January 26, 2015

Franz Proschowsky: The Way to Sing

Franz Proschowsky 
An influential voice teacher of the 1920's and 30's, Franz Proschowksy had the good fortune to sing for, and also study with, the great American dramatic soprano Lillian Nordica in the late 1890's. Nordica declared Proschowsky a tenor (he had studied as a baritone), then helped him obtain a scholarship at the Chicago Musical College where he studied with a certain "Mr Clark," before finding his way to A. D. Duviver, a student of Manuel García. Proschowsky, a Dane with Poland parentage, sang professionally for a number of years, before turning his attention towards vocal pedagogy—eventually becoming a leading voice teacher in Berlin, then in America after the first world war.

Proschowsky was also an advisor to Amelita Galli-Curci, and the author of The Way to Sing (1923), which you can find here.

Photo Credit: VoiceTalk

January 22, 2015

Mastery & Listening

Some 2,600 years ago the ancient Greek poet Pindar wrote: "Become who you are by learning who you are." What he meant is the following: You are born with a particular makeup and tendencies that mark you as a piece of fate. It is who you are to the core. Some people never become who they are; they stop trusting in themselves, they conform to the tastes of others, and they end up wearing a mask that hides their true nature. If you allow yourself to learn who you really are by paying attention to that voice and force within you, then you can become what you were fated to become—an individual, a Master. —from Mastery by Robert Greene 

January 21, 2015

Reviews for Hidden in Plain Sight

I am pleased to feature the following reviews for my little book Hidden in Plain Sight: The Hermann Klein Phono-Vocal Method based upon the Famous School of Manuel Garcia, and am grateful to the writers who have said great things about Klein's manual, which is as relevant today as it was when written a century ago. 

"The introduction to this pedagogic treatise reads like a detective novel. Those interested in historical vocal pedagogy will find this volume fascinating, and all serious students of voice will benefit from the succinct and straight-forward instruction offered by Klein." —Debra Greschner, The Journal of Singing

"This is much more than just a piece of vocal archeology. It takes the art of teaching back to foundational elements of voice training: no acoustic analysis, airflow studies, no closed quotients—only simple concepts and effective exercises that are tried and true, developed through decades of trial and error and proven over scores of years in studios all over the world. Would that our voice teaching profession take heed and return to simple things as presented in this little book." —Stephen F. Austin, VOICEPrints—The Official Journal of the New York Singing Teachers Association 

"This remarkable book, with an introduction by New York voice teacher Daniel James Shigo, makes available for general use and study the precepts of the vocal method developed and perfected by Manuel Garcia, Jr. (1805-1906), son of a tenor who had sung Don Ottavio during Mozart's lifetime and created the role of Almaviva in Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia. This is a valuable reissue of a major course of vocal study by a pupil of one of the most famous teachers of all time, and the price is ridiculously cheap." —Lynn René Bayley, Fanfare: The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors 

Order your copy here.

January 15, 2015

Keep the Channel Open

Martha Graham

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.” —Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille. 

January 7, 2015

Sensation in Singing

Herman Klein (1856-1934)

A recent post by a colleague made me think about the controversial subject of sensation in singing, which, depending on who you read, is either a good or bad thing. The science crowd? To read their writings, you'd think sensation was a personal matter that should be avoided inasmuch as the discussion of sex and politics at the dinner table. No, we must not scare the horses with that kind of talk! It is also thought to be a most unreliable means by which to learn to sing. 

The historical record is not so tame, nor is it so ambiguous. I cite as example my own little book, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Hermann Klein Phono-Vocal Method based upon the Famous School of Manuel Garcia (VoiceTalkPublications, 2013)which contains historic teachings from the father of voice science that highlight those vocal functions (a word much bandied about nowadays) which lead to distinct auditory and physiological sensations—one of them being "voice placement."

Klein's manual is not alone; crack open William Earl Brown's Vocal Wisdom: The Maxims of Giovanni Battista Lamperti (1931) and you will encounter an entire world of sensation. Admittedly, I only tell students about it when they start exhibiting those vocal behaviors which help them understand it. To a person, they all come back (after weeks or months) and tell me they hear themselves—and other singers—differently

Function relies on audition. That's the bugaboo which is not talked about enough. (Deaf folks don't sing every well, at least, we don't pay them to sing professionally, do we?) Instead, we yammer on about shiny new studies as if they are gods-that-must-be-obeyed; when—all the time—the essentials of singing—which have everything to do with the singer's listening ability—are pretty simple and have been known for a very long time. Does this mean that there is nothing more to learn? Of course not! But if you really want to know something of the art of singing, Klein explains matters in practical terms which are second to none.

January 1, 2015

Crescendo: A Decade of Umbrian Serenades

Post-Concert in Trevi, Italy

I can think of no better way to start the New Year than to take a moment and blog about Crescendo: A Decade of Umbrian Serenades, a crowdsourcing campaign that seeks funds in order to document the alchemy that happens in Umbria ever summer. Having joined this amazing group of choral artists for the last four years, I can tell you from experience that this beautiful program is transformative and quite unique. There really is nothing quite like it anywhere else.

Please consider supporting the vision and mission of Umbrian Serenades.

Wishing you a wonderful New Year!