Messa di Voce Studio

OUR MISSION: To let our students learn how to develop their voices in a healthy manner that will allow them to perform efficiently and reliably under the most challenging conditions and the repertoire.

let your voice soar to the heavens

I was inspired to teach voice after many years of involvement in singing both liturgical and classical music. Operatic training at the Conservatorio de Musica de Puerto Rico, coupled with endless frustrations, compelled him to delve deeper into different approaches to vocal training. And just as important, was the crossing of paths with whom would become my first long term student, Cantor Ushi Blumenberg, an experience that turned into a magnificent challenge but also a most rewarding experience for someone that was not too crazy about teaching voice, ever! It's quite a strange beginning because I honestly had no interest at the time in taking any students! I was doing a lot of research on my own, but only to satisfy my own curiosity and bring closure to many years of experiencing contradictory, nonsensical training side by side with sound, healthy vocal instruction and advice, many times all bundled together in the same package! This student became quite the success story, and even more so if we take into account his level when I started to work with him and how much damage and abuse his voice had been subjected to. Today this student has become a pretty busy professional singer. In my case, we could say that, when the teacher was ready, the student came (and kept nagging him until the teacher gave in and agreed to teach him!)

 

Within the context of what is commonly referred as classical music, it is common to refer to the Italian, German, French, Russian, Swedish-Italian schools of singing. But these are barely the tip of the iceberg! And of course there's always someone around claiming to be the "last representative of the authentic Bel Canto school" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bel_canto or something on those lines. Not surprisingly, it can get pretty confusing out there for those seeking vocal training.


Nevertheless, my approach to vocal training has been developed with the "ideals" of bel canto as goals and guiding principles for our student's vocal development. Using these as a foundation and guide for assessment of current vocal function as well as criteria for evaluation of the student's improvement, I strive to help the student develop his technique and adapt it to different musical styles in a safe, confident manner.  Quoting from wikipedia again (this particular section happens to be accurate and appropriate for our purposes here):


" The hallmarks of the bel canto style were:

  • an impeccable legato production throughout the singer's (seamless) range
  • the use of a light tone in the higher registers,
  • an agile, flexible technique capable of dispatching ornate embellishments,
  • the ability to execute fast, accurate divisions,
  • the avoidance of aspirates and eschewing a loose vibrato* [no wobble or tremolo],
  • a pleasing, well-focused timbre,
  • a clean attack,
  • limpid diction, and
  • graceful phrasing rooted in a complete mastery of breath control."

 

These attributes are associated with bel canto as a style, but it turns out that developing the ability to sing in this manner, or in other words, training in such a way as to facilitate the attainment of these "hallmarks",  will result in a healthy, and remarkably flexible and versatile voice that can lend itself to many other musical styles. To achieve these goals we use traditional AND modern techniques as deemed suitable to each student's immediate and long term needs. Some of the authors that have had the most influence in the development of our approach, although by no means the only ones, are; Lilly Lehmann, Oren Brown, Anthony Frisell, Richard Alderson, Richard Miller and David Jones. Please be advised that the mention of these distinguished voice educators does not imply that we agree or disagree with any specific technique or opinion stated by them. Also, the omission of any particular author or teacher should not be interpreted as a dismissal or disapproval of their work. There are many cases of "mixed bags" in this field, and the politics can get out of hand. But the student should just do his/her homework when searching for a teacher, starting with goals that more or less agree with their own, references, work and success with other students are all good points to consider. I will state this very emphatically, though, a degree, by itself, will not warranty any real competence in terms of the teacher's ability to develop a healthy, sound vocal technique in their students! Even more so performance degrees. Many might be excellent coaches, for learning and "polishing" one's repertoire, but vocal technique is not quite the same thing. The teacher's own ability to sing (or lack of) is also not a reliable indicator by itself. Many great performers of the past and present, when deciding to teach, have turned to be terrible teachers! Therefore, it would be wise for the student to inquire about this issue in particular and even better, see how the teacher's approach has worked on others. For those interested in opera/classical singing, a teacher that has the academic credentials of conservatory/operatic training and ALSO meets the other criteria mentioned above, would be the ideal, the complete package. But many times it is best to develop and secure one's technique with a voice teacher that excels at teaching technique specifically and then, when the technique is secure enough, to find a good coach for the particular style of vocal music that the (intermediate/advanced) student is targeting, if it is considered necessary. Even the best teachers will have particular strengths, preferences and areas of expertise and be "not so comfortable" in other areas, like specific music styles. As an example, a dear friend and colleague of mine, Dorca Cobian, https://www.facebook.com/theonlinevoicestudio ,  is very knowledgeable of German lieder interpretation and repertoire. I have sung in German many times, but I'm not comfortable at all with it and would gladly refer a student of mine, in need of assistance working with this material, to her for coaching. (She is also an excellent teacher of technique, by the way.)


Once a decision is made, the student should give the teacher his cooperation, allow himself/herself to be guided and give it a reasonable time, as vocal development is not a "quick fix" thing. Sometimes a particular teacher/student combination just don't work, even when the teacher is competent and the student talented. But the wise student, might still gain valuable experience for the future and to advance his development with someone else. A teacher that is competent, secure and has works in ethics/integrity will also try to help his students develop realistic expectations, and even give a respectful "reality check" to those that simply do not have what it takes to sing professionally if those are their expectations. That being said, if the student perceives that the teacher disregards his/her vocal health and the voice starts to deteriorate, I would strongly advise that the student "run for the hills!" You can not buy a new voice at the store, like our instrument player colleagues can. And please, be careful with sales pitches of this sort: "your real voice is really (insert next lower voice type here), that's why you 'lost' all those high notes."  It might well be that a student was classified as particular voice type incorrectly or that the student has developed the wrong idea of what his/her vocal classification is, but good technique should never take away from you, but the opposite. Even more suspicious are drastic loses (less than a year). Properly trained voices SHOULD be able to vocalize over a wide range, exceeding "dictionary" definitions of vocal types. But, on the other hand, just because you can touch a High C while vocalizing does not mean you are a true tenor and likewise, having an easy low G while vocalizing does not make you a baritone automatically. Neither should one conclude that all of one's range, accessible while vocalizing, should be used in performance, for that matter. At the end of the day, healthy vocal production is more important than getting the label/type of voice that you wish you had. The student will only reach his true potential if he learns to use the voice in the most efficient and sensible way, remaining true to the nature of his voice. But to be able to do that, we need to discover that voice first, something that many of us can only do with proper assistance, guidance and supervision.


For more information and articles please visit our facebook page: