth in nontraditional venues. I hope future Julliard grads won’t need them to support themselves. Let’s get real. Sandow gets it right in one of his later blogs that I already talked about. Grow the audience in those traditional classical music outlets, and professional level performers will meet healthy demand for their services from those healthy institutions of Classical Music. It’s frustrating that Sandow doesn’t tell us how he thinks this rosy future can be won. What he does tell us is that he and Julliard want their grads to look to non-traditional venues in which to make a living.
Sandow would seem to be anticipating an imminent collapse of demand for their graduates. This would create a supply of talent in the music world that main line presenters could not save from starvation. I guess I would be wrong to even encourage young people to strive for a career in Opera if my outlook were so skeptical. I think Sandow and Julliard are worse than wrong. If they really believe in their “new stress”, they are stealing money from students, even from those who have to borrow it.
Sandow does say that the keystone or maybe the corner stone for music’s fabulous future is to: “Create performances so powerful — and so much in tune with current culture — that people just about break down our doors to go to them.” Now that statement is so packed with stuff that I would have to destroy my 1000 word limit to comment.
I will keep reading Mr. Sandow’s blogs, but I wonder if we will ever receive even the smallest snippets of his magic formula that forms the basis of his consultancy to classical music.Read More
Last night was a first for me. I never thought sitting in the audience was going to become harder work than being on the stage. The closing concert was an introduction to a nervous condition at least some parents must experience while attending their children’s dance recitals, piano recitals and school plays. There I was trying to sit still while my Master Class students did that singing thing in front of a bunch of Opera loving Italians. A cold sweat would have been better. I got overheated. When I had to wipe my brow dry, I knew I needed to calm down.
Yesterday morning, with all those singers, my work had already finished. They all allowed me to push and shove them toward the best artistic results I could envision for them, and all the twitching in the world that I might do in my seat was not going to help any of them in any way. In fact, I could have made a spectacle of myself already, without intending it. It wasn’t until after the program came to the inevitable finish-line that I had the freedom to think back over just how well everyone had done.
There are lots and lots of arguments about what is needed to save the economic viability of the performing arts, and I have my own angle, but what is needed by each and every singer is the approval of an appreciative audience to confirm that the artist’s efforts had the intended effect. Who cares that a teacher might be increasing the humidity of the room by sweating every detail? The members of the audience shouldn’t, and don’t care that the artists are taking great big risks by following the advice of a sweat drenched teacher. They are there to enjoy something that this nation may be justified to claim as their invention. Italy was certainly integral to bringing Opera to maturity, and, back in my day, I assumed that if I could make Italians applaud my singing, I was doing something right..… You know, that singing thing.
Well, the attending Opera lovers affirmed all the singers’ efforts including one of the artists in particular. He gathered into his singing almost everything I had thrown at him over the desperately few days we worked together, finished his second aria to receive enthusiastic applause and bravos. He graciously bowed and proceeded to exit the room, but before he could make good his escape, a voice, not mine, was heard from the audience: BIS! For the non-Italian non Opera devotee that means: “Play it again Sam”, or let us hear that thing again. The artist hesitated in mid stride and turned his head to look back over his shoulder. I’ve never seen a happier smile. It was almost as big as mine.
Those moments of triumph are exactly what artists need for inspiration to ever more risk taking in this art form suffering from apathy, mediocrity and let’s just play it safe singing. The organic gift cannot be improved, but the gift must be put to the best use possible. When that is done, the gift itself becomes less important. After all, great painters aren’t considered great artists because they used the best quality materials. The best performing artists are often not the interpreters in possession of the best instruments. Violinists might have to wait a long time after they are recognized as great artists before they can afford a Stradivarius. Singers can never buy a new instrument.Read More
I will be at a concert tonight. It will be populated by some variously talented and variously prepared young singers hoping to make a mark in an art form that is having some growing pains. This concert represents a small milestone in my efforts to do my part to help that art form grow.
I am always surprised when faced with evidence that life can be really synchronous. I subscribed to Greg Sandow’s blogs some time ago, and today I opened his latest blog, http://www.artsjournal.com/sandow/2014/09/what-we-should-do.html, after my first cup of coffee in my little hotel.
It has taken Greg a bit of time to get there, but he is now on my page. Give the audience a reason to return and you will have the best reason to keep your doors open. That is if you have a theater.
If I had more time I would have more to write. I just got back from the last class in this Torino series, and I will have to rush to be on time for this evening’s event.
Don’t worry, I’ll be back.Read More
I made it to Torino and am hard at work with eight singers and enjoying the company of three auditing onlookers whom I hope will receive something useful from our work.
The final concert is coming tomorrow, Saturday 20, 2014 at 6:00 pm, and I think I should explain to everyone what I think it’s all about. My name isn’t Alfi, but I do have an answer.
When the youngsters, I’m trying to help, face the public we have invited to come to the Circolo della Stampa di Torino to hear our little concert, they will fulfill the spirit and substance of what it’s all about: No matter how hard we may work together during this Master Class, in the end, it is what happens in the performance that counts.
I am here to do everything I can to help these young people make that performance as close to perfection as possible. What do I intend to see happen? Well, let me try to explain myself by listing my employers. I know I am not an authorized employee of anyone on my list, but I feel the same responsibility as if I had contracts with all three.
Everyone seeking to be a singer by profession is eligible for employer status. For example, this website is for you, if you are trying to find your way to that small spotlight center stage where you will have to stand and deliver. My being in Torino is part of my effort to walk the walk. After all, this website sure is a lot of talking the talk.
My most important employer is the most creative person I know: My God. Now, I know me saying I believe in God and His creative power may seem to many of you to be an aside. It is, however, central to everything. Singers have voices because God forms them while the singer is in the womb, not because of a chance digestive event during the singer’s gestation. Not for any other reason than God’s gift. So I am happy to say that I am working for God to see that as many as possible of his gifts of voice to singers receive loving care, and that He may enjoy the product of those gifts as my singing students engage in their creative work. By the way, I also believe that we are creative creatures because God is creative.
Unlike the theaters of the world, I do not forget that “elemental employer”, the audience. I believe that without other peoples’ ears there is no performance. It is always just a rehearsal, or worse; a hobby. I am working for the people still warming the seats. Singers are remarkably hard to convince of the peculiar relationship an artist has with his fellow human beings. Anyone wishing to be a professional using his or her voice for a creative purpose has to understand that the voice is for communicating and as such a communication must take place, and it must be with an audience. Eventually, we’ve got to sell a sufficient number of tickets for participating in that communication to justify the professional level fees for services that theatres are finding harder and harder to pay these days. I stand as ambassador from the ticket buying public, and do my best to direct each gifted singer toward an interesting and satisfying conversation with my employer who continues to buy tickets and hopes to be entertained.
The theater directors of the world seem to forget the audience, and I believe the crisis in the performing arts has its majority explanation in that forgetfulness. It is perhaps the largest problem for a singer as well. Forget your audience, and it will forget you….
Oh! Let’s not forget all those audience regulars who have decided to stop buying tickets. I have no idea how to get them back into the seats, but I know why many of them decided to stop keeping those seats warm.
Singers who only fear their audience are shoulder to shoulder with the theatres of our day, and together they are the ones who can bring about the future feared by everyone who loves the performing arts.
We sing for an audience because that’s what professionals do. You can’t leave God out of the equation. He can certainly listen in while we’re at it, and, by the way, He can even hear and enjoy the voice of someone who only possesses enough courage to break out in song in the shower. That individual would not be my ideal student no matter how beautiful the voice. I don’t argue with God, but a great voice is often just not enough to make it in the professions.Read More
So let’s get down to basics. Is there a problem? Yes. What is the problem? Apparently we are suffering shrinkage of opportunities for singers and musicians to make a living. The arts as a jobs program is getting very weak in the knees, and a search for leg braces seems to be getting under way.
I think the search for leg braces is destined for failure. Those who are in the know about the problem seem to be trying to figure out how to market “The Arts”… that is, arts organizations’ need to deal with funding short falls and diminishing audience attendance. Almost everything I see being discussed in public about the action needed is off point. Arts organizations are being advised to find new ways to dress up the concert hall and design events relevant to an audience which seems willing to spend money, but not on tickets to “The Arts”.
Another big problem is a discussion today among deep pocket donors, which is bubbling into public view here and there. It places those who support “The Arts” in a difficult defensive position. I can imagine it would be very hard to argue the survival of “Classical Music” as being as important as alleviating some of the suffering of the starving among us while sipping Champagne in opulent surroundings. I wouldn’t think it possible to survive making such a case in many soup kitchen lines that are set up across our own still relatively prosperous country. My opinion on what these 1% ters ought to do with their bank accounts aside, I do believe the problem for the 1%ter is much the same as for the ticket buyer.
If you are selling a product that does not outshine your competition, then your result is going to be less impressive than your competitions’. I have seen some grudging admission that “The Arts” are really part of the entertainment industry, even if turning a profit seems to keep almost everyone else in the industry afloat. I see “The Arts”, “The Press” and just about any other form of communication as entertainment when they are not essential to a person’s survival. I have a friend that has a police scanner for entertainment. Lawyers may think of scanners as tools, but my friend has a toy. Tracking communication among emergency service personal is serious business, especially if you are going to chase the ambulance your scanner catches being sent out to gather victims of a traffic accident. It’s all about billing, about money, about survival.
Life is not “a box of chocolate”
No one can guarantee anyone anything, and the entertainment industry can only offer you opportunity. It can only offer an empty box that you must fill with what you have to offer in order to attract an audience. Artists might like to be able to define the product they are producing in terms of cultural values, but there is only one system of valuation that makes any difference at all. The price someone will pay.
If you are seeking to feed yourself and your family in the entertainment industry, you need to view the crisis, if you believe in it, from the point of view of anyone seeking employment. My first visits to the Guidance Counselors’ offices at Peru Central School, most likely during the time I was first getting to know my Renata, were dedicated to searching through employment categories in the catalogues strategically placed in the little waiting room outside the counselors’ offices. I trolled those catalogues in order to overcome my ignorance about the job market. I wanted to study something that could be my magic carpet to ride out of the life style to which my extended family had become accustomed.
I didn’t find my ultimate choice in those catalogues. I dedicated myself to the art and craft of singing without really knowing how risky a choice it was. I found out, when I applied for unemployment benefits just after leaving my military service with the Navy. I didn’t know what to write in one of the blanks on the application form I was filling out. The big book of job titles in that office gave me the approved wording to insert in the appropriate blank on the application form that I successfully filled out. It was: “classical singer”. Forget the fact that I was an unemployed “classical singer”. I was happy to be classified as one.
Needless to say: I found work and my little magic carpet revved up and carried me to many parts of the world I never dreamed to be able to visit. Oh! And yes. My life style never resembled the comfortable hard-working lower middle class life style of my dad, which now seems to be disappearing. You may not have noticed, but there is a crisis there as well.
Back to the product: be aware that there is only one honest way to make a living. Deliver value for the fee you collect. My dad bought himself his second new truck (I bought his first new one for him.) with money he earned by proving his labor valuable enough to become an employee rather than a jobs program participant. He was long past youth, but still full of energy. He loved the job he landed after the fur farm, where he worked most of his life, died, and his new job funded his life to the end of it. Artists and Arts Management personnel have to prove themselves just like my dad did and just like I did.
People will buy tickets, subscribe to and donate to whatever inspires them. If you want to make a success as a performer, you must entertain. If you want to make a success of an organization that presents the efforts of performers, you have to know what will entertain.
Last week-end I found an example of just the sort of entertainment I believe to be the cure for the “crisis”, if you believe there is one.Read More
Tonight at E. Glenn Giltz Auditorium in Hawkins Hall the Master Class participants with whom I have been working will be giving a concert. It is a free concert that will begin, August 16, 2014, at 7:30 pm. Sorry that our organizers thought to put a price on the tickets and had some in the media report this decision. I’m sorry because some of you may think any price too high to pay to hear some young aspiring artists attempt to entertain you. Well, the real reason the tickets are free is because making this a pay to get in event may violate US law. The singers will entertain you enough to make your trip to Hawkins Hall worth every drop of gasoline/diesel or electricity your individual conveyance utilizes to get you there. The trip has been worth it for me. I gladly fill my tank and show up each day to help these youngsters grow toward becoming great artists. I can tell you that these singers are also good enough to make you forget you paid for one or two of the tickets, if the organizers had actually put a price on them.
For those of you who may pause to consider your electric vehicle which you forgot to plug in last night, go out and plug it in now. All you need is enough charge to get to Hawkins Hall. Our little university is almost as up to date as Kansas City. The parking lot adjacent to the hall has an electric vehicle charging station for two where you can acquire enough power to get back home, or even to a nice restaurant like Anthony’s after the show. Sorry, I think our event is the only free offering in Plattsburgh tonight, so I wouldn’t want anyone to infer that my favorite restaurant is going to team up with us under the FREE label. OH! By the way, if there are more than two music loving, absent-minded electric vehicle owners in my North Country, I will personally see to the transport needs of those who fail to find an open charging station.
It has been a pleasure and an honor to work with these youngsters, and it is going to be fun to share them with my fellow North Country citizens. Please come and applaud, if you are moved to do so, anytime you are moved to do so. I’ll be the first to join you, even if the moment we choose to applaud might annoy the strict concert etiquette traditionalist who might also show up.
So what should we do next? Tomorrow I start doing a master class here in the North Country, but that is what I am going to do next. The question is really what should be the next step in teaching someone how to sing.
Garcia gives us a lot of advice about the difficulties voices will present to teachers. It’s up to the teacher to sift through his information in order to follow the correct Garcia suggestion relevant for each individual. We have to discern and understand each problem as it is presented, and I can attest to the fact that every exercise of increased complication will likely uncover a new vocal fault or difficulty. So, now that we have the student singing the best “A” vowel that the student’s voice is able to produce, we can begin to complicate things a bit.
Because it was so long ago that Renata made me do all that “old school” exercise work, I don’t remember having any trouble doing two consecutive pitches. This may be why I am always surprised at how many students of singing have trouble with this mini hurdle. My advice concerning Garcia’s exercises includes challenging the student to bring what he/she has learned in each previous exercise to the next exercise. In this lesson the challenge is very simple. Make those alternating pitches sound as stable as the previous lesson’s single pitch. How hard is that?
Given the evidence, it seems to be very difficult indeed. Let’s talk about just a few of the little problems that can,,,,, let’s be clear, do crop up.
The bump: when moving the voice from one pitch to the other, the student, especially with woodwind instrument experience, will sometimes have the habit to do a little accent with every pitch change. You know how those hollow bits of wood or metal we call woodwinds have holes and keys with pads. Well when you are learning to play one of those things with your fast moving fingers, each hole or key that gets closed at high velocity gives off a sound. Something like that seems to be a necessary accessory for some students when they change pitches. This needs to be taken care of immediately. I have run into this habit that I call “Walking on the notes” in students who have been studying voice for a long time. They seem unable to sing “Legato” at all. Catching this defect early and making sure the bump does not appear when the pitch is changed will go a long way in teaching legato vocalization.
Going straight: just before changing the pitch and for a short period after changing the pitch the vibrato will often disappear. It is a wonder that so many singers today stop their vibrato and don’t even know they are doing it. I know that the Baroque crowd seems to believe in making straight sounds as often as possible. I do not. In any event, there is no need to announce the arrival of a pitch change with a straightening of the tone… you know.. stopping the vibrato.
Push-ups: The moment before the pitch change, instead of going straight, some students will begin a small but noticeable crescendo which will continue into the higher pitch, and the return to the lower pitch will have the opposite effect added. This one is less common than the above, but is just as serious and annoying to hear if unchecked early on.
Slurpee’s: Slipping and sliding from note to note is something that often shows up with young ones, but be careful about the cure for this fault. I have noticed in some “trained” individuals a habit of stopping the sound between notes. I don’t expect anyone to admit to teaching this particular stupidity, but the students who have shown me this maneuver had to have learned it somewhere. In order to cut everyone a break, I am willing to believe it to be a confusion inserted into the mind of the singer by virtue of… sorry…. by mischief lodged in the language used to seek to correct this slimy style of ignorant singing. “Precision” can’t be “Perfect”.
These are just a few things from my list of faults to watch out for. Garcia’s list is shorter than mine, but printing costs were rather high in his day. Come to think of it, the costs of printing are no laughing matter even today.
I had a note just the other day from a reader who wanted to know if I was forgetting about all you who care to read tenor thoughts. You are all well remembered, and maybe I should clue you in.
The world of singing is in a bad way, and that is the reason for this blog and various other activities in which I engage. If anyone has never heard: “Art reflects life and life reflects Art” please ponder this pomposity. Next, I want to tell you that life itself is in a bad way, and I am hard pressed to ignore it. In as much as I am able to engage the trends in society that I recognize as negative movements, I must act with that gift of ability to resist the push that moves singing toward bad and life toward feudal servitude.
Resisting the slavery our social contract seems to be approaching is why I have been a little slow…. please allow my understatement…. to get out a new blog.
Where my mind and body has been investing the greater portion of time and effort has been tax resistance, political action, gardening and home repairs. We have a wonderful garden, a house that our North Country weather keeps pummeling and a local, State and Federal government that sees us little people as an inexhaustible source of revenue. This I resist with the help of others in a website I manage. We have a candidate for United States Congress that my wife, Debbie, and I are supporting and also a candidate for New York State Assembly for whom I put up a website. There are a few family oriented events that we manage to shoe horn into our daily doings as well.
Life is good when full.
Last Tuesday was a big day for me. I discovered what to say about the work ahead of me and I had a wonderful time rummaging through my dustbin of memories because Meg Le Fevre invited me to participate in an interview. She is working for The Northeast Group who publishes a magazine, Strictly Business, for which Ms. Le Fevre writes and they intend to produce an arts issue. I guess I fit the profile for inclusion, especially when she asked me if I called myself a singer or a musician. I puffed up my chest, and in my best rendition of self-importance, I declared myself an ARTIST.
It was so much fun to be back in the career saddle again. Tenors are always talking about themselves and enjoying it like no one else can, except a politician. It has been a nice long hiatus for me. I have managed to avoid that interview thing for so long that turning on the entertainer this time was a reminder of how it felt way back when interviews first became part of this singer’s life. Note: I said “singer” and not “artist”. There you have a small diagram of the self-awareness with which I am gifted. In those first days of becoming a professional singer my tenor presumptions included ARTIST status for self, but…… Well, even tenors can develop standards. My memories shook off some dust and I was able to entertain myself while handing out answers to uncharacteristically good questions. Ms. Le Fevre didn’t ask me even one boring question, like,,, you know: “What’s your favorite Opera?”
I’ll let my interviewer put order to the questions and answers in Strictly Business while I tell you that one of her questions really inspired me. Unlike many interviewers I have encountered, she actually did her homework. She read a few pages on this website of mine and printed out a few paragraphs to read back to me. One of them put some old memories into direct contact with present plans. When these thought connections happen in my head I know there is a God.
If you have visited my Master Classes page lately, you know that I am planning to participate in an educational event in my North Country enclave of cold tolerant folk. Making an announcement for that event started troubling my mind the day after Jo Ellen Miano said she was going to try to put it together. I left Tuesday’s interview with this blog just about written in my head. God is good!
As Ms. La Fevre read the second paragraph of ”How I Started” many memories of how I stole so many tricks of the trade from so many Great Artists flooded my thoughts. Those memories of theft and my hopes to help young people on their quest to become ARTISTS coalesced into an idea. Why not call what I have to offer at this Master Class “Stolen Goods”.
Before Tuesday’s sun set (it’s going down later and later up here) I thought to check my email. Ms. Miano informed me that our event had been opened for participants. All I had to do was write down what was already rattling around between my ears to announce this event. So why did it take so long to get this posted? Well…. You know.
Please Come to Plattsburgh and I will do my best to turn my artistic tool box upside down on the floors of Glenn Giltz Auditorium, beginning on 9 August and I will hand out as much of the contents as you can carry with you, even all the stuff I had to purloin way back when I was only just a singer. That is if you can carry it all.
It is a shame that my idea for a title came too late to offer to Ms. Miano for her use, but then we all know how it goes with tenors.Read More