This site is a special place for my students, friends and colleagues. I will share thoughts, and I will also share musical examples on this site.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

What is WRONG with our Art Form: Education

I always get in trouble when kids at VCU ask me why I do not advise. Because I tell people going after Bachelor of Music degrees to stop wasting their money and pursue the BA.

For anyone interested in actually pursuing a career as a performer, the BM is not going to help you. Why? Take time to study another discipline that will allow you to make money while you are getting started. The BM offers absolutely NO time to learn anything outside of music.

And one other thing: Where are the classes in basic Acting Skills, movement, and combat that the singer/actor needs?

Oh, the singer gets classes in Diction, but really never learns the language well enough to USE IT. But boy, they get bitched at enough about the diction not being perfect. The problem with American singers isn't diction, it is the total lack of heart that comes from having NO CLUE how to communicate the language.

One other thing: The vast majority of full time music professors in Voice are totally laughable as experts. The Majority of DMA's spent their time going to college and never competing, or learning true standards. The small number who actually TRY to create a career, then go back for DMA work are excluded because they have something tangible to offer. They TRIED. They may have tried and failed, but at least they tried.

Always amuses me that in most colleges, the adjuncts usually are the good teachers who had a semblance of career, and can teach. Funny.

One last thing: The Euro's used to say, You can sing, now come to Europe to learn how to be an Artist. Quit worrying about the damn mechanics, and let your heart loose.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What a lesson!!

This week has been pretty phenomenal, actually, and things have been coming together very nicely vocally. NOW I am able to bring all the other aspects of performing together with the voice. YES!!!!!!!!

Today, I put it all together at my lesson. ALL together! The support, the space....wow!

Fifteen minute warm up, then into Celeste Aida. One little correction in the beginning of the recit, then , off we go. Jackson stops me to correct one word, "tuo" since I didn't sing the [o], but the aria goes like clock work. All B flats are nailed, and sound great, with some nasty squillo. Piece feels like I was born to sing it.

Then, of all thing, Jackson makes me sing "Il mio Tesoror", then "Un aura amorosa", then "Dies Bildnis." Ouch. That is a pretty tough workout, but nailed them.

Then we decided to do more. "Ingemisco " from Verdi's Requiem, "Amor ti vieta", "Nessun Dorma", then finished with "Vesti la giubba".

THAT was a workout.

I sang like a king. Lord, it was FUN!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Practice Journal for 6/3 & 6/5


Went to see the Vocal Wizard today( a.k.a. Jackson Sheats), and it was one of the best lessons I have had in this two year period of re-adjustment an fach change.

Pretty short warm-up, utilizing the Italian word "Quando". We worked to keep the top nice and skinny.

We worked the following arias:

"Non piangere, Liu" from Turandot
"addio, fiorito asil" from Madama Butterfly
"E lucevan le stelle" from Tosca
"Vesti la giubba" from Pagliacci
"Celeste Aida" from Aida

Flat out sang the Aida like there was no tomorrow. We both agreed that it and the Pagliacci should join the list of audition arias.

For the first time, the B Flat on "Ergerti" was NOT a problem. Even when I listened at tad, I was able to correct it and keep it going. To me, that is amazing.


Took the day off on Sunday and enjoyed my time with Sheridan and the girls. Also the party at the pool, and some practice at the golf range.

Monday: twenty minute warm-up. then through the end of "La fleur que tu m'avais jetee" from "Puis, je m'accusais." Everything there.

Next through "Non Piangere Liu." I am struck by the ease in the middle of the voice, especially at "Il tuo signore" and at "chiede colui" to the ending B flat.

Sang thru the "Celeste Aida" all the way, as well as "ah si ben mio." Wow.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ok, I think I got this thing almost figured out...

The past week I have been paying much more attention to my practice ljournal, and I thought I would post them here.


Good warm up for about twenty minutes. I went into practicing the end
of Carmen from "Puis, je m'accusez."
I found that with the word "chose", if the vowel has that constricted (Which means a real [O])
feeling to it, the "a toi" is lined up and a piece of cake. I can
morrendo the end of the pitch.

I also practiced the recit beginning of Celeste Aida. That was pretty
smooth. I kept a close attention to just waht Verdi asked for
musically and dynamically. The "Ergerti un trono" was really easy, as
was econd one. But I was most pleased with the last Bflat. As stated
in the Carmen, if the O is correct, the Bflat will line up and I can
morrendo on the pitch.

I also sang through "Vesti la giubba" (Pretty easy), and "addio
fiorito asil" from Butterfly. All I can say is wow. And it was all
during the 1:00 hour!


Today had my thirty minute vocalise warm-up, then I spent my time on Non piangere Liu from Turandot. Talk about being easy. Especially the Bflat at the end. Most of that comes from not sprading the [O] vowel as I ascend through the passaggio into the top. Keeps the F nat to A Flat corridor at rest, allowing the A Nat to C nat to just flip over and out, consistently. Pretty awesome!

I spent time on Celeste Aida again. This time I worked on the aria proper. I found many more spots for real portamenti throughout, and I paid real attention to the dynamic. That is something I am not used to hearing other guys do. I will say this: keeping the pp at the repeat of "Il tuo bel cielo" makes that last B flat at "ergerti" just like child's play. And keeping a real [o] fpr the "un trono vicini al sol" allows the voice to set correctly, and morrendo to occur.

Nice day.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Well, my question has been answered about Academia

If you can really teach and sing, you shouldn't be allowed to teach full time. If you can do neither, you should have full time job and be promoted.

That is not my reasoning, it is Academia in this country. And it plays it out each and every day.

Good? Can teach and get real results? You're not really wanted...just remember that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

To sing Wagner or not to sing Wagner....

I am in a quandry. May not mean a bloody thing, but I have had at least seven of my colleagues tell me that I should be singing some Helden rep. Jackson even hints at it for the future. Then again, he and Melanie both swear that the horn is just a lirico-spinto tenor. Then a very good tenor from Europe hears me and swears that it is a true spinto. I am a pretty confused tenor. to say the least.

This all wouldn't bother me if three of my colleagues did/or hadn't made nice careers singing Wagner. When you come up listening to it in your face everyday for several years, well, when they speak, I listen.

But honestly, I love the music of Verdi and Puccini. The Verdi temperment really suits me, and my voice opens up quite well in this repertoire. And what tenor doesn't relish singing Puccini's heroes? But the thing is, the characters are driven by emotion and action while Wager's characters are waaaaaaaay too heady. The Italian roles seem to have more fire and depth to me, but....I am truly drawn to Lohengrin.

Dunno what it is...maybe it is that he is a Knight of the Grail, or that he seems too good to be true. But I love that role. I would kill to sing him. When I sing through "In fernem Land", I feel as if I am totally in my element. Totally.

Lirico-Spinto tenor, Sandor Konya, made a career of Lohengrin and Walther von Stolzing. I wouldn't mind giving that a try, but like Konya, I wann spend most of my time singing Verdi and Puccini.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Reason number 1.12 billion to hate NATS

I grow tired of hearing, "NATS is good for the students."

In what way? To learn early that any Tom, Dick, or Harry can put out a shingle that says "Voice Teacher" and get the chance to tell young people what's what? To learn early that 98% of people teaching Voice have do bloody clue as to what they are listening for, or what they're talking about?

Having a few high notes does not a voice make. A trained horn will be uniform from top to bottom. For people in Alabama, that means that it will sound like one voice from the bottom register to the uppermost extent of the voice.

It also means, that in the midst of the training, you should go from sounding like a child to sounding like an adult with depth and color throughout. If I hear one more senior woman with absolutely NO bottom or core in her voice, and still sounds like she is a sophomore in High School, I will vomit.

Singing is work, and sometimes, especially with big voices, it will sound like work. Our job is to make the audience think it's easy.

One piece of advice I could give any young singer: Really research the teacher that you want to work with. The biggest problem with vocal music in the academic circles is that you definitely don't get your money's worth. Why is that? It's because the vast majority of collegiate teachers should be working at McDonalds or finding a sugar daddy to care for them in their old age. It is a certain waste of money, unless it is Yale, MSM, Julliard, or possibly Indiana.

Check the teacher out first. See if you are compatible, and if you can learn from them Then, when you begin lessons, surrender your voice to them. Listen to them and try what they are offering. Especially when it works when they show you...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

O, how I love NATS...

Not really. It is the best excuse for me to see my mates like Chris Moony at CNU, and a couple of others. Guys that have the same idea about singing, and like to hear the same thing. FREEDOM and RING!!!!!!

Biggest reason that NATS drives me nuts is that I have to sit around with people who know less about a subject...oops, excuse me, they have probably read more books on the subject, but never been able to take the lessons from those books and put them into practical use.

Last year, judging Musical Theatre, Upper Level High School Men, I had to sit with two of the most unknowledgeable people I could possibly be paired with. These guys couldn't get over themselves with this kid out of Northen VA. Asked why I wasn't enamoured with him, and was with a young tenor I now teach, I stated that "Well, I can't judge him until he gets his tounge off his vocal chords and sings. Plus, everything is the same. Pretty boring."

VANATS is a time that I get to see my Mate Chris Mooney, and we gripe about idiots trying to teach voice. There is being nice, but recognizing crap for what it is: CRAP. And it still sinks to the bottom in the long run.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

If you can't sing Mozart, why even try to sing?

Catchy title, eh? I thought it might liven things up a bit...

When I first started this move to tenor, Jackson would anger me when he told me to work on "Dies bildnis ist bezaubernd schon" or "Dalla sua pace." I mean, "pitch a fit" mad. I hated the thought of being stuck or designated as a "Mozart" tenor. Now that I have grown up, my opinion has changed.

Anyone who can't sing Mozart, should hang it up. Honestly. If you can sing Mozart, you can sing ANYTHING. Honestly, where can you find a composer who so perfectly gets the voice? Oh yeah, Rossini. He really knew the voice. So did Verdi and Puccini. Verdi just demanded more declamation and power. More color.

But Mozart is like no other composer I know. Misunderstood, and a real technician. His music brings the voice into focus better than any others. It is like a balm for the voice. Technically, it teaches one how to handle singing in passaggio's better than any other composer, as well as teaches one how to save and to sing musically.

Misunderstood: Like Rossini people today honestly have no idea just what Mozart called for with his tenors. Tamino is not leggiero. The growth this young man undergoes deserves better than a leggiero. He needs a much more heroic sound.

The same with Ottavio. Too often we get to hear these necktie, baby faced tenors who turn him into a real wuss. And the man is stronger than that. He is incredibly conflicted, not knowing just whom to believe.

The best Ottavio I have heard is Thorsten Kerl. He is a German Heldentenor, and his voice just glides through Mozart. Jon Vickers was a master at Handel.

Honestly, if you have a big voice, especially as a male, and can't sing Mozart, you need to hand in your credentials as a singer. You won't really last long...

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I wonder where it has gone. It isn't showing it's pretty little head much these days.

One of my former students, Taylor Bridges, has a beautiful, smart, and quick witted girlfriend. But when I was last there (in NYC), she commented how she hated that the leads in the operatic version of Romeo et Juliette is too often played by older singers. She couldn't stand the idea of something that did not "look" realistic. Kinda knocked me aback.

First, the role of Juliette is much heavier than the first act aria suggests. When she is presented with the sleeping potion, she has to sing a pretty dramatic scene. A soubrette, or lyric coloratura ain't going to have an easy time of it with that big orchestra. No matter how hot she looks.

But hey, let's not worry about that. We need our Hollywood fix. We need to make sure that Clare Danes is Juliette and Leonardo di Caprio is Romeo. It has gotta LOOK right. That is all that matters.

Keep giving us garbage. You know, Emmy Rossum as Christine, Andrew Lloyd Webber as a composer. We have become so lazy minded that we do not want to be confronted by the incredible emotions that opera makes us stare down. We just want Moulin Rouge. Just entertain us. Do not make us look into ourselves. Do not make us think. Just give us pecs, boobs, and pretty faces.

We don't have time for anything else.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

First Blog-ging

Just a place for me to put down thoughts on singing as I make my transition from baritone to tenor, and regarding my teaching.

January 29

Great day of teaching. I am always astounded by my students at UVA. There is better talent there than at most conservatories in this state. It is raw, like I was at that age, but it is good. The same is true for VCU, but they recruit to that aim, unlike UVA

I have so many talented young men at both UVA and VCU. I was never able to recruit this kind of male singer, in bulk, at uat like I find here. I have two very good tenors at VCU, one fine one at UVA, and several good baritones at both schools.

I am most pleased with my young ladies at both schools. They continue to grow and do the things I ask. Honestly, I have an embarressment of riches...

Well, what I am most pleased with is that they are getting to the point where they can really make music with the instruments that God gave to them. That is SUCCESS.