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Lori Fredrics

What's your earliest memory of music?

This memory comes from when I was about three years old. I remember my best friend had a piano and her older sister was practicing for her lessons. The instrument fascinated me. I really wanted a piano!

Why, when, what did you start singing? Do you play / have you played any other instruments?

When I was about 7 years old I kept asking my father for a piano. He said that if he bought me a nice piano I would have to practice every day.  He then took me to the music shop in the local mall and they had guitars too. He told me that if he bought me a $25 guitar instead of a piano, I could practice it as much or as little as I wanted. Being a bit intimidated by the thought of making a commitment to practicing, I chose the guitar, however I did probably practice that one and the much nicer ones that followed, every day for the next ten years!

I did finally get a piano when I was a teen, a lousy spinet!

What kinds / styles / genres of music do you sing? Which styles did you start singing in which order?

My first guitar teacher taught me folk style guitar and I started playing and singing songs from a “Pete Seeger” songbook filled with traditional American folk songs. I recently spoke to my guitar teacher from back then and she remarked that I was very serious about my lessons and that I was one of the only kids who was willing to sing to their guitar playing.  I don’t remember feeling “serious” about music, just interested in how it worked.

Later on I became interested in rock and popular music and played in a number of bands in high school. I also wrote over a hundred of original sings. I first took classical lessons because I knew from my mom who had trained in ballet, that if you wanted to be good at something you should get classical training. I decided to be a voice major in college because it became apparent that my singing skills were superior to my skills as an instrumentalist or a writer. I chose classical over jazz, the two choices for college study in that day, because I thought classical would be the greater challenge for me.

What is Bel Canto?

The term “bel canto” literally means “beautiful singing" in Italian. It is both a 19th century style of music and a singing technique.

Constantly flowing, unforced airflow is required to produce and sustain a legato phrase in the bel canto style. The command of the breathing mechanism achieved by a singer in order to accomplish this goal strengthens the voice so it can project without strain. This is one of the reasons it is so helpful for any singer to study.

Many great opera singers, even ones who don’t sing “bel canto” repertoire, study the technique. Christine Goerke, one of todays top Wagnerians, credits her skill to study of the technique. Frank Sinatra mentioned that his style was based on an adaptation of the technique.

What was the last / is the current music you're practising / performing / singing?

Presently I am learning a piece for Vibraphone, electric bass, piano and soprano by the percussionist and composer Peter Jarvis [wikiwand] called “An Engine Powered Band”. I participated in more than a dozen world premieres last autumn.

(How) do the techniques vary between singing in different styles?

Although there are some differences in technique such as laryngeal position, stylistic requirements of different styles do not necessarily change the way I teach technique. For example, some popular styles can use a breathy vocal tone.  Breathy vocal tone comes from not closing the glottis* completely. Good technique teaches a singer to how to bring the vocal cords together to make a solid tone. All singers should be able to make a solid vocal tone by closing their vocal folds (cords).  Then it is up to them whether they add “breath” into to the tone or not and if so, how much.  Not being able to control all the aspects of voice production that are possible to control is a lack of technique. Technique gives you artistic choices.

*the part of the larynx consisting of the vocal cords and the slit-like opening between them. It affects voice modulation through expansion or contraction.

Can / How do singers know what style(s) suits their voice?

Any voice can sing any style of music; however being great at it is another story. Singers of high-energy rock, Broadway belters, dramatic opera singers are physically different beings. They are as much born as they are created by skill. Not everyone can sing the songs Ann Wilson from the rock group Heart sings, or Led Zeppelin or the role of Elphaba in “Wicked” or Wagner’s Brünnhilde. Yes, singing these things may be possible but an attempt by a singer without the right vocal instrument to sing this repertoire the way it is meant to be sung will cause damage. Singing the repertoire the wrong way shows disrespect for the music.

My mother was a dancer who worked for the Rodgers & Hammerstein Company in the 1950s. She did the tour of “Annie Get Your Gun” with musical theater legend Mary Martin who was a lyric voice with a lighter mixed belt. Ethel Merman who was known as having the loudest belt voice in show business originated the show. Although Martin tried to do the show her way, singing the songs meant for Ethel Merman caused such stress to her voice she had to quit the show mid-tour. Learning inside information about how things worked from a young age gave me an advantage from the very start.

When a young singer comes to my studio we explore all different kinds of music. If a singer has an open mind they can often find a really good strategic direction. I have one student now who has a feel for jazz and a voice that suits it as well. We are still working on classical repertoire and show music, so that she will be versatile and develop over all singing skills. If this young lady wanted to achieve the highest level of success, I am pretty convinced that it would be as a jazz singer.

Sometimes a singer has a preconceived idea of how and what they should sing and that is more important to them than achieving a high artistic goal or even the health and longevity of their voice. If a singer has a baritone voice and they want to sing the music of their favorite band in the original key and that band is fronted by a tenor, they are going to both hurt themselves and not be very good at what they are attempting! If a young lady with a light soprano voice wants to sing like a Broadway belting alto, she is not going to get a first rate result.

How long (i.e. months, years...) is the longest you've taugh someone for?

Most singers never really leave the studio. Singers graduate and still come back for occasional sessions. Students I have taught from my London days or Texas days still take lessons on skype.

Please mention Cheeky Promo when you book skype lessons with Lori.

She's offering an EXTREMELY DISCOUNTED deal of 10 lessons for $600 US

During the year of 2016 her rates for Skype lessons are

$80 per hour, $60 per 45 mins, $40 per half-hour through Paypal.

I think after a number of years, 3-5 maybe, it is good for most singers to move on from any teacher, especially if that teacher is their first teacher. There is so much to learn and nobody can offer everything. Also maybe another teacher can explain the same concept in a way that gets through to you better.  That does not mean that a singer can’t come back to get input from a former teacher as a trusted advisor. Students who go on to study with others always find a welcome door to return. I myself studied with over a dozen teachers and took away something important from each of them.

What I do not permit is a student to study with another teacher concurrently because I am always trying to achieve something very specific with each student and other input in technique is courter-productive. Also I have a perfect thirty-year record of no compliant students developing nodes or other similar pathologies while under my direction, I will not risk my reputation on what other teachers do. I have no problem if my students “coach” with voice professionals and I  also“coach” the students of other teachers. Coaching is a term used in the classical singing world for receiving musical, diction or dramatic instruction. Instruction of singing technique is done by a professional known as a  singing teacher not a coach.

How young / old is too young / old to start singing lessons?

In the old days it used to be the best wisdom to wait until at least the mid teens to begin voice study. Those were the days when there were many high-quality children’s choirs available and when children all studied a musical instrument. These days kids sing from an early age and often take part in theater programs that make strenuous demands. Seeing children on TV receiving attention because their voices sound like mature adults influences kids and their parents. Usually it is not a natural sound for them and they are stressing and damaging their voices by trying to sound grown-up.

The optimal thing is for kids to take instrumental lessons and sing naturally like kids until their voices mature, but if a kid is singing a lot and performing they need professional guidance, therefore I do accept children into my studio, mainly to protect them from damage and also to establish good habits.

Sadly most of the best kids and teens voices are ruined by the time they become adults due to damaging singing techniques and bad habits that cause shjjtress to the voice.  A child’s larynx is made of soft cartilage and very susceptible to damage.

Your husband, Howard, is also a musician. How did you meet?

We were introduced by my grad-school roommate in at UT Austin. She knew him from her undergrad days in Oberlin.

Howard is a composer; what's it like living with a composer / collaborating with a composer?

I can’t imagine having a partner that didn’t understand music on a deep level. Sometimes when we are listening to or discussing music the thought comes to me about how grateful I am that we share this. As I mentioned before, my mother is a show biz and arts-world insider and though she is not a musician, she is a very informed listener. My dad was not a professional musician but he listened to classical music, opera and the finest jazz and was fluent in three of the five major European languages that opera singers sing in and coached me in them. My best friend is an educated fellow singer who also comes from a family in the music business. You can see that I grew up in and live in a very culturally rich environment. This makes it really difficult to interact with less musically knowledgeable people, therefore I don’t discuss music with anyone who isn’t either an educated musician or my student, it is just too frustrating.

How much of your musical (inspiration / interest / experience / history..) do you think seeps into Howards music?

You will have to ask him!

Has he ever written music especially for you to sing?

Yes Howard has written songs for me and part that I premiered in his opera.

Have you composed any music? Have you composed any music for Howard to perform?

As I mentioned before, I started out as a singer-songwriter.  Yes Howard and I collaborate constantly on funny songs to amuse ourselves.  We used to have a singing telegram company and we customized songs for our clients, sometime I wrote the lyrics and he sang them.  We also co-wrote and recorded a song about our pet guinea pig, Fidel called “Fidel the communist Pig” which I think is a rather fun song.

Why did you go into teaching?

I have always been interested in how the voice works. The wonderful thing about teaching is that not only can you help other people achieve their goals, but I get to work on music I love that I could never sing because it is not suitable for my particular voice and about which I have lots of ideas.

When I was an undergrad, my teacher had me teach some of my fellow students while she was away and I felt, to my surprise that I was able to help them. I started professionally at that time, by teaching rock instrumentalists who wanted to improve their voices. I felt that teaching was a big responsibility, I didn’t want to mess with anyone who’s main purpose in life was to be a singer until I felt confident that I knew what to do.  I was able to help these rock musicians and they started recommending me to each other and I had quite a few customers in a short time. When I went to grad school I was given a teaching assistantship even though my undergrad degree was not in education and I had not even taken my voice pedagogy course yet. The faculty thought that based on my artistry and my ability to communicate that I would be a good teacher.

What did you enjoy the most about teaching?

I enjoy seeing my students become excellent singers and that their high level of skill wins them opportunities to do what they love. I am continually amazed at how well almost each and every one of my students do!  Of course all credit for success and most of the blame for not achieving goals has to go on the artist and not the artist’s teacher. But when everybody in a voice studio is doing great, the teacher must be doing something right even if it is simply not interfering with the gifts of the singer.

What have you done musically, since returning to the USA?

Since returning to the US I have sung quite a bit of new music including world premieres and also had the unique experience of being the first female actress to play the role of Willy Wonka on the professional stage.

How do you define or measure your success as a musician?

I define success in the arts and presenting something of high quality to the audience in a way they can enjoy it.  I feel the responsibility to the composers & writers to put 120% into my preparation and to do justice to their creations.  It is my job to both communicate the music and entertain the audience. So it is not about me really and my success it is about the music itself and the listeners.

Please mention Cheeky Promo when you book skype lessons with Lori.

She's offering an EXTREMELY DISCOUNTED deal of 10 lessons for $600 US

During the year of 2016 her rates for Skype lessons are

$80 per hour, $60 per 45 mins, $40 per half-hour through Paypal.

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