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American Idol 4 Top 7 Vocal Masterclass: Seventies Dance Music


BY: ROSANNE SIMUNOVIC APRIL 21ST, 2005

First of all, I would like to send a shout –out to all the devoted fans of Top 8 eliminated singer, Nadia Turner. This has to be one of the most baffling and ridiculous eliminations in Idol history and I feel that the Idol franchise has lost a valuable star with Nadia’s elimination. Readers can continue Nadia’s dream by visiting http://www.nadiaturneronline.com .

This week, Idol decided to celebrate 70’s dance music. Therefore, all the Idols had a chance to demonstrate their sense of fun and positive spirit, as well their ability to energize and fully involve the audience. It was a great show but this writer truly missed Nadia’s enormous presence on the Idol stage.

To quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below and, voila, with the touch of a click, you will be forwarded to your favorite singer’s link! Enjoy and please let me know what you think!

Bo Bice Anthony Federov Constantine Maroulis

Anwar Robinson Scott Savol Vonzell Solomon

Carrie Underwood

Bo Bice    “Vehicle” originally performed by Ides Of March

Strengths: Bo is back and it’s about time, mister! Bo, your dynamic vocal sound was just the ticket for this absolutely perfect song selection for you. Your voice thankfully returned to its rich resounding baritone sound and, additionally, you projected your vocal sound with a steady stream of technical support. I felt that your voice was resonating more efficiently in your vocal masque and, as a result, the pitch perfect clarity of your voice was very evident throughout this performance.

Stylistically, this was a stellar performance. Gone were all the tentative and awkward stage movements similar to last week’s performance. Your movements on stage were fluid, yet energized and had an artistic sense of purpose. This performance was judiciously rehearsed and yet appeared natural and effortless. Your pacing was exceptional and as a result your choreography enhanced your vocal performance. Just outstanding, really! Congratulations on a superlative performance this week, Bo!

Critique: What a difference a week makes! So much went horribly wrong last week, Bo, and, this week, you turned it all around. It is wonderful to see such a phenomenal level of growth in your overall artistry. In truth, it was always there, as you had fantastic performances early on in this Idol competition. However, everyone reaches a wall and I am glad that you have conquered your artistic demons and have restructured your artistic game plan.

However, I would like to caution you to please keep the focus a constant and always make certain that you are technically supporting your voice in the best way possible. Key selection is imperative to a successful performance, so make certain that you are always selecting songs that highlight your mid range. You did so this week and it worked!

Additionally, always grab those pure vowels and allow the vocal sound to resonate on those vowels. This process will magically invigorate your vocal sound, as long as the diaphragmatic muscles are accessed in proper fashion. You were on a better track in this respect this week, Bo, so kudos to you! What a great way to end an evening!
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Anthony Fedorov     “Don’t Take Away The Music” originally performed by Tavares

Strengths: Anthony- for me, this one of your best performances and was reminiscent of your outstanding performance on the Top 12 American Idol show.
Similar to this past performance, your sound was vocally secure and the tenor quality was absolutely stellar. Your voice resonated just beautifully above the orchestra this week; your vocal production appeared and sounded natural and effortless.

Generally, you sustained your vocal sound on the pure bel canto vowels of the song lyrics and, because of this, your pitch was beautifully centered and the vocal sound was seamless throughout your vocal range.

Stylistically, your stage movements appeared fluid and polished and your body really moved easily with the rhythmic pulse of this song. You performed this song with a confident and genuine demeanor that accentuated the first glimmers of true star quality. This was a big step for you, Anthony, and I congratulate you for constantly allowing yourself to take risks and to move outside your comfort zone on the Idol stage. You are one of the few performers, I feel, that have developed and grown before our eyes and I applaud you for your superb efforts. Bravo!

Critique: Anthony – as I mentioned last week, you must be very careful to avoid unnecessary strain to your upper register voice. Generally, this was not a problem this week; however, be very careful that you are continuously allowing the diaphragmatic breath support to focus your vocal sound. At times, the tenor voice sounded more strident than necessary, particularly when you sustained your “ee” vowel sound.

This is such a troublesome vowel for many singers; it is a very bright, very difficult vowel to maneuver, especially in the upper register. However, you simply have to allow the mouth to remain round and that jaw must be relaxed and ready to drop as you move into the upper range. This technique will add a deeper ingredient to the vowel texture and, as well, you will notice that your pitch will be more centered and definitely more secure.

However, other than this, I have to say that you made great improvement this week, Anthony and I feel that you are, in fact, having the time of your life on the stage and just relishing and appreciating every moment. Congratulations!
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Constantine Maroulis    “Nights On Broadway” originally performed by the Bee Gees

Strengths: Constantine – it’s official. There is no genre of music that can overwhelm you. You have a theatrical and studied approach to every song and, unlike the American Idol judges, I have no issues or misgivings about this. Once again you injected your unique personality and style into this great Bee Gees song and I feel that your interpretation was just excellent. It was almost like a parody of this genre of music and, you know what? I just loved it! It was pure entertainment.

Even the makeup was an inspired touch – almost certainly to emulate the cosmetic look of the musical artists on Broadway. This is not the kind of music you take seriously. You have to have fun with this music and deliver it to your audience in an innovative and entertaining manner. And that you did, Constantine and I applaud you for this great showcase.

Vocally, your voice resonated in marvelous fashion and you really adhered to the bel canto style of singing in your pop music. You have a cohesive approach to your vowels that allows the melodic line to project in a forward direction. As a result, your phrasing is musical and fluid and the voice is seamless throughout your range.

You were able to achieve a variety of vocal nuances within this vocally energized music that complimented your stage movements. Additionally, you maintained a very good pace during this number and allowed the adrenaline to flow nice and easy. As a result, the your performance retained a wonderful sense of control and ease.

You exhibited a fabulous charisma on camera and you have achieved the very important art of communication to your live and televised audience. We always feel that we are part and parcel of your performance, Constantine, and you work very hard to make certain that every aspect of your song is artistically convincing. I value and appreciate this level of commitment in an artist. It speaks to your high standards and artistic commitment to the art. I congratulate you once again on another stellar performance. Bravo!

Critique: Constantine – at the beginning of this song, you had a few problems securing your bottom range. I feel it was just nerves, as I know you have the technical capability to properly resonate the lower range of your voice. Therefore, make certain that you anchor your baritone register with strong diaphragmatic breath support, allowing the sound to resonate in the lower half of your facial masque, especially in the area of the mouth.

You have to make certain that the air does not escape in a haphazard fashion when you resonate your lower voice. The rib cage muscles must be accessed to provide the necessary support by controlling the airflow. As a result, the vocal sound in this area of the range will have more bite and ring..

And, speaking of “ring, make certain that you are adding that important head tone element to your lower range. You have a beautiful mix of head and chest resonance in your mid and upper range; however, the lower register needs this element as well, as it provides a ringing clarity to this area of your vocal range.

Great work, Constantine! Keep it coming!
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Anwar Robinson    ” September” originally performed by Earth, Wind And Fire

Strengths: Anwar –I thought this was a challenging and intricate song selection and, yet, your overall performance of this number was extremely good. It was wonderful to see you perform an upbeat number with which you were familiar, as it revealed another layer in your performing talents.

You learned from your less than stellar performance in the Top 11 show, that it pays to travel to familiar territory when you are contemplating song selection. You can still take risks, but the song must be one that speaks to who you are as an artist and as a singer.

It goes without saying that we love your ability to creatively spin out those heartrending ballads; however, this up-tempo number was just the ticket for this stage of the competition. Stylistically, you moved with ease and abandon, throwing caution to the wind. You said you wanted to have fun and you most certainly did that, Anwar! You are a natural dancer and your choreographed moves were superb.

Vocally, your upper register sound was generally pure and even. As I said last week, Anwar, you have a brilliant, unique timbre to your voice, especially resonant in the upper range.

Additionally, you understand and appreciate the technical elements integral to the success of every vocal performance and, because of this, you are able to add dynamic contrasts that showcase the emotional elements in this and every song. You looked joyous and exuberant on the stage this week and your voice reflected these feelings.

This was another great showcase, Anwar! Just excellent!

Critique: As I was writing my technical concerns for this performance, Anwar, you were mentioning to Ryan Seacrest that your goal this week was not to worry about singing technically correct but simply to have fun on stage. It was as if you could see me writing about some of the technical issues I had with this performance. Sort of scary, really!(chuckle). Do you really have x-ray vision?

At any rate, I must caution you that you did encounter some tuning and upper register problems that, normally, are not problematic for you when you sing your slower tempo songs. Your mouth was less round when you attempted to focus and sustain your vowels and, additionally, the energized choreography left you, at times, a little compromised with the proper diaphragmatic breath support. Your vibrato, which is usually so well controlled, transformed to a less appealing tremolo and, because of this, your pitch was not as centered or as pure.

Additionally, you experienced some breathiness because of your energized stage performance and this added to the vocal problems this week. As I have said previously to other singers, the up-tempo numbers need to be rehearsed at a snail’s pace, allowing you time to reinforce the sustaining bel canto element and to isolate the areas of vocal tension that you will encounter when the song is performed up to speed.

This is very important, as you must learn to sing vocally well, regardless of the speed or mood of the song selection. Not only are you risking the possibility of harming your vocal cords, but also you are not allowing your voice to resonate and present itself to its full potential.

Finally, you should refer to my concerns last week regarding your head and upper body position. Make sure you always maintain eye contact with your audience – raising the head and neck is an absolute negative, as it really impedes the proper production of the vocal sound and negatively compromises your stage persona. Good luck, Anwar!
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Scott Savol    “Everlasting Love” originally performed by Carl Carlton

Strengths: Scott –your song choice this week was absolutely perfect for your voice. The tonality of this song highlighted your beautifully resonant upper voice throughout the performance of this number. The melodic line rested in the most comfortable area of your vocal instrument and, as a result, your voice sounded invigorated and rejuvenated. Your true vocal gifts were thankfully evident this week.

Whether you realize it or not, you resonated your vocal sound just beautifully in your vocal masque (your face) and implemented that wonderful head tone quality throughout this number. As a result, your pitch was very good, very centered and your voice enjoyed a clarity and purity that has been conspicuously absent in previous weeks.

Your stage movements during this dance number were also very good, Scott. Although not the strongest dancer in this Group of Seven, you internalized the rhythmic pulse of the song and allowed the rhythm to dictate your stage movements.

As a result, your stage movements were implemented with a natural ease and freedom. You didn’t try to dance outside your comfort level and this was a very good decision on your part. Just allowing yourself to move and feel this joyous music was enough to nourish and sustain this great performance this week.

Good on you, Scott! Just excellent!

Critique: Scott – as I said last week, you must continue to take steps on improving your posture when you perform on stage. Do not extend your head or neck upwards; keep that area of your body level with your audience. A singer communicates with his or her eyes – they are truly the windows to a singer’s soul, so remember to keep your eyes very open and expressive. Additionally, remember to relax all your facial features; the resonators behind your facial features are integral to securing a resonant and rich vocal sound

Also, even though your voice was naturally more resonant this week, you must never take these natural gifts for granted and/or avoid the technical process when you sing. If you do, then your performances will not be consistent from week to week, a fact that has already been verified in some of your past performances.

Always remember that the technique is a security blanket, one that all vocalists desperately need to understand and appreciate and you would be wise to continue on the correct track of developing your vocal abilities in a more studious manner.

That being said, I felt that, overall, the technical process was more pronounced in this week’s performance Scott and it seemed, to my eyes and ears, that your voice was adhering to the strength and security of the diaphragmatic technique.

It helped that you absolutely loved the song, as this erased the natural vocal tension that comes with the territory during a live performance. So, good for you for understanding the vocal politics that are responsible for creating excellent performances: song selection, key selection and dedicated technical support. Good luck, Scott!
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Vonzell Solomon    “I’m Every Woman” originally performed by Chaka Khan

Strengths: Vonzell, last week I mentioned that I was missing the “artist known as Vonzell Solomon”. However, this week – different story! I felt that, stylistically, you were back on track. Conspicuously absent were the excessive stage movements that inhibited last week’s performance.

This week you confined your movements to the stage and studiously choreographed your number. Your movements were fluid and graceful and accentuated the dynamic energy of this song. See? You don’t have to move away from the stage to reach your audience. Singing from the heart is what makes the difference and, this week, this emotional element was thankfully evident in your performance.

In addition, your vocal timbre was increasingly resonant and secure and, I might add, was a perfect vehicle for this song selection. You needed to be a “belter” for this song and you, Vonzell, have a naturally strong mid range vocal sound to do justice to this difficult song selection. You approached your vocal delivery by utilizing a fairly consistent technical foundation. Good work, Vonzell! You are back on track!

However, I still would like to hear you sing a ballad next week. Your voice resonated so beautifully when you sang “Anyone Who Had A Heart” during the Top 12 performance. This writer is still waiting patiently! Ha!

Critique: Vonzell – you experienced a few technical problems this week with your vocal placement. Generally, you did allow your mouth to maintain a round and relaxed formation when you performed this song; however, the cumbersome “ee” vowels, gave you some problems. It is a very difficult vowel to project and, yet, it is important to allow the mouth to maintain a circular formation when enunciating this –and all of – your vowels. You will then enjoy a more cohesive and seamless vocal sound when you sing and, additionally, the “head tone” element will be a more noticeable element in your vocal timbre.

This week, this very potent song selection encouraged your to sing with a powerful vocal sound; yet, in doing so, you added too much of your chest voice as you navigated your upper register. As a result, your voice sounded forced and constrained at different points in this number.

You must never allow yourself to sing outside the boundaries of the proper technical support. Your voice is naturally strong and you must allow the correct technical process to guide and channel your vocal energy. If not, then you run the risk of irreparable damage to your vocal cords.

Additionally, your pitch was poorly centralized during some sections of this song, again another result of not adhering to the correct diaphragmatic technique. It was not a glaring problem, but it was still there nonetheless. Just keep that “head tone” a constant when you sing, the vowels pure and focused and you should have fewer problems in this regard during your future performances! Good luck, Vonzell!
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Carrie Underwood:     “MacArthur Park” originally performed by Donna Summer

Strengths: Carrie –<last week, I cautioned you about taking too many risks regarding your stage choreography and this week, you thankfully confined your dance movements to the stage. This is an extremely difficult number, probably the most difficult number in the entire showcase this week and it requires impeccable attention to detail. The choreography is secondary I feel.

In fact, any Donna Summer screams for outstanding vocal ability and technique. There is a reason why this lady is legendary in the music business. She has a jaw dropping vocal ability that is technically proficient.

Therefore, I felt that your upper register was well suited to this song selection, Carrie. You have a solid technical foundation and we heard some truly remarkable phrasing during the course of this number. Your breathing technique is very developed and allowed you to carry your vocal line for an extended period of time without sneaking in a breath. Good for you!

You exhibited a naturally bright and ringing vocal quality, most noticeably when you allowed the head tone element to blend with your chest voice. Then your vocal sound really enjoyed a wonderful sense of clarity and transparency. You are pretty consistent to the bel canto style of singing and I applaud you for this. Generally, you sustained and resonated your vocal sound on the pure vowels and avoided those messy diphthongs that can add a muddy texture to a singer’s vocal timbre. Good work, Carrie!

Critique: As I stated in the Strengths portion of this critique, this Donna Summer song requires a phenomenal vocal range coupled with outstanding technique. I think the song selection was not the best; a better choice would have been ”Last Dance”, as the majority of this song sits in the singer’s mid range – which is your strongest range.

Unfortunately for you Carrie, your lower register voice exhibited some real technical issues at the beginning of this song and you were unable to properly sustain your vocal sound in the lower half of your vocal masque.

As a result, your voice lacked a pitch-centered clarity in the lower melodic line of this song. Your diaphragmatic breath support, through the support of the rib cage muscles, was not accessed in the correct fashion and, as a result, your song got off to a pretty shaky start.

You have to remember that the lower range requires the same intensity of support as the upper range and, additionally, if it is not technically enhanced then your upper range will suffer as well.

The lack of support became problematic as the song moved along. Because your technique was not properly positioned at the beginning of the song, then your vocal sound fluctuated throughout this number; at times the singing was spot on and at other times the voice sounded very forced and poorly centered.

You have incredible breathing skills, Carrie, so you must learn to use them consistently and confidently throughout your showcase. Also, be very careful that you do not allow the chest voice to overwhelm your upper range. For the most part, this was not a problem, but it was still evident nonetheless, especially when you held your final note. It didn’t seem to flow easily from your body and we could have used less sound and more finesse to achieve an even better result.

Additionally, you need to seriously work with a choreographer to hone and add refinement to your stage skills. You don’t have to be a world -class dancer in order to move easily on stage; you just have to move in a less awkward and self-conscious fashion.

It is interesting to note that Donna Summer is not the most animated performer – for her, it is all about the vocals. So, in this sense, it seemed almost fortuitous that you selected one of her greatest hits, as you are more a vocalist than a dancer. However, we live in a very visual day and age where image and performing skills go hand and hand and must be cultivated and groomed to perfection. Hope all this helps Carrie! Good luck!
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Rosanne Simunovic is the Voice Instructor and Conductor for the Timmins Youth Singers. If you have any further questions our comments, please at e-mail her. If you want to hear how she applies her technical methods to a variety of musical styles music, have a listen to one of her double disc CDs, Scenes from a Dream, a live compilation featuring outstanding performances between 1984-2000 with the Timmins Youth Singers and renowned classical, Broadway, and pop artists. Enjoy!

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About Masterclass Lady

Rosanne (Giallonardo) Simunovic began her musical career in Timmins, Ontario. She studied piano with Anne Pizzale and later, at an advanced level, with Soeur Anita Vaugeois (Sister Cecile of Les Soeurs De L’Assomption in Timmins). Her vocal and accompaniment skills were nurtured by her aunt, the late Dorothea Mascioli. When Rosanne graduated from O’Gorman High School, she moved on to the University of Toronto where she continued her piano and vocal studies while attaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She was hired as a piano accompanist for several musical companies, most notably, the National Ballet Of Canada. She presently holds an A.R.C.T. Teacher’s Diploma in Voice from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Rosanne has studied choral conducting with numerous well known Canadian Conductors, including Wayne Riddell of Montreal, Quebec and the internationally renowned Dr. Elmer Iseler. She has been a founding member of numerous community-based arts organizations: the Timmins Arts Council, later known as Arts & Culture Timmins, the Timmins Symphony Orchestra, and, the Timmins Youth Singers…as well as the TYS Alumnus choir, the Timmins Concert Singers. In 1987, she was also selected to be the conductor of the Timmins Board Of Education Choir, comprised of talented students from Grades 5 to 8. In 1988, she was elected to the Board Of Directors of the Ontario Choral Federation (now known as Choirs Ontario), where she served as Chair of the Festivals Committee for six consecutive seasons. In 1996, in honour of the Ontario Choral Federation’s 25th Anniversary, Rosanne was selected as one of 25 recipients of the OCF’s Distinguished Service Award for outstanding contribution to the choral art. The ceremony was presided by Lieutenant Governor, Hal Jackman. In November 1997, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Rotary Club Of Timmins to receive the prestigious Paul Harris Award for her years of dedication to the artistic development of young musical talent in Timmins. In August of 2002, Rosanne Simunovic was selected by the Board Of Directors of Choirs Ontario to serve as Conductor of both the Provincial Junior and Teen Choir Camps, now renamed in honour of the Camp Benefactors, Don and Lillian Wright. In November 2002, Rosanne was the one of the recipients of the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, honouring her work in the development of the arts in Timmins. Under Rosanne Simunovic’s direction, the Timmins Youth Singers and the Timmins Concert Singers have been featured in numerous choral festivals and performing opportunities outside of Timmins. In 1985, they were selected to partici

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