Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Moving Right Along"

Well it's been a good while since I've posted, but I'm still here.

So much has happened in my life in such a short space of time. After my summer at Morgan State, I left there very sure that Baltimore offered the kind of atmosphere that I needed. Upon returning to New York I thought it was a good idea for Etta and me to go back and check out the possibilities of relocating. Like myself she, too, fell in love with the landscape and the more peaceful lifestyle Maryland offerred. So now we've checked out travel time between New York and Maryland and find it totally possible to commute and stay committed to our responsibilities in NYC while enjoying the excitement of new artistic ground in Maryland.

So, drum roll, please...we are settling into a lovely, modest little house in Baltimore which is a breath of fresh air, especially for our Jack Russell terrier, Pepe.

Now begins a new semester for me at The New School and at Mannes. A dear friend has offered a lovely space for us to live on the days we have to stay over in New York: I will even be able to teach my private students at her home, Etta will be able to finish the course she's taking at The New School, and Pepe will always be in familiar territory. I will continue writing my memoir and consider this adventure another moment to expound upon.

I should have also mentioned that a week after we started looking around Baltimore for housing, Etta was given a couple of recommendations for possible teaching positions. Both were positive and she was hired immediately by the position most suitable.

We owe our good fortune to real estate broker Bessie Conway, the wife of Eric Conway the Chair at Morgan State. Mrs.Conway took special care of us and were it not for her this move would not have been so smooth. We are ever in her debt. On the other hand I would not have been at Morgan State had it not been for Vincent Dion Stringer, Artistic Director for the Vocal Department, who hired me to be a part of the Summer Opera Workshop faculty. Our sincere thanks to you Eric, Vincent, and Bessie for all your support.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Passions and Dreams " Unstoppable"

This is a Sociological Phenomenon of a journey in the world of the Arts in America, when racism interfered with artistic possibilities on a very serious level. My story like so many, should be told to help empower the young artists of the future.

Recently I saw a documentary, " Unstoppable," an interview with three renaissance characters who came through the same period of artistic deprivation as myself during which our Passions and Dreams were crippled by racism.

Ossie Davis, Gordon Parks, and Melvin Van Peebles were gentlemen who refused to be blocked or ambushed by lesser intellects. Many of their experiences were very similar to my own; I have many cherished and privileged moments with Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, in the struggle to move forward.

In the words of Melvin Van Peebles' son, Mario, "My father didn't think outside of the box, but outside of the building." My experience at Morgan State University this summer afforded me the ability to help inspire young people "to think outside of the building."

To persevere is the order of the day, to preserve one's Passion and Dreams--our goal.
These are tall orders, and when obstacles are overcome, "You have run a great race."

Morgan State presented a two part interview series entitled "Wisdom from the Journey." I was the Artist chosen to be interviewed in front of a live audience, with questions and answers at the finale. I was deeply honored and humbled.
My journey has been a successful one, but one that has met many negatives along the way. I am still writing my memoir and I realize the importance of sharing my unique story.

My Passions and Dreams are alive and well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Artistic Fulfillment

As you will recall, I was invited to join Morgan State University's summer faculty for their Opera Workshop. Finding my way here to Baltimore and Morgan State was a piece of cake; however, if you had seen me driving around campus for a hour after I got here--you guessed it--frustration was high. I maintained my cool and eventually hooked up with our Artistic Director, Vincent Dion Stringer. It was a pleasure to see Vincent and he eased all my stress immediately.

I was escorted to the Alumni House, and my accommodations were simply spectacular! I'm staying in a full suite with all the amenities. It is an enriching experience because all of the teachers are housed on the same floor. The first to arrive were Ridley Chauvin (baritone), Ivan Griffin (baritone), Louise Toppin (soprano), and myself. Later Donna Roll arrived from Cambridge, Mass. The camaraderie that exists among the teachers is absolutely lovely, and the students are some of the finest in the nation, not to mention the musicians and directors.

We've already performed one opera, Highway One USA, and are in the process of preparing five others. Ridley Chauvin happens to be Denise Graves' voice teacher. Miss Graves was appearing at the Castleton Festival and Ridley was able to get four tickets, so Ivan, Vincent, Ridley, and I drove all the way to Piedmont, Virginia for the concert. The car ride was a riot and we laughed all the way there and back. We met Miss Graves and her family after her performance and took pictures. She was very gracious, but had a great deal of attention to pay to her children, which she managed with tremendous ease.

The beauty surrounding Morgan State is infectious: we are all up early in the morning to take advantage of the gym, going to the gorgeous lake where I ride my bike for four mile each morning, and, in short, preparing for our day far differently than how we begin in NYC.

We have five more weeks to go and we've hit a high with the first production. All the teachers are giving Master Classes and I'm glad to say mine was well received. We also have what is called "A Random Act of Opera" at Germanno's, a restaurant in Little Italy. Singers are chosen to perform after having their names drawn by the audience from a raffle basket, so they never know who goes next. They all sing very well and are, of course, treated to a lovely dinner. There is one more such night before the season ends.

Vincent has implemented a program which happens near the end of the season called "Wisdom from the Journey." The artist chosen is interviewed onstage before an audience and questioned about his or her life in this thing called Show Business. It seems that I am that artist who has been selected to share my journey. It is yet another moment in which I've finally experienced "Artistic Fulfillment."

(Photos: (1) KKS; (2) KKS, Ivan Griffin, Vincent Dion Stringer; (3) Vincent Dion Stringer, Ivan Griffin, Denise Graves, KKS, Alessandro Marc)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Monday evening New York got a breath of "Fresh Air" administered by the lovely Brianna Thomas, a voice of extreme beauty and excellence, a vocalist who takes us back to the days of great show business and innovative jazz stylings. It was a packed house of musicians, singers, teachers, students, and family members who came expecting something wonderful. However, we got much more: we witnessed the birth of a real artist.

I am most fortunate to have been her voice instructor at The New School for the past several semesters. Our work together not only secured her vocal column, but has given her an understanding of how to maintain vocal health and promote serious longevity. Brianna's talent is one that only God can take credit for; we are only blessed to have been a small part of her journey toward total professionalism. Our Executive Director, Martin Mueller, wore a smile of pride that shone like a beacon (see photo).

The Brianna Thomas Quartet performed recently at Dizzy's at Lincoln Center. Her evening's title was "Night Time is the Right Time," but when you listen to Brianna, any time is the right time for that breath of "Fresh Air."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Joy Spring

This past Friday evening my "Story Song Stage" class at The New School presented their final performance, ending this semester. We had a packed house and the students did themselves proud.

We had taken time and care to give our show an appropriate title: you guessed it, "Joy Spring," and one of the lovely young ladies in the class sang the very intricate jazz selection which lent its name to the show. Needless to say I was very proud because it was so well received.

Another source of pride was the participation of my wife, Etta, who accompanied one of the selections on cello. I took a chance and had the Bachianas Brasileiras by Villa Lobos performed by eight voices, one cello, piano, upright bass, and drums. It is a very serious classical work intended for eight cellists and one soprano. I had presented this work in my company before with great successes, but had never ventured until now to change the tempo to a slight Bossa Nova feel and only use one cello. IT WORKED!

There were many other highlights and the students felt quite accomplished.

Our show title was also appropriate because of the JOY I feel in being able to share that my vocal manual, The Art of Jazz and Bel Canto, is finished and published. This is not a how-to book, but a guide and support for vocal maintenance and longevity. I am most GRATEFUL to have gotten this done; next, is the memoir, which is still in the works.

Spring also brings the acknowledgement of my position this summer at Morgan State University as a faculty member for their Opera Workshop. My last experience there was so wonderful, my anticipation is over the top.

So "Joy Spring" is truly a beginning, not just the end of a semester. BRAVO class of "Story Song Stage" 2011. Thanks to my beloved cellist Etta, pianist Nori Ochiai, bass player Lucas Dedmon, and drummer Andrej Hochevar. It was a JOY.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Morgan State University

This past Thursday I journeyed to Baltimore's Morgan State University, where I had been engaged to conduct a vocal Master Class. I have been conducting Master Classes for many years at many different universities, but nothing could have prepared me for the warm and caring reception that I received at Morgan State.

The students were of superior vocal talent and gave themselves over emotionally and mentally with a wonderful sense of respect for their art and for me. From the moment I arrived I was afforded absolute care and love both in a most professional manner--a rarity in these times. I was met by Samuel Springer, Morgan State's musical director, whose gracious and gentlemanly attitude put me at total ease. We arrived at the Music School, which is one the most phenomenal state-of-the-art structures I've ever seen on a college campus, and it was beyond exciting. I noticed my picture was up all over the office doors, hallways, and bulletin boards. Sam, as he is called, showed me to the office of Vincent Dion Stringer, artistic director of the Fine Arts Program and my good friend. If you've followed my blogs you may remember when I blogged about Vincent's and my recent re-acquaintance. It was Vincent who invited me down to Morgan State, having known my work from past experience, and our reunion meeting was joyous!

Later, we were joined by Janice Chandler who now occupies a very special place in my heart. She is on Voice faculty and served as hostess for my class. To say that we hit it off is putting it mildly. She is, I'm told, a very fine soprano and, judging from our many conversations, shares some of the same standards as I. The Master Class went very well. The voices ranged from counter tenors (or male sopranist), to lovely lyric female voices, impassioned young male tenors, and baritones. I was very taken by a young man named Joseph Johnson whose rendition of Mean Ole Lion was just great. Another unusual gift was the counter tenor, Patrick--simply sensational. It is, of course, difficult to mention everyone, but I can't forget Raquel Jennings, whose star shone very brightly. I felt I was where I needed to be, giving back to those who are ready to receive.

I'll be back there during the summer on faculty for their Opera Workshop. I want to thank everyone who made it an experience never to be forgotten: Vincent Dion Stringer, Samuel Springer, Janice Chandler, Charles Hayes, Eric Conway, Dwight Cook, and Monica Lupton--all pillars of Morgan State University.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lucia, Calleja, Dessay, and the Baby Boomers

I have spent many years attending The Metropolitan Opera productions, and yesterday my brother and his wife treated me to the season's final performance of Lucia di Lammermoor, one of my favorite opera's and the role of Edgardo, one I have studied thoroughly and on several occasions have had the good fortune to sing excerpts from.

The last time I saw Lucia was the final performance of this opera by Joan Sutherland in the title role. She was in her sixties but was a force to be reckoned with. In short, it was some of the most spectacular singing I've ever heard. In this production, Lucia was sung by Natalie Dessay, a current favorite at the house. I could not help remembering Sutherland but I understood the magnitude of what it means to share such a role with an icon whom we just lost. Dessay is to be commended.

However, the very brightest moment for me was Joseph Calleja. I had been wanting to hear him and he did not disappoint in any way. He was indeed reminiscent of the great tenors of the past.
His honesty, masculinity, beauty of tone, and forthright attitude was an obvious crowd pleaser. He and the male contingent, baritone Ludovic Tezier and bass Kwangchul Youn, were as solid as a rock.

I was pleased to be sitting in a box seat, which my sister-in-law's family has held for years. I was very aware of the audience which was primarily made up of Baby Boomers. There was a warm, sincere, and friendly atmosphere. A sense that the audience knew how important it is to champion excellence and beauty at a time when the country and the world are in need, and that we were, just for four hours, able to recharge and hopefully take away the spirit of this performance.

We ended our day by having dinner at Don Giovanni's, at 44th and 9th. It was a near perfect experience and to this very moment I still hear Mr. Calleja's gentle and heartfelt outpouring of ("Tu che a Dio"). As a fellow tenor and teacher he has my vote. BRAVO!!!!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"My Great Inspiration, Happy Birthday Leontyne Price"

February 10th marked the birthday of Miss Leontyne Price, the one artist who inspired me above all others.

Her birthday reminds us all of a phenomenal career that paved the the way for many African-American opera singers; Miss Price's bigger than life personality, regal bearing, beauty of tone, and commitment to her art are so appreciated by myself and opera lovers woldwide. I have a special connection with Miss Price in the fact that my father Leslie Scott sang Porgy to her Bess on tour of the opera houses of Europe. I was privileged as a boy to witness their performance in Porgy and Bess at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City in the 1950s.

Miss Price was also very supportive of my career, and, to put it in her words: "We have strong and deep memories, don't we?"

Her voice was a gift to the world and her standards an example to which we should aspire. Frequently I wrote to her. "To me you are the evidence there is God."

Happy Birthday, Leontyne Price.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stars and Stripes and Super Bowl XLV

This past Sunday countless millions of Americans and viewers around the world witnessed one of the most horrific moments that a singer could experience: not to remember the words of her National Anthem. Christina Aguilera has long been an artist whose excitement and creative singing style infected the entire musical community. Like many, I have also championed her talent, but that kind of "flub" was hard to understand.

Recently, I posted about my student Wendy Gerbier who sang the Anthem for President Obama's mid-term campaign appearance in Connecticut. There's something to be said for having respect for the opportunity regardless of your own accomplishments, as I have had that honor twice in my career for the New York Mets.

I am a totally committed singer/entertainer and at something like Super Bowl XLV, the Anthem is part of the sermon, "Every performance should be like your first."

Update: Interesting that there are no Google images of Ms. Aguilera's Super Bowl performance.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

2011, The Semester Begins

This semester starts with a bang!!!

All my students have returned improved, energized, and ready to move forward. I've also been blessed with new voices that are sure to succeed as professionals. The new voices are young singers who aspire to careers in opera, jazz, and musical theatre. I welcome the challenge of meeting their needs and watching them like those in past semesters excel as they achieve the goals they've set for themselves. They pay me the utmost honor.

It was with tremendous joy and excitement that I was able to share the news that I was being hired by Morgan State University to give a Master Class in Musical Theatre for vocalists during the coming semester. Later, they've invited me to participate in the Summer Opera Workshop alongside such luminaries as Denyce Graves and Donna Roll. Two extraordinary artists whose careers have instructed and inspired many. I'm honored to share as a faculty member and also that its director, Vincent Stringer, believed in my abilities to inspire and educate our next generation.

This semester also recognizes the return of Ms. Tamara Cashour as pianist for my opera classes at Mannes College and Mr. Nori Ochiai, my pianist for my cabaret class. A special welcome to Mr. Collin DeJoseph who will be the accompanist for this semester's class "Story, Song, and Stage" at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music.

So we begin 2011.