When I spoke to Micheal for the first time for this interview I was struck by his knowledge of music, culture, and his own ancestry. He is someone committed to embracing his entire history and sharing his story in a very authentic way. “I was born in the region of Calabria Italy, which is the tip of the toe of the Italian peninsula,” he says at the beginning of our interview. He describes it as the final frontier of Italian tourism. “It’s a poor region so many of the Calabrians ended up immigrating to look for work and a better life. Many moved either to northern Italy, northern Europe, Canada, the USA or Australia.” He endearingly refers to his father as the
‘nomad’ of the family, a man who risked the unknown to settle in Toronto, Canada and begin a new life. Micheal and his mother joined their father soon after he was settled. Despite being a long way from his native country Micheal grew up very much saturated in the Italian culture. “Toronto is the sixth largest Italian speaking city in the world,” he says. “There are four ‘little Italy’s’… I was constantly surrounded by Italian neighbors and the Italian radio station was on all the time. There was TV, tons of publications, festivals and street fairs.” He remembers speaking Italian at home and maintaining a close relationship with his family back in Italy. “My
mother tongue was still a big part of me based on my environment and upbringing.” Micheal feels that Canada was especially embracing of multicultural backgrounds which encouraged him not only to remain true to his roots but to also consider himself a “proud Canadian.” Music was always a part of Micheal’s life. “Italians and music go hand in hand.” He proudly shares some of the contributions of Italians to the music world. “The piano was invented in Italy, music notation was invented in Italy, the best violins (Stradivarius) are made in Italy, Opera was invented in Italy and some of the finest composers, conductors, musicians and singers, hail from Italy. So it is a big part of the Italian lifestyle. The first pop music was the ‘Neapolitan’ song… The influence that Neapolitan music has had on contemporary pop music is incredible.” It had a special influence on Micheal as well. “It was played in our home all the
time and music was constantly surrounding me.” Micheal’s musical career began in a very traditional way. “I got my start singing in a church choir. The priest had singled me out to sing a solo. The praise and accolades I got afterwards was wonderful.” The experience had a profound influence on the course of Micheal’s life. As he grew older he began playing guitar and singing popular songs. “At that age it’s all about getting the girl,” he says. After this he began expanding his knowledge with piano, trumpet and percussion instruction. Micheal studied in Canada until his college years. “The last year of high school my music teacher had suggested that Berklee would be a good school for me.” He researched and found that although Berklee is traditionally known as a jazz school, they were expanding their programs and opening their doors to a variety of different musicians. For
Micheal it was a chance he had to take. “When the time came for me to study for the audition at Berklee, rather than doing just a few jazz standards I decided to audition with a liturgical song I used to sing in church all the time.” The piece was ‘Panis Angelicus’ by Cesar Franck. Micheal knew it would make him stand out from the crowd. “I wanted to try something different for the audition. They’d either hate me or love me.” Fortunately for him it was the latter and Micheal received a scholarship to study at Berklee. After graduating, Micheal did his research before choosing a place to settle down. “I went to check out all the centers of entertainment and music… and settled on New York.” He’s been there ever since. It seems fitting that Micheal, who sang a liturgical piece to audition for a famous jazz school, would end up finding his way into the classical
crossover genre. He looks up to Andrea Bocelli as the “pioneer of classical crossover as we know it” and also credits Mario Lanza and Elvis Presley for their role in bringing the genre to life. “The major American rock ’n’ roll singer, goes to Germany, hears Italian songs and records the English version of ‘O Sole Mio’ (known as ‘Now or Never’) and ‘TornaA Surriento’ (Surrender) and he makes Italian music popular.” He also brings up Roy Orbison, another rock ’n’ roll singer of the 1950’s60’s, for his “vibrato and operatic styling in his singing style.” For him a defining moment in the genre was the release of ‘Con Te Partiro’. “It’s a song that you feel you’ve heard before - it has that vintage sound. People finally realized it was a new song. It was a moderate hit but became a huge hit when recorded with Sarah Brightman.” Again Micheal’s background played a major role in becoming the singer he is today. “Unofficially, Italian is
the language of classical crossover... When the time came for me to figure out my next move, based on my training and the language, it was pretty obvious I should pursue recording and writing in the classical crossover genre.” Six albums and several singles later, Micheal’s instincts have clearly proven correct. Micheal has built a loyal following and made a career for himself without the help of a record label. What are the advantages to his indie artist status? “The short answer is that as an indie artist you are in complete control. And if you succeed you succeed based completely on yourself and your team, and if you fail it’s also based completely on yourself and your team.” A daunting thought for many artists but one that resonated well with his personality.
“It’s always been my spirit to be completely independent and call
the shots. Whether I am successful or not, the buck stops with me doing as I wished.” Micheal will be the first to admit that he perused label interest. “Absolutely, every musician does,” he says honestly. “But sometimes it might be your music, your story or that particular time of what’s going on in the world that labels don’t see you as something they want to invest in… so if that doesn’t happen and you really love what you do, and you have a story to tell, then you have to do it on your own.” Micheal credits his career to his family. “The success I have is because I come from a business family. Being organized and knowing how to create a service or a product, how to present it and sell it and hopefully create a revenue stream to sustain yourself, kind of comes naturally to me.” He admits of course that since his
family was not from a music business background he has made his share of mistakes. But the important thing is that he kept going. “I never gave up. I had to live and learn as I was making my way.” While he believes in the importance of honing musical skills, he claims that, “Most of the education happens after you graduate and go into the real world and figure out if your skills are marketable or not. As an artist you learn if you have a point of view, a story to tell, and if that story is engaging, is it compelling enough to get people to come and listen to you perform.” For Micheal, finding his story has been a journey.
“I was constantly exploring, trying to define what my story was. It wasn’t ‘Ok, this is my story,’ it was a constant progression of going deeper, and
accepting and embracing my roots and being true and being honest to that.” He doesn’t feel like he’s arrived either. “I’m always developing and making progress on how to tell my story through my music. I have to say that because of social media I’m having success because my story and music currently resonate with many fans more than ever before. So, it’s encouraging that I’m on the right track, that my story is compelling, and that people are willing to part with their hard earned money or to travel a great distance to hear me perform… and not only that but then share my music and try to get their friends to become fans. It would not be possible without social media. It’s incredible.” Of course he acknowledges that many other artists are rapidly finding success in the same way. “How do you cut through the noise? How do you
cut through the professionals and those on the other side who are just emerging? How do you cut through all that and find your audience? I’m constantly learning that all the time.” If there’s one thing Micheal knows, it’s how to learn from his mistakes and keep moving forward. As the music business continues to change he is ready to evolve with it. That includes switching his focus from full length albums to digitally released singles. He is realistic about buyer’s reluctance to purchase an entire album. His plan involves releasing a single every 4-8 weeks, “to keep my story alive, stay productive, engage my audience and fans, and give them something new to look forward to. That’s our goal for 2015. On July 17th we will release a High Resolution Audio of our #1 Amazon charting single, ‘PRAY'R.’” Micheal’s latest release on May 5th was “Everything Happens for a Reason / Una Ragione.” His plan is to release a limited
edition album once his 10th single is released. The album would then be available at live concerts and from Amazon. Micheal is also planning to celebrate one of his bestselling albums with a re-mastered 5th anniversary version that will be available as a digital download. Micheal shared a little bit about his musical collaborations. The Italian singer Giorgia Fumanti was featured in one of his singles, “Pray’r.” He explains, “Giorgia, her manger and I talked for the past four years about doing the collaboration.” Again social media had an impact. “We’re friends on Facebook, and she’s Italian but lives in Montreal, Canada.” Micheal recorded the song first as a solo but it quickly received interest from Giorgia. “Lo and behold, last year we finally got into the studio and did a duet.” It was Micheal’s first release of 2015 and will be featured on Fumanti’s next album which is set to be released later this
year. “The beauty of doing duets is hopefully both singers love the song and that’s the driving force. There is also the practical point-of-view. She’s being exposed to my following and vice versa, so it is mutually beneficial.” Another mutually beneficial partnership for Micheal has been his relationship with our previous cover star, Rebecca Newman. “With Rebecca Newman, our history is a little different. We both were participating in an online voting contest and I assisted her win. My fans got behind her and visa vie she helped me win. I have the utmost respect for her skills, her talent, her drive, her passion and we remain constant in communication. When the time came for me to do my Christmas concert last November, I invited her to come and perform. She came and she blew everyone away. All my fans became her fans.” He looks forward to a long friendship and business relationship with her for years to
come. “The duet we did will eventually be launched, if not this year, next year. So I see further collaboration with her.” Exciting news! Micheal’s story goes beyond his music to his work as an entrepreneur importing olive oil and balsamic vinegar, his “side passions.” Also, he is careful to note that again there is a personal connection to this side of his endeavors. “There’s a story, and it is a personal story, part of my life and family.” The business has also exposed Micheal to a whole new audience who would have otherwise been unaware of his music. “The olive oil began with my great grandfather who left Italy and came to New York to help build the NYC Subway system.” Like many other immigrants his intention was not to stay in the states but rather to make money and return to Italy. On his return he bought a piece of land that had olive trees on it and his grandparents developed them. “About 15 years ago I decided to re-build
the family villa, the villa I was born and raised in… I had finished reading the book ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ and that was inspiring.” His wife also encouraged him to pursue the project. “As I was travelling back and forth from Italy, my relatives would give me bottles of olive oil as a gift, and when I would come back to the states I would put it into decorative bottles and give them away to friends on the Holidays.” The response he received was consistently positive and he was encouraged to consider importing. “I decided to create the New York City Olive Oil Cooperative for true connoisseurs - people who really knew the difference and didn’t like the mass market olive oils that you can buy at the super markets. These people who travelled to Italy, France or Greece and knew great olive oil.” He started with 25 of his closest friends and the word quickly spread. He now has over 750 olive oil members. “It kind of makes my story a
little sexy and a little different,” he says with good humor. “And people are intrigued to find out more.” He thinks of it as a “natural fit.” It wasn’t always apparent though. “In the beginning it seemed like it didn’t fit. People would say, ‘Mike you’re all over the place’ or ‘Mike you’re a jack of all trades,’ but I didn’t see it that way. Music was the glue that kept everything together.” His business has now expanded to include balsamic vinegar which of course has a story that traces back to his father. What is Micheal’s overall goal? “The mission of my music is to get everyone who listens to it to feel again. I want to make the listener feel that if they are going through a tough time in their life, through therapy, or if they need some sort of escape, that the music I co-write, coproduce and perform, helps them. Just like there’s aromatherapy, music therapy, physical therapy, I like to think that my music has my quality and that all the other elements
that are part of my story are also therapeutic as well.” Micheal Castaldo has certainly built a career worth singing about and his dedication to an authentic presentation of his story is inspiring. He wants to
help others embrace their own stories and give them hope through his music. “I hope if they are down, it brings them up and encourages them. I hope that’s what my music does.”
For upcoming performances visit Micheal's official website:
There are few things in life that have the capacity to move an individual like music. There is an indisputable power and ability to inspire listeners that is absolutely unique. While careers in performance are the most readily recognized for music lovers to pursue, there are many different avenues that utilize a variety of skills. This series of articles will focus on individuals who have different careers in music.
I first met Jeremy when we both were students at Andrews University. From pedagogy classes, long choral rehearsals, master class and opera scenes performances we spent a lot of
time together. We initially bonded over love for musical theater, “GLEE” and later “SMASH”, and became good friends especially my final year. Jeremy’s powerful tenor voice
was always distinctive as was his passion for music. With his friendly personality and commitment to excellence, he was a standout candidate for a career in music education. It was fun to catch up with him and discuss a little bit about his life now… but first let’s start at the beginnin g. “I started singing originally, because of my mom. My mom is a singer and when I was small, she did a lot of singing up front at church.” Her influence as well as the music of the Christian group known as The Gaither’s not to mention several “Disney” inspirations, made Jeremy want to give it a try himself. “I was just sitting in my room one day, I think I was probably in the fifth or sixth grade, and I kind of realized that I could carry a
tune – possibly a little better than the next person.” I chuckle here, “possibly” is more than right. “I went to one of my friends who was good at playing the guitar and I was like ‘Hey I want to try something out with you, how does this sound?’ and he really liked my voice. I dived in from there.” Jeremy said he learned immediately the value of being encouraged. His friend helped introduce Jeremy to others in the local music circle. “(My music experience) really just went off from there.” A good teacher was the next step in his vocal development. “Growing up I was very much exposed to Broadway, thanks to my elementary school music teacher at the time. Even though I grew up in a Christian environment Ms. Whidden was really good at bringing in a lot
of other influences, she didn’t just stick to Christian standards – and I really appreciated her for that.” Jeremy grew up with The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz, Annie and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (I still remember his inspiring performance of ‘Close Every Door To Me’). Jeremy attended Andrews Academy where the school featured a musical every other year. “In high school I was involved in ‘South Pacific’ and my senior year I played the villain in ‘Honk’ which is sort of a lesser known musical based on the ‘Ugly Duckling.’ I played the evil cat.” When it came time to go to college Jeremy decided to attend Southern University. “I needed a change,” he explains. “So I took off to Tennessee.” As much as he loved music, he didn’t plan on studying it at first. “My dad had kind of influenced me to start a counseling degree within social work because he was a
psychologist himself. I went through that first year and I thought ‘This is Ok.’ But something was still missing.” A lot of Jeremy’s friends had decided to attend Andrews University and he would visit them and hear their recitals. “The music program especially at Andrews attracted me a little more than the music department at Southern. It just seemed like their (Andrews) department was a little more developed. I thought ‘this is something I would really like to get into and be a part of, because even though I was in social work at Southern, I was still involved in music by taking voice lessons. I had made sure to keep my hand in the world of music with choir and voice lessons. And I just needed someplace that was a little more developed.” Finding the right program is an important step to any musician. However so is facing the reality of providing for yourself after college. “[I thought] I really want to delve into this
program, but I needed to be able to have something to fall back on. I wanted to have the security of a job and the ability to still inspire people. As I was looking through options I thought, what if I do a degree in Music Education? I had spent several summers at F.L.A.G. camp unofficially teaching music to kids and I thought, ‘this is something I really could appreciate.” Jeremy continued to carefully research before committing to a career in Music Education. “Eventually as I researched several aspects of it, I thought YES, Music
Education! Because I could be involved in music and be able to soak up as much about music from the program as I could; music theory, music history etc. and I could also have a degree to teach plus still be able to inspire. I think that was my bottom line; To have music as an inspiration in my life and work a steady job.” While in the Music Education program at Andrews, Jeremy took every opportunity that was offered to perform. From solos in the select choir, to opera scenes and roles, and leading the praise team at church, Jeremy gained a reputation as a fine singer. He also pursued other avenues for performance auditioning for The Voice, GLEE and Pitch Perfect. “It’s a big
process and there are millions and millions of people who also want what you want, so you are lucky even to get a little further through the many processes. But it was nice even to be in the environment along with other singers and it was just fun to be part of it all.” And then the Pitch Perfect opportuni ty came along. “Mike Tompkins, a youtube personalit y, does a lot of acapella singing on his channel and he was sponsored by Pitch Perfect to do this ad campaign on youtube.” The ad was for singers to send in videos recording the various parts and solos. “I sent in myself doing the lead vocals part and I had no idea if I was going to be in it or how many people were going
to be a part of this video he was planning on making. As it turned out, many people made it in, but there’s a really cool part where you can see me on the screen and hear my voice and it was pretty cool to make it in there. The video was featured on youtube. And then later I heard it was actually going to be part of the Pitch Perfect DVD and I thought ‘Whoa that’s crazy!’ So it was kind of cool to have at least some publicity on the DVD of the movie.”All of his friends were quite proud to see him in the video. So who inspires Jeremy to sing? “Musical inspirations come from a lot of different places… Growing up I listened to Josh Groban quite a bit. I also loved
Judy Garland’s voice as well. I was in awe of her when I was little because (in The Wizard of Oz) she was so young and yet she had this big voice and I thought ‘How does she do that?’ Some of my other inspirations are Adam Lambert and Jeremy Jordan – I really like their ranges and their voices. Those are favorite male voices of mine. Of course I love Lea Michele because of all the feeling she puts in her voice as well as Jennifer Hudson. Also, Julie Andrews, Diana Ross, Justin Timberlake, Idina Menzel and Michael Buble just to name a few more. As time went on and I saw more people I had a lot of different inspirations for how to sing and how to present myself. Audra McDonald – I think her voice is amazing! I first noted her on the Disney TV version of Annie back in 1999, and I liked how she was able to mix Broadway and still have that strong kind of opera vocal ability.” He is quick to add his original inspiration to the list. “And of course my mom! A lot
of my vocal patterns when I first started were inspired by her.” The Music Education program is an intensive one where students are practically perusing a dual degree; one in music and one in education. Music Education majors take all the same fundamentals as other music students do, music theory, music history, ear training, ensemble, private voice lessons and juries to name a few courses. In addition to these classes Music Ed majors are expected to take classes in pedagogy not only for their main instrument but also the various other instruments in general music ensembles. They also take classes about choral and instrumental literature and music education methods as well as other general education credits. When their classes are complete, education majors must pass several tests in general education knowledge plus their specific area of teaching and
then take on a semester of student teaching. “Right now I’m teaching K-5; kindergarten all the way up to 5th grade. Throughout each week I see about 3-4 classes from each of those grades.” Music Education majors are expected to become certified all the way up to secondary (high school). “I’m basically the general music teacher and there is a wealth of things I cover from theory to music history, small Orff instruments, drums and xylophones. We also rehearse various songs that we are getting ready for our concerts, so the students are learning vocal technique as well as how to present themselves as performers. So basically when students come into my classroom, each class under the heading of 3rd, 4th and 5th grade I get to see for
an hour and then each class under the heading of K, 1st and 2nd grade, I get in 2 increments of 30 minutes. Each class is just a variety of what I described.” I asked Jeremy what are some of the important qualities an individual should have as a Music Education professional. “I think one of the most important qualities someone needs to have would definitely be confidence in their subject matter and the confidence to simply stand up in front of people intelligently. Each day
you almost have to put on a show because you are in front
of as many as 20-30 students. Each student represents a home background and personality and you have to be ready to be up front and handle all 20-30 of these personalities! Not to say that each one is bad at all, but on the other hand, you have to be willing to have the stamina to be able to handle that for that full class period. You really need to know what you are doing and have stability with being in front of people. Another aspect is having a good plan for behavior management. You need to have an incentive plan to get them to sit down and be motivated.” This is especially important when it comes to music classes. “Unfortunately, especially in grade school, music classes get the title of the ‘fun’ class where the child may think that they don’t have to pay as much attention as they would in, say, math, reading or science. Some tend to come to class and feel that they want to do whatever they feel like,
but it takes a firm, yet kind stance to let them know that, ‘hey, you’re still a student and in a class.’ Music is fun, but they have to remember, they are still in school” Ultimately it takes someone who is truly devoted and excited about what they are doing. The bottom line I believe is just a love for your students and a love for what you are doing, in this case, music. When you see your students in class every day, you have to say to them mentally, ‘I want to inspire your life today, to be someone who helps you see that music isn’t just that something as simple as that rap song on the radio, but that it’s something that’s so much more and you can truly be a part of it. I want to inspire you today’.
You really do have to have an appreciation and a strong desire to inspire the faces that are sitting in front of you each day.” Jeremy’s teaching mission also
reads as a wonderful statement for future music teachers. “Be
an inspiration, know your students and allow yourself to be the doorway to any and every type of music for them. Allow yourself to be that exploration guide who leads them into the world of music. Take them out of the mindset that music is only one or two genres or types and allow them to walk with you down each and every hallway that makes up the entire world of music!" So exactly how much down time does a music teacher really have? Is there really enough to pursue a performance career on the side? “As a new teacher I have to work up to a certain amount of professional development points as well as attending workshops etc. Along with that, I am also going to be doing some teaching and private
music lessons over the summer,” Jeremy continues, explaining that summers aren’t exactly free. “Living in Kalamazoo, there are quite a few opportunities to pursue performing. I’ve gotten the chance to perform at weddings and churches more recently but still not nearly as much as when I was in college.” During the school year however it can be exhausting.
“As a teacher the days (especially the last ones of the semester) can get a bit tiring, so you’re almost not quite as motivated to get out there… It really comes down to the question; does your motivation give you the push to still get yourself out there? You really just need to have that drive. I love performing and I’d love to get
out there much more than I am. After having taught for 2 years, I think I kind of have a better hold of things and plan to get out into the musical performance scene more.” What are some of Jeremy’s musical ambitions? “Well, I plan on teaching at least a couple more years. The very first day I got there, the school I teach at told me that no music teacher has lasted more than 2 years, so I’m going to outlast those others with at least one more year! But as far as musical ambitions go, if I have any open door or opportunity, I really want to spend a year just going to a city somewhere (preferably New York) and finding an amazing music scene and just being able to perform. I’d love to see if that’s a venue I would feel comfortable breaking into.” That’s not to say that Jeremy would change his decision to become a music teacher. “I love teaching and I love the act of just being a music teacher and when I get older I
want to fall back on that again, but at this point, I’m in my late 20s and I don’t want my end game to stop at simply teaching. I really do have a desire in me to get out there and perform much more. Not even necessarily to become famous, but just to be in a performance scene and be able to get my name and sheer expression out there. I definitely want to think a little more, shall we say, outside of the classroom in the next year or two.” Interested in perusing a career in Music Education? Consider requesting permission to observe local music teachers at work. You can also learn more from the National Association for Music Education website: www.nafme.org
Robert Bruce is a composer known for his experimental music and visual style that has been heard in film and meditation. He is known to be fascinated by the therapeutic nature of music as well as its connection with the spiritual. “Songs of Light and Shadow Volume 1” is a collection of compositions he has written that fit very well into modern art song repertoire. The album begins unexpectedly with the longing “The Love in Her Eyes.” It is followed by the aptly named, “Angelfest,” which does indeed make the listener think of angels ascending into the clouds. “Living a Dream” is a lyrical piece that would make a lovely addition to a recital as is, “Everlasting Dream” which follows it. “Spirit of Song,” is very pretty with harp strains and vocal cameo. The songs on the album have a distinctive new age feel and ambient quality as heard on “The Wings of Sound.” Lest we get too comfortable “A Little Bit of Neptune” changes up the pace with some blues tonalities. Is it only me or do the duet parts sound reminiscent of the Beach Boys “God Only Knows?” The restless “A Woman’s Secret” is next and to me it sounds like the waves on the sea. The album finishes with the lovely, “The Candle of Love” which is especially helped by additional voices. “Songs of Light and Shadow” is recommended for the classical music fan – especially those who enjoy art song material. It may just as easily be enjoyed by the new age music lover as the music conjures peaceful images. For the most part the vocalists featured on the album very pretty bright voices which suit the overall feel but I can imagine a singer with a larger instrument being equally successful in many of them. Robert Bruce is clearly a talented composer who can effortlessly combine different styles to tell a story. To learn more about his work please visit: http://robertbrucemusic.com/
10 QUESTIONS WITH FAITH TUCKER Faith Tucker is an up and coming fourteen year old classical crossover singer from England. After hearing her lovely rendition of “O Mio babbino Caro” we decided to get to know a little more about her.
1. When did you begin singing and taking lessons? I started when I was 8-years-old, but didn’t take up classical singing until I was 13 when my singing teacher told me my voice would be well suited to it. Things have moved so quickly
since then and it’s been an incredible journey that I’m enjoying every minute of. 2. Do you remember the first time you performed and what the reactions of your family/friends were? I performed at an event called Fame Factor in my home town.
My singing teacher at the time guided me towards choosing Last Rose of Summer, which was originally an Irish poem. I remember 20 of my friends and family turning up with matching t-shirts! I don’t think many of them were expecting me to sing the way I did – it was a fantastic moment for me. 3. How do you find time to practice music in addition to your other studies? I have a very strict routine that I follow to make sure I have time to fit everything in. As well as my singing, I know how important my school work is, so I make sure I strike the right balance. I also know it’s important to give my voice rest days to protect it as much as possible. 4. Do your parents help to manage your career or is it mainly you looking for performance opportunities? I’m lucky that I’ve had the support of my family since the start, and they’ve played a
major part in helping me find singing opportunities. I’ve recently signed to a leading management agency, Champions (UK) plc who are looking after my career and finding me even more exciting new opportunities. 5. How do you strive to protect your voice for the future? First of all, I make sure to listen to advice from my peers and teachers. I never sing before properly warming up so that I don’t put too much strain on my voice. I know my voice is going to change several times over the next few years and therefore it’s very important to vocally exercise correctly so that I protect it as best I can. 6. You said you aspire to be like Katherine Jenkins. Do you hope to pursue a degree in music education like she did? Like Katherine, I would love to pursue a degree in music education to learn as much as possible. I have a number of
other singers who I admire and look up to including Maria Callas and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. 7. In addition to music what other subjects interest you? Performing is my main focus in life and I love all aspects of this including dancing and acting. I also have a passion for fashion! 8. Are there any specific causes that are important to you? I think it’s important to support causes that you are passionate about. I’m proud to have helped raise money for a number of charities including Christian Aid, Help the Heroes and Water Aid. 9. Social media is important to every musician but especially to a young one it requires careful supervision. How do your parents help you and do you they have any advice
for other families with performing children? I’ve sought advice from my management company who understand the importance of social media. They will be helping me to manage my social media accounts. I think social media can be really enjoyable and also beneficial but understand that it needs supervision and they are experienced in helping with this. 10. What would be your dream venue to perform in? I am so excited as I have been given the opportunity to sing in the magnificent Symphony Hall in Birmingham later in the year but my dream would be to perform at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. That would be a dream come true. My ambition is to perform all over the world and the Sydney Opera also stands out to me – it looks absolutely amazing!
Follow Faith’s journey online at
When I transferred to Andrews it was a leap of faith and I wasnâ€™t sure what to expect in terms of their vocal program. I remember walking into my first choral rehearsal with Stephen Zork and the Andrews University choral and feeling quite apprehensive. We sang â€˜The Lord Bless you and Keep youâ€™ and when the time for the
tenor solo arrived I heard this beautiful big voice bellowing out from across the room. I was completely taken back and yes, I admit, a little intimidated. Eventually I got to know Anthony as more than just the voice that projected above ALL of us in choral. He is one of the most confident performers I have known and someone I
respect for being unabashedly himself. Anthony has the kind of voice that is special enough, with the right guidance, to create a wonderful career for himself in opera. “I guess I listened to some classical music as a kid, because my parent’s listened to it,” he says very matter of factly. “Other than that I got into listening to classical music because I joined choir my senior year in high school – which is also how I started singing. As far as opera goes, my mom tells me that I started singing opera when I was three years old. Having watched an old cartoon called, ‘The Whale who wanted to sing at the Met’ and she said I started imitating him. I have no idea how it sounded, probably hilarious. And then I just kind of always had it in my head that I could ‘sing opera.’ I don’t do anything with it but just used it as a party trick sometimes and then my choir teacher from high school heard me and told me that I should be a voice
major.” After joining choir for a year Anthony says, “I decided to just go with it.” Anthony eventually decided on attending Andrews University, because of the scholarships they offered and it was also the school his parents went to. At Andrews Anthony developed his talent under the instruction of Stephen Zork and others. He quickly was singled out for solo’s in the select choirs, and also participated in opera scenes and productions which included, L'amico Fritz, HMS Pinafore, The Stingiest Man in Town and The Pirates of Penzance. He also further developed his musicianship in the Andrews Wind Symphony and became their principle trumpet player. It was during this time that Anthony began to audition for competitions thanks to the encouragement of adjunct professor, Cristina Piccardi. “She was good friends with Andrew Fisher and I, and decided that we were old
enough to just start doing these things and getting used to them. So she told us about them and said that we should try and we both said, ‘That sounds great.’ We both had to take a look at the list of arias that we knew, and we went over them with Cristina and she did a lot of coaching with us to see which ones were viable. That was the point that she handed me ‘Che gelida manina’ the La Boheme aria. She actually taught me that aria and coached me through learning it. She also gave me ‘Pourquoi me reveiller’ from Werther and that one I actually memorized in the car while driving to the Metropolitan Opera competition.” Of course he did, trust Anthony to pull that off. “It was all just Cristiana’s mastermind, and then Andrew and I going along with it. It was a really good experience to just do it. Especially, somewhere where we weren’t going to audition again.”
It was about the same time that Cristina began to encourage Anthony to pursue young artist programs over the summer. “She sent me a link for the Ferro Vocal Program in Italy and that was one of the few that was still open for auditions that late. So I went ahead and send them a tape and went to Italy that summer and sang with them.” It was an important step in realizing how his career should move forward. “Talking to those teachers there and getting some insider information allowed me to open my mind to what opera as a profession really was.” Anthony continued to audition for various competitions including the Lyric Opera of Chicago. “I went in with the same arias that I had done for the Met audition and at that point I was like ‘There is no possible way I’m going to be getting into this program or move on to any next level’. So I was pretty much doing it for the fun of it just getting another audition under my belt. I wasn’t
thinking very much of it.” Anthony sang the aria ‘Pourquoi me reveiller.’ He says, “They asked me a whole bunch of questions afterwards about how young I was and about Andrews because they’d never heard of it before and then they asked for ‘Che gelida manina’ which went also really great - it was definitely a good vocal day! They asked me quite a few more questions after that and then said out of the blue ‘How would you like to be in the finals’ and I was like [stuttering] ‘That…. Would be great.’ And I was completely blown away.” When time came from the finals Anthony had prepared a new aria ‘Di rigori armato il seno’ from Rosenkavalier. He had performed the piece once in St. Joseph with Paul Mao and also had coaching on it with Alan Darling (one of the coaches at the Lyric Opera of Chicago). “He had really liked that aria in my voice, and thought it was a good addition to my list. So I went ahead and
switched out one of the arias from my list.” The pressure was on. “I sang that for them because they requested it as the second aria, and I completely bombed the entire aria and cracked the high B and it was very dramatically, excitedly horrendous,” he says laughing. If there’s one thing about Anthony it’s his inability to let a mistake keep him down for long. “I did not actually get into the program. It was a very good experience, it taught me a lot about how easy it is to lose track of your technique when you are nervous and you are actually worried about what you are auditioning for rather than doing what you know you can do.” He explains further, “The Met competition I wasn’t really expecting much, I was nervous definitely but not overly. Then the Chicago one initially I wasn’t nervous at all because I wasn’t expecting anything. I had just a normal little flutter in my stomach maybe but for the final one I was terrified. Super,
super nervous and was not handling it well. I’ve since learned some techniques for calming myself that I did not have then.” Techniques for nerves? Do share! “Well, when I went to the AIMS program in Austria they had a teacher there who was giving a pep talk on stage nerves basically. They had done some studies about subconscious reactions your body has to certain actions, one of them is if you take your hands and extend them out straight from your body up in the air. It’s an autonomic response that your body has to making yourself bigger and it releases testosterone into your body. Testosterone is the opposite of cortisol (the hormone that produces the nervous feeling) so it counteracts that feeling of nervousness. The other one is to ‘bear your teeth’. The way they said to do that was by putting a pencil in your teeth, but you can also do that by smiling and just by ‘bearing your teeth.’ It
has that same kind of response which helps you to feel less nervous in general. We call the hands straight out the ‘power pose.’ So now whenever I’m at an audition right before I go onto the stage, I have a pencil in my teeth doing the power pose and it’s just a kind of a thing I do before everything. I constantly have people asking me, ‘What are you doing?’ and I say, ‘I’m doing power pose.’” His pose has become popular amongst his friends at Washington University and even beyond. “It’s really amazing how well it works… honestly the ‘power pose’ is very effective. If for no other reason than to be a placebo that feels funny to do and you laugh and it relaxes you. I mean I totally believe the autonomic response as well but if it works because it’s a placebo why do I care?” The AIMS program also opened the doors for potential management for Anthony. “There were a couple of
managers who gave me their cards and told me to call them as soon as I move to Europe. Which basically everyone in Europe assumes that for American’s it’s a guarantee that they will end up moving to Europe at sometime,” he says in good humor. Anthony is not sure if that is the right door for him but says that the offers were “a great kind of encouraging moment to get anyway.” Part of building a career is deciding which opportunities to go for and also learning to say no. Anthony was offered the role of Don Jose in Carmen and although he initially accepted decided it was not the right thing at this time. “I realized in the end that it wasn’t actually within my fach and that I was probably overextending myself to try something that heavy this early in my career. And they had someone else they could fill the spot with so I respectfully declined.”
At this time Anthony is singing Lyric tenor repertoire although it is too young to judge. He is currently in his senior year at the University of Washington. At this point he doesn’t see a Master’s program in his future. “In general traditional educational systems have always been sort of difficult for me. Not because I struggle with school intellectually but because I don’t fit well within the system. I question things too much,” he laughs. What are his dreams for the future? “I would definitely love to perform Rodolfo and the Duke of Mantua would definitely be high on my list.” As for the wonderful world of crossover Anthony is open to whatever opportunities come his way. “I could definitely see myself doing crossover work. Here at University of Washington I got asked once to do a musical theater duet and I really, really enjoyed doing that. And it actually fit really well within my voice.” His duet partner was thrilled as
were several more in the audience. Anthony has since been asked to perform more musical theatre songs. “I’ve been working on a solo piece for someone’s recital right now called the ‘Hundred Story City’ and I’ve been doing a couple
of other non-classical things and it’s really enjoyable. Honestly, I would be just as happy doing musical theater as a profession as I would opera.”
To learn more about Anthony visit: www.ajamesopera.com
Katie Marshall is a thirteen year old soprano hailing from the United Kingdom. Her clear, sweet voice and passion for music can be heard on her selftitled EP which features “Dolce Vento” and “Pie Jesu.” I was impressed not only by her voice but also her initiative.
always music around the house and I loved being immersed in it and listening to her practice. I was always singing everywhere I went and was known as the ‘little singer’ where I live, as I was always humming or singing! I asked my parents when I was six if I could have singing lessons and they agreed. I loved learning to sing Classical music. I also loved watching and listening to music, especially musicals like Phantom of The Opera. I was greatly inspired by Sarah Brightman. I loved singing along to all the Phantom songs. I have been to see the show four times and one of them was the 25th Anniversary show at the Royal Albert Hall. Who are your favorite singers?
Tell us what inspired you to become a classical singer. I was inspired at a very young age to sing Classical Music by my sister who was also a Classical Soprano. There was
My favorite singers are mainly from Classical & Opera. I also love listening to more crossover artists too. My very first love was Sarah Brightman and she inspired me as a soprano as I was growing up. The other performers I love watching and listening to are Shirley Bassey and Dolly Parton. They are both such great personalities and I spent a lot of time singing
along to them as a child in the car! I have also been influenced by many other artists such as Josh Groban, Enya and Mirusia Louwerse. Other favorite artists are Joyce DiDonato, Angela Giorghiu, Renee Fleming, Maria
Training is very important and I work very hard. I am really lucky to have an amazing teacher called Julie Unwin. She is an Opera singer and has sung all over the world. Her training and advice has helped me so much. I have a lesson
Callas, Sissel KyrkjebĂ¸, Jon Antoine, Noah Stewart, Jonas Kaufman & Luciano Pavarotti. All these artists inspire me and I find listening to them helps me to learn a lot of my songs.
with her each week and work each day for an hour on all my songs. I like to understand each piece I am learning and about the character that I am portraying. Theory is also a very important part of singing and I have lessons each week. The voice is a muscle so you have to keep using and training it to get better. My voice is growing
Training is an important part of a musicianâ€™s life. Share a little about who you study with, etc.
and changing all the time. You have to look after yourself as a singer; sleep, drink lots and work hard on your technique to produce a nice natural and not forced sound. How does your family feel about your career since you are still so young? And how do they help keep you grounded? My family are amazing and extremely supportive of my singing. I couldn't achieve what I have without their continuing support. They give me the confidence to believe in myself and the belief that you can achieve anything if you work hard enough! At the age of 13 you have already won numerous competitions. How do you prepare yourself for these types of performances? I have won a lot of competitions and love this part of what I do. My greatest joy is to get up and perform. It makes me work even harder to achieve the high level expected of you. I work on each song individually and perfect the pronunciation of
the different languages I sing in. I study each piece and listen also to other singers, like Renee Fleming. You have to make sure that you have time before to prepare and warm up your voice, so that when you go out onto the stage you are confident and relaxed and can then just enjoy performing. That's the most important thing. How did you first become involved in your various charities? The charities I support are a very big part of my life. I really wanted to use my music to help raise awareness for charities. I was invited by the Prince's Trust to meet with the head of Ambassadors in London and I was so impressed by the great work they do. I was overwhelmed to be asked to join them and support them as much as I can. The Children's Air Ambulance is very special and as a young girl myself I felt that I could help them and raise awareness of the work they do saving young lives every day. I love singing at fundraising events for them & supporting them.
*Katie is also an ambassador for Born Free Global Friends an international wildlife charity. You have released a self-titled debut EP. Tell us what you have learned from the experience. My EP is something I am very proud of. I was so lucky to work with such amazing people. Barney Smith is the musical director from VOCES8 and he offered to help me record my songs. I recorded them in London at the Gresham Centre and worked with John Brunning on his Pie Jesu there. I was so lucky to have two other composers send me their music. Chris Broom with Dolce Vento & Andrew Jones who wrote the song 'Per Aspera' especially for me. I learned that recording songs is so enjoyable and also very hard work. To work with a live orchestra is incredible and makes your songs come to life. When can we expect to hear a full length album from you? I am very much hoping that in the not too distant future I will get the chance to record a full length album. I have so many
songs I love that I want to record! If you could work with any modern composer (Eric Witacre, John Rutter, etc) who would it be? I would love to work with the composer Sir Karl Jenkins. I particularly love his 'Benedictus' as it is stunningly beautiful. I would love to have met and worked with Mozart! For more information about Katie Marshall please visit her website: katiemarshallmusic.com
Alessandra Paonessa is a beautiful Canadian born soprano who has set her sights on an international career. “Music isn’t just something I do, it’s who I am,” she shares passionately. “I was fortunate enough not to have options. I am good at many things, but I have always had a passion for music and wanted a career as a singer. I always knew from an early age that I wanted to sing.” She was influenced by her mother’s love for opera. “I grew up listening to the greats
such as Kiri Te Kanewa, Sumi Jo and Kathleen Battle and would always sing along.” The love was just the first step for Alessandra. “I started my training very young and always took it quite seriously. Developing good technique is essential for any singer.” She studied at the Canadian Conservatory of Music and continued her training in University. “There is no one way to becoming a singer, however I decided to go to University
where I took language coaching in French, Italian, German and proper singing technique. The program I took also helped me develop my stage presence and showed me how to prepare operatic roles.” During her time at University, Alessandra was awarded the ‘Sterling Beckwith Award’ for promising performers – a welcomed encouragement for any young singer about to face the ‘real world.’ It is clear Alessandra possesses an exceptional instrumental both warm and clear but she admits to struggling with her share of doubt and disappointment. “I am a bit of a perfectionist and also like things to happen quickly, but in the music world it is all about patience. Music is extremely hard work; it’s competitive, and you have to have great determination and a real love for what you do. There are a lot of tough critics out there, so having a strong sense of one’s self is also very important.”
She helps herself stay focused by making yearly lists of goals and projects she hopes to accomplish. “Throughout the year as things happen, I write it all down. In times of discouragement, looking at this list helps to remind me of everything that is happening. I also keep comments made by fans, and when I’m feeling down, read them over. But at the end of the day the one question I keep asking myself is, ‘am I having fun?, Do I love what I’m doing?’, if the answer is yes , then I pick myself up , dust myself off and start again.” One of her proudest accomplishments so far was the release of her first album, “Remembering Heaven” a collaboration with composer Chris Broom. “I still have to pinch myself every time I talk about how this international collaboration came about. Chris first heard my voice online through a competition I had entered in an attempt to share my music. He emailed me telling me he was a composer
and would love to have me sing his compositions. The first song I heard of his was, ‘Dolce Vento’. I remember I was on lunch break at work, walking down the street with my cell phone to my ear and listening to the orchestral backing of the song. I think I was asked by someone passing by if I was okay, because I had suddenly stopped walking as I was in complete disbelief that this was going to be my first single.” The song lead to a few more and quickly Alessandra found herself in discussions for a full album. “Chris had the orchestra fully recorded in the UK and then had the tracks
sent to Canada where I recorded my vocals. This album was truly the product of a digital age as I never went to the UK and Chris never came to Canada. We produced the album together completely through email. In addition to Chris’ songs, I added a couple of personal favorites to the album. ‘Ai giochi addio’ and ‘Parla piu piano’ which were provided by award winning arranger Teddy Nasr who sent the tracks from Lebanon!” Alessandra is a proud classical crossover singer but she is also trained in opera and continues to be involved in that genre. How does she manage to pull off the technical differences between the two? “Continuous training, no matter what you sing, having a good
technique is important. The real difference, I find, is using a microphone. Up until two years ago, I didn’t even know how to hold one! In opera, we are trained to project on our own. It has been a bit of a learning curve. Using a mic can certainly incur a little bit of laziness if you are not mindful, and you have to be careful you are not under supporting the voice when you sing quietly. But, on the other hand, you can find some different vocal qualities and colors by using the mic. In its intimacy, there is a kind of truth the microphone demands. It picks up everything, every detail, and that can be scary!” When thinking about her dream career one word springs to Alessandra’s mind. “Fearlessness… I think this is my favorite word. Fear is a paralyzing mindset, and I use to struggle with being ‘scared’ what people think, the ‘fear’ of failing. But take fear away, you have nothing stopping you just open possibilities! This helps
me go after my dreams. I want to visit them all!” She hopes to establish herself as an international artist. “I absolutely love traveling and experiencing different cultures. Countries I’d love to perform in are the UK, Australia and Japan in particular.” Crossover and opera singers face a unique challenge performing material that has been covered often and in many cases is closely associated with one artist. How does Alessandra ensure her interpretations are unique? “Anyone can sing, but I chose to communicate. With every song, I try to find a storysomething special to me and communicate that emotion and/or feeling. When I sing, I don’t just want it to sound pretty, but want my audience to feel what I’m feeling. I find that in doing this, it really helps me make the song my own, especially with well-known pieces that are performed by so many.”
It is important for her that her music is “genuine and real.” She says, “I hope that when I sing, they can feel what I was feeling when I was performing the song.” Her dedication is evident on the tracks from ‘Remembering Heaven.’ She is not just another pretty voice. ‘Nella Fantasia’ is especially poignant. Alessandra is happy to be an ‘indie artist,’ grateful for the control she has over her career. “Although it can be scary, instead of waiting to be discovered or for opportunities to fall into my lap, I like to take charge and create my own. This gives me the ability to be true to who I am as an artist and see my visions through to the end whether it be for a photo shoot, music video or
production.” It makes those breakthroughs even more meaningful. One of her favorite moments so far was when a friend called to say her song was playing over the radio for the first time. “I thought that was pretty cool.” In addition to music Alessadra is passionate about Human rights. “If there is any way I can donate my time to a worthy cause, I do. Last month I was an ambassador for ‘Hope For Hearts’, this was a gala event to raise money for research on testing for heart abnormalities in fetus. It was so humbling to be in the presence of our everyday hero’s and see how their work saves lives daily. It was an honor to be a part of it.”
Learn more about Alessandra at www.alessandrapaonessa.com
Alessandra’s Advice to Other Dreamers One of my favorite movies is Kung Fu Panda (yes I love kid movies). It is a cute film about a panda training to become a legendary warrior. Throughout the movie he is trying live up to this title and what I loved about the movie is that the secret to being a hero in the end... was nothing. It was just being himself. What I have learned thus far in my journey is there is no ‘magic’ anyone can give you to suddenly make your career take off. Although it sounds cliché, the magic is YOU. The music business is also tough. When I was young I was given some advice from a very wise, very well-known opera singer. They told me to first be a kid, train hard, and know who you are before pursuing a career in music – It was the best advice I was ever given and is what I would tell any aspiring singer.
A Conversation with Soprano Tami Petty
Soprano Tami Petty is one of those special people who enters your life like a burst of sunshine. I was first introduced to her while at Westchester Community College pursuing my Associate of Arts degree in Vocal Performance. My teacher at the time, Rosemarie Serrano, felt that it was time for me to move on to a new teacher who would further develop my talent. She recommended that I study with Tami. I really loved Ms. Serrano and had misgivings about a change... and then I met Tami. The first thing you notice about Tami is her smile and a warm friendly laugh that puts you at ease. Her easy going, welcoming manner is unique. And then you hear her singâ€Ś More than one student would stop in the hall at our community college and listen in amazement to the gorgeous, lush sound that poured out of the practice rooms. Her soprano voice is clear but also powerful, commanding attention. We immediately hit it off and I was very blessed to have had the experience to learn
from her. Through the years we have kept in touch and I have watched from afar as her career grows from one strength to the next, and, honestly, few people deserve it as she does.
It was a pleasure to reconnect with her and once again be inspired. “It’s been forever,” she acknowledges. As we speak we both try to decide how many years it has been, but we quickly give up. I tell her how I’ve been watching the amazing thing she’s been doing and Tami says, “I’ve been having fun.” For sure. So how did her journey begin? “Everyone talks about when they were tiny, tiny people but I won’t bore you with that. I was very shy, I’ll tell you. I started singing in church because I was practically forced to do it. And my family always sang together. Every holiday when we got together the guitars would come out. I have a lot of good memories like that.” Tami’s father would sing bass, her mother tenor, her brother soprano, while she sang alto in quartets for their local church. She and her extended family would often break into old hymns and bluegrass songs after holiday meals together. Those were really important formative years in Tami's musical life. Music has retained an important role not only in her life, but also in that of her brother Billy. “Billy is now the music director of Ward Church in
Livonia, Michigan. He and I sang together on a really neat concert in 2009 with our friend Dan Perkins conducting the Manchester Choral Society. It was the first time and the last time, so far - that we’ve been invited to sing a classical concert together. It was a huge highlight for me to sing with my little brother.” Tami's next big foret, besides the usual menu of concerts and recitals, is becoming the Interim Music Director of Middle Church in the East Village this fall. From singing in church in the cold of Michigan to performing at Lincoln Center… how did that come about? “Well, I was at Eastman at the time, on an early music track and I just sort of fell into doing opera while I was there. My teacher said, ‘You actually have a larger instrument than you are using'.” She chuckles. “So it was a revelatory process that was slow, and I realized that I had a larger instrument that I just wasn’t accessing. I started singing opera there as a mezzo-soprano and then took the apprentice artist route. You know, you audition for things as a student. You go to New York and sing for five or six companies and
hope, crossing your fingers, that one just had to trust my teacher who was of them will invite you to come to helping to guide me through that their program. I’m very transition. And that was really hard. I fortunate that I was invited to several couldn’t hang up in the soprano programs as a mezzo-soprano tessitura – I didn’t have the stamina and many of those casting directors to stay above the staff. Now that I've recognized that I was going to be been through it and am looking at it transitioning to soprano from the other side, it was because I eventually, but that was using so much “You can’t just sit in the it was going to be a color and weight in bushes and hope for the slow process for the voice to me.” At certain manufacture a more little tulip to pop out of the programs, Central ‘mezzo’ sound. I grass, you can’t be City Opera and remember being Cincinnati Cinderella waiting for your very happy Opera, for in mezzo land once, prince to show up on the examples, Tami ” she laughs. “The was given the truth is that when I doorstep with your glass chance to sing a go back and listen to slipper, you have to really recordings from that mezzo role and cover/understudy a time, it was like 'ohtake time and soprano one. She my-gosh-lyricevaluate the steps you are mezzo' there I was! describes the experience as a taking towards achieving But I couldn’t do “real transition.” anything more than your goal. She says, “I didn’t that at the time - I just go up right couldn't make any away. I went up to more sound, soprano then came couldn’t make it any down to mezzo and went up to deeper or richer than it was. I was full soprano again. I sort of landed in tilt in my richest sound. That was the soprano territory.” max. Observing my journey, I think I was right on track for where I was For the benefit of singers like myself supposed to be. In my experience, who are interested in vocal Fach, or for lyric voices to transition to fuller voice type, I ask Tami a little more lyric or dramatic voices, they tend to about the process. “I didn’t like take that trajectory: they sing mezzo singing high at first. It didn’t feel and then they go up, or they will sing good. I couldn't evaluate at the big lyric repertoire and perhaps just time what was so difficult about it, I
not get hired for a while as they work out the kinks.”
type for longer than a year, but my advice is just to stick with it and keep exposing She offers this yourself to great bit of advice to art. Find singers singers on the that you love, go journey. “My and hear them sing live, be inspired. advice And watch the is follow the careers of people careers of you love, see people who where they came have had from and how long similar it took them to get Tami with Jennifer Larmore and Dennis Keene experiences. You where they are. Just be a can’t just sit in the good student.” bushes and hope for the little tulip to pop out of the grass, you can’t be Some of the singers who inspire Tami Cinderella waiting for your prince to are: Christine Brewer, Birgit Nilsson show up on the doorstep with your and Jane Eaglen. “These are all glass slipper, you have to really take bigger voices and dramatic. I think time and evaluate the steps you are one thing that stands out to me is that taking towards achieving your goal. they all sing lyrically - and that’s a And do you have the people in your big thing that you have to try and corner who are going to help support remember to do no matter what voice you along your journey?” She breaks type you are: sing lyrically. So I listen it down. “This means working with a to them for inspiration and to be teacher on a weekly or bireminded that you can come out with weekly basis, working with a coach a fabulous product as long as you every week, and, you may ask think of singing more efficiently and yourself, ‘What the heck for? Why more healthily.” would I be preparing myself if I’m not going to be performing?’, but if you When it comes to repertoire how does will work diligently over the period Tami decide? Does it need to appeal of six to twelve months, you’ll find to her on some emotional level? that there are significant changes “Sure it needs to appeal,” she says, you’ll be making, thereby increasing “but I carefully consider taking your chances of moving towards your each opportunity - even small ones new Fach. You may not feel as though when they are presented. I don’t just you've settled into your new voice
say ‘I’d like to sing Tannhäuser now. Poof! I have the role as Elisabeth.’ These big opportunities ... you have to be ready for them when they appear - that’s the catch! There are things I can chose to do in sharpening my own saw that are separate from what I am hired to do.” She shares about a recent performance of the Wesendonck Lieder with an octet of young musicians done solely for the joy of reading through this great music. “It was fun and rewarding, but the reality is that I may never perform the songs in this chamber music version again. Doing that project was a really good time investment because it made me realize ‘Oh yeah, I’ve really got to be singing this stuff on a regular basis’ if I want orchestral opportunities to come my way. I need to prepare large works like this on a smaller scope so that I can be ready to sing it in the near future with the big guys. That’s why a lot of opera singers practice arias all the time it's because they want to stay in shape and be ready when they are hired to perform a role. They need to be artistically and athletically able to do it. In terms of projects that I like, I am partial to doing full-length recitals... but there's not a big market for that right now! Right now I’m working from engagement to engagement. Things like recitals need to be prepared way ahead of time, and the older I get the more I realize just how
many of my brain cells memorizing a full program takes!” Part of the preparation process includes the assistance of a good teacher. This is easier said than done, of course. A good teacher, like Tami herself, is a valued and rare commodity. “I think you have to do a little research. Having a lesson is expensive. Sometimes you have to save up for awhile to indulge in the luxury of having a lessons... at least that's what it feels like to me sometimes! Gone are the college days of a lesson every week!" When trying to find a teacher with whom you would like to work, it's often important to do a little research like finding out their fee, what their availability is like, who are some of their other students, etc. Tami says, "The best way is to have an introductory lesson and find out for yourself. ‘Do I like this person? Do I understand the lingo they are using?' The other thing is to find out what their reputation is in the business. Find out who their students are and if they work with other coaches or colleagues in the business that could recommend them. It’s hard to be completely objective in that first lesson because often one is trying to understand the lingo or exact vocalise to do in the lesson, etc. You can't divide yourself into 'the thinker' when you're trying to be 'the doer.' I would recommend recording lessons so that you can play
them back. You might have a work simply by referrals and being redifferent reaction after evaluating hired by artistic directors on play back to see how things and conductors. “Auditioning is very progressed or were important. It is part of the profession. addressed throughout the course of You must audition just as you work. I the hour. And then, going back for need to go set up some auditions now that second lesso after talking to you!" She n is sort of a also elaborates on clincher for me. I developing or “I have such a sort of know by deepening relationships with the second the artistic people whom she feeling of gratitude lesson whether has grown to love, "They that teacher is for every chance I are important to me. And going to be the reaching out or being right fit for me.” friendly doesn’t cost me get to make anything - it comes easy to Maintaining a music” me. I get energy from positive attitude developing relationships in the midst of with my colleagues. And if I rejection and competition is another don’t have joy in a important aspect of a career in music. particular relationship, if working Tami seems to take things with that person doesn’t bring me in stride. “Well, I guess maybe it’s joy, honey, I don’t try to go down that different for everyone, but for me two road anymore! I sort of say, 'well, I’m things factor in: one, that I need to be not going to work with that conductor a good steward of my talent or my anymore. That’s ok. It’s not for gift, if I can call it that, and two, that other big, big factor is gratitude. I have such a feeling of gratitude for every chance I get to make music, for working at such a high level, for being in the path of making all these connections with people which then may lead to other opportunities.” Tami says she’s “ashamed” to admit that she doesn’t audition as much anymore. At this point in her career she is getting enough Tami with Vinson Cole
me.' The people that bring me joy, who help me to be a better musician, and with whom I rise to a higher level than I knew I was capable of, oh, I want to continue those relationships! So for me it’s about gratitude and pursuing these kinds of relationships with people while we make art together.” Speaking of Joy, Tami made her New York solo debut in Merkin Hall as the 2014 Joy in Singing Award Winner. I asked Tami to elaborate on this award and the history of the competition. “The Joy of Singing competition goes back to 1958. It’s a competition that celebrates the connection that the artist can manifest and develop with the audience through the art of song. In the first round of this competition, you submit a recording, and then you may be invited to one of about ten master classes with Paul Sperry, who is an incredible musician and art song historian. After this semi-final round of master classes, there is a final round of singers chosen. I was invited to this round. There were three sopranos and a mezzo in the final round. After the judges deliberated, the finalists returned to the stage.
Paul announced my name as the winner... it was almost as if I didn’t hear it!” she says laughing. “I was just kind of smiling when they said my name and I thought surely that I had won a runnerup prize or something like that, but Paul said, ‘No, you won the prize!’ and I was like ‘What?!' I couldn’t believe it, I was in shock. Looking back over the year, I’ve just had a devil of a good time doing the performances associated with Joy in Singing. I'm so proud that I won, and I really feel such warmth towards Paul and Dorene Marshall. Their belief in me and love have given me a
boost I didn't even know I needed!” As a result of winning the competition Tami has sung in several recitals last year and this year. Singing in Merkin Hall "was a lot of fun.” She sang Charles Griffiths's Four Impressions, a group
of Joseph Marx songs, Shakespeare settings by American composers, Turina's Poema en forma de canciones, and a modern cycle by John Greer, among others. She has been named a “True ‘recitalist’,” by Opera Insider. When it comes to preparation for an event like this, Tami says she does a lot of that work “in my head.” She explains, “I do use the mirror, I do use a paper and pen to write out the lyrics, and I recite text like a crazy person when I am walking around from place to place, I carry little note cards around with my text when I’m memorizing. The other thing is that I spend a lot of time visualizin g the event in my head. I envision connecting to the words viscerally so I have a very strong physical memory of the poem and how it makes me react. I understand what is going on harmonical ly and what is happening in the piano
part while I am expressing the text. Sometimes they're saying very different things!” She believes in the method of visualizing yourself doing something – everything from the opening of the stage door, to walking onstage and thanking the audience for coming to the concert. “I'm thinking grateful thoughts and letting them fill my heart and mind before I greet my audience. I want them to feel the sense of joy that I feel! And as I walk out in a spirit of gratitude, having rehearsed in my mind what I’m going to do that whole night, I just give my heart to my art. And I invite the audience to give theirs in that moment, as well." In speaking about program ming overall, Tami talks about creating a song journey that foll ows an arch from beginning to end paying special attention to the placement of the opener, climax and closing song. She spends time thinking about what might be an appropriate encore, as well. Tami with Daniel Ferro
"Paul Sperry's complaint, when he looked over my initial program, was that I didn't have a song on my program that would 'make 'em cry.' This made me giggle, but he was right, of course. So I thought my little soon-to-be niece and decided to encore with Brahms's 'Wiegenlied.' I nearly made myself cry in the process of singing it at the end of the concert, but goal achieved!" Of course Tami listens to other singers sing her repertoire, but for points of reference only. “I don’t use these recordings to learn a song. I think that’s a huge mistake young singers can make because then you are copying someone else’s interpretation, which may or may not be the composer's intention, and it doesn’t help you understand the song the way you will when you take it apart and put it back together. You also miss out in observing your own artistry bloom along the way. You can’t form your own opinions if you're doing it the way so-and-so does it.” Sometimes Tami even draws pictures to memorize texts. “We do what we can, but you would not want to see my artistic rendering of Poulenc's 'C.' People would think I'm five years old if they saw it!”
I ask about her plans for the future and she jokes good-naturedly about her five-year plan before really sharing her dreams. “I have a wish list of repertoire that I would really love to be hired to sing somewhere. On that list is Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, and I would really love to sing Britten’s War Requiem before I die. I love working with friends in different artistic capacities - that's why this year is going to be a particularly memorable year for me at Middle Church and Central Synagoge where you will find me every weekend in New York. The great thing about being friends with professional musicians is that sometimes you are able to find opportunities to work together where everyone shines in their very best way. To observe my colleagues as they create or to be a creative force behind or involved in those key moments... when someone really shines their very best... it's just spectacular. Um, I love collaborating with pianists on art songs - that’s exciting to me! What else...” she thinks. “I dunno. I just really love singing. I’ll sing the phonebook. I don’t care. I’ll just enjoy it!” Enjoy it she doubtlessly will and, in turn, her singing will continue to bring joy to new audiences around the world.
Learn more about upcoming performances featuring Tami at her official website: www.tamipetty.com
Summer issue of Classical Crossover Magazine. Featuring: Alessandra Paonessa, Micheal Castaldo, Faith Tucker, Katie Marshall, Anthony James,...
Published on Aug 19, 2015
Summer issue of Classical Crossover Magazine. Featuring: Alessandra Paonessa, Micheal Castaldo, Faith Tucker, Katie Marshall, Anthony James,...