Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Do you select the music you sing or does the repertoire select you? Successful young singer stories and repertoire selection. With Whom Do You Identify? Part 3 – Keith Phares

Do you select the music you sing or does the repertoire select you?  Successful young singer stories and repertoire selection.  With Whom Do You Identify?  Part 3 – Keith Phares

Keith Phares, a young Baritone in the opera world is another example of a musician turned singer.  Keith actually got his start in music as a trumpet player.  When in high school, he played the trumpet in the band and pit orchestra.  One year, the director of the musical encouraged him to try out for the production as a singer and actor as they were very short on men for the production.  Keith gave it a whirl and made it.  His thoughts were why not?  I like musical theater, singing with the radio, and cute girls.  Keith was in many small productions in high school and early on in college.  His true passion for singing however did not develop until junior year in college.

At the University of Richmond, Keith played trumpet in the jazz band and pit orchestra as a psychology major and was in a couple of music theater productions.  He also took voice lessons.  The experience which really changed him was participating in a summer program in his home town.  After that summer, he returned to school and asked his voice teacher, Do you think I really have the voice to make it as a professional singer?  His voice teacher encouraged him to pursue it as she felt he really had the voice and the passion.

Keith auditioned for and got into New England Conservatory of Music and admits he really didn’t have a clue about the work required to be a professional singer.  Here he learned a ‘good work ethic and learned to be self-sufficient while taking classes’, December 2002.  Keith then attended Julliard Opera Center where he was given opportunity to prove himself as a singer and musician.  Through much work, he has developed a very successful opera career as a 35 year old baritone.  For details on his singing career, visit  

Keith Phares admits, ‘the music found me’.  Who would have thought a trumpet player from South Carolina who first started singing to impress the girls in his high school would have a career in the opera world?  Another example of how the repertoire finds the singer, the singer doesn’t always choose his best repertoire.

What is your repertoire story?  With whom do you identify for repertoire selection?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Do you select the music you sing or does the repertoire select you? Successful young singer stories and repertoire selection. With whom do you identify? Part 2 – Tony Arnold

Do you select the music you sing or does the repertoire select you?  Successful young singer stories and repertoire selection.  With whom do you identify? Part 2 – Tony Arnold 

Soprano, Tony Arnold, is another musician turned singer whose singing path has been defined by what her voice naturally does well.  Tony also started as a piano student at a young age.  She started study at Oberlin in piano which quickly changed as she had so many things to fix.  She then auditioned 3 times for the voice program there and finally got in.  Oberlin is a place for many fine voices and Tony admits that she was not one of them.  She learned a lot and decided that she would study conducting in graduate school and pursued singing just for herself. 

While in school for her doctorate in conducting she sang the contemporary vocal piece, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Lukas Foss with musical group, eighth blackbird, in concert.  Within days, she made the decision to quit school and follow her passion of singing contemporary music.  In this style of music, one must have ‘perfect pitch’ for it all revolves around how the vocal line fits into the piece as a whole.  You must be an excellent musician to sing this style of music as you are busy trying to sing notes not phrases or harmonies, but the exact pitch.  It is all about the ‘sound and the relationship to the body’ ( , November 2011).  The music released something in her that made her want to sing and use her voice for her profession, not conduct.

Another example of a piece which Tony Arnold sings well is the obscure Ancient Voices of Children by George Crumb.  She realized in singing this piece that it was not about singing notes, but singing sounds.  Her body responded by relaxing and she found her voice by singing things that few people had sung and that few people had any expectations for what they are supposed to sound like.  (Tony Arnold, CS 2011).  A change happened to her when singing this style of music and she developed a passion for it.

Contemporary vocal music is a very different style of music not focused on the beauty of the voice and vocal line, but on how the voice fits into the rest of the musical piece.  Tony Arnold chose to take this path with her singing voice after her experiences, but the repertoire also chose her as only a musician with perfect pitch can sing it.

How would you follow your path to singing different music?  Did the music you sing select you? 

Stay tuned for another singing sensation following where their unique voice took them, Keith Phares.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Do you select the music you sing or does the repertoire select you?  Successful young singer stories and repertoire selection.  With whom do you identify? Part 1- Kiera Duffy

Kiera Duffy, Soprano, and Opera and Classical Contemporary Music Singer, says sometimes it selects you.  Kiera grew up in a middle-class neighborhood with parents who had a large popular music collection and a love of musical theater.  She started taking piano lessons at an early age.  She practiced diligently because she wanted to.  She loved making music and the discipline of practice. (A trait that would follow her to Westminster Choir College and her successful career).

In high school Kiera auditioned for the musicals and chorus and didn’t start taking voice lessons until junior year. In college, Kiera thought she wanted to be a choral conductor and to figure out how singing works.  Somehow she was accepted to Westminster Choir College as a voice performance major.  I am a musician who happens to sing!  Kiera Duffy

Kiera admits that she is a technical singer whose technique is rooted in the Bel Canto tradition.  She focuses on breath, space, phonation, and resonance (Classical Singer, November 2011).    Despite her musical theater and piano start in music, Kiera developed into a coloratura soprano.  A coloratura sings high and fast most of the time and is a delicate instrument.  Kiera sang much Italian opera and found eventually that her voice is very well suited to German art song and arias.  After completing her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Voice Performance and many auditions, she found herself in a series of opera roles and at the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions! 

Although it was out her realm of coloratura repertoire, Kiera auditioned for a Tanglewood production of a brand new work with James Levine.  When she was offered the role in Elliott Carter’s opera What Next?, she took it.  Kiera credits this role to have really started her career.  She ‘was pretty good at singing these kinds of complex scores, and people noticed me for it.’  She never saw herself as the next new music singer, but came to it naturally!  There are more choices with a new role that one does not have with the classic opera roles she normally sings.  Her personality gravitated to the music and the music suited her voice. November 2011.

The niche of new classical music chose Kiera’s ‘steely, silvery’ voice to catapult the new opera’s success and the success of her career.

Do you think repertoire selects the singer’s voice?  Read more in next week’s article on another new singer, Tony Arnold.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Singing Repertoire Selection- Do You Choose What You Sing or Does the Musical Style Choose You?

Musical Repertoire Selection- Do You Choose What You Sing or Does the Musical Style Choose You? 

What a question!  Each individual has a distinctly different singing voice.  As we take singing lessons, our voice develops and morphs in a variety of ways.  We may start off singing along with the radio and want to sing that music better.  Through developing technique and exposure to other music, we may find that we have a great singing voice for Opera or Broadway.

Often the style of music you sing best is revealed with concentrated study in singing lessons.  Trust the instincts of your voice teacher and yourself.  What feels good to sing?  Did you surprise yourself with how well you just sang that aria?

Learning good vocal technique reveals the true color of your singing voice.  The voice develops as nature intends.  Are you a coloratura soprano or a true alto?  Tenor with easy falsetto or a deep bass?  Are you a pianist who wants to learn to sing a little better and find that singing is your true passion?  (A very common thing.)  In the past did you always sing songs in the mid-range, but find that your high voice began to soar with good technique?  The voice is ever-evolving, explore it.

As the voice develops, good repertoire for you to sing and the style of music at which you excel pick your voice in a way.  You may love Adele or belty musical theater songs, but your voice is actually best suited to coloratura (high soprano) repertoire.  Or in reverse, you may love the high falsetto sound of many tenors, but actually have a solid bass voice.
We all like certain styles of music because we have always listened to them or been exposed to a particular composer whose music strikes our heart and core. Not only do our voice types but our personalities and musical preferences help shape what we sing.  Sometimes what we like to sing and what we sing well match perfectly and sometimes we stretch the boundaries and ultimately find that we may LIKE to listen to certain music and SING other music well!  There are many successful musicians who have learned this.  Stay tuned for examples and discussion on young singers in many singing genres such as Kiera Duffy, Tony Arnold, Melissa Rivera, Kristin Chenoweth, and Keith Phares.

What do you think as a student or teacher? How do you guide your singing students to find their true repertoire calling?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Generalizations (and Specifics) of How to Take Care of Yourself for Singing

Generalizations (and Specifics) of How to Take Care of Yourself-  Of course there are generalizations and specifics of how to take care of yourself in regards to singing, but ultimately we are all different beings.  I may love to run or do yoga and use that as a means to be physically and mentally fit, but it may bore you and your prefer to go biking or do kick-boxing.  
Find what works for you.  Take care of yourself physically and the mental health will soon follow.  Physical conditioning in moderation is a benefit to both the act of singing and the mental focus needed for performing and dedication to a singing career.

Some general advice on how to best take care of yourself as a singer can be found at  A routine of taking care of yourself both mentally and physically can make a huge difference in how you deal with the rigors of performing and singing in general.
Spend some time figuring out what re-routes you when you are in a bad mood. Do you like to go for a run?  Do you sip a cup of tea?  Do you call a friend to talk it over? Do you write it out in a journal identifying what went wrong?  This will help you re-organize you mentally to be able to focus on your success again.
Take the time to explore what works for you and set a routine for yourself to maximize your singing potential.  Find someone (a good teacher and a friend) to help you and support you in your quest.  Time spent on physical attention and mental re-focus will make you a more balanced individual set for success.  Follow the advice of others in taking care of yourself, but ultimately you learn what works for you to make you the best singer you can be! 
Sing on!