Tip of the Month

MAY 2014

WHAT A GREAT WAY TO EARN A LIVING ...

I began teaching voice after a night singing at The Horn, in Santa Monica, where Rick Ricardi held forth as a former Vocal Coach for 20th Century Fox. I had sung a couple of sets when a tall, well built young fella-older than I was at the time-approached me and asked if I would teach him how to sing. As a natural singer, I hadn’t been challenged to discover exactly what it was I did to make my voice what it had become; a sound with a fairly good delivery system that always was well received by the audience. I declined and tried to dissuade him from his pursuit but he persisted with “... well, you do it a lot better than I do ... and I’ll pay you five dollars!” Since, at that time, $5 equated to 2 ˝ tanks of gas and further, since Rick never paid me a dime for singing three sets, seven nights a week-my reward for my being able to hone my craft, before a live, critical audience-I acquiesced. I taught him to sing for about $100 ...

 

Skip over about two years of a National Tour with Music Man, singing Stock Baritone at the St. Louis Muny-the grand-daddy of all Summer Stock venues-and having just sung my first leading role with the New York City Opera, Giuseppe in the Gondoliers, by G & S. I was working with Beverly Johnson in New York and she suggested I should be teaching again, saying in essence, “... if you become a teacher by your students you’ll be taught!” ... no small thanks to “King and I” for that.

Some years later, Constance Towers, whose voice I had recovered, called and told me that Howard Keel-of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers movie fame-was in trouble and asked if I would work with him. Howard hadn’t sung above a middle C in seven years! I’d heard him 14 months before at the Bohemian Grove and knew that he had lost his support. In a rehearsal room at the N Y City Opera, N Y State Theater, I brought back his voice to a dozen high G’s ... in thirty minutes! No big deal ... I just reminded him what he used to do when he did it right ... with a few refinements and out came his magnificent voice. He had been singing Man of La Mancha down a fourth on a Bus and Truck tour and three weeks later he call to say ... “I’m sangin’ everthang in key now!

I’ve been blessed with the technical ability to teach all my students to do and to sing with the technique I have refined over fifty years of singing/teaching. When Peter Mark Richman called and told me he had recommended that Pat Boone-who had been in vocal distress for some years-call me, I put Pat’s voice back together in nine sessions, reminding him of what he used to do when he did it right! No magic ... just technique, the most important part of which is “what is support and how does it work?” Pat and I are in our fifteenth year ...
Four years ago, Pat called me to tell me Andy Williams’ voice quit in the middle of a singing “Jean” at a Julie Andrews Gala. I brought Andy’s voice back to operatic size and timbre, on a high A ... in twenty minutes. Support! Georgio Tozzi, Jane Powell, Ann Blyth, Jerry Vale, Renata Scotto, ad infinitum. All of them ... lost the body’s muscle memory, over time ... until the voice just quit. I identified what it was they had lost and showed them how to bring their respective voices back with the “flexible breath-pressure on demand!”™ I’ve taught lessons to a billionaire, heir to the Cinzano family, Paris Hilton, Todd Buchholz, Economic Advisor to George Bush, the elder ... and oohh so many neat people.

To be able to do this, consistently over the years ... has been the most energizing and rewarding thing I have ever done in my life! To have brought Andy Williams’ voice back in six days, when he was getting ready to cancel a seventeen week season, close his theater, lose the twelve shows a week in his 2000 seat theater-not incidentally, at $40 a ticket-and let his entire staff of thirty-five people go. He got two more year’s outta his voice and we were working on a third year-on Skype-when he didn’t come back from a break. He stopped singing and revealed he had prostate cancer, to the world. We lost another great singer last year!

Now, on the flip side of the coin, I have been “giving back” to the profession that has been so wonderful for me ... for many years. Lots of talented kids/professionals have been in dire straits and I have been known to “assist” them.

One day over two years ago, a young man awkwardly walked into my studio... on feet that reduced his gait to a “shuffle!” He was a slender, handsome young man of 26 ... who apparently had his legs pulled out of their sockets at birth. His mother was an addict/alcoholic and the circumstances of his birth were vague at best. The reality is that his condition-due no doubt to his mother’s financial straits, at the time-was not diagnosed ... until he was 22 months old.

He came in and handed me a small packet of cash and said, “I want to learn how to sing.” In the interest of time, he had minimal natural talent, but I discerned there was probably a voice of some good quality hiding in there. He was minimally educated, his social skills needed attention; when I took him to a restaurant, he appeared somewhat unfamiliar with conventional table manners including the proper use of a knife and fork. With gentle guidance, he proved to be a fast learner.

Before long, his cash ran dry and I carried him, for a time. A couple of months later, he brought in some more money ... and that was the end of that! I subsequently made the decision to give him something that no one else could give; a very special voice, so that he would have something to hang his hat on, head held high, a voice that might render the problem with his feet, essentially meaningless. Frankly, he would obviously be limited in staged productions, so I cited to him the phenomenon of Thomas Quasthoff, the wonderful German Bass-baritone, who is a dwarf, but who regaled tens of thousands for years, with his beautiful voice, on the concert stages of the world. This is reality!

I then contacted, Robert Klapper, Chief of Orthopedics at Cedars Sinai-who had done my two knee replacements and right hip-asking if there was some philanthropical medical team that might be able to address my student’s feet and Bob-typically-said ... “Yeah. I’ll do it!” He has been laying the ground-work for the last year.

I have continued to work with his voice, for the last year and a half-of really hard work-and eventually have brought out a baritone of some consequence, culturing his tightly, driven sound into an increasingly fuller, ringing, more mellifluous sound, with operatic quality and soaring high A’s. He is singing O du mein holder ... from Tannhauser, Vision fugitive ... from Herodiade, bringing the Figaro aria into full bloom and singing musical theater pieces such as On a Clear Day and They Call the Wind Maria. It has been painstaking effort, but ultimately he progressed ... to where, when he sings now, people’s heads turn, looking around to see whence cometh the impressive sound.

In the interest of where this is going, I feel it necessary to fill in a few blanks such as, every time he came over, I always fed him something, sometimes breakfast before we worked and then a large glass of grape juice afterward and sending him on his way with something in his pockets, always a couple of snacks and quite often something to make his lot a little easier to bear. His Christmas gift allowed him to buy his winter coat ... that kinda thing ...

He recently moved from, his hotel in Hollywood (from whom he will soon be getting a large settlement from a class-action suit involving bed-bugs) to here in Culver City, to be closer to me and his singing, joining the Hare Krishna where they give him a bed, two squares and he works off his keep, doing odd jobs around the facility.

I had mentioned to him recently that, now that he is making such a good sound-literally comparable to my own-he would be a target for other voice teachers who gobble up people who sing well ... to enhance their own reputation, by taking credit for the singer’s vocal prowess! I had also shared with him that there is always a risk for me, that my students might take what I have given them, in the building their voice of quality … and then move on.
However, with the student’s welfare always foremost in my mind, I’ve taken the position that part of my “giving back to the profession” assumes that risk and that risk is worth taking! I can always give a student a voice much better than the one with which they came in the door … but I can never presume that I’ve also given them the judgment with which to employ it wisely.

A couple of months ago, he told me he had to talk to me about something important. I gave him the go-ahead and he said, “I sang for Gary Catona a few days ago ... and I thought I might take a few lessons from him. You know he has worked with a lot of great stars, Whitney Houston etc. ...”

That was the last I have heard from him ...

“No good deed ...”

 


CLICK LINKS BELOW TO VIEW PREVIOUS TIPS...

APRIL 14 -
GET TO YES FASTER

MARCH 14 -
MY VOCAL CREDO

JANUARY 14 -
A THE FIVE C'S REVISITED

DECEMBER 13 -
A CHALLENGE FOR SERIOUS SINGERS 

OCTOBER 13 -
WLARYNGITIS, ANYONE?

SEPTEMBER 13 -
WHAT TO WITE.... RENATA SCOTTO?

AUGUST 13 -
HOW TO FIX YOUR “WOBBLE” AND SINGING UNDER PITCH!

JULY 13 -
FROM THE LIPS OF OPERA GREATS OF THE PAST

JUNE 13 -
ROTATING EVERY HIGH NOTE

APRIL 13 - MY HIATUS

OCTOBER 12 - BACKWARD BREATHING (CONTINUED)

SEPTEMBER 12
-
BACKWARD BREATHING

MAY 12- WHY GOOD SINGERS GET INTO TROUBLE (And retire early!)

APRIL 12- THE FIVE “C’s!” (REVISITED AND MARGINALLY UPDATED)

MARCH 12- PROACTIVE

FEBRUARY 12- PROACTIVE

JANUARY 12- PROACTIVE

DECEMBER 11 - THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN (Revisited)

NOVEMBER 11 - THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

OCTOBER 11 -  MY CORDS AREN’T WORKING
 

SEPTEMBER 11 - HELLO FROM CRESTON, BC, CANADA

AUGUST 11 - PERSEVERANCE THE OTHER SIDE-(RESPONSE)

JULY 11 - PERSEVERANCE THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN

JUNE 11
- PERSEVERANCE

MAY 11 - ENERGY!

APRIL 11 - EXTERNALIZING SUPPORT

MARCH 11 - THE IMPORTANCE OF DICTION

FEBRUARY 11 - RESPONSE TO LAST MONTHS TIP

JANUARY 11 - LET'S TRY THIS

DECEMBER 10 - THE FUNCTION OF THE MOUTH... IN SINGING

NOVEMBER 10 - BOY SOPRANO TO YOUNG MAN’S VOICE

OCTOBER 10
- TOOLS OF THE TRADE (i.e. LEARNING REPERTOIRE)

SEPTEMBER 10 - TOOLS OF THE TRADE

AUGUST 10 - JOIN A CHORUS (Addendum)

JULY 10 - JOIN A CHORUS

JUNE 10 - HI THERE SINGERS!
 

MAY 10 - SINGING IS WORK

APRIL 10 - THE FIVE “C’s!”

MARCH 10 - LEARNING REPERTOIRE

FEBRUARY 10 - THE TIGHT JAW

JANUARY 10 - BALANCING THE VOICE

DECEMBER 09 - LOVE CAN REIGN - LINK

NOVEMBER 09 - ABSENCE OF EXCESSIVE TENSION

OCTOBER 09 - YOUR OTHER BEST FRIEND - YOUR MIRROR

SEPTEMBER 09 - EVERYONE CAN SING!

AUGUST 09 - LATENT HERNIAS AND OTHER SUPPORT PROBLEMS

JULY 09 - PRINCE IMRAN RAZA STATESMAN/ROCK STAR

JUNE 09 - ANOTHER NATURAL SINGER - DAVID BURKE

MAY 09 -DISCOVERY OF VOIC
E

APRIL 09 - I'M SICK, BUT I HAVE TO PERFORM TONIGHT  Part 2

MARCH 09 - I'M SICK, BUT I HAVE TO PERFORM TONIGHT

FEBRUARY 09 - SINGING IN ENGLISH

JANUARY 09 - GETTING AN AGENT AND/OR MANAGER (Part 4)

DECEMBER 08 - GETTING AN AGENT AND/OR MANAGER (Part 3)

NOVEMBER 08 -
GETTING AN AGENT AND/OR MANAGER (Part 2)

OCTOBER 08 - GETTING AN AGENT AND/OR MANAGER (Part 1)

SEPTEMBER 08 - HEAVY BREATHING ADVISED FOR JOCKS

AUGUST 08 -  THE VAGARIES OF AUDITIONS AND AUDITIONING (Part 3)

JULY 08 -
THE VAGARIES OF AUDITIONS AND AUDITIONING (Part 2)

JUNE 08 -
THE VAGARIES OF AUDITIONS AND AUDITIONING (Part 1)

MAY 08 - ABSENCE OF TENSION

APRIL 08 -
THE FLAT TONGUE TECHNIQUE AND HOW DO YOU MAKE A VOWEL

MARCH 08  - THE VOICE COACHING THAT  MADE MY CAREER

FEBRUARY 08 - WHAT ARE YOU SINGING?

JANUARY 08 -
VIBRATO/WOBBLE

DECEMBER 07 - BREATHING REVISITED

NOVEMBER  07 - HOW TO KILL A COLD IN FIVE DAYS

OCTOBER 07 - A BIT MORE SUPPORT

SEPTEMBER 07 - MORE SUPPORT

AUGUST 07 - INTRO & BREATHING/SUPPORT