As much as I would like to give Sweden credit for everything good that is happening to me right now because I have fallen in love with this beautiful country, it would not be accurate. Yes I love Sweden and I will not chose between Göteborg and Stockholm. I love both cities very much. I am happy that the most rewarding part of my development as singer and teacher is happening here. But none of this could have happened without the Faith of my early students in New York who trusted me before I could demonstrate with my own voice what I meant for them to do. In no particular order, Adam, Jenny, Ross, Sara, Amber, Patrick, George; Beth, Rachel, Miles and Brooke who took long trips to come see me. And of course I thank all of my current students in the USA and Europe without whom I would not be able to subsist.
Between the paradisical experiences on Klädesholmen, during which my voice seemed to have taken a hyatus and the quiet splendor of Stockholm, it seems that so much has found its place. I keep waiting to wake up one morning to find my voice uncooperative because I sang too much the day before, between my own practice and the many lessons I teach. But on the contrary, I wake up to a new day on which my voice regenerates and seems in some ways stronger than the previous day. I am not surprised! I expected I would eventually be able to recover faster from practices as I get stronger, but the growth seems exponential, like a snowball rolling down a hill, become stronger and faster as it reaches bottom. I have recorded less in the past few months. I havegotten to know my voice with three years of conscious directed practice. But I wish I had recorded the Norma high C that I sang today. For the first time, clear as a bell, full-bodied and sustained. Even though I knew the day would come, there is this question: “How did I get here?”
But don’t worry, my tenor head has not gotten so big. After what seemed a dreamy high C, I sang several that were good but I could not sustain them. This means I have more work ahead of me. My mezza voce has improved a lot, but there still a few little holes to fill. I am not done yet, but I am so extremely happy having gotten to the point where my new tenor voice is consistent from day to day. After 5 hours of teaching and practicing, I could still show a young dramatic tenor how to properly sing a Bb. For me that is something! Something, because three years ago, I put all my baritone exploits in a box and started from zero, to the many voices that thought I was crazy, except for those who have always been there: Sandro, George Shirley, Judy Nicosia-Civitano (I don’t tell you enough how much I respect and love you)!
The truth is, now finding myself at the other side of my journey from false baritone to true tenor, although I went at it alone, I was never alone. My team of tenors-who-previously-sang-as-baritone accompanied me on this journey. They supported me, challenged me, encouraged me, even as they trusted me to teach them. My dear coach Sandro, was never afraid to tell me that although I had improved there were still some baritone qualities to my voice. And my current students would tell me that they could not understand how I could sing such a secure high F5 or that one was impressed with the balance of a C#5 that I thought was just mezza voce. And nothing in this lifetime could be achieved without the faithful support of my mother and sisters, who remain my greatest cheerleaders.
Beyond my personal development, Sweden also saw my maturation as a teacher. I have valued Sweden since I first became serious about singing, through the magnificence of Nicolai Gedda (What I would not give to meet this man!). I saw myself being a confident guide to some of the finest singers I have ever heard and equally so to the young singer who comes with doubts and questions. Truthfully, I was a little scared coming to the land of Birgit and Jüssi and Set and Nicolai. But when the moment came, I was able to do my job and realized that the land of Erik and Meta and Olof and Nikola and Niklas and Matilda and Katija and Per, etc, was very welcoming to this “journeyman”!
For this maturation, I must thank my new teacher, Sifu Romain of Romain Kung Fu. Not only the classes, but the many conversations we have had have reinforced the philosophical component of my teaching. I needed that piece of the puzzle. My Kung Fu work has had a profound influence on my teaching. Now complexity and simplicity are one.
Yet, I am able to be worthy of Sweden because of Berlin, New York, Boston and even Greenville, North Carolina and Gainesville Florida and Logan Utah, those many places that saw my beginnings and middles as a teacher.
Still, the greatest thanks goes to my aunt, Jacqueline who sang to me since I was a somber child:
“Ecolier malheureux, sois patient! Un jour tu seras un homme, mon ami. Alors tu grandiras, la vie te sourira. Ecolier malheureux, sois patient!”
Thank you, Tatie, for teaching me patience with a song!