Thursday, July 9, 2015

Norman Carlberg

Norm Carlberg

Looking at my calendar today brought me a reminder that my friend and colleague, Norm Carlberg died unexpectedly ten years ago today.  As we all say, how time has flown.  Yet my memories of Norm are clear and filled with admiration of a good, true, giving person who was extraordinarily talented.

In July 2010 my blog entry was about the three directors who made my “Life! Love! Song!  A Visit with Gena Branscombe” show come alive.  Norm Carlberg, Evan Pappas and Ellen Harvey gave of their talents to guide me through the development and performance of this wonderful and fun one-woman show.

It was Norm Carlberg with whom I first shared my idea of the show.  Over dinner, I sought his advice on how to go about writing and creating my idea….how to make it a reality.  Listening intently as I recounted my Gena Branscombe journey up to that day, Norm slowly spoke in his deep bass voice, “Just start writing” was his advice….”write and write without editing your work.”  Even with my doubts, I knew he was correct.

I invited Norm to be my director and he accepted then offered to have the premiere performance at the Liederkranz Club where he was Director of Music.  There we rehearsed staging, music and character ideas and constantly changed the script.  Our show was coming alive!

Speaking at a memorial service for Norm held at the Liederkranz Club, I said the following about our work together:

“I soon learned that Norm’s way of directing was to give you an outline of staging, a few key words for character then he left you to use your imagination, emotions and intelligence.  Phone calls to Norm after rehearsals were similar to the pain of pulling teeth.  I would ask what suggestions/criticisms he had and his response would be….”just keep going in the direction you are.” Or maybe….”mumble to yourself a little more” or “don’t worry it’s fine.”  We singers are more insecure than that and he knew it.  We need to be stroked, yet I learned in his quiet way he was allowing me to grow as an artist …telling me to be stronger and more self sufficient, and watching me grow as a singing actress.  After the performance he called and said in his low voice, “It was really good!” Four simple words……discreet, sincere and filled with pride of our partnership.  A more kind and understanding colleague one could not find and as a friend, a blessing to my life.”

Norm Carlberg, I miss you and thank you for your belief in my dream of a one-woman show about Gena Branscombe.  You were a true teacher, friend and colleague….a blessing to this singing actor’s life.  

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Stephanie Samaras, Voice Teacher

Stephanie Samaras…..

During one’s years as a music student, then as a professional working musician we have many people who guide us, teach us, offer advice and help us along the crazy path of this career. For any musician, your private teacher is much more than a teacher of technique and musical style.

My voice teacher, StephanieSamaras, has been the champion and guide of my vocal technique for well over 15 years.  Her knowledge of the human body, human voice and how it all functions to form beautiful sound is to be respected and revered.  Her ability to listen to her student’s singing, diagnose the problem and fix it with exercises or verbal images is something to behold.  I am thankful for her wisdom. 

Much more than that, Stephanie is a cheerleader for her students, always making suggestions for repertoire, auditions or work they might find.  Cheerleading also means she is part therapist as well.  Her interest in her students is always for their betterment and to help each of us attain our highest goals possible.  I am thankful for her guidance.

So, why am I writing about Stephanie other than to literally sing her praises?  Well, Stephanie became my teacher at a time when I needed vocal help.  Carefully she listened to my explanations of what I thought was wrong, made suggestions and then we went to work correcting my problems.  Her vocal exercises were geared to my voice’s needs.  She obviously spent time contemplating and creating exercises for me.  Or as I would often say to her, "Do you dream up these exercises to torture me?"  I am thankful for her dedication to my vocal health and well-being. 

As my Gena Branscombe project began, there was Stephanie cheering me on, encouraging me to record this almost unknown music.  She prepped me before every recording session always with a positive pat on the back.  Then, as my Gena Branscombe show, “Life! Love! Song!  A Visit with Gena Branscombe” began to take shape, she suggested her student and my former upstairs neighbor, Evan Pappas, help write the dialogue.  As I prepared for the premiere performance of my show, there was Stephanie coaching me on how to go from singing to dialogue and back to singing.  She was brilliant.  I am thankful for her knowledge of theatre and music.

Along the way, Stephanie has also become my friend and I have appreciated the tomatoes and basil from her summer garden.  What a treat for a city dweller!  I am thankful for the produce.

Stephanie and I have attended a few performances together.  It’s been a pleasure to hear her music theatre students and her doctoral voice students perform.  They are well prepared musically and vocally.  I am thankful for sharing these musical times.

My voice teacher, Stephanie, has helped me prepare at least three different art song recitals, the Bach B Minor Mass, Brahms’ Alto Rhapsody, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Gena Branscombe songs and much, much more.  With my wide variety of repertoire brought to lessons, she is comfortable helping me find the beautiful sound I must produce to sing all of it.  I am thankful for her knowledge of musical style. 

Stephanie Samaras, voice teacher, whose studio is just a few short blocks from my home.  A joyful walk to and from a lesson is something I treasure.  Most important having a friend and dedicated teacher will be forever in my heart.

The next chapter in this story?  Yesterday was my final lesson with Stephanie in New York City.  She and her husband, Ryan, are leaving the New York area to relocate to Charleston, South Carolina.  There she will form a new studio of singers and continue to teach healthy vocal technique.  Lucky are those new students.  I am positive that her current students will be traveling to Charleston for lessons; myself included.

For those of us left here, we will miss Stephanie’s good and cheerful personality, her 1000 watt smile, her hardy laugh, her vocal knowledge and constant support.  So many things to be thankful for with Stephanie but most important, I am thankful for her as a true human being and voice teacher.

Thanks, Steph.