Friday, December 24, 2010
The one version of co-writers Bob Wells and Mel Torme's classic holiday hit that for me must be heard at Christmas is that of Nat King Cole. As a child enjoying the wonders and magic of Christmas, it would not have been complete without hearing his rendition. What made this tiny tot's eyes all aglow was the fact that my now legendary uncle, Irving Ashby, was guitarist for the Nat King Cole trio. Talk about proud!
"Chestnuts roasting..." and The Nat King Cole Trio were synonymous in our household. Special in King's version of "The Christmas Song" was the simple guitar voicing. I spent many a time with the trio backstage at the RKO Theater in New York City as a young boy, where I was privileged to hear this and many other Nat King Cole classics.
Recently, my wife and I journeyed to my hometown of Boston to perform at the celebration of our friend and colleague Ellen Cantaro, whose birthday party was attended by friends and relatives, all who champion her tremendous accomplishments as a writer, jazz pianist, and teacher. Many fine artists performed that night. I first met Ellen when her love for beauty in all things brought her to my home in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts some ten years ago, beginning her exploration of the art of Bel Canto--my passion.
The entire event was truly memorable. We were even treated to a film documentary showing Ellen from infancy to the present, a very personal gift from her beloved husband, Jack. Among the artists was Angela Rossi a former student and native Italian, born & raised. Miss Rossi is an extraordinary young singer, watch for her!!!
No one sang "The Christmas Song,"but we all gave Ellen our very best. The banquet style service and the musical presentations ranging from Brazilian folk music, cabaret, and Jazz to European Classics made the evening a complete success.
Coming from a family of musicians and years of performing and teaching, the gift of Christmas was present in the bond we all shared: the precious years of learning
Finally, my dear friends: Although it's been said, many times, many ways, Merry Christmas to You.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
A few weeks ago my student Marlon Saunders--super singer, arranger, coach, teacher, and all around giant of a man of mythic proportions--got in touch with my wife and me, declaring too much time had elapsed since we were in each other's company in a social setting. We met in Manhattan and were treated to a lovely dinner and an evening of absolute joy.
Marlon's genius resonates for me like that of the other brilliant Black men of my era; a rarity in present day society. He affectionately refers to me as the "Guru," which always brings a smile to my face. Marlon knows that in my vocal direction as a teacher that I've chosen the road less traveled of the development and understanding of the myriad applications at hand with the Middle Way, Middle Falsetto, Voix Mixte, the Mezza Voce, all popular in the 18th century. However, it is Marlon's strength of character and his commitment to excellence that makes him soar like the legendary powerful winged horse: one who fights for goodness and, like Pegasus, will no doubt take his place in the firmament.
We Love you MARLON SAUNDERS.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
We decided to have pizza tonight, something we very seldom have now that we're watching our weight. I'm someone who loves all the toppings, etc. and was in seventh heaven savoring every bite, and among the many tasty treats were of course black olives. Suddenly my mind reverted to my childhood and I remembered going shopping on Fridays with my mother when frequently she would say,"If you're a good boy, you can have a whole bottle of green olives all to yourself". She knew how much I loved them. Thanksgiving always brought so many delights to our dinning room table, green olives with pimentos being on the list.
My Mother passed away on a Thanksgiving Day and for awhile I didn't think I'd ever enjoy the day again. But this Holiday season I'm showered with the remembrances of her love for me and her good taste in all things. Both my parents were great singers; I've heard nothing but the best my entire growing up. Because of their great vocal abilities I am blessed with a passion for the human voice. The simple joys of Friday shopping with Mom and green olives still live alongside the ultimate joy of making beautiful sounds.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Eventually the time came for me to appear in concert to demonstrate my skill to my students and to reintroduce myself to the New York concert audience, and so I scheduled a debut concert at Lincoln Center's Merkin Hall.
Just before the night of my performance, my student Dwayne Allan Foster (whom we affectionately called "Dudley Do Right") presented me with a pair of gold and mother of pearl cufflinks with matching studs. The beauty of his gracious gift and the spirit in which it was given was that this set had been given to Dwayne by his grandfather when he graduated from college. To me it was the ultimate compliment, and I have worn them ever since for every important singing engagement. It gives me immense comfort as I dress for a performance knowing that I carry this spirit and tradition forward with me.
Like so many old friends who lose touch over time, Dwayne and I renewed our friendship through Facebook; he is now married and the father of beautiful twin daughters, and I have shared with him the numerous performances I've given over the years, always wearing what I've dubbed my "magical" cufflinks. On Sunday, November 21st, my wife Etta and I participated in an inaugural performance of a new opera company and I thought it appropriate to write Dwayne and let him know his beautiful gift again graced my cuffs. His response was as magical as the cufflinks: "It's good to know that you take my grandfather and me with you on stage every time."
Sadly, I never met Dwayne's grandfather, but he was still living when his grandson passed the gift on to me and Dwayne told me he had championed my role as his grandson's teacher/mentor, a magic we share to this day.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Monday, November 1, 2010
Some time ago while living in Boston, I had the good fortune of being a part of
"The New England Spiritual Ensemble," created and directed by Mr. Vincent Stringer, "Baritone Extraordinaire."
I was so flattered when he asked me to to become a member. My stay with the ensemble was short-lived but remains one of my most fulfilling experiences. Mr. Stringer had the foresight to recognize the importance and rich legacy of the African American Spiritual.
Several days ago Vincent found me on the Internet and posted on my website. Right away I called and we had a great conversation catching up with each others recent activities. Vincent is presently at Morgan State heading the Opera Dept. His ensemble is now based in D.C. and re-named "The National Spiritual Ensemble." We look forward to exploring artistic possibilities once again. He is also a dear friend of my wife Etta who was as blown away as I, at our reacquaintance with our dear friend and fellow artist, Vincent Stringer.
Friday, October 29, 2010
...Mr. Scott approached his selections--from a joyful "April in Paris" (Duke/Harburg) to a spare, deeply felt "The Day I Stop Loving You" (Diane Warren)--as if they were are songs, employing his classically trained lyric tenor as a musical instrument to give each a distinctive sound and interpretation.
High points included an evocative "Calling You" (Bob Telson) sung a capella as Mr. Scott entered from offstage, a sly "It Ain't Necessarily So" (the Gershwins), a soft and gentle "I'm Glad There Is You" (Dorsey/Madeira) dedicated to his wife, Etta, and a soulful, proudly bittersweet rendition of his show's title tune, "Here's to Life," performed to Nori Ochiai's simple piano accompaniment.
Mr. Scott graciously ceded the floor to Mr. Ochiai, bassist Scott Colberg, and Charles Goold on drums for solo turns as he tapped along or moved with the music. His pleasure in performing was in full evidence, whether leading the receptive audience in an infectious sing-along of "I Just Called to Say I Love You" (Stevie Wonder) or wringing from his encore, "My Foolish Heart" (Young/Washington), all the fearful hopefulness it possessed.
September 28, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Well, last night following our Master Class her dream came true. Miss Gerbier received a telephone call inviting her to sing for President Obama this weekend during a Bridgeport, Connecticut campaign fundraiser. It is with tremendous pride that I congratulate Wendy Gerbier: This is just a sampling of her many Dreams to Come True.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Like the different colors and temperatures of the seasons, so the voice continues its magical metamorphosis. I, as mentor/teacher have been privileged to witness the growth and maturity of so many of my students. Please accept my sincere congratulations to you all.
In particular I'm sure those of you who have been in attendance share in the absolute Joy concerning Ulises Fernandez who has begun to blossom into a rare and special vocal flower. I salute you for your patience, consistency, respect for the journey. Uli has been in my studio for many years, and has never doubted the possibilities of excellence that accompany this particular
So we begin a new season, with high expectations; My Garden Flourishes!!!!!
Sunday, August 1, 2010
The first European Classical piece I learned was Schubert's "Ave Maria" taught to me by my Great Aunt Josephine when I was 10 years old.
It became a moment of reward sometime later on the Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour,where I won first place on national television singing this piece, and went on to perform it in front of 15,000 people at the Boston Gardens as part of the prize. The Boston Post reported "A small boy's perfect soprano; The hubbub and the din subsided as the clear notes sounded through the vast auditorium of the Garden"
Yesterday I was privileged to witness this kind of magic from a different perspective. The place, St Augustine's Cathedral Chapel in Brooklyn, the event, a Roman Catholic wedding, the soloist my wife, Etta Russell Scott.
Contracted by the bride and groom who had experienced the beauty of her pure and delicate Soprano voice earlier this year, along with "Ave Maria" she also rendered "Panis Angelicus" by Cesar Franck.
I don't know what my voice gave in those early days to generate such response, but I do know that Etta brought that same gentle peace and purity needed to help define this very special moment. Brava!!!!!
Thursday, July 22, 2010
This month was full of personal joy for me.
First of all I received several testimonials from Artists who have shared wonderful moments, that are all a part of an incredible journey of Artistic and personal experience that must be told.
This month also was the beginning of my Cabaret/Classic, Master Class at Chelsea Studios. We got off to a great start and were able to clarify for these young singers, the beauty of self awareness, and the defining of one's God given gifts.
Moving forward, Etta, my wife and protege, went into the studio for the first time to record (pictured above). Those of you who know the the tremendous difference between performance, coaching, and, class certainly understand the focus and security it takes to be ready for this most unusual of artistic endeavors. Etta recorded some of the most difficult Oratorio literature, and was able to come away with a product capable of displaying real vocal freedom, and a source of pride and accomplishment for the many hours and years that it took to make the journey.
Etta, you serve to validate my knowledge as a teacher.
Monday, July 5, 2010
I chose the road less traveled.
To develop a real functioning voice for the Bel Canto style of singing Opera, one must make a total commitment for life. Because I wanted to know the difference between having a beautiful voice and one capable of what seems impossible, I embarked on the most difficult journey of my life.
There is no perfect state, but we must continually aspire to such. This journey has produced vocal abilities that I have dreamed of possessing for years. This particular time in my life has shown me that the truth in all things is possible if we are willing to submit (be submissive)to an energy far greater than ourselves.
Though my time spent having a career has been long and fruitful, I feel I've only just begun. This vocal understanding is a gift; I wondered why singers from the past sang into their 80s and 90s, and those today are plagued with heartache and vocal deterioration. Longevity was no accident, but a knowing that somewhere along the way became polluted.
There are many roads to Rome, and today I confirmed having truly found one. A man is a success when he feels like one.
Today, I feel most fortunate among men!!!
I have chronologically spent more than a few decades on this planet, and a gift most rare is to arrive at this place in time with real friends present just as they were at the beginning.
My good friend Bob DiPaolo called to say hello and to re-affirm what we mean to one another. With that he gave me license to tell his part in my life story. We grew up together in Roxbury, Massachusetts and have known each other from the first grade, through graduating from high school in the same class, to the present day. He is the genuine article--"My Friend."
On this same day I was able (because of my ghostwriter) to locate Jeremy Ives. Thank God for the Internet!!! I was a young Balletomane with a great gift for the discipline of dancing the Ballet and I was taking classes at American Ballet Theatre on 57th Street between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. Jeremy was dancing with ABT, later with New York City Ballet, and then in the Metropolitan Ballet for 15 yearrs. When I got him on the phone today, we were both speechless for a moment; not since we were in our twenties had we spoken. We were inseperable in our youth! Now, he with a 41 year old son and me with two sons aged 42 and 44 shared a conversation that confirmed what we were then and what we are now--"Still Friends" Jeremy, too, was adament about sharing our story.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Simionato was the greatest Italian mezzo-soprano of her era. She passed at age 99. For more than seventy five years after her debut, Simionato still remained fresh and modern and natural
in every measure.
Benny was one of the Jazz industry's finest trombonists. He was 80 years old at passing.
We had the shared experience of being on faculty at The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music. I witnessed his caring for and mentoring a young gifted trombonist with whom we both
shared a special friendship.
It is artists of the caliber of Benny Powell and Giulietta Simionato who inspire the best in us and, because I live in both worlds of opera and jazz, their contributions effected my judgement and artistic presentation.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
anything and at that point I was ready to just go, because I figured it was another one of those auditions" where they say they like but.... blah, blah, blah. Then he asked me who I was studying with. I gave him your name and he said to tell you that you're doing an excellent job with me; and that whatever you are doing with me, keep doing it! He's very excited about the voice and although he said he's not doing anything now that requires a Mezzo, he's excited to put something together to showcase me, because he feels that the world needs to hear my voice. Well, that pleased me to hear.
I wanted to share that with you Kamal, because I know you truly have helped me to discover my voice in a completely different way. You've built up my vocal confidence in a way I could have never imagined. Thank you for that.
A note from my student, Wendy Gerbier
Friday, June 18, 2010
The ability to stay true to the composer's music and portray the character is no light feat. It was obvious that her vocal freedom had given her the green light to go after her characterizations.
She sang in three scenes:
"Ebben? Ne andro lontano," from La Wally, by Alfredo Catalani;
"Dove Sono" from The Marriage of Figaro,
by W.A. Mozart; and
"Caro/Bella" from Giulio Cesare, Cleopatra & Cesare, Duetto
The evening was a success for all, but it was Mrs. Scott, whose treatment of her assignments brought her a standing ovation, & for La Wally a "Brava Diva"
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Many of you who have followed my blog know that my wife is Etta Russell Scott. She is also a fine cellist and teacher at The Brooklyn Conservatory of Music.
She began voice classes with me back in the spring of "99". Due to her perseverance and dedication she has developed a first rate Soprano Voice. Etta joined the ranks of the professional singing community some time ago, but it is with great pride that I announce a recent audition for Agents, who hire singers for Oratorio Concert work, and championed her for her abilities. Bravo Etta!!!!
She will be singing with the Brooklyn Conservatory Chorale on Friday, June 11 at 8:00 p.m. (Old First Reformed Church, 126 7th Avenue at Carroll in Park Slope), on Sunday, June 13 at 3:00 p.m. (Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian, 85 South Oxford at Lafayette in Fort Greene), and on Wednesday, June 16th at 8:00 p.m. with The Brooklyn Conservatory Opera Workshop (Brooklyn Conservatory of Music, 7th Avenue at Lincoln in Park Slope). Phone 212-209-3370 for ticket information.
During the recent audition, a great comment was made that sums it all up: "Mrs. Scott do you teach? (reply, yes) you should; You obviously know what you're doing"
Need I say more????
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
They brought class and elegance to the stage. It was Gregory who helped bring the excellence of tap dancing back and inspired young men like Savion Glover. We were a part of a special time in the American Theatrical scene.
When I lived in Las Vegas, Mr. Hines and I had studio space at Henry Le Tang Studios; Tap Teacher extraordinaire. They both knew my Dad, and we shared many wonderful stories. Mr. Hines always said that Maurice, Gregory, and I were born at "The Tale End" of great---
--- SHOW BUSINESS---
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
My student Julia Suriano was voted by all the teachers in the vocal dept.in the extension division
of Mannes College, to be awarded a cash prize given to the voice that showed the most promise this semester.
This young lady exhibits the best study habits, has a winning personality, and a great voice.
She has one of the most natural gifts for making the music live; as her teacher, I have always felt
she had a great future ahead of her.
Take note, that this young lady is only eighteen years old.
"Job Well Done"- Julia Suriano - Now it begins.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Some years ago I chose to completely reorder the functioning of my gift. I was cautioned by many of my colleagues at the time,but I was sure that, though I was taking the road less traveled, I would ultimately be the victor. To have had a great career singing in chest, a great career singing in falsetto, and arrive in the fall of my years with a Mezza Voce that doesn't Quit! I think, this needs to be addressed.
People who are up in years; There does not have to be an end. Correct knowledge is the answer. There are many roads to Rome, and I know I've found one. Many types of vocal damage can be corrected without surgery and it is possible to sing well at age 60 and beyond.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
The original cast of the B'way production was one of those "great moments." We were nominated for seven Tony Awards.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
This journey on which I'm about to embark, would not be complete without bringing to life some of the many moments we've shared. I may have mentioned in an earlier post,at a recent celebration, there were students I hadn't seen since they were college age, and were now themselves parents. Some of you who are presently on B'way, found time to be present after your show!!!
This is the kind of respect that I get from all of you; Thank you really seems inadequate. You help to validate the knowledge I impart, and allow me the gift of continued growth as a Teacher and Artist.
"We never stop being Students"
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Friday, April 9, 2010
This is Gerald A. Brown, affectionately known as Gerry. Gerry has been my coach and accompanist for almost 30 years. I have learned so much from him during those years that words are hard to find to express how deeply I care for him.
Gerry has mentored and guided me with great skill and sensitivity. His knowledge of having conducted for New York City Opera has been such a tremendous gift when experiencing our moments of Artistic Expression.
"Er ist ein mensch" My Friend.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
When I was a boy my Mother decided it was time to have someone who knew about the voice hear me, and so she chose Roland Hayes. I was about 9 or 10 years old at the time.
We went to his home in Cambridge, Mass. where I remember singing Schuberts "Ave Maria." Mr. Hayes said some very wonderful and helpful things, information I hold dear to this day. What is ironic that more than 40 years later I was privileged to be a part of portraying him at a part of his career that was glorious. His daughter narrated his life story and his grandaughter, who was a soloist with the Boston Ballet and a voice student of mine, was present in the audience.
Mr. Hayes's shoulders are another set of those strong shoulders we stand on, especially me!!!
Monday, April 5, 2010
It was an incredible gas to see you perform yesterday!! I am so glad I got the news. I will most certainly contribute my 2 cents on your fb page. I was so proud of you & so honored that you have been an important teacher in my life. The passage of time means nothing in terms of what you imparted to me. I was so inspired by your performance, I had been procrastinating about getting out there as a singer but left so geeked up about it LOL!
You sounded WONDERFUL! So now, when are we going to reschedule our date hmm?
With Much Love,
I also want to thank you for your teaching. You & I met in the mid-80's when my voice was burned out & I had NO UPPER REGISTER [remember that?] That was in the time when we poor dancers were relegated to just 'belting' forget ever becoming a singer. You had been recommended to me at the time when I was so doggone frustrated so I gave you a shot, & on the first day I breathlessly waded through the 'swell & release' UGH! Painful, torturous, ego deflating, UGH! But slowly & not as long as I thought it would be, the notes started to come: longer, louder, stronger & POOF! The upper register was back with some more on the other end, & then my range expanded in both directions. I could go on & on about the metamorphosis but I won't LOL!! After a very long break from the biz, I am preparing to re-enter & the book I'm using to dust off the pipes is the book you had me buy all those years ago: The Soprano Voice by Anthony Frisell. So needless to say, you are & have been a very important part of my voice. Thank you Kamal. Oh gees, getting all weepy now lolololllllllllllllllllllllll!!!
With Much Love,
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Thank you so much to those of you who were able to attend my performance yesterday at the Countee Cullen Library. I really enjoyed this particular concert and have been getting very positive feedback from a number of you. As many of you know, I am in the process of writing my memoir as well as a book about my singing career and all the varied places it has taken me in my life.
I would greatly appreciate it if any of you would like to do so post your comments about the concert on my FaceBook page. At this time, I would also like to invite you to feel free to write any little historical facts that you might have since working with me or knowing me. Many of you have some pretty interesting stories and views about things that we have discussed and/or worked through over the past few years.
Please do not feel like this is a big obligation--to do this minute, or ever--if writing makes you uncomfortable. It just would be nice to publish some of the great feedback and stories that you have been giving me, along with perhaps a little bit about who you are and how you came to know me. I've certainly had a rich experience knowing all of you, and for that I thank you.
Yours in the Arts,
Much of what we experience prior to a concert is totally psychosomatic. Singers very often create terrible physical conditions such feelings of a chest cold or of sinus and nasal congestion.
For years I've tried not to think of this as a moment of perfection, but a work in progress. Enjoying the journey is the deal; there is no perfect state.
I worked very hard not to fall into this trap for yesterday's concert and, fortunately, I was the victor.
When Christa Ludwig (pictured above) retired, she proclaimed "Finally I can catch a cold and not care."
Friday, April 2, 2010
There is a famous saying "Do as I say not as I DO"
I have always tried to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
This month's concert is a testament to the fact that the gifts we come here with are ours to nurture & maintain; therefore, Do as I Do and, as I say, "Sing Forever."
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
My students demonstrated with focus and artistc integrity what it's like to use their knowledge and understanding of the Mezza Voce in both classical and contemporary styles in singing. A healthy atmosphere of positive feedback and criticisim was in full swing.
I am encouraged that this is such a great way to build confidence and strength as an artist. Vocal health and longevity is the order of the day.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Most of today's pedagogy does not give importance to an understanding of vocal development from a falsetto perspective, particularly when training the male voice.
The falsetto is totally self manipulative.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Being on faculty in major institutions has validated the fact that fresh young voices respond instantly to this form of development. If you approach this form of development looking in any way for self aggrandizement, you will fail. In so many parts of the human experience we have witnessed man's constant arrogance and unwillingness to bend to the unseen power of the Spirit.
It is this state of grace that supports the magic of true Bel Canto. The Mezza Voce propagates itself to full legitimate functioning. "The Metamorphosis."
Sunday, March 21, 2010
On March 29th I'm having a Master Class from 7pm-10pm at Chelsea Studios at 151 West 26th Street. This class is always exciting & informative. The participants demonstrate the ability to use the same technical approach in singing classically and in Jazz or other genres. We have two accomplished pianists; one from NYC Opera, and a new young Jazz pianist from Japan.
My desire is to make maintenance and longevity an integral part of these young people's thinking concerning their vocal gifts. I think it was Tony Bennett who attributes his long vocal career to the Art of Bel Canto, and it is Magda Olivero who debuted at the Met at age 65, still sings at 99, and can be seen on YouTube singing Panis Angelicus at 81 or 87.
In the words of Leontyne Price, "It Can Be Done."
Friday, March 19, 2010
What has not been generally understood concerning the “mezza voce" is its myriad uses in other genres of singing: jazz, Broadway, pop, and so forth.
In regards to this, you may be interested in knowing that I am in concert on April 3, 2010 at 2:00 PM at the Countee Cullen Library at 104 West 136th Street in Harlem. My programming will consist of European classics, African-American spirituals, and an entire half devoted to jazz.
You can also take a peek at Kenneth Kamal Scott on YouTube. Here are linked clips from my February 22, 2009 concert at The Brooklyn Conservatory of Music and from Billy Cobham’s album, "Simplicity of Expression, Depth of Thought." The two pieces on the album that feature my voice are "Bolinas" and Early "Libra."
Thursday, March 18, 2010
It becomes an involuntary muscular reflex and it's never been considered to be true of voice, but in the Italian school that's what they learn to do. The others may sing beautifully...they think they are singing like the Italians. They have great voices but it's not the same thing, and I think that needs to be understood by everyone.
Bel Canto singing is a particular scientific development that takes a minute, and it takes giving up a lot of one's self. You have to be selfless and have a tremendous passion. It creates freedom, total vocal freedom, total! And I've always wanted to know that, so that's my idea, and then it allows me to sing other forms of music, too.