Vocal Rising Stars, Seventh Season: Day 4 by Steven Blier

Steven Blier, Artistic Director of the Terrance W. Schwab Vocal Rising Stars (VRS), shares his impressions in this annual blog series. VRS is a week-long mentoring intensive for aspiring vocalists at Caramoor.

The atmosphere was, as I expected, a little different today. No guest coaches, just Michael and me—and our first work-through in concert order. Michael, Chris, and I decided who would be playing which songs on Sunday (with some possibilities of change for the Tuesday concert in New York). And it was time to blend the gentle, patient Zen-master approach with a bit of the “come-on-people-let’s-get-our-act-together” Realpolitik of getting a concert ready.

Except for a little bit of an explosion on my part about the Verdi song, I think Michael and I behaved like true midwives, coaxing, exhorting, cajoling, encouraging, but not letting up. The truth is that the cast is doing beautiful work, but they sometimes just needed a bit more energy, confidence, concentration, daring. Everyone was being a little careful, and you can’t sing Verdi carefully. It’s funny what Italian music brings out of me: a Steve I don’t know very well, a firecracker, an assertive guy who screams things like “NO!” and “MORE! MORE!” and “ARTICULATE FOR GOD’S SAKE!” and a few things I can’t print in a blog. Thank God I was coaching Shea, who has the composure of a Benedictine monk. And he gave me what I asked for—the sardonic, energized bon vivant of the “Brindisi.”

Music is about faith: you have to believe your instrument works. Sure, a good technique is a huge part of being a confident performer, but you also need a dose of moxie to exploit that technique and use it to its fullest capacity. My exhortation today was, “Don’t think about what Giuseppe asked for yesterday and let it immobilize you. Don’t be cautious and try to figure out what Michael and I want. No, put one foot in the prompter’s box and deliver the song! In Technicolor!”

The Schwab Vocal Rising Stars will conclude their week at Caramoor with a performance on Sunday, March 15.

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