Background and Training

Michael Best giving Debra a voice lesson in The Barber of Seville

Michael Best giving Debra a voice lesson in The Barber of Seville

My teaching is informed by an intense love of music, utter fascination with craft and song, lifelong curiosity about the nature of learning, and the pleasure of working with a singer's sound and hearing it come to life.  I love the story that is inside a song and the strange and wondrous art form we humans have created that is singing.  And I like being part of a centuries-old tradition of voice training, most of which seems to have happened in private studios, one teacher with a great set of ears listening carefully to one singer who is standing at the ready, eager to let loose into song.

The underpinnings of a teaching craft seem to be really - one's whole life.  In my case, a life spent in music and in learning.  An adult life spent in New York City pursuing my own career as a performer, watching hundreds of immensely inspiring performances, and enjoying the swirl of artistic energy that enlivens our metropolis.  

Teachers and collaborators who have influenced my work deeply:  Conrad L. Osborne, Will Crutchfield, Annette Lieberman, Frank Corsaro, Jennifer Kellow, Robert Spillman, Dan Franklin Smith and William Osborne. Performers who have inspired me as singer and teacher or given me hours of immense pleasure in the theatre or on record:  Jon Vickers, Victoria De los Angeles, Nicolai Gedda, Carlos Kleiber, Marilyn Horne, Maria Ewing, Nat King Cole, Ella and Frank, Julie Andrews, Claudia Muzio, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Maria Callas, Ron Raines, Danny Burstein, Barbara Cook, Cynthia Gregory, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Régine Crespin, Elizabeth Schwartzkopf, Kirsten Flagstad, Frederica Von Stade, Ray Hesselink.  This list is far from complete.

Experience and Training

Performance career as soprano soloist in opera, oratorio, concert, recital, operetta, commercials, and recordings.  Appearances with New York City Opera, Caramoor Opera, Chattanooga Opera, Chautauqua Opera, Iceland Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, etc.  Please refer to BIO for more information. Full performance resumé upon request.
Awards: National Opera Institute Career Grants, Metropolitan Opera Regional Finalist, NYC, Mina Kaufmann Ruud Award

Member AGMA, Actors' Equity, SAG, NYSTA, NATS

Teaching
Private Voice Studio, New York City, 1985-present
Marymount Manhattan College, Private Voice Instructor; Vocal Techniques Class, 1995-present
Mannes College of Music, 2009, The Art of Listening class for advanced singers
Affiliate Artist, Drew University, 2002-2003
SUNY Purchase, Associate in Applied Voice, 1991-1998
92nd St. Y School of Music, faculty, 1986-2001

Judging
Metropolitan Opera Regional Auditions, Boston and New York Districts
International Opera Singers' Competition, New York City
NATS Voice Student Evaluation Competition
NYSTA David Adams' Song Competition

Classes/Lectures
The Art of Listening, developed for professional singers, advanced students.  In-depth exploration and comparison of the styles, techniques and dramatic delivery of artists from the dawn of recorded sound through the present, with emphasis on early 20th century
Mannes College of Music, Italian vocal style class substitute instructor
SUNY Purchase, Vocal Repertoire Classes
Denison University, 1998, Mini-residency: Recital, Master Class and Lecture: Historical Sound Recordings and the Art and Technique of Singing
92nd St. Y classes in Vaccai and Vocal Technique; Historical Recordings

Coach
Caramoor Opera, 2000, 2001.  Young Artists' Program, vocal coach and accompanist
The Magic Flute, Caramoor, 2000: musical preparation of the three Spirits

Education
NYSTA Distinguished Voice Professional Award,
2002 for the Professional Development Program, comprising core curriculum of Vocal anatomy/Physiology, Vocal Acoustics, Developmental Repertoire, Vocal Health, and Comparative Voice Pedagogy
Manhattan School of Music, post-graduate opera study and performance
L'école Hindemith, SW, post-graduate study
Eastman School of Music, M.M. in Performance and Literature, voice
Denison University, B.A. with honors, music major, piano

Voice Training
Primary teachers: Conrad L. Osborne, Anna Kaskas, Ellen Faull, Helen Boatwright, Marlena Malas
Master classes: Alberta Masiello, Hughes Cuénod, Joan Dorenmann, Beverly Sills, Judith Raskin, Donald Gramm
Voice coaches: Dan Franklin Smith, Brian Zeger, Steven Blier, Joan Dornemann
Language and diction study: Robert Cowart, Thomas Grubb, Nico Castel, Emily Olin
Acting training: Frank Corsaro, Clyde Vinson, Max Gartenburg, HB Studio
Choral experience: The Eastman Chorale, New York Choral Artists, Soprano soloist at Central Presbyterian church and Second Presbyterian church, NYC,  Denison University: The Denison Singers touring ensemble; Chapel Choir, Concert Choir (singer and accompanist); church and school choirs; National Music Camp chorus
Instrumental
Denison University: piano and organ; Eastman School of Music Preparatory Department: diploma in piano with theory, keyboard harmony, and clarinet study;  National Music Camp: clarinet study with Sidney Forrest, band and orchestra
Bodywork
Alexander Method:  Pearl Ausubel; Gwynne Marshall; Jennifer Kellow
Feldenkrais: Cynthia Crumlish;   Tap Dance: Ray Hesselink;  Jazz Dance: Frank Wagner