Imagine Bing Crosby in the throat and Willy Nelson in the mask!
Her dramatic soprano exploded into a laughter reminiscent of Birgit Nilsson on a silly day. Her tendency was to give up one side each time she thought of the other, to which I prescribed:
Imagine Willy singing in Bing's house!Code for: Maintain the lower space while allowing the high overtones to dominate!
In the end, the concepts became clear and we ended the lesson with a lot of laughter and clarity.
But the truth is I could not have talked in this way with my wonderfully disciplined and hardworking student if we had not spent the past years working on a muscular structure that allowed resonance adjustments to be so immediately available. As I listened to her speak throughout the lesson, he Southern "brilliance" froth with high overtones was riding above a tone of great substance. That is not the young dramatic soprano I met a few years ago.
This post originally included a video of a famous singer of the past making pronouncements about resonance that are at best questionable. Commenting on that video infuriated one of my former colleagues and the video was taken down. Nevertheless the point will be made without that prop.
The point to be made is complimentary to the story of teaching my student above. When a teacher refers to the chest, the neck and the skull as resonating cavities, it does not take more than one semester of basic vocal acoustics to refute such pronouncements. Yet the sensory feedback is real!
What I find infuriating are the many master-classes I attend given by famous singers where they will pronounce a student to be untalented because they cannot sense these vibrations in these so-called resonators. The situation is a simple one to understand:
Singer 1 is told to feel high notes on the top of the head and responds wonderfully.
Singer 2 is told the same thing and looks like a deer caught in a headlight and has no idea what is meant.
In an atmosphere led by the famous teacher in question, Singer 2 seems like an idiot.
Yet Singer 2 is not an idiot at all. This is a very easy situation to understand. Singer 2 simply has not trained the mechanism well enough to be able to have the sensory feedback that said famous teacher takes for granted. Singer 1 already has a vocal structure that makes it possible to have the feedback that the teacher speaks of. Calling Singer 2 untalented is tantamount to not understanding the fact that a laryngeal structure as well as certain resonant adjustments are necessary to produce such feedback. Rather than pronounce the young singer as untalented, a teacher whose pedagogy goes beyond personal experiences would consider what Singer 2 would need to begin to experience such feedback and work on that foundation work!
The disconnect in the world of Opera is the following: Famous people know better!
In truth, famous people have the ability to get themselves famous! It does not mean they always have skills in teaching commensurate with their fame. Like this not famous teacher in North Carolina whose name escapes me, the most gifted people are more interested in the work at hand and not in making themselves known.
Is it possible to be famous and truly competent. Yes! That unfortunately is a rarity in current vocal pedagogy!