The Kashu-do Experience

As we prepare for Kashu-do Intensive Summer Sessions (KISS), many things come to mind.  How does the future look?  A recent masterclass in Vienna reminded me of what we do best–

we provide a safe environment for singers of all levels and collaborative pianists to explore their talents and make the next steps in their development guided by some of the most talented teachers around.   

Our faculty this year includes the extraordinary tenor, Bruce Ford and the fabulous soprano, Rosalind Plowright.

Bruce Ford, tenor

Rosalind Plowright, soprano

While many programs claim giant leaps in the space of a short program, we know that anything that looks like a big leap is only the culmination of many preparatory steps.  The truth about becoming a great singer is not glamorous.  Operatic singing is hard work:

The video should start to play at 14:10, at which point…

The man in the audience says to Florez:  “I think you are the best ‘leggiero’ tenor of all time, for the phrasing, diction, coloratura, etc.  I want to ask one more thing–Maintaining the timbre of the voice from piano to forte across the entire range, is it a gift or is it hard work?”

Florez responds:

Singing is very hard work in solitude–alone in a room with a piano, trying to find solutions!  

Maestro Armiliato agrees.  The soprano, Elena Mosuc quotes the celebrated Romanian composer, Georges Enescu who famously said: “1% talent, 99% hard work.”

Jussi Björling was famously quoted saying:  “I get very angry when people say I am gifted!  It erases all the hard work I had to do to get here.” 

Whether a lot of that work was done when one is very young or later in life, building the muscular coordination and strength to sing opera takes time, patience and discipline. To become a first-rate musician and then understand how music, text, voice, movement, emotion, psychology, etc come together as a natural experience is a life-long process.

We take that process full on!  We take the student where he or she is and go from there.  Whether amateur or aspiring professional or professional, the principles are the same, even though the singers may be at different points in their development.

This tenor coming from baritone is very experienced, but making a change from baritone to tenor is a very difficult process.

In an interview with August Everding, the great heldentenor, James King said that his transition was like going through hell…

The video begins at 2:30

“Es war 4 Jahren…Es war eine Hölle!”

On a day when the above tenor is dealing with a cold, we were able to work on fundamentals and even on a less than an optimal day, the process still leads to beautiful and efficient singing. Even with the cold two days later he was able to concentrate on the principles we worked on two days before.

The next video is of a young full-voiced soprano trying her hand at “Pace, pace mio dio…” in front of people after working on it a little at a time over a period of time.

More importantly, this and the previous video show the balance we seek to find between working intensively and seriously and creating an environment that is relaxed and playful.

I take the process very seriously.  I too made the transition to tenor, beginning as a baritone.  While training myself over a period of time, I always got input from people who really know me and my voice.  A process like this puts the singer in a very vulnerable position, especially the more experienced singer who goes through a change after professional success.  Most of those people who allow me the time to relearn and retrain without judgment teach at Kashu-do courses.  We teachers always share our own singing/playing and imperfections during the course to encourage students to get into the mindset of growing.

We try to avoid locking students up into some absolute goal during the short time that these courses last.  Instead, we give them tools so they may continue their development when they leave our presence.

The main point is that we continue to develop.  This is our greatest and most important principle. In these times, everyone is interested in a false illusion of perfection.  In such a culture, we are protected from the arduous process of becoming truly good at what we do.  Hence, young people come into singing expecting someone to flip a switch and fix all of their problems.  My personal hope is that our sharing of our own trench work will encourage young people to allow themselves to be patient in the process.  We should all be conscious that top professionals have lots of moments of imperfection in learning a new and challenging role, working for the first time with the music of a new composer or genre, etc.

I wish with all my heart that top professionals would share their private preparations, showing the chinks in their armor so that we can get back to the reality of classical singing.  No one is perfect, no one is perfectly secure, no one is complete!  All of us who are dedicated struggle every day to be better!

Nevertheless, a process should yield high-level results!  Below are a few examples of my professional clients, who have experienced the process over years and who make their living as active singers in opera, concert, early music, etc.  Several of them are also gifted teachers and often return to teach at our courses:

Raymond Ayers, baritone

Helene Lindqvist, soprano

Zachary Wilder, tenor

Meta Powell, soprano

Sophie Junker, soprano; Emilie Renard, mezzo-soprano

Anna Maria Niedbala, soprano

Katherine Osborne, mezzo

Nadine Weissmann

These are a few of the professional singers we guide through our principles:  Musicianship, vocal balance, stagecraft and above all love and respect for the art form we aspire to practice; dogged determination in the pursuit of excellence and patience in the pursuit of lasting results.

I hope you will take a serious look at our program.  Detailed information on our Website!

For further information about our programs and especially KISS (Kashu-do Intensive Summer Sessions), contact Dr. Jean-Ronald LaFond.

© Apri 26, 2018

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