I have been writing these pages for over 10 years now, and have put virtually everything I know about singing, performing, phrasing, auditioning, as well as interesting and amusing anecdotes, that illustrate or flesh out a concept or technique, et al. In addition, I have been teaching since the age of 22, when a young actor heard me singing at The Horn-a night club in Santa Monica. CA-and asked me to teach him. (I had always been natural singer and had only studied with people, after the age of 22, who said "That's the sound I want to hear!" ... but who had no idea how I made it! I write about that extensively in these pages.) I protested that I was not a teacher, but his answer got my attention; "You sing better than I do!" ... and he offered me $5.00 a session, which would buy me two full tanks of gas to get me to the Horn and back, where I was singing seven nights a week-also playing the string bass and bongos-for "experience" and an hour of coaching with the great Carlos Noble ... who taught me the meaning of the words, as opposed to "overwhelming the audience with my sound" as he put it, which I gleaned from listening to Robert Merrill records. I mostly learned how to sing opera from those records and watching how he got his top lip narrow and down for the high notes, on the Telephone/Firestone Hour shows. As I told him one when we met, on the street one day; "It was because of you I became an opera singer!" He put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Oh gee kid, I'm sorry!"
It kinda closed the circle for me ... when I covered his last two performances of Un Ballo in Maschera, for the Met ...
Years passed, with me moving inexorably, from chorus with the National Company of Music Man to a Summer of Stock at the St. Louis Muny, singing my own role in each show and also covering every leading man, for ten shows, to New York auditions, to an audition with the N Y City Opera and my debut as Schaunard, in Boheme, a paragraph in each of five N Y Dailies-Times, Post, etc., my first leading role five months later ... to twenty-four years later, after I had been the principal baritone of the N Y City Opera, for the last fourteen years and was now singing as a principal baritone at the Met. And, during all of those years, as I had become a world class singer-all the while teaching others to sing, many others over that time-I was learning from by solving the problems of my students, constantly improving.
My Otolaryngologist, Dr. Wilbur James Gould, founder of the International Symposium on Voice, was doing a five day event at the Alice Tully Hall, Juilliard School of Music, in 1984 and had asked me to give a "15 minute talk on how to work with a young voice," for the last fifteen minutes of his 11:00 o'clock lecture. He asked if any of the 300 some, assembled vocal scientists, doctors, teachers, vocal therapists would like to hear my thoughts on the subject, to please adjourn to the room, audience right. Virtually all of the folk, got up, gathered their things and went into the relatively small room, standing 3 to 4 deep against the wall, as all of the seats were taken.
I sat down at the piano and said, by way of an apology, that there was no way I could cover the topic in fifteen minutes-it was their lunch hour-but I would talk as long as needed to cover the subject and would not be offended, if anyone needed to leave. The first thing I did was ask everyone to stand and then ... explained that the singularly most important techniques in singing were breathing and support ... and that they were mutually dependent! First, it was how to get the maximum air in the least amount of time, with the minimum effort. Second, it was to demonstrate how to use that air to supply "flexible breath-pressure on demand" as needed, the "lift and grow process" for the voice to accomplish any and all needs as the repertoire would demand. Imagine if you will the 300 some assembled as women and men of various abilities, talents and relative physical statures, a cross-section of ages from 23 to 73 and you get the picture.
Within fifteen minutes or so, virtually everyone had doubled/tripled her/his usual, expected sound and all were singing "toward a strait tone, senza vibrato!" They were singing phrases longer and fuller, to their individual delights! I then showed them how I focus my sound, "up and forward," with the pure vowels spinning in my "honk (nose)" for intensity, with virtually no involvement of the throat I then showed them "one voice, top to bottom and back, no "registers," two octaves low A to high A and back. Then I demonstrated how to sing/rotate through the top "passaggio" to where their elusive high notes dwell! One fella asked, "What do you think about the "lower larynx position?" and I answered that I don't! He persisted that I must ... and I had him come up and put his index finger on my Adam's-apple, repeating the two octave A to A scale and several of the audience cried out ... "What happened?" and he answered, "It didn't move!" A fella in the fourth row said, "I don't believe it!" so I waved him up, and he put his index finger on the other side ... and so it went ... for an hour and fifty minutes. No one left!
Apparently, when Dr. Gould and Dr. Polisi, the new Juilliard President, returned to start the 1:00 o'clock lecture, they found the house empty and my "impromptu master class" still in session. Apparently, they listened to the last 40 minutes, until I abruptly realized it was 1:40 and was 10 minutes late to my rehearsal at the Met. I apologized for having to leave, and as I rose to leave, I was given a lovely standing ovation.
The following morning, Jim's secretary called and, without any explanation, told me that Dr. Polisi wanted to see me at 12:30 that day. I had a rehearsal a 1:00 at the Met, so that was perfect.
I had no idea why he would want to see me and gave it little thought, as my life was in great turmoil, at the time. I had just left a loveless marriage, two weeks before and was temporarily sleeping on friend's couches. My workload was daunting and I was rehearsing six roles at the Met, while teaching about thirty students.
Dr. Polisi was all smiles when I went into his office. I had not met him before and he addressed me as though I we were old friends which pleased me. The first words out of his mouth were. "Giorgio Tozzi is leaving next week for California and we would like to offer you his position." I was running a tad late for my rehearsal and I wasn't all that tuned in. Frankly, I was not prepared for the offer and it occurred to me that perhaps Giorgio had recommended me, since I had brought his voice back from a big wobble and serious pitch problem, he had for the previous ten years. I was more-than-a-little stressed-out and my mind was simply not tuned in! Incredibly and arguably, I had just been offered, the most important voice teaching job on the planet ... but, the profound magnitude of the offer simply did not resonate! (Bear in mind, I had a major career full of performances, both here and abroad, a full studio ... and an irretrievable broken marriage to manage.) It was my having been accepted as a world class teacher ... in the balance, but my mind failed to appreciate the consequences, not to mention how dramatically my financial status and teaching creds for the future, would have established. I simply thanked him ... and never looked back. Too much on my mind! One might argue, that was the dumbest thing I ever could have done ...
I have thought more than once that, perhaps most of the visitors to my site may not typically scroll down to the beginning of these "Tips," MARCH OF 2007, being the first of them and start with the most important idea I teach; that the voice is a
WIND INSTRUMENT! (I used to play trombone is Jr. High School and could always hold the note on my instrument longer that the others in the band could hold there's, the sousaphone player notwithstanding!
Oops! As this has grown much longer than I intended, so I'll post the amended version of Breathing and Support next month. This of course, in no way should keep you from visiting the original version at the bottom of my "Tip of the Month" site, should you choose to do so! ;-)
CLICK LINKS BELOW TO VIEW PREVIOUS TIPS...
A REVIEW FROM A VOICE OF CONSEQUENCE!
THE FOREWARD ... PRELUDE TO MY BOOK
MY BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION; SINGING AIDA WITH MY STUDENTS
MY FIRST JOB WAS IN EQUITY CHORUS, MUSIC CIRCUS
FRANCO CORELLI SHOULD HAVE SUNG MUCH LONGER
SO... YER SINGIN’ WELL ... HOW DO YOU GET ON STAGE?
JOHNNY CARSON Part 2
JOHNNY CARSON ASKS ME A QUESTION ON MY FIRST TONIGHT SHOW
RANDY IS A VERY FINE ATTORNEY
A WONDERFUL LETTER FROM NORWAY
RANDY IS A VERY FINE ATTORNEY ...
A NOTE FROM THE PAST
PLACING THE VOICE
JUST “GIT HER DONE”, NOW!”
SINGING WITH/FOR THE COMPOSER!
JULY 14 -
RUNNING THE REPERTOIRE GAMUT
WITH BUT ONE VOICE
MAY 14 -
WHAT A GREAT WAY TO EARN A LIVING
APRIL 14 -
GET TO YES FASTER
MARCH 14 -
MY VOCAL CREDO
JANUARY 14 -
A THE FIVE C'S REVISITED
DECEMBER 13 -
A CHALLENGE FOR
OCTOBER 13 -
SEPTEMBER 13 -
WHAT TO WRITE.... RENATA SCOTTO?
AUGUST 13 -
HOW TO FIX YOUR
“WOBBLE” AND SINGING UNDER PITCH!
JULY 13 -
FROM THE LIPS OF
OPERA GREATS OF THE PAST
JUNE 13 -
ROTATING EVERY HIGH NOTE
SINGERS GET INTO TROUBLE (And retire early!)
THE FIVE “C’s!”
(REVISITED AND MARGINALLY UPDATED)
FEBRUARY 12- PROACTIVE