A Story worth Singing About
Micheal Castaldo By Natasha Barbieri Micheal Castaldo is not just your average classical crossover tenor. When we spoke 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 describes 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 multi-cultural 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 and 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 afterward were 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 it 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.” They ended up loving it and he 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 in New York and Nashville, 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 pop singer goes to Germany, hears Italian songs and records the English version of ‘O Sole Mio’ (known as ‘Now or Never’) and ‘Torna A Surriento’ (Surrender) and he makes Italian music popular.” He also brings up Roy Orbison, another rock n roll singer of the 1950’s-60’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 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 pursued 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 the 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 manager 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 vis-a-vis 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 rebuild 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 traveling 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 supermarkets. These people who traveled 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 mission? “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, co-produce 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 more from this entrepreneur
Careers in Music
Music Education Jeremy McIntyre, tenor
Typical Day in the Life 8:20 – 9:20 AM. 5th Grade General Music Class 9:25 – 9:55 AM. 2nd Grade General Music Class 10:00 – 11:00 AM. 4th Grade General Music Class. 11:00 – 11:45 AM. Plan Time 12:00 – 12:40 PM. Lunch 12:40 – 1:10 PM. 1st Grade Music Class 1:15-1:45 PM. Kindergarten Class 1:50 – 2:20 PM. 2nd Grade Music Class 2:25 – 2:55 PM. Second Kindergarten Class
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 a love for musical theaters, “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 beginning. “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” influences, inspired Jeremy 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 friend’s 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.” He learned immediately the value of being encouraged from a young age and by his friend helped introduce him 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’ (sophomore) 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 for any musician. However so is 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 teams at church, Jeremy grew 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 opportunity came along. Mike Tompkins, a youtube personality, 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 not to mention passing 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.” What are some of the important qualities an individual should have in the Music Education profession? “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 or reading or science. It tends to be simply the ‘fun’ class to several. 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 like 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 has 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 downtime 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 an 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, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m in my late 20s and I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;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.â&#x20AC;?
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Songs of Light and Shadow Volume 1 Robert Bruce
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. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Songs of Light and Shadow Volume 1â&#x20AC;? 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 a more bluesy sound. Is it only me or do the duet parts sound reminiscent of the Beach Boys “God Only Knows?” It is a cool effect. 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. The vocalists featured on the album have for the most part 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:
Purchase the album from
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 hometown. 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 as 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?
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!”
“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.”
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Anthony James When I transferred to Andrews it was a leap of faith and I wasn’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 ‘The Lord Bless you and Keep you’ 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 the 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 principal trumpet. It was during this time that Anthony began to audition for competitions thanks to the encouragement of an adjunct professor, Cristina Piccardi. “She was good friends with Andrew Fisher and I. We 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 them 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 afterward 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 the 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 Alen 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 dramatic, 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 technique 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 out from your body up in the air. It’s an autonomic response that your body has to make 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 pretty much everyone in Europe assumes that for Americas it’s a guarantee that they will end up moving to Europe at some time,” 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 stop 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 Mandtour 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 the 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 nonclassical things and it’s really enjoyable. Honestly, I would be just as happy doing musical theater s a profession as I would opera.”
Follow Anthony’s career at
Getting to know
Katie Marshall 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 self-titled EP which features “Dolce Vento” and “Pie Jesu.” I was impressed not only by her voice but also her initiative. 1. 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 always music around the house & I loved being immersed in it & listening to her practice. I was always singing everywhere I went & 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 & they agreed. I loved learning to sing classical music. I also loved watching & listening to music, especially musicals like Phantom of The Opera
& 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. 2. Who are your favorite singers? My favorite singers are mainly from Classical & Opera. I also love listening to more crossover artists too. My very first love was Sarah Brightman & she inspired me as a soprano as I was growing up. The other performers I love watching and listening to are Shirley Bassey & 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 Gheorghiu, Renee Fleming, Maria
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. 3. Training is an important part of a musicians life. Share a little about who you study with, how many times a week you have lessons, theory lessons etc.
My family is 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 & 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?
Training is very important & 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 & advice has helped me so much. I have a lesson with her each week & 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 & I have lessons each week. The voice is a muscle & so you have to keep using it & training it to get better. My voice is growing and changing all the time. You have to look after yourself as a singer & sleep, drink lots & work hard on your technique to produce a nice natural and not forced sound.
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 & warm up your voice so that when you go out onto the stage you are confident and relaxed & can then just enjoy performing. That's the most important thing.
4. How does your family feel about your career since you are still so young? And how do they help keep you grounded?
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
6. How did you first become involved in your various charities?
Ambassadors in London & I was so impressed by the great work they do. I was overwhelmed to be asked to join them & support them as much as I can. The Children's Air Ambulance is very special & 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. 7. 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 & 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 & makes your songs come to life. 8. 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! 9. If you could work with any modern composer (Eric Whitacre, 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 & worked with Mozart!
For more information about Katie Marshall please visit her website
Remembering Heaven 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 Kanawa, 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” an international 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 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 story- something 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. The voice is beautiful of course, but so is her phrasing and expression. ‘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, Alessandra 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 the fetus. It was so humbling to be in the presence of our everyday heroes and see how their work saves lives daily. It was an honor to be a part of it.”
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 to 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.”
Album Review “Remembering Heaven” is a very pleasant album and considering it is Alessandra’s debut the quality is remarkable. The album features beautiful melodies like “Dolce Vento” and “Saro Tua Amor.” Her vocals are consistent in their loveliness through the recording and the arrangement’s compliment her voice beautifully. Take the gorgeous piano and violin on “Dark Waltz.” The piece previously associated with Hayley Westenra is given a simple treatment that suits the operatic vocals and is one of my personal favorites. The album features just the right balance of new material and familiar songs placed strategically throughout.
“Remembering Heaven” is available to purchase from
A Conversation with
Soprano Tami Petty is one of those special people who enter your life like a burst of sunshine. I was first introduced to her while at Westchester Community College perusing my Associate's degree in 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 and 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 sing… 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 goes from strength to strength, 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 but 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 that. I started singing in church because I was practically forced to do it. And my family always sang together. Every holiday 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. 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 at a huge Presbyterian church in Livonia, Michigan. He and I sang together in a really neat concert, probably 2009, with the Manchester Choral Society. It was the first time and last time so far, that we’ve ever been able to sing at a classical concert together. It was a huge highlight for me to sing with my brother.” 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, studying a degree in early music and just sort of doing a performance major and I was working there and when I began my doctorates degree my teacher said, ‘ You actually have a larger instrument than you were using,’” she chuckles. “So it was a revelatory process that was slow, and I realized I had a larger instrument that I just wasn’t using. I started singing opera there as a mezzo-soprano and then went on to do some young artist programs. You know you audition for things as a student, you go to New York and sing for 5 or 6 companies and hope, cross your fingers that one of them will invite you to go to their program. I’m very fortunate I got to go to several programs as a mezzo-soprano, and they knew I was going to be transitioning to soprano eventually but that it was going to be a slow process.” At certain programs, Central City Opera and Cincinnati Opera, for example, Tami was given the chance to sing a mezzo role and cover or understudy a soprano one. She describes the experience as a “real transition.” She says, “I didn’t just go up right away. I went up to soprano then came
Tami with Vinson Cole
down to mezzo and went up to soprano again. I sort of landed in soprano territory.” For the benefit of singers like myself who are interested in vocal fach, I ask Tami a little more about the process. “I didn’t like singing high it didn’t feel good. Not that I could evaluate your sound even, cause it’s hard to evaluate your sound as a singer but it just didn’t feel good. And I couldn’t hand up there – I didn’t have the stamina to stay above the staff. It was because I was using so much color and weigh in the voice to manufacture a more ‘mezzo’ sound and I was very happy in that land,” she laughs. “The truth is when I go back and listen to recordings from that time, it was like oh my gosh lyric mezzo there I was! But I couldn’t do anything more, make any more sound the sound, couldn’t make it any deeper or richer than it was that was the max. I think I was right on track on where I was supposed to be. From lyric to fuller lyric to dramatic voices, they tend to take that trajectory they sing mezzo and they go up, or they will sing big lyric repertoire or just not get hired for a while.” She offers this bit of advice to singers on the journey. “My advice is, follow the careers of people who have had similar experiences. You can’t just sit in the bushes and hope for the little tulip to pop out of the grass, you can’t be Cinderella waiting for your prince to show up on the doorstep with your glass slipper, you have to really take time and evaluate how are you making steps towards achieving your goal. And do you have the people in your corner who are going to help support you along your journey.” She breaks it down. “This means working with a teacher on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, working with a coach every week and you may ask yourself, ‘What the heck for? Why would I be preparing myself if I’m not going to be performing’ but if you will work
diligently over the period of 6-12 months you’ll find that there are changes you’ll be making. And my advice is just to stick with it and to keep exposing yourself to great art. Find singers that you love and go and hear them sing live and be inspired. And watch the careers of people you love, see where they came from and how long it took them to get where they are and just be a good student.” Some of the singers who inspired Tami are; Christine Brewer, Birgit Nilsson, and Jane Abrams. “These are all bigger voices and dramatic. But I think one thing that stands out to me is that they all sing lyrically and that’s a big thing that you have to try and remember to do no matter what voice type you are is to sing lyrically and to sing healthily. So I listen to them for inspiration and to be reminded that you can come out with a fabulous product as long as you think of singing more efficiently and more healthily.” When it comes to repertoire how does Tami decide? Does it need to appeal to her on some emotional level? “Sure it does need to appeal,” she says, “But I think for me a lot of times I take the opportunities when they are presented. I don’t just say ‘I’d like to sing Tannhauser now. Poof! I have a role as Elisabeth’ singing the role I want to sing. The opportunities, you have to be ready for them when they do appear that’s the catch. But there are things I can choose to do that are my own preparation and my own will.” She shares about a recent performance of songs with a group of young musicians done solely for the ‘joy of reading through this music.’ “It was fun and it was rewarding but the reality is I probably will never perform with them with an octet again. But I may perform them with an orchestra. So for me doing that project was good because it made me realize ‘Oh yeah, I’ve really go to
Tami withJennifer Larmore and Dennis Keene
sing this stuff’ if I really want it to come my way I need to be in the moment and sing it. That’s why a lot of opera singers practice arias all the time because they want to stay in shape and be ready if they are hired to perform a role, they need to be athletically able to do it. But in terms of projects that I like or things that I like to prepare yeah I have some things. But right now I’m really working contract to contract or engagement to engagement. Things like that that need to be prepared ahead of time and it just takes a lot of my brain cells away. So right now I’m not electively doing a lot of things that I want to do myself. Those things are easier to do when you have some downtime.” Part of the preparation process includes the assistance form a good teacher. 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 if you are just going to have the first lesson and never go back. But sometimes it’s the only way to go, ‘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 when you go to somebody and you sense that there’s something there and there’s value there but you’re not really sure how to evaluate it, so I would record my lessons and play them back and you could have an honest reaction after you’ve gone through the lesson and then are evaluating on the playback and seeing how things progressed or were addressed. And then going back for that second lesson is sort of a clincher for me, if it works out great I sort of know by the second lesson for me.”
Maintaining a positive attitude in the midst of rejection and competition is another important aspect of a career in music. Tami always seems to take things in her stride. “Well, I guess maybe it’s different for everyone but for me, I am reminded of the fact that I need to be a good steward of my talent or my gift if I can call it that and the other big, big part of it 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 lead to other opportunities.” Tami says she’s “ashamed” to admit she doesn’t really audition anymore. At this point in her career, she is getting enough work simply by referrals and being re-hired to work at the same places. “It is important to me, and it doesn’t cost me anything, and I get energy from developing relationships with the people I work with. And if I don’t have a joy in that, if it doesn’t bring me joy, Honey I don’t try to go down that road anymore! I sort of say well, I’m not going to work with that conductor anymore. That’s ok it’s not for me. The people that bring me joy and help me be a better musician, and I rise to a higher level than I knew I was capable of, Oh I want t continue those relationships! So for me, it’s about gratitude and perusing these kinds of relationships with people.” Speaking of Joy, Tami made her solo debut in Merkin Hall in 2014, after winning the ‘Joy in Singing Award.’ "'The’ Joy of Singing’ competition goes back to 1958 and it’s a competition that celebrates the joy in singing and the connection that the artist can manifest and develop with the audience through art song. This competition you submit a recording, and then they invite you to come into a master class with Paul Sperry who is an incredible musician, historian and amazing person who knows a lot about song and they will hear about 30 people in these
Tami with Daniel Ferro
master classes and then they have finals. I was invited to the finals. There were three sopranos and a mezzo in my final round and when they announced my name it was almost like I didn’t hear it,” she says laughing. “I just kind of was smiling and they said my name and I thought surely I won a runner-up or something like that but they said, ‘No you won the prize!’ and I was like ‘What?! I couldn’t believe it, I was in shock. But I’ve just had a devil of the good time doing the performances there.” As a result of winning the competition, Tami has sung in several recitals last year and this year, including her solo debut in Merkin Hall. “That was a lot of fun.” She sang Charles Griffiths ‘Four Impressions’ Joseph Mark songs, and a cycle by John Green among others and was called a “True ‘recitalist’” by the Opera Insider. When it comes to preparation for an event like this Tami says she does a lot of work “in my head. I do use the mirror, I do use a paper and pen to write out the lyrics like a crazy person, and I recite, I carry little note cards around with my text when I’m memorizing. The other thing is I spend a lot of time in my head and I do. I envision connecting through the words viscerally so I have a very strong physical memory of the poem and of my reaction to it and harmonically what is happening while the words are being said.” She believes in the method of visualizing yourself doing something – everything from the opening of the stage door to walking out on stage and thanking the audience for coming to the concert. “Even though I don’t say, I think it in my mind and feel it in my heart. And I walk out in a spirit of gratitude and rehearsing in my mind what I’m going to do for the whole night. So when I create a program I try to create an arch or who it
begins, the climax and how it ends. So I’m envisioning the songs I’m singing and the whole arch… that helps me prepare.” Of course, Tami also listens to other singers but as references only. “I don’t use them to learn the song. I think that’s a huge mistake because then you are copying someone else’s interpretation which may or may not be the composer's intention and it also doesn’t help you understand your own artistry along the way. You can’t form your own opinion that way.” Sometimes she even draws pictures to remember harder words. “We do what we can.” I ask about her plans for the future and she jokes good-naturedly about her five-year plan before sharing her dreams. “I have a wish list of repertoire that I would really love to be hired to sing somewhere. On that list in the Beethoven’s ‘Missa Solemnis’, and I would really love to sing Britten’s ‘War Requiem.’ I would love to sing with some friends of mine in different capacities. 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 best way and so those kinds of things are important and fun to me. I love collaborating with new pianists on art songs so that’s exciting! 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.
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