Posts Tagged ‘student singers’

From Music Comp Class to March 1st Recital

February 27, 2011

(from L) Comp music student, Arik, and his teacher, Kevin Michael Sullivan, discuss the merits of the class

By Marcia E. Gawecki

A new honors music composition class is quickly gaining popularity at Idyllwild Arts. Mostly because of its recent collaboration between music students and poetry students on campus. The two groups are teaming up for a performance for “Idyllwild Arts Day” in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 12.

They are taking original poems and setting them to music. However, some of their collaborations will be previewed this Tuesday night, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. as part of an Idyllwild Arts Music Faculty Concert at Stephens Recital Hall.

Each of the four hand-picked music students in the comp class get individual attention, said Kevin Michael Sullivan, the instructor. The four students are Caleb, a trumpet player; Arik and Benny, pianists; and Chris, a viola player.

“They keep me on my game,” Kevin said of the group who has helped him with his own music compositions. “They’re good kids and very sharp.”

Vocal music student, Samuel (shown here at another performance) helps out the composition students with their ongoing work

Oftentimes in class, Samuel, a classical vocal music student, sings their compositions out loud, so they can make adjustments.

“The first few class sessions were hard,” Sam said. “Mostly because the writer and the composer didn’t always see eye-to-eye.”

Benny said that his first composition climaxed too early, and it wasn’t exactly what he wanted.

“Do you think I could transpose it?” he asked Kevin, while eating lunch in the cafeteria.

“I think that would work,” Kevin said.

Sam, who sang Benny’s first song, agreed that it needed a change.

“The high ranges almost killed my voice,” he said, jokingly.

Sam said that he takes notes on the poems during the composition class to see what the best interpretation might be. He said that he considers himself a “vehicle” for the writer, in keeping the words “sacred.”

The creative writers who are providing the poems and collaborating with the musicians, include: Rebecca, Whitney and two Austins.

Benny, a pianist, enjoys the challenge of the honors music comp class. Courtesy photo.

Caleb, who is working with Austin on his poem, “New World Order,” about mankind, said that he heard it at last year’s Parallex (a student publication) reading, and liked it.

Caleb is setting Austin’s poem to modern music, using a bunch of different instruments from a sound mixer to achieve the desired effect.

“Caleb’s piece is really cool, but very complex,” Sam said.

With most of the poetry collaboration songs, Sam will sing them onstage at the “Idyllwild Arts Day in LA. However, with Caleb’s piece, Austin’s voice will be prerecorded. Austin will be reciting the words, while Sam will be singing the melody.

“Caleb decided that only my voice was right for the voice over,” Austin said.

At the same time, Sam is a little nervous about the Caleb-Austin collaboration, because he’ll be out of town with his own senior vocal auditions while it’s being completed.

“It’ll all work out,” Sam said. “It always does.”

Whitney, a creative writing student who is working with Arik, a piano player, is also a little nervous about her collaboration.

Austin is collaborating with Caleb on one of his poems, "New World Order"

“I don’t want to say, ‘nervous,’ because it sounds like I don’t trust him,” Whitney said.

She said this was the first time that one of her poems has been set to music. She is looking forward to seeing it performed onstage.

“It’s terrifying to hear your work performed onstage,” Kevin said. “You’re like a parent in the audience, and have no control over what’s being done up there.”

At the last faculty recital, one of Kevin’s pieces was performed by Idyllwild Arts faculty and students. During Tuesday night’s faculty recital, not only will Kevin’s pieces be performed, but he will also be playing the saxophone.

Even though they are not completed, some of these music composition-poetry collaborations will be performed at the recital this Tuesday night, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Stephens Recital Hall on campus.  Faculty and guest artists will perform oboe, sax and piano, along with some classical music and jazz students.

All recitals and concerts at Idyllwild Arts are free and open to the public. For more information, visit or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

: Feb 27, 2011 @ 10:13

Hefty Jazz & Classical Recital

May 12, 2010

Kathryn belts out a jazz ballad (at another event) while Hawkins plays bass

By Marcia E. Gawecki

For one fun-filled evening, audience members were treated to a hefty dose of jazz and then classical music. Monday, May 10, was the senior recitals for Kathryn, a jazz vocalist, and Rich, a classical pianist, in Stephens Recital Hall at the Idyllwild Arts Academy.

Kathryn’s roster of 10 songs included jazz standards, classical rock and some blues.

Dressed in a slinky over-the-shoulder short, black dress and a red flower in her hair, Kathryn looked like the ultimate showman. But looks were disceiving.

“She was really nervous before the recital,” said Marshall Hawkins, head of the Jazz Department at Idyllwild Arts. “But I wouldn’t hear none of it. I knew she was going to be fine.”

Kathryn’s first song was “Stepping Out” by Irving Berlin. She sang a duet with Everett, a classical vocals major.  They had fun and chemistry onstage, and the loud applause afterwards gave Schmidt the confidence that kept building until her last song.

For her next tune, “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye” by Cole Porter , Kathryn was by herself onstage. Just a guitar and microphone.

“I like doing acustical work,” Kathryn had said earlier in the day. “Sometimes, it’s just nice being out there by yourself.”

When she started “Use Somebody,” a popular rock song by Kings of Leon, Won Bin, shouted out, “I love this song!”

Kathryn played it slower than the popular version, but with just her guitar, and for the first time, we understood all of the lyrics.

By her fourth song, “Maybe,” Kathryn brought on her fellow jazz mates, including Hallie on vocals and piano; Mint on electric guitar; Alejandro on bass guitar and Nate on drums.

“‘Private Lawns,’ by independent artists A & J Stone, is one of my favorites,” Kathryn said as an introduction. And by the time she was done, it was one of ours too. She introduced two musical soloists, Jacob on flute and Caleb on trumpet.

“I just blew in from Chicago, where they have private lawns and public parks,” were the jazzy lyrics.

Grant Park, one of Chicago’s more famous public parks, features a free, four-day jazz concert each Labor Day Weekend. Residents pile in from the neighborhoods and suburbs all dying to hear the jazz greats. Some famous performers include Miles Davis, Benny Carter, Ella Fitzgerald, Anthony Broxton, Lionel Hampton,  Betty Carter and Jimmy Dawkins, among others.

For her next song, Kathryn switched to rock n’ roll with the Rolling Stones’ classic, “Wild Horses.” You have to give her credit for taking on such a popular song for the Baby Boomer generation. At first when I heard the lyrics, all I could hear was Mick Jagger’s low voice, and Keith Richards’ electric guitar. But then I settled in and accepted Schmidt’s soprano voice and standard guitar.

For the next few songs, Kathryn went out of sequence from the playbill. For “Oreo Cookie Blues,” she sang a duet with Mint and her electric guitar. It was a fun, little song that made the favorite cream-filled sandwich cookie a bit sexy.

“I’ve got the chocolate cream-filled cookie blues,” Kathryn wailed. “It gets me higher than I get on booze. I couldn’t quit if I wanted to!”

(from L) Jacob on sax and Caleb on trumpet got some solo time at Kathryn's gig

The next tune, “Lift Me Up,” Kathryn said it was a Christine Aguilera song that she sang at a “Hope for Haiti” benefit. She played it with Hallie, and it was a slow, love ballad. “Just get me through the night,” she pleaded to an unseen lover.

For “Orange Colored Sky,” Kathryn brought on the entire jazz band, including Mint on electric guitar; Alejandro on bass; Nate on drums; Jacob on alto sax; Anthony on tenor sax, Hallie on piano and Caleb on trumpet.

With that many jazzmen on stage, one would think that they’d easily drown Schmidt out, but she held her own.

“I talked to them (the musicians) about it,” Hawkins said after the show. “You never want to drown out your singer.”

For her final number, Schmidt sang Aretha Franklin’s anthem, “Respect,” and brought the house down. She added backup vocalists Amenta and Allison, who “wooped” and danced and made everything fun. The interesting part is that Amenta is a theater major and Allison is a visual artist. Who knew that they could sing?

“It wasn’t happening for me at rehearsal,” Anthony confessed later. “But when Amenta and Allison showed up during the show, they really brought a lot of energy that we played into.”

By this time, Kathryn was in her groove. She grabbed the microphone from the stand and started walking around, and “talked” to the drummer Nate with her “doo, doo, doo’s.” She looked like the ultimate jazz showman.

When the Aretha anthem was over, everyone was on their feet, clapping and cheering. And Kathryn walked away with an armload of five bouquets.

For Rich’s review, look to the separate article, “Classical Piano Recital.”

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Marni Nixon’s Master Class

April 12, 2010

Marni Nixon (4th from L) & Master Class students

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By Marcia E. Gawecki

She was the singing voice of Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady,” and Natalie Wood in “West Side Story,” and Deborah Kerr in both “The King and I” and “An Affair to Remember.” She sang Opera, performed on Broadway and won two Emmys along the way. At age 80, one would think that Marni Nixon would rest on her laurels and retire like many legends. However, recently, she performed with other Broadway singers at a “One Night Only” concert in Palm Springs, and then gave a two-hour Master Class at the Idyllwild Arts Academy (IA).

“We were so lucky to get her,” said Doug Ashcraft, head of the Music Department at Idyllwild Arts. “Darren (Schilling, PR) saw that she was appearing nearby, and e-mailed her to see if she’d do a Master Class for us.”

Ashcroft added that Nixon had hosted a Master Class at IA about six years ago.

“I love what I do,” Marni Nixon said when asked why she is still performing. “And I still have to set a good example for my grown children.”

Her son, Andrew Gold, followed Nixon into the music business. She said he is best known for creating the theme song for the TV sitcom, “The Golden Girls.” Her daughters, Martha Carr, became a psychologist and Melanie Gold is a massage therapist. All three live in LA, and Nixon planned on visiting them that weekend.

On April 9, Stephens Recital Hall was packed to capacity with students, faculty and even some Nixon fans who live in Idyllwild.

“I’ve been following you throughout your career,” one woman said later as Nixon was autographing her CD.

Each of the students took turns performing a song of their choosing (with special meaning to them). They included: Everett Ford, Samuel Chan, Preston Pounds, Ruby Day, Joey Jennings, Paulina Kurtz, Becca Goldberg, and Melissa Haygood

“I wasn’t as nervous as I am performing,” said Samuel Chan, a classical voice major, who performed “Loveliest of Trees.” “I knew that she was there to help me.”

For Chan, Nixon suggested that he enunciate his consonants more, and then visualize while he was singing.

“Try and visualize that tree,” Nixon suggested. “Is it old? Is there snow on the branches?” She also said to put emotion behind the discovery of the tree. “Imagine that your rooomate has just died, or something just as traumatic, then you go to the woods to get away, and you come upon this tree.”

Chan performed the song for Nixon again, visualizing the tree.

“I can see you smelling the branches,” Nixon exclaimed, as Chan blushed.

“Can you see the difference?” Nixon asked everyone in the audience and they clapped in response. She added that it was good for classical voice majors to take some acting classes to help them visualize, and for musical theater students to take classical voice for the discipline.

Everett Ford sang a song in German, and Nixon asked him to translate the first and second verses. He said that it was about death and passing away freely.

“Just because the song is sung in German, doesn’t mean you don’t have to enunciate,” she said. “Be Italian, without being ‘fake.’ It will feel strange at first, but then it’ll become more natural. We need to hear the distinction of the words.”

As he performed the song over again, Nixon announced that she was going to “poke” and “pry” at him. She prodded him to stand up straight, and came up behind him, and held onto his rib cage.

“That’s where your voice needs to come from,” she said.

With other students, she mentioned posture, confidence, and the Tai Chi way of  firmly planting your feet on the ground.

After Becca Goldberg sang, “I Never Knew His Name,” about a young girl who didn’t know her father, Nixon was complimentary in her delivery, but critical of her posture.

“This might sound a bit cruel, but the way you’re standing up here says, “Oh poor me, pity me,'” Nixon said. Immediately, she went over to Goldberg and straightened out her spine.

As Goldberg was singing it again, Nixon commanded her  to push against her with all her strength. “You need to get that strength and emotion into your song,” she said. Goldberg sang another song for Nixon, a sassier, jazzier one, and her posture greatly improved.

Throughout her critique, Nixon would always ask the title and composer of the songs. Most of the students didn’t know, and referred to their sheet music at the piano. When Joey Jennings announced his second song, “Bring Home My Youth,” by Oscar Levant and Edward Heyman, Nixon asked Jennings what he knew about them.

“These are famous people,” she said. “Oscar Levant was bitter and funny and honest about his putdowns of people. This is kind of his signature song.”

When Jennings finished the song, he wiped away tears and “flipped the bird.”

“That was a good exercise,” Nixon responded. “Now, next time, instead of being angry underneath, try another emotion.”

When Paulina Kurtz sang, “My Brother Lives in San Francisco,” Nixon said that she wasn’t familiar with it.

“It’s new, and never been performed on Broadway or anything,” Kurtz said. She explained that it was about a girl recollecting her gay brother who moved to San Francisco, and the effects of AIDS.

Afterwards, some of the students in the audience were brought to tears.

“Can you give me a copy of that song?” Nixon asked. “I’d like to share it with some of my students.”

Nixon answered questions from the audience

“These Master Classes are a great way for me to stay in touch with modern music,” Nixon said later.

“Just perfect,” Nixon told Melissa Heygood, the last one to perform.

“I don’t think I say it perfectly,” Melissa said later. “I think she was just a little tired.”

After the last performance, Nixon told a little bit about her career, and answered questions from the audience.

“What advice would you give to young people who are just starting their careers, knowing what you know now?” asked Ella Walker, a dance major.

“Have lots of money,” Nixon quipped, as everyone laughed. “You need to have a job at night like computer programming or something, because you need to be up and ready for auditions during the day.”

Others asked if she had travelled to Europe or Asia (because of her Suzuki teaching method) and what type of music genre she preferred.

Nixon talked about her youth, when she and her sisters would sing at local events to make money for their voice lessons.

“Sometimes the teachers would feel sorry for us and give us a break on their rates,” she said.

She said she began singing seriously, with regular performances, at age 10 or 11. Remarkably, at age 17, she performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“She seems like one of those rare individuals who came out of the womb singing,” said Jessica Scales, a theater major, later.

“I wish we could have heard her sing,” added Andie Hubsch, another musical theater major. “But was nice just being in the presence of a legend.”

Afterwards, Nixon posed for pictures, signed autographs, and sold copies of her CDs and new book, “I Could Have Sung All Night.”

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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