March 4, 2013

Carole O'Hara

O'HARA--Carole, 99, beloved Voice Teacher and Singer, on February 15, 2013, in New York. Born Carolene Weisgerber in Wheeling, WV, on February 27, 1913, she grew up in West Alexander, PA, and graduated from Capital University in Columbus, OH. Carole came to New York in 1942, and earned her living through her beautiful mezzo-soprano voice, singing with City Opera, NBC Opera, Broadway productions, as concert soloist, and church and synagogue choir member. Carole taught voice from 1968 until felled by a stroke in 2012. Widow of Norman O'Hara (died 1955) and her true love Dee Engelbach (died 1983), and pre-deceased by beloved sister Margaret; Carole's family survivors include her nephew William Wickes of Columbus, OH, his children and grandchildren. Vivacious, striking, and loving, Carole inspired and changed the lives of many through the gifts of music and love. She will always be remembered and loved by her students (her "kids"), family, and friends. Carole did not want a funeral; there will be a memorial service TBA. Donations may be made to the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, who provided Carole with excellent hospice care. Published in the New York Times on February 18th, 2013 



I only met Carole once. But that meeting was momentous, taking place a year ago today. We were introduced by Jane Woodside, the widow of Lyndon Woodside, who had been a friend of Carole's for many years. Jane knew of my interest in historical vocal pedagogy, and suggested that I speak with Carole since the latter knew many luminaries in New York's musical scene. Carole, she told me, was one smart cookie. Nothing escaped her. She was a good voice teacher too. 

The three of us met on a Sunday afternoon at a French bistro on the Upper East Side. Jane and I got there first, Carole arriving a little later. When she entered the place, I knew Carole was someone special. She carried herself with great presence: silver hair swept up, spine straight as an arrow, face open and smiling. Introductions were made, and then time stopped for three hours while the conversation swept from Carole's arrival in New York in the early 1940's to the present. Carole never flagged, wavered or missed a beat. I mentioned a name half-way through our conversation, of someone I had found in my research; a long-fogotten direct disciple of the Garcías who taught in New York beginning in the late 1890's. The look on her face when I said that name is engraved in my memory. Her eyes got big as saucers as she took a deep breath,  leaned back in her chair, mouth agape, and stared into my eyes for a long minute. When she did speak, she cocked her head to the right, looked at me with a quizzical expression, then leaned in and said deliberately: "I haven't heard that name in sixty years!"


She knew. She remembered. She brought the past back to life, telling me about her musical life as a young woman, how her teachers taught, and how the world - both inside and outside the studio - had changed. It wasn't pretty, she thought. Students and artist managers were in a hurry, and learning to sing couldn't be hurried. It took a good two or three years of study to get things right. Sometimes longer. She never stopped thinking about singing, about the teaching of singing, about making music and art. It was her life. 

Carole taught voice to fifteen or so devoted students a week during the time I spoke with her, a significant thing for a person in their late 90's. She didn't stop living life. Her students? They adored her. And I could understood why. She was the real deal, knew her stuff, was loving, and had high standards.

A classy and knowledgable woman, I wish I'd had more time with her, but am glad that our paths crossed if only for those three hours. She gave me quite a gift that day in being able to describe one of the García School's first representatives in New York City. No small potatoes that. Now is not the time to present that information, which will come in its own time. Right now, I want to remember and honor a most gracious, glamorous, generous and charming woman. What a classy dame, Carole O"Hara.






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