Sunday, July 3, 2016

Interview with NYC Vocal Coaches - Shane Schag and Chun-Wei Kang

Vocal coaches Shane Schag and Chun-Wei Kang, teachers at NYC's famed Manhattan School of Music, will be teaching in Singapore from 9 to 16 July, with a public masterclass at Madison Academy of Music on 10 July. Slots for private classes and the masterclass are still available. Check out!blank/yf326 and!musical-theatre-1/nwizp for more information and book a slot for your class!

We had a discussion with both Shane and Chun-Wei to understand the finer points of vocal coaching, and what we can look forward to in their teaching trip to Singapore. Here's what we talked about:

The Mad Scene: Take us back to the beginning, what inspired you back then that made you choose vocal coaching as your current profession?

Chun-Wei: I have always loved story-telling and languages so, when I was introduced to vocal coaching in my Master's, I thought it would be perfect for me. I have been enjoying figuring out the story lines, and finding different colors in different languages with the singers.

Shane: I grew up playing for singers in my father's local church and was "bitten by the collaborative bug" from an early age. I have always loved the social aspect of vocal coaching and enjoy watching singers find the full potential of their instrument. For me, this has been a key motivating factor from the beginning.

Vocal coach Chun-Wei Kang

The Mad Scene: How is vocal coaching different from taking lessons with a voice teacher?

Shand and Chun-Wei: A voice teacher focuses on technique and building the instrument. A vocal coach focuses on other aspects of singing, such as learning the music and pronunciation correctly, interpretation, characterization and presentation.

The Mad Scene: Are there areas from either discipline that overlap?

Shand and Chun-Wei: Depending on the training and experience of the two professions, sometimes a voice teach can also help on the pronunciation and interpretation (However, in our 14 years of working with different teachers, very rarely does one have the time to do so). On the other hand, a vocal coach can sometimes solve a technical problem by correcting the way the vowels are pronounced.

The Mad Scene: What counts, in your opinion, as a successful vocal performance? What are the factors that make up a good vocal performance?

Shand and Chun-Wei: In our opinion, a successful performance is when we don't get bored or fall asleep (haha~)! When we go to a performance, we love to see 1) an efficient use of technique 2) true and natural emotions 3) authentic and meaningful body movements which all help to give the singer an ease of performance which communicates directly to the audience in a visceral, vulnerable way. This is a truly successful vocal performance. Singing with no inhibitions!

Vocal coach Shane Schag
The Mad Scene: What are factors that one should consider when it comes to choosing repertoire?

Shand and Chun-Wei: A singer should ALWAYS know his/her strengths both in voice (fach/technique) and personality. This will help in deciding the kind of repertoire he or she should sing. Also, we don't believe in singing only the "greatest hits" of the operatic literature. Doing some research and finding some lesser known, yet equally well written arias by various composers serves many singers well. In addition, the opera and Broadway worlds are frequently being programmed in the same season at the same opera house, so it would be wise to find a useful musical theater selection to have in one's aria package.

The Mad Scene: Having taught in NYC for so long, how are standards different there that sets it apart from the rest of the world?

Shand and Chun-Wei: In NYC, we've got one of the most famous opera houses in the world, the Metropolitan Opera House, all the Broadway shows, the NY Philharmonic, and Carnegie Hall. People come from all over the world to make music and to study in NYC. It is so competitive that you have to keep improving yourself and pushing yourself to be the best you can be CONSTANTLY! This constant search for knowledge and a razor-sharp performing edge is what is needed to survive. As a result, the standards rise higher and higher. It is a wonderful musical environment in which to thrive.

The Mad Scene: What do you look forward to experiencing during your trip to Singapore? Professionally and otherwise?

Shand and Chun-Wei: We've worked with some talented singers who came from Singapore, and we're very excited to have this opportunity to collaborate with Vocal Coach Asia to work with local musicians and share our musical experiences in this unique atmosphere. And, of course, we are looking forward to seeing the sights and eating all the delicious food we can find!

Once again, Shane Schag and Chun-Wei Kang will be teaching in Singapore from 9 to 16 July, with a public masterclass at Madison Academy of Music on 10 July. Slots for private classes and the masterclass are still available. Check out!blank/yf326 and!musical-theatre-1/nwizp for more information and book a slot for your class!

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