In Praise of Music Teachers & Vocal Coaches

Upon the Shoulders of Teachers

It is to this illustrious Spanish artist, with a moved, devoted, and grateful heart, that I owe all my preparation and my artistic formation as an actress and musician. This elect woman, who, besides giving me her precious teaching, gave me her whole heart as well…

So said Maria Callas of the coloratura soprano Elvira de Hidalgo, her vocal teacher at the Athens Conservatoire. Such expression of gratitude and respect is common throughout the history of opera and music generally.

Here at our Festival our artists often talk of the respect they have for their music teachers and voice coaches. One such teacher is the tenor Dennis O Neill (Wales International Academy of Voice; Visiting Professor of Singing at the Royal Academy of Music). He gives so much to help bring out the best in others.

The wonderful Laura Sarti (mezzo-soprano) has been a professor and Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music & Drama since the 1970s, and has gained a formidable reputation in the world of Bel Canto. We were lucky to have her attend our Grand Opening. A number of artists performing at the Festival have been tutored by her and admire her greatly.

And as Laura Sarti said to Marie Soulier, the respect is mutual:

They are not only gifted and dedicated singers, but artists aware of the debt they owe great composers.

Recently, Marie and I met some wonderful music teachers and vocal coaches, including Dinah Harris (Royal College of Music), along with Neil Mackie and Kathleen Livingstone (Royal Academy of Music). It was evident that these teachers have an immense sense of pride for their pupils. They give emotional and practical support to their pupils, preparing them for a future in music.

Behind many great composers and singers, a teacher stood. Florian Gassmann paid for the musical education of a young Antonio Salieri and tutored him himself. Such was the impact on Salieri, that for all but the wealthiest of his pupils (including Beethoven, Liszt and Schubert) he gave his lessons for free.

As it was for Gassmann, Salieri and de Hidalgo, so it is with O Neill, Sarti, Harris, Mackie, Livingstone and all the other wonderful music teachers and voice coaches of today. They give their talent to help others shine. The artists performing at the Festival will be the beacons for the next generation.

To the music teachers and voice coaches of the past, present and future, we thank you.
© Paul Bay