The Real Story
I've been singing for as long as I can remember, and as a boy, was fascinated with my mother's voice. When singing in church, I prided myself on being able to match her lyric soprano above the staff. At the age of 8, she took me to see Mary Poppins, where I encountered my daemon in the form of Julie Andrews, and my head exploded: Not only did I want to sing that like—I had to know how Andrews did it. But before I could figure it out, hormones hit, and my voice slid into the basement!
After what felt like a long exile, I started taking voice lessons at the age of 17 with a husband and wife team: she played piano while he shoved his fist into my solar plexus. Though I learned next to nothing from them, I did perform a great deal; singing crazy much-too-soon leading roles like the Mikado, before escaping to a small college in the midwest, where I obtained a music education degree. After teaching elementary and high school choral/instrument music for three years—I knew I had to find my voice, and began graduate study at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey. I met the woman who would change my life there—the legendary doyenne of voice teachers and force of nature—Margaret Harshaw. She not only gave me the tools to sing, but encouraged my curiosity, which I exercised while singing with the New York City Opera and Metropolitan Opera—mining vocal pedagogy gold at the Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. There I discovered the hidden roots of Harshaw's teaching, as well as a great deal more—the result of which has been the founding of a professional journal, a blog on historical vocal pedagogy that is climbing towards a million readers, my first book, and grants from the Agnes Varis Trust for continued research and writing.
Along the way, I learned that minor genetic hearing loss discovered during a hearing test for a summer college job in a steel mill was not as insignificant as I was lead to believe. Addressing it—again, a matter of following my curiosity—involved a course of listening training in Torono, Canada, as developed by Alfred Tomatis—which proved to be a profound experience that augured a second life-change: one that has given me a unique understanding of the principles of the old Italian school of singing.
That's where I am right now: connecting the dots between the past, present, and future, having realized a great deal more than my 8-year old self ever dreamed possible.
My advice to students? Mind your daemon.
Suggested Reading: The Soul's Code by James Hillman.