Friday, February 10, 2012

Manhattan School of Music (again)

So, after I sent Jim off to Toronto, I was sitting here wondering what to do. Not that there isn't always another song to write, or another arrangement to put together, but I kept thinking about my time at Manhattan School of Music a couple of weeks ago, and how much I enjoyed the students.

Not just because they have spectacular voices -- they do, and that's no joke -- but I just love the whole academic atmosphere. It probably comes from having negligible formal training, myself. Two years at a Baptist college doesn't impress people much, especially those who've graduated from places like Julliard with doctorates, etc.

But, all my life I've been an inveterate learner. I always want to know more. I am always seeking a way to educate myself, especially if I can do it by trading out favors for mentoring.

So, I called Mark Janas and asked if I could just sit in again on his class. I knew they were putting together a cabaret show, to be performed this coming Monday, and I wanted to see how they were doing.

Well, when I walked into the room, wearing my new hat, of course, they all applauded spontaneously! I felt so honored!

Mark's curriculum, as I stated before, is to get them out of their comfort zone as opera singers and teach them to bring those skills to popular music, such as the American songbook in a special community outreach program.

He's brought in the great Andy Gale to direct and coach. Usually, opera singers have a great deal of trouble "down-shifting" into pop music. It's a completely different technique, to turn window-rattling power into the more conversational art form that cabaret and pop singing demands.

Well, unbeknownst to me, two of the singers, a male and female, Brad and Maren, decided to sing "How Do You Fall Back In Love." Somehow, through links that I thought were long dead, they got a copy of the song in a much lower key -- probably one I had thrown together for someone else -- and were already learning it.

Unfortunately, the piano part is all wrong because, down about a 3rd, the piano part needed to be re-voiced to make any sense. It was all too muddy. Mark, being the musician that he is, was figuring it out on the fly, but that motivated me to come home and see if I could re-voice this thing and get it into better shape. A tedious, time-consuming act. But one that needed to be done.

For one thing, the piano part that was on there was basically a directly transposed transcription of what I improvised six years ago, when I wasn't sure how to write out score. The part itself was already messy and inconsistent. Also, some of it was just plain wrong. For instance, I had copy/pasted some of one of the verses into the wrong measure, so everything was off by one measure about halfway through. If Mark didn't know the song, he'd have been totally lost.

So, I began rewriting yesterday afternoon. Fell asleep. Woke up early and kept at it, finally finishing about 10 AM.

I got on the subway and took the 2 train up to 96th, then the 1 local to the 120 block of Broadway, back to the school. Mark had already signed me in, so I raced up to the room 607, which was a much larger studio, with a Bechstein piano. They were already in the midst of rehearsal -- Andy doing the staging and directing.

Andy Gale directing.

Got there just in time to deliver the new arrangement, but not in time to hear it. Luckily, tonight, Friday, they are going to do a full rehearsal. (I would go again this morning, but I have a doctor's appt.).

For those in the NY area, I think the Monday night performance is open to the public. I don't have the details as I'm writing this. But please let me know if you'd like to come. I think it may even be free. You will not find a better collection of singers on a single stage (esp. at this price).

What I wanted to tell all the students in this class is that I've rarely seen the combination of extraordinary voices combined with a willingness to learn, and an openness to being molded, devoid of diva-ism, that I've seen in this group. I want to sit them down and say, "Hey, look around. This only happens a few times in one's lifetime. Mark it. Grab it. Remember it."

Thanks to Mark and Andy, who are coaching them to performances far beyond their years of experience. And, because they're put in those thousands of hours of learning how to sing, learning the mechanics of their vocal instruments, they'll be able to audition and get work immediately. I'm so thrilled to be a part of it.

1 comment:

Gabi Clayton said...

Thrilling! And you wore your new hat. :-)

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