Reading a blog recently by a very gifted CCM (Contemporary Commercial Music) voice teacher, I became very disappointed that even the knowledgeable teachers who should know better find it easier to deepen the cavern that has formed over the past quarter century between the training schemes of classical and CCM singers worldwide. The truth is that both sides have suffered severely. There was a time when good, healthy singing was simply that: “Good Healthy Singing”. Over time, the cliche idiosyncrasies of both opera and more popular singing styles became the norm that distinguishes one style from the other while the natural, primal element that is fundamental to all great vocal expression was set aside and forgotten by many. I am attempting to address this very difficult and complex issue in the next installment and it will probably take time. I ask your indulgence as I do not want to treat this issue superficially.
For my part, I grew up listening to every style of singing imaginable from Motown to Mozart and beyond. I am trained as a classical singer, but have sung my share of musicals, Tango, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Andean music, a bit of Jazz and a classic Rock standard once in a while. I grew up loving Pat Benatar and Cindy Lauper as well as Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Prince, Journey and Queen, stars of Mexican Ranchera, Cuban Salsa and Argentinian Tango, Bob Marley, Mercedes Sousa and Celia Cruz. I’ve recently been electrified by Portuguese Fado Diva, Mariza and count among my early influences Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf as well as Frank Sinatra and Jack Jones. A pretty eclectic collection, wouldn’t you say?
I found all these performers amazingly compelling and felt that there was something vocally sound about what they did. In fact I just watched Cindy Lauper on a British television show with her clear voice unchanged, even in her fifties. In this period of world-wide financial and artistic crisis, one of the things I imagine is a renaissance of “substantial art,” as distinctly different from the “superficial artifice” that bombards the air waves and pollute many performing spaces. I believe that in times of crisis, what we artists do, especially when uninfluenced by the prospects of money and fame, can save a world. For us singers, this will include defining clearly once again what it means to move people with the power of our natural soulful voices challenged by stylistic demands and not reduced by disembodied faux-sounds that have come to poorly define different genres of music.