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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.

Cliche perhaps, but I grew up singing in church as a kid in rural Louisiana. I knew I wanted to sing when I was about 11 or 12 years old, but there were very few pianists around. The pianists that I did know were old ladies at church and they didn't play the way I heard it in my head, so I started taking piano lessons and started figuring out what worked for me as a singer. I knew I had to be able to accompany myself if I was going to do anything with it. I studied voice and piano throughout high school and went on to get a bachelor's and master's degrees in music education. I've spent my entire life trying to find the balance between performing and teaching. I'm not sure I'll ever get enough of either! I currently work as Director of Arts for Bronx Charter School for the Arts and Music Director for Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury. I also run an arts education consultancy, CORE Arts Consulting and teach a slew of private students.

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!

February 10, 2021 — Eve Eaton