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American Idol 4 Top 5 Vocal Masterclass


BY: ROSANNE SIMUNOVIC MAY 5TH, 2005

Well, last week “hell officially froze” over and “pigs learned how to fly”, as imminent superstar Constantine Maroulis was ridiculously eliminated during the American Idol Top 6 results show. What can I say? Like Nadia Turner’s elimination a couple of week’s ago, Constantine’s dismissal from the clutches of the Idol franchise was totally preposterous and lowered the Idol franchise’s integrity to the lowest rung of the credibility ladder.

However, Constantine fans have re-emerged victorious and elated over the phenomenal amount of positive press he has received from all the major media outlets and this young man will be an unstoppable presence in the world of music. It is only a matter of time!

And so we turn to the remaining five finalists, as we begin our Master Class journey in another effort to analyze the pros and cons of this week’s performances. Each of the singers performed two numbers this week and both selections have been reviewed collectively within each performer’s overall evaluation.

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

Scott Savol Vonzell Solomon

Carrie Underwood

Bo Bice    “Stand By Me “ originally performed by Ben E. King and “Heaven” originally performed by Los Lonely Boys

Strengths: Bo – this was a stellar showcase for you this week. Both of your song selections were key and style appropriate for your voice. Your voice beautifully embraced the wonderful melodic lines of these superb numbers.

Stylistically, you were a commanding presence on stage, oozing with artistic confidence and composure. In both of these numbers, your rock and roll energy was a potent force. You had a mesmerizing and exhilarating influence on your live and studio audience and justifiably so. Your passion for the rock genre is genuine and sincere and I loved watching you love every emotional aspect that this genre has to offer.

Vocally, your sound approached last week’s outstanding performance; it was resonant and free and yet, was beautifully supported through the diaphragmatic breathing process. Additionally, your vocal sound had a nicely tuned rock edge and you your voice to resonate in the vocal masque. You had a beautifully cohesive approach to your vowels, as you consistently sustained your melodic line on the pure vowels within your lyrics.

In your first selection, your ad-libs were implemented with pitch-centered security; they were lyrical and seamless. In your second selection, I was impressed with your ability to dynamically ease and shape you vocal sound throughout your vocal line. You had a natural forward projection in your voice when you performed, Bo, and this forward momentum added energy, flow and musicality to both numbers.

This was a wonderfully expressive and passionate showcase, Bo and I congratulate you for bringing a distinct air of professionalism to the American Idol stage. Bravo!

Critique: Bo – as I mentioned last week, you have a classical element to your voice that needs to be further developed. I heard evidence of upper range vocal ability this week and I was very happy to hear you maneuver your voice into this part of your range. You are a baritone and baritone singers have the enviable vocal ability to embrace every part of the vocal register – lower, mid and upper. Therefore, I hope that you continue to study with a vocal teacher who will develop your true vocal potential so that you can take your enormous vocal gifts to the next level.

Additionally, do make certain that you are always allowing your mouth to maintain the circular formation on all your vowels and throughout your range. Your final note in ”Stand By Me” was well done, but you were straining and pushing the sound from your throat rather than allowing the sound to be sustained from the diaphragm. Additionally, the “ee” vowel was sustained through a horizontal mouth formation and this didn’t allow the vocal sound to present itself with a ringing head tone resonance.

Also, I would urge you to read last week’s suggestion about allowing the audience to enjoy a ballad or two every so often. To date, you have only performed one ballad, ”Time In A Bottle” and it was very well received. Why the sudden change to mainly up-tempo? Yes –”Stand By Me” is a slower song; however, it has a fragmented melodic line and is not as poignant or heartrending as is ”Time In A Bottle”. This song really allowed you to expose another dimension of your artistry; it was an extremely memorable performance.

It is imperative to showcase different dimensions in your artistic ability and you obviously have the ability to perform the slower and sensitive selections to contrast with your up-tempo numbers. Therefore, I sincerely hope that you expand your artistic vision in the remaining weeks. Never put limitations on or underestimate you performing talents. Your stage performances will be more exciting and innovative and you will expand your audience base. Great work, Bo! You rock!
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Anthony Fedorov     “Poison Ivy” originally performed by The Coasters and “Incomplete “ originally performed by the Backstreet Boys

Strengths: Anthony- although this week’s showcase did not exceed your phenomenal performance of last week’s number, ”I Surrender”br>
, you still performed both numbers with superb style and finesse. Your first number, a novelty classic by Lieber and Stoller, was a great listen and I really enjoyed the sense of joy and exuberance that permeated this song performance.

Stylistically, you approached this song with a sense of abandonment and fun; this was your opportunity to take a break from the powerful ballads that speak to your unique artistry and so the change was duly welcomed and applauded. Vocally, you sounded more convincing when the melodic line ascended into higher territory; your upper range had a natural beauty and depth that resonated just beautifully in your vocal masque.

Then you segued to more familiar ground and sang the beautiful ballad, ”Incomplete”. During this number, you gave us – yet again – a wonderful indication of your innate ability to sing in a nuanced and expressive manner. From the hushed intensity at the beginning of this number to the explosive and potent ending, you performed this song in a studiously rehearsed, yet uniquely artistic style.

The bel canto technique was a thankful presence throughout this number and your breathing skills were efficiently accessed from the diaphragmatic rib cage muscles. Your last three notes were particularly impressive and you adhered your vocal sound to the pure vowels, phrasing this section with a seamless and a lyrical vocal line.

Essentially, Anthony, I would classify you as a classical pop artist and, as your voice continues to develop and grow with each passing year, you are one singer that will be unstoppable if guided and mentored by the right A&R people. Congratulations, Anthony for another excellent and well rehearsed showcase! Bravo!

Critique: Anthony – most, if not all, of your vocal problems were exposed in the first selection, ”Poison Ivy”. As I said in the ”Strengths” portion of this evaluation, you approached this song with the appropriate sense of style and, therefore, 50% of the song received perfect marks from this writer.

However, vocally, you encountered many problematic situations. First of all, the key of the song rested too low for your natural singing range and, because your voice has not yet developed a rich and resonant timbre in this area of your range, the result was a lack luster and inefficient vocal sound throughout the majority of this number.

It would have been more to your benefit if your key selection was a half or full tone higher than what we heard this week. Ninety percent of the melodic line of this song rested in your lower-mid range and this fact, coupled with your energized performance, detracted from your ability to access your diaphragmatic rib cage muscles in the correct fashion.

Secondly, you must remember that up-tempo songs need to be performed with the bel canto technique to allow the melodic line to permeate the background orchestration. If we lose the pure vowel “head tone” resonance of the singer’s voice, then the voice begins to sound breathy, poorly pitched and reedy. This is what happened to you this week, Anthony, in this number. Always remember to practice your up-tempo numbers in a slow sustained manner, so that your voice is a viable and rich presence when you sing the song up to speed during the performance.

Thirdly, remember to pace yourself very carefully when you perform these fast paced numbers. I felt that, as the song moved along, you lost control and were placed in panic mode at some point. Those stage movements have to be studiously rehearsed and analyzed and, in a song like this – given your time constraints –I would have preferred that you remained on stage for the entire number. If the stage movements are too busy and erratic, then the vocals begin to suffer. So, keep it simple, Anthony, when you perform these songs.

However, I have no complaints for your second number, ”Incomplete”; you performed this song exceptionally well, with sincerity, conviction and vocal excellence! Bravo!
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Scott Savol    “On Broadway” originally performed by The Drifters and “Every Time You Go Away” originally performed by Brian McNight

Strengths: Scott –once again this week, I thought your song choices were absolutely perfect for your voice. Your voice resonated ever so naturally in both of these numbers. I do agree with the judges; you have a knack for selecting songs that reflect your fine level of artistry and vocal ability. I felt that generally your voice just soared during both of these numbers. The tonality of both these songs was judiciously chosen and, oftentimes, this makes all the difference in the world between a successful vs. non-successful performance. So, good for you for paying heed to this important element in song selection.

Both of these songs were showcased with an effortless and confident stage demeanor. You are a perfect example of how a performer should pace his stage technique so that it enhances rather than detracts from the overall vocal performance. You utilized the stage extremely well and communicated both songs with genuine emotion and sincerity.

You conveyed a joyful and playful emotion in your first number, at times playing to the judges and then alternately allowing the song to be visibly communicated to the audience. Additionally, you added some wonderful melismas throughout this number and they were executed with style and finesse.

In your second number, your voice resonated with head tone clarity and transparency and you generallyallowed your voice to cohesively approach the pure vowels within your song lyrics. This enabled your voice to shine with a brilliant and sparkling timbre and achieve a beautifully seamless sound throughout your vocal range.

Your positive and laissez-faire spirit was a refreshing presence on the Idol stage! Once again, congratulations Scott and keep up the fine work!

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Critique: Scott- I have to caution you once again to pay close attention to your head position. During the second number, your head was elevated when you navigated your upper range and this caused a lot of tension in your vocal sound in these specific areas of your song selection. You must work to maintain eye contact with your audience. When you raise your head, you not only lose a communicative element in your performance, but also add tension and strain to your upper register. Remember to think over your upper range notes; do not reach for those notes – this is counter-productive to the correct technical process and will diminish the vocal production of your higher register.

Also, when you sang those nasty repetitive passages in your second number, the center of your pitch was compromised. Repetitive notes are very difficult to maneuver, as each note in the sequence, if not technically produced in the correct manner, will start to flatten in pitch. First of all you have to make sure that you are allowing your vocal sound to resonate in your vocal masque, sustaining each and everyone of the pure vowels within the lyrics of the words. Generally, as I said above, you did quite well in this aspect when you performed this number; however, this important technical component fell apart during these recurring sections.

Secondly, you must shape the repetitive notes with a flowing, musical melodic line, allowing each note to be produced with a rhythmic inflection and nuance. Sing with a forward momentum and never allow the technical support to subside. You added a breathy staccato element to this section of the song, Scott, and, as a result, the song began to unravel at this point in your showcase.

Finally, pertaining to your first number, I mentioned that you performed some great melismas (riffs and runs); however, your natural vocal ability allowed this vocal element to live and breathe, which is fine in the short term. However, in the long term, you must make certain that your melismas are distinctly resonated through a relaxed facial demeanor and anchored through the diaphragmatic breathing process. They must be treated like classical runs, each note securely supported and enhanced through the diaphragm.

Your facial features also were very constrained and this problem, in combination with your elevated head position, created a very rigid vocal sound and presence. Additionally, the pitch-centered clarity of your voice was compromised.

Hope all this helps Scott! Good luck!
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Vonzell Solomon    ” Treat Me Nice ” originally performed by Elvis Presley and “When You Tell Me That You Love Me” originally performed by the American Idol Season 4 Top 12 Finalists

Strengths: Vonzell, this week your voice enjoyed a rejuvenated presence on the American Idol stage. You have such a remarkable timbre to your voice, Vonzell, and your voice’s natural beauty, when enhanced through the correct technical process, is a jaw dropping experience to behold. Your voice resonated with a brilliant “head tone” resonance throughout both these numbers and, particularly, in your second number, you displayed a variety of nuances in your vocal production.

I was particularly impressed with your second number. Your performance of this ballad was reminiscent of your stellar performance in the Top 12 show this season. You displayed superb artistry and passion throughout this beautiful number. Moreover, your technical brilliance was thankfully evident, particularly when you allowed your voice to move with security and ease from the pure head tone piano (soft) passages to a more resonant and brilliant forte (loud) vocal sound. Any singer will tell you that this is not easy vocal element to secure and the technique must be very advanced to allow this technical component to be achieved with pitch- centered security. You run the danger of either singing the softer passages in a breathy, unfocused manner and/or allowing the louder passages to be produced with too much chest voice in the vocal sound.

However, you did neither of these things, Vonzell; it was just an excellent and passionate vocal performance and I congratulate you for challenging the true potential of your vocal abilities and unique artistry. Brava!

Critique: Vonzell – as I mentioned above, your second number was really excellent and I found little to critique in the performance of this number.

It was your first number, “Treat Me Nice” that experienced some problems at various points in the showcase this week. Like some of the other singers this week and in weeks previous, I felt that the pacing was a little “off”, as if the song was losing control as it progressed. At the outset of this song, your technical support was not accessed efficiently and, therefore, your voice experienced some unfortunate pitch problems that, at times, alternated with a breathy unfocused vocal sound.

As I have said previously to some of the other singers, you must practice your up-tempo songs and your stage technique in a slow, disciplined manner, leaving nothing to chance. The correct breathing spots within your song must be highlighted during the rehearsals and then maintained throughout the actual performance. All of these technical aspects must be carefully balanced to compliment your energized stage technique. If not, the song will begin to unravel and, unfortunately, this was the case this week.

I understand that you wanted to sing this song with a sense of fun and abandon, but you must never allow the technique to take a back seat to any style of music. It has to be central to every performance. However, I have to say that, because you possess a good foundation in the correct technical support, you somehow corrected some of the vocal instability as the song advanced and this was wonderful to hear and see.

However, try to make certain that you ease into your up-tempo songs in the future. Mentally adopt a slower controlled approach to these numbers and then, as you become more comfortable and technically secure during the course of the number, you can become more inventive with the stage technique. Too fast, too soon spells disaster. It’s hard to slow things down once you begin to lose control! And once you get off to a rough start, it is hard to pull all the essential performance elements together given the short time constraints of your song selections.

Good work, nonetheless, Vonzell and you redeemed yourself with your phenomenal performance of your second number! Kudos!
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Carrie Underwood:     “Trouble” originally performed by Elvis Presley and “Bless The Broken Road” originally performed by Rascal Flats

Strengths: Carrie –as the saying goes, you are only as good as your last performance! Well, I would like to say that this week’s showcase far surpassed your performances from previous weeks. I was very impressed with both of your song selections this week. First of all, the key and style of each song were perfectly suited to your vocal range, ability and artistry. So, right out of the gate, you emerged victorious this week!

Although no one can beat ”The King”, you performed your Elvis number with sass and bravado and added fantastic stage elements to spunk up your energetic performance. The microphone stand kick was a hoot! I loved it! It just goes to prove how unbelievably important song selection is to each and every performer. You obviously love this style of music and it revealed and reinforced your confident show-stopping skills. It was a believable performance and the stage elements complimented the vocals enormously well. You added some rock edged nuances to your seamless vocal sound and your spirit and joie de vivre as your performed this number were totally infectious.

Your second song was beautifully showcased and your technical control became even more evident as you floated through the melodic line in true bel canto style. You consistently adhered to this Italian technique in both numbers; your mouth was perfectly round on all your vowels and your facial features were relaxed and open, allowing the vocal sound to resonate easily in your vocal masque. Additionally, during your second number, you skillfully and flawlessly maneuvered the key change in this song with pitch-centered security. It was just beautiful singing, Carrie! Welcome back to the competition! Brava!

Critique: Well, this was a vast improvement, almost leaving me at a loss to find fault with either performance. However, I am an anal voice teacher and, most of the time, I can find some area that requires improvement. In your case, Carrie, I would like to encourage to work on your diction when performing the country-rock genre, making certain that the consonants and vowels are clearly articulated and enunciated. You are very capable of correcting this technical flaw, as in other genres, particularly during the Broadway – themed showcase, you showed evidence of impeccable diction. Therefore, you must be careful that you don’t allow this important element to lose importance when performing your country rock numbers.

Additionally, keep working on the emotional delivery of your song selections, particularly your slower numbers. Your up-tempo number was wonderful this week; however, the ballad, at times, could have benefited from a more introspective performance. You can work on internalizing your lyrics by omitting the music and speaking the text, adding inflection and emotion as you would if you were speaking a role on stage. This will make you even more aware of the emotional statement of your song selection and allow you to concentrate on this aspect away from the boundaries of the melodic line.

Additionally, this is an excellent way of memorizing your words. It is amazing how much of our memory is dependent on the melodic line. Try it – you’ll see what I mean! Take a familiar song and try to recite words – you will be amazed at how often you will hesitate!

However, I would like to reiterate that you were excellent this week, Carrie! Brava Country-Queen!
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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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