Tag Archives: Education

Jazz pianist & composer Ramsey Lewis on being an artist

The Artist Toolbox is new on this season’s PBS schedule, and features one-on-one interviews with artists at the top of their fields. Take a look at the impressive and varied list of subjects: painting, jazz, classical, ballet, couture.

A recent program featured Ramsey Lewis, and here are some sound bites:

  • Creativity is everywhere
  • You have to learn to listen to your inner self
  • Everybody in his high school had to take 2 years of music
  • Current American society has become satisfied with mediocrity
  • What are Americans doing instead of minding the store? Culture is a mess. Washington is a mess. Society is a mess.  What are they doing?
  • You have to learn how to get over the fear. You gotta handle your demons. Then everything can start happening.

Clearly the man has learned how to handle at least some of his own demons/fears, and that story’s well worth listening to, whether your own training is classical (as his was originally – surprised?) or not.


Sutherland: La Stupenda, the non-diva

Researching something else, these turned up. For those wanting to hear top sopranos from other generations, make note of all the names and haste thee to YouTube.

‘I didn’t want to be a diva’
This author agrees with Madame Sutherland’s comments, and has been fortunate to work with like-minded coaches and teachers. They do exist, even in America, but they’re rare and not well-known.

Are these the 20 best sopranos of the recorded era?

Currently listening to Sutherland’s Greatest Hits

Ah! What joy! What clarity! What glorious high E’s!

Here’s the last half of her famous “Mad Scene” on YouTube ~ don’t forget to turn your volume up!



Joyce DiDonato: A gratitude posting for Thanksgiving

Ms. DiDonato has paused long enough in her singing career to resume her blog, with an excellent posting about giving thanks, and quite a few useful reminders that a classical singer is a classical singer 24/7.

In other words, you cannot 9-to-5 it, whether your schedule is as trying as hers or not.

Grateful you don’t have to watch everything every minute, just so you can go to work like she does?

Most people just see the glory.  Yours truly knows the sweat and tears that’s constantly and continually behind it.


Sunday salon


Interesting article in today’s Washington Post about birthing new plays & associated issues.

Artist Georgia O’Keeffe

“Nobody sees a flower, really — it is so small — we haven’t time, and to see takes time…”

Learning to sing also takes time.

Scroll down in the Wiki article for online examples of her works.

PBS’s American Masters series

Reviewed an old VHS copy of Juilliard lately.

Excellent, but not yet available on DVD.


Singers’ Muscle Memory

The latest Flute Talk magazine has an article of interest to singers, because it deals with listening to one’s body to determine if correct tone is being produced.

Author and flutist Jessica Quiñones Discovered this while working with one of her students, who’s aurally challenged.  However, the student could very quickly identify and remember specific body/muscle positions that Quiñones identified as good tone. The student was then able to reproduce them easily. Sorry the article’s not available online.

Jessica Quiñones, by Erfan Arafi (violarts.com)


American Academy of Teachers of Singing

Found an old list of reasons for studying singing several weeks ago from The American Academy of Teachers of Singing.  The organization was formed in 1922, predating  National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) which they organized in 1944.

The offshoot’s become better known than the parent, but the parent is of more interest to yours truly.

Their current list of publications should be of interest to singing students at all levels, parents interested in knowing more before they start their children’s lessons, and professional singers of all levels.  Documents are downloadable PDF files.

(As that old piece is no longer offered, yours truly won’t attach it.  The English phrasing is pre-2011, but the thoughts are sound. Am hoping they’ll revise and reload it.)

Note:  How can I become a member of the Academy?
It is not possible to apply directly to become a member of the American Academy of Teachers of Singing. Membership is exclusively by inner nomination and new members are nominated by current active members only when there is a vacancy. All nominees must have no more than two dissenting votes to become members, and when accepted, membership is for life.


Granados and The Pianola

Photo credit: Detail of (The White) Duchess of Alba, Goya, 1795

The Pianola Institute’s site has extensive information about the pianola’s various forms, and those differences are crucial to musicians when listening to pianola recordings.

Depending on the type used, you might be listening to a modern technician-pianola expert interpreting what a composer recorded during the original recording session.

Yours truly wanted to get as close to the genius of Granados as possible.

Remember, Granados was originally known as a piano virtuoso, like Liszt.  When dealing with that stature, it would seem unfair to expect a pianola expert to also be a virtuoso.

Here is a wonderful example of one type of pianola, sent by cara amiga and colleague, soprano Rut Jiménez Guerrero, of Málaga, Spain.

Yours truly immediately noticed all the moving around the technician does, and the closeup of his hands manipulating something below the keys.  What was he doing? When listening, yours truly’s musical sensibilities were screaming, Would Granados have done that?  Or that?  Or that??

Going back to The Pianola Institute’s site, the Duo-Art version seemed closer to what yours truly wanted to hear, but they didn’t mention Granados as having recorded for it.  Then, this excellent example of how a pianola works came to light.

Hopefully it explains why the hunt continued.

The Reproducing Piano and Welte-Mignon

First, here’s this page for reference, to explain what seems to be the action used in the previous example.  Scroll down to the very bottom if you don’t have time/interest in reading everything – to “Stencil Recording Piano, Aeloian Company,” etc.

Here’s a very lengthy and sometimes quite technical history and explanation of the Welte-Mignon version of a reproducing piano, which seemed to be the best version of Granados.

Now, onward to find a recorded example of Maestro Granados . . .