This week, I began coaching a tenor who is studying at Juilliard and lives near Sunny Patch. A lifetime ago, I was a vocal coach at an opera house and a studio pianist for a Met Opera singer. Most of my income as a freelancer and staff pianist at Juilliard came from accompanying singers and doing this kind of thing. It suited me and I was very busy. I could sightread anything, transpose at sight, and cared a lot about the story behind everything. I coached pitch and diction, too. Not all pianists have the appetite to deal with diva temperaments, but I found working with singers interesting and their personalities fascinating. It's been awhile, though. Ever since moving out to Westchester County, I haven't been in the thick of this.
Now a dozen years later, a bodybuilding tenor with bleached blond hair came by to sing Puccini and Verdi. As soon as he walked through the door, I was immediately transported to another time when I wouldn't blink an eyelash over whatever came in. The kid behaved and dressed like a cartoon character! He reminded me of the suave wanna-be, overly-confident stud, flexing his muscles and courting the uninterested, bookish Belle in Beauty and the Beast. He also spoke with some hoity-toity, over-articulated English, despite being a native American speaker, and dropped names and unnecessary details incessantly. Oh GOD! I wanted to roll my eyes, how did I ever put up with this crap?
But you know what? This kid opened his mouth and could he sing! A huge, bright, youthful and out-of-control voice came tumbling out. His Italian was beautiful. I corrected pitch and timing, made suggestions about breathing and different ways to approach the high notes, got him familiar with the accompaniment and pounded out notes he should anchor himself with.... He had such a great attitude when it came to the singing, and in no time at all, the hour was up! Fun stuff, actually. I had forgotten how fun this could be.
He's a poor artist type and can barely pay me anything. He felt bad and was apologetic. If you need a personal trainer, I can fit you in! No, no, I said. I also give massages, he continued. Oh God! I said aloud and laughed. You know what? Let's just keep it simple. I'm fine with what you can pay.
He's coming twice a week and maybe, eventually, there will be others. That would certainly be wild. I really never thought I'd be coaching again, much less from as far away as Sunny Patch. What a welcome surprise.