Watts’ Happening: Back to School!
Now it's time to focus on the Fall schedule. If you haven't taken a look, check out the great roster of classes we have lined up. While we'd love to offer in person classes, we're going to wait a bit longer before coming back together in the classroom. Plus, being online has given us an opportunity to open our doors to anyone, anywhere in the world!
Alongside our ever-popular "Sing Your Story" class (taught by me) and "Piano for Singers" with Jerry Phelps, we are also bringing back "Pardon my French" with JP Perreaux (for all you Francophiles out there!). Want to test out your inner pop star? Look no further than Farah Alvin's "Pop Shop". You can work those lyric interpretations with Barb Jungr (all the way from ENGLAND!) Been a little shy about singing? Try "Sing Out Louise: Unleashing Your Inner Singer" with Jennie Litt. And if getting your singing chops back in shape after a long pandemic is in order, don't hesitate to sign up for Carmen Cancel's "The Training Room". Jazz more your style? People are raving about "Swingtime” with Michael Kanan. We are thrilled to welcome Natalie Douglas, David Friedman, and Darnell White to the Singnasium family! Check the site for their class offerings starting in October. Want to perform a favorite song? Try out our monthly Open Mic series, Singapalooza!
The bottom line? We have something for everyone in our Fall line up, with more workshops and offerings on the way.
We are so excited to continue our online offering this fall and know that while we'll be back together again soon, at least we have singing - from anywhere in the world! - to keep us creative and thriving.
Welcome New Board Members!
We weren’t going to let a pandemic stand in the way of expanding our Singnasium family! We’re so excited to welcome two new members to our Board of Directors! Please join us in welcoming Fritz Stewart and Ann Sardini.
Ann Sardini is a financial expert and transformation leader. Her roles as a CFO and Senior Executive span multi-nationals to early-stage startups across the health and wellness, retail, and media sectors at companies such as Weight Watchers International, QVC, VitaminShoppe.com, Sesame Street and NBC. Her experience at the intersection of female-focused businesses, subscription services, and the application of technology in the consumer space has enabled her to bring a multi-faceted perspective to her current consulting and board service. Ann currently serves as a Director of Treehouse Foods where she chairs the Compensation Committee and previously served as Lead Independent Director and Audit Committee Chair. She also has served as an Independent Director, Audit Committee Chair and Restructuring Committee Member for Pier 1 Imports, and chairs the board of Ideal Protein, a privately-held healthcare company. Ann was named to the WomenInc List of 2018 Most Influential Corporate Board Directors for her public company service. She has also served on the boards of not-for-profit Promise Project Fund for the City of New York, and of Weight Watchers Danone China. Along with her board service, Ann leads In Progress Advisors, which she founded in 2013 to provide companies with hands-on strategic and practical counsel for successful growth, M&A, capital structuring and exit strategies. She brings sought-after financial, transformation, and commercial expansion expertise to consumer goods and services companies, including those that are driving expansion via technology and direct-to-consumer brand extension. Her list of accomplishments is incredibly impressive and we are so fortunate to have her join us! Ann lives in New York City with her husband Chris Shriver, a Production Designer and Art Director for feature films, television, and streaming video channels.
As a tutor, teacher and performer, Fritz believes strongly in Singnasium’s mission. He hails from the pacific northwest where he’s known fellow board member, Eve Eaton, since high school. “We sang together, but when it came to musicals, she was cast in the leads, while I was relegated to the orchestra pit or in the back, where no one could see me ‘dance’.” An avid violin player, he spent many years singing, starting one of the first acapella groups at Stanford University, where he double-majored in Mathematical and Computational Sciences and Music. He remained there to earn a Master’s Degree in Computer Science, during which time he also served as a Teaching Fellow. He then moved to NYC for a brief corporate gig before heading to Hawaii, where he taught math, music, computer science, and physics. “I would likely still be there had I not decided to pursue a career as a professional musician.” Off to the Orchestral Conducting program at the University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, he earned his Master’s Degree there while serving as a Teaching Assistant in the Music Theory department and as adjunct faculty in the Math department. Upon graduation, he spent the next four years as a music director of musical theater and vocal coach, performing in two national tours, many regional productions, and one ill-fated Broadway workshop. Since then, he’s been working as a private tutor in Manhattan, mostly in the field of standardized tests and college admissions.
Janie Press Can't Sit Still
At Singnasium, we love getting to know our students and then spreading the word on their talents and adventures! Janie Press has been actively involved in Singnasium for a number of years now and we’re excited to share her story!
Janie Press is passionate about music. She sees music as a powerful vehicle to tell a story. That’s what drew her to cabaret, which is all about telling a story through music.
That’s also what drew Janie to a new cause that she’s now fully devoted to. About a year ago, Janie was watching 60 Minutes, and they were featuring an Italian pianist, composer and conductor named Francesco Lotoro. Francesco has spent 30 years working tirelessly to find, recover, study, archive, and then record and perform thousands of pieces of music that were composed and played by prisoners in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Despite horrific conditions of deprivation and despair, these victims found ways to make music. Francesco has recovered over 8,000 scores. “The music covers everything from classical, gypsy, folk, even cabaret!” Janie explained. “I was so moved, I knew I wanted to help him in some way.”
And that’s just what Janie did. She reached out to Francesco’s foundation in Italy to see if she could get involved. “They didn’t have anything established in the United States, so after a few conversations, I decided to start my own non-profit to support his efforts.” Holocaust Music Lost & Found, Inc. was established as of June 2021. Its mission includes to rescue more music that was written in concentration camps. And to share that music with the world, inspiring audiences to see how music can free the human spirit. Janie describes the work as “one of the most thrilling and gratifying things I’ve ever done.”
Though Janie Press has a full plate, she still finds time for her own music and story-telling. While juggling her nonprofit work, Janie is also preparing for a cabaret show. This will be Janie’s fifth solo cabaret to date. It is her first, however, under the direction of Lennie Watts.
The show is called “Retire: Who’s Got Time?” and it’s about musicians of a certain age (65 and up) who are still out there performing. “The oldest person represented in the show is Mel Brooks, who is 95! I’m also showcasing Judy Collins, Elton John, Barry Manilow, and many others. I was amazed there were so many talented, older people out there still getting up and performing and doing it so well!”
Originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, Janie quickly found her way to New York City. She built a successful career in the fashion industry. Then about 20 years ago, Janie thought she would like to learn how to sing. She discovered Helen Baldassare’s cabaret classes and fell in love with the cabaret world! She later joined Lennie Watts’s “Sing Your Story” class.
Check out Janie’s new show, directed by Lennie Watts, on October 8th and 21st at Don’t Tell Mama!
The show is called “Retire: Who’s Got Time?” Certainly, Janie Press does not.
Watt's Happening: Happy Spring!
One of the things I am most proud of at Singnasium is the community that has been created. I get lots of messages from students and teaching artists about how wonderful our Singnasium family is. I constantly hear the words SUPPORTIVE, SAFE, TRUSTWORTHY, LOVING, WARM, and INCLUSIVE when people describe their experiences in our classes, workshops, and open mics. In this newsletter, you will see how a group of singers from the Sing Your Story classes have kept the community spirit going over the last year. You will meet our 2 wonderful interns who have helped to up our social media presence, and get a little insight into one of our students, Julie Salzano.
If you haven’t seen our One Voice Project video, take a few minutes to see how the Singnasium family united to form one glorious voice.
Enjoy the beautiful weather, stay safe, and keep singing!!
On a weekly basis, a group of fabulous women get together to gab. What do they have in common? They all have taken Singnasium’s Sing Your Story class. But their connection now runs much deeper. We’ll let them fill you in!
Debbie Zecher: When the lockdown was announced and Singnasium had not yet (brilliantly) pivoted to online classes, I realized that my Wednesday afternoon Sing Your Story class had become something of an anchor for my week and I would be bereft without my classmates.
Barbara Kaplan: Our friend, Debbie Zecher, suggested that maybe we’d like to get together for a social meeting…no singing. What a great idea!
Mercedes Herman: We ladies just felt we were in limbo...we knew that zoom classes were coming soon, yet we felt disconnected.
Ronni Faust: The weekly Zoom meeting helped keep us all together and provide a forum for all manner of discussion — music, food, psychology, hair, fashion — everything under the sun!
Barbara: In the beginning, we were mostly getting to know each other in a way we didn’t in class…you might call it “Tell Your Story.” Little by little, we developed a strong bond and we all felt really safe with each other, whether we attended each meeting or only showed up when we could. For me, having gone to college at an art school in Manhattan, it was the closest thing I could think of as sorority sisters.
Debbie: And that Zoom group, “Cab Gab” as Marge Helenchild has termed it, has continued to be an anchor through this crazy year; we’ve now met every single week for 13 months. There are about 10-12 regulars and we have laughed and cried, shuddered at the state of the world and marveled as the world began to right itself. We have cheered each other as we got our vaccines, we have shared joys and sorrows and many online shopping discoveries.
Sarah Carson: What I like most about the group is the camaraderie, the fun and laughter we have shared, the support through these tough times and the opportunity to get to know my cabaret friends on a much deeper level than I ever could have before.
Mercedes: We all encourage each other and connect - like what new equipment to use (lights, audio) to the latest hair cutting equipment! I’ve learned this past year to love more. The connection was a life line! One of the best moments was when we all got to “tour” Joan’s apartment during the Christmas holiday. How she decorated her place, sharing her memories.
Barbara: Over the course of the months we discussed relationships, singing, Singnasium, the pandemic, fear, anxiety, politics (way too much politics), broken hips, throat polyps, dating, music, hair, hair roots, hair cuts, manicures, pedicures, anxiety about the pandemic, anxiety about the pandemic ending, politics…you get the picture.
Roberta Feldhusen: Although I have not been a regular attendee, when I do go I am instantaneously transported to a place of warm and welcoming cabaret friends. These amazing and talented women spend a sacred hour each Thursday. There's never a lull or dull moment in the conversation.
Marge Hellenchild: I like returning every week to something familiar that carries the past, present, and future of singing and cabaret in the most recent iteration of myself. It wasn’t all a dream!
Sarah: One of my favorite moments is our “show and tell” days when we ended up discussing in great depth the best toenail clippers and personal grooming equipment we all needed - much hilarity in this personal sharing!
Debbie: I celebrated a milestone birthday this past summer and I was gobsmacked when a cake from the group arrived that Thursday morning so my cabaret pals could sing happy birthday and share my celebration virtually.
Barbara: I won’t name names, but one of the girls brought in long tubes like Fla-Vor-Ice. But these were flavored Martinis! You can get them in Costco. I brought in my favorite root mascara. Unlike Rudi Giuliaini, mine doesn’t run down your cheeks if you begin to sweat (Boyd’s Brush-It-Away, on Amazon). But the best was the elastic waist pants. You can guess which comedian/singer came up with those!
Joan Darragh: The best moments were the melt downs--a good old fashion girlfriend cry. We had them, and we recovered together. Probably my fondest moment was my big Teddy Bear giving Barbara a Zoom hug when she asked for one. Hoping for the day when we are off-screen, until then the connection continues--a warm assurance of better times to come.
Sarah: I think the idea of continuity has been big for me, I have looked forward each week to my Zoom hour with my cabaret friends, to laugh together, share ideas, commiserate, support, and hold each other’s hands (through the magic of the internet). This group has been so incredibly supportive in such a difficult time - keeping us connected from living room to living room, across the miles and I certainly hope that even when we are able to meet again in person, that we will continue enjoying our Thursday Zooming together.
Ronni: It was a great way to keep us all connected, and evolved into a supportive, loving group of singers— something to look forward to each week! It kept me sane (well, saner) and made me feel part of something special.
Marge Hellenchild: This group reminds me that I am alive. I still am a member of this community. It has been a psychologically very difficult year.
Roberta: This community has truly been a gift during this crazy year. Thank you Sing Your Story! 'Grateful, grateful, truly grateful I am!'
Debbie: I am so deeply grateful to this wonderful group of friends who have truly been my stalwart companions through the pandemic.
Barbara: I know I can count on these women for their support, they are real friends. It won’t be the same when we get back into the new world, but I’m sure we will work hard to keep in touch and see each other. We share a unique experience during a terrible time in life. We have become a sisterhood, and who wouldn’t want that?
Meet Our Singnasium Interns!
We almost called this article: “Our Interns, Our Angels” - because we LOVE our interns! Katherine Reardon and Mitchell-lee van Rooij joined the Singnasium family this year as interns. Both are getting their masters degrees in Arts Administration at Baruch College. And both have been tirelessly working to further our cause. From researching outreach opportunities to setting our social media on fire, they’ve jumped in with both feet to our Singnasium family and we couldn’t be happier to have them! Let’s meet our interns!
Mitchell-lee van Rooij
Mitchell-lee van Rooij earned his Bachelor of Dance in 2005 and danced extensively for over 13 years in The Netherlands. He has performed all over the world, including the Joyce Theater in NYC. He’s currently transitioning into a profession with more leadership in the Arts and worked as a dance critic at Dance Europe Magazine and as a Publicity and Marketing-assistant at Dansmakers Amsterdam. Mitchell also helped creating an audience engagement and experience project at Festival WhyNot, a performance festival that stimulates innovation in modern dance. His most recent affiliation with the Arts in The Netherlands was as an advisor for The Arts Council (Raad voor Cultuur) where he promoted to create a safe and nurturing environment for artists. At present, he works for two independent visual artists in New York City where he helps out as an archivist. Most recently he assisted in curating an exhibition that opened in January 2020 in Brooklyn.
Singnasium Student Spotlight: Julie Salzano
How much do we love our students? VERY MUCH! Each student comes to singing and Singnasium from diverse backgrounds and all corners of the globe. Let’s get to know Julie Salzano, who has been with Singnasium since it’s early days.
Julie Salzano comes from a long line of theatrical performers. And by long, her lineage goes back to the middle of the 18th century where both sides of the family were musical performers in Rimini, Italy performing Giuseppi Verdi’s operas. (That’s a LONG line!) Her aunt was a cabaret singer and performed for years in the clubs and theaters in New York City.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Julie began performing at five with her aunt in an Off-Broadway production and kept at it, performing in plays all through high school. She then took up scenic design in college.
Her theatre career took a bit of a pivot after Columbia University graduate school when Julie became one of 200 women who entered the 38,000 male Police Department in New York City. Her education brought her to work for the Psychology Unit, when she entered a post-doctoral certificate in Psychology, taught part-time at Hofstra University and then full-time at New York Institute of Technology, earning distinguished teaching awards.
Julie has been published extensively in her field of Criminal Justice and Psychology. Through it all she kept creative, writing screenplays and winning four writing awards from the Houston World Fest Festival and the Charleston Film Festival. She produced a cable show called “Criminal Justice Today.” And has written and produced three Off-Broadway shows, winning acclaim for writing from award-winning producer Patty Hirsh.
Julie’s love for singing never wavered. Taking classes at Singers Forum, she won an Equity award. When Singers Forum ended, Julie joined Singnasium working with Lennie Watts, Brad Simmons, and Carmen Cancel to perfect her skills to one day do her own show. Keep singing, Julie!
Thank you for taking the time to get to know Singnasium Student, Julie Salzano.
Students Doing the Spectacular: Ann Talman
Beyond taking our classes and connecting with the broader Singnasium community, our students often floor us with their talents. Ann Talman is one of those students.
Ann is currently taking Swing Time 1 and 2 and loving it! But before enrolling in Singnasium, Ann put together an amazing one-woman show that was made into an equally amazing, award winning short film about her brother who courageously battled cerebral palsy.
The synopsis of the film captures it perfectly: "Family legend is that Ann was 'ordered up' in 1957 by Woody, eight and severely cerebral palsied. He did not want to be alone in the world if anything happened to mom and dad. Being non-verbal was no obstacle. He’d touch mother’s stomach and dad’s lap and wave his hands like wands. She was nicknamed Woody’s Order! Her destiny: 'To be thy brother’s keeper just in case.' In childhood she embraced it. Woody was a real live doll to care for. But she had another destiny. At twenty-two she debuted on Broadway as Elizabeth Taylor’s daughter. She wrote a hit solo play which opened in her hometown, Pittsburgh. This short film, which premiered at Tribeca, captures Ann performing portions of the solo play for Woody on a New York stage. Interwoven are stunning home movies that capture their lifelong bond."
We feel very privileged to share this beautiful tribute with all of you, but ask that you do not share more broadly (e.g., please do not post to social media, etc.)
Watch Woody's Order (16:15 min).
Watts' Happening: Sing and Stay Warm!
"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
--Percy Bysshe Shelley
The days are short, the nights are cold but if you listen closely, you can hear music in the air. Singnasium is in full swing with more classes than ever. Computer screens all over the country are lighting up the faces of people who refuse to let the winter blahs, and an almost year long quarantine keep them from lifting their voices, staying connected, and fulfilling their need for music in their lives. The Singnasium family is growing and we couldn’t be happier to be building this very special community of artists.
If you haven’t experienced the Singnasium community, now is the time! Check out one of our classes, or join us at our free, monthly open mic, SINGapalooza.
Stay safe, keep warm, and keep singing!
Teaching Artist Spotlight: Jerry Phelps
One of the newer Teaching Artists on the Singnasium roster, Jerry Phelps, teaches the very popular, Piano for Singers. Students flex their muscles by learning how to accompany themselves while they sing. We recently reached out to Jerry to get a peak into his world.
Tell us a little about your musical background.
If you could do a duet with anyone, living or dead, who would it be, why, and what song?
What an impossible question to ask a singer! There are so many voices I love, but I'd probably say Cece Winans or Brandy. I spent much of my adolescence trying to learn every single thing they did vocally. They both have that rare combination of insanely versatile and flexible voices and a genuine sing-from-their-toes sort of tone.
How did you get into teaching?
I don't ever remember not teaching. When I played school with my sisters and cousins as a child, I was the principal. I've always felt like a teacher and knew that much of my life would be teaching others.
What have learned over the last year during the pandemic?
I've learned to love and hate Zoom. I love how much it can keep us connected, but I miss making music in real life. I've been joking, but I'm pretty serious when I say: I CANNOT WAIT TO PAY $8.50 FOR A FLAT DIET COKE AND A RUDE WAITRESS IN A CABARET ROOM!
What are the first three things you are going to do when all of this is over?
Hug the people I love for a very long time. Go out dancing. Sing on a stage!