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American Idol 4 Top 2 Vocal Masterclass: Bo Bice and Carrie Underwood


BY: ROSANNE SIMUNOVIC MAY 26TH, 2005

We have come to the end of the road, dear readers! However, for all of these talented young singers, this is only the beginning. Many of these singers are destined to have successful, flourishing careers. How exciting it will be to watch the path of these rising stars as they evolve and are afforded further musical opportunities because of their American Idol experience.

Personally, based on their consummate artistry and vocal talent, I predict significant success and longevity for Nadia, Constantine, Bo, Anthony and Anwar. They exhibited the greatest endurance and stamina during this American Idol season and created distinct niches for their particular style of music.

The finale was a mixture of nerves and nostalgia combined with energetic and heartfelt performances. Both performers sang with passion and conviction yet, it was evident that the fatigue and rigors of the competition were taking a toll on the voices.

However, one performer stood alone and managed to go to a place deep within his soul to present us with three passionate and distinctive performances. I have nothing but great respect for the grace under fire that this young man has personified. His vocal presence and genuine persona will be a treasured memory and the Idol stage is fortunate indeed to have discovered a real Bona Fide star.

Additionally, I would like to extend my congratulations to American Idol Season 4 winner, Carrie Underwood. I wish her the very best as she escalates to new echelons in the establishment and fortification of her country music career.

Finally, to the readers and family members, friends and fans of the singers, thank you so much for your supportive and encouraging feedback. Where would this column be without your devotion and passion? Please return often. I will be adding more American Idol articles in the near future and, being Canadian, I will once again be involved in the Canadian Idol Season 3 series beginning next week! Thanks again everyone!

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 Carrie Underwood

Bo Bice    “Long, Long Road”: American Idol 4 Single; “Vehicle” originally performed by Ides Of March and “Inside Your Heaven”: American Idol 4 Single
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Strengths:Bo – first of all, if the news releases re your illnesses are clearly accurate and factual, then you have my warmest congratulations and lasting respect for addressing your final Idol performances with professionalism and determination. Except for a few physical and vocal shortcomings, your performances during this week’s Top 2 Finale demonstrated the reason why you have developed and matured into the appropriately bestowed star status symbol in the music industry. Your resilience, talent and musical innovation are to be applauded and there is no doubt in my mind that you will have a musical career blessed by artistic longevity and accomplishment.

Your first selection, Long, Long Road, was showcased in appropriate Bo fashion –satiated with genuine passion and emotion. I loved your stage gestures during this number; they appropriately addressed the poignant lyrical elements in this song. Beautifully done! I also enjoyed the choral back up, although they were a little overblown at times. The same could be said for the instrumental accompaniment. Do they not do sound checks for these numbers?

However, as the song progressed and you explored that glorious upper baritone vocal register, your vocal sound was more energized and the overall vocal production was significantly resonant and profound. Your vocal technique has matured tremendously, Bo, during the course of the American Idol series and I am astounded at how quickly you adapted to the proper technical process. You really adhered your vocal sound on the pure vowels (bel canto) within your song lyrics, allowing the mouth to maintain a circular formation throughout the number.

Also, you maintained a nicely elevated posture, allowing the rib cage muscles to fully expand when employing the diaphragmatic breathing process. Bravo! Also, I noticed that you employed the fantastic knee-bending strategy when moving toward a dynamically louder or higher vocal sections of this – and all- of your song selections this week. The downward motion effortlessly allows the singer to open and relax the throat muscles while at the same time reinforcing the rib cage and back muscles for proper breath support. It’s one of my favorite vocal tricks and it works 90% of the time.

Then we moved toward your second number, Vehicle, that was also performed during the Top 7 American Idol showcase this season. If you clicked on the link, you will notice that this was a pivotal performance for Bo and the beginning of his rise into the top ranks of the American Idol Competition. So, it was only natural that Bo selected this number for the Finale given its auspicious performance background.

This time the band was on your side, Bo! I loved with a passion the brass harmonies throughout this number. This may be the big band retro side of me materializing here, but it really added a superbly dynamic sound to this great number. The brass arrangement punctuated and echoed your cyclic rhythms in this number! Very cool, indeed!

Once again, you gave a soulful and powerful rendition of this great song selection. Your technique was more consistent in this number and the technique, combined with your soulful interpretive abilities, rendered a musical and believable performance.

You had a rhythmically secure stage presence throughout this number, Bo. You utilized the strong rhythms in this song to fortify your stage persona and this bestowed high energy and great style to the performance of this song. I loved your pitch perfect semi-a cappella ending, additional evidence that all the technical elements were in place during this number! Great stuff!

And what can I say about the last number? This was a superlative, emotionally potent performance. You internalized the lyrics in a believable and inspiring fashion. I had goose bumps watching and listening to you perform this magnificent composition. It spoke volumes when you selected this song as your last performance of the evening. Somehow I knew that it was going to be another mesmerizing performance reminiscent of last week’s showcase.

I loved your well- rehearsed and carefully measured stage technique. Not only did you pace yourself extremely well, but also you allowed your stage demeanor to slowly evolve and grow to compliment the gradual crescendo within the melodic song line. From your quiet and meditative pose behind the microphone at the beginning of this song to the more energetic and openly communicative stage skills midway through this number, this was a first class performance all the way, Bo

Your voice embraced the melody line so beautifully and your vowels remained cohesive and pure throughout the performance. Additionally, we heard wonderful dynamic contrasts in your vocal production, from the hushed intensity at the beginning to the more classically resonant baritone sound during the bridge and final phases of this number.

You charted the key change with pitch perfect clarity and confidence and, during this section of the song, I felt that it signified a vocally historical moment for you Bo. Everything came together in superb fashion – your confidence, your passion and integrity as a person and as a performer and your commitment to excellence.

This was a great and final week for you Bo. As Shakespeare would say: This is the stuff that dreams are made of!. Bravo and congratulations from the bottom of my heart! I look forward to purchasing many copies of your single and full length CD.

Critique: As I stated last week, Bo and readers, the critique will be noticeably shorter than the strengths portion of this evaluation. Bo -even with a cold and a bout of food poisoning, you managed to give three outstanding performances this week.

Quite truthfully, the majority of your technical problems rested in your first number. So, let’s concentrate on this song, shall we? First of all, you were having problems resonating your vocal sound at the beginning of this number. To me, I felt that the amplification was inadequate. As I stated above, an appropriate sound check was sadly lacking and this was such a shame. How hard can this be? Turn up the volume!

However, moving on! Bo -this number was resting in a very low part of your range and with your cold virus, this would be the area that would be most affected in terms of adequate vocal sound. The lower part of any performer’s singingrange lies within the average person’s speaking range and, therefore, the natural vocal timbre in that part of the range is more obviously compromised. Oddly enough – and this was evident in Bo’s case this week- the upper range oftentimes is not affected, as long as the technical support is properly accessed.

Therefore, your natural vocal timbre needed to be more efficiently supported in your lower range, Bo, especially since you were struggling with a cold virus. And a key change was not the answer, as this song’s melodic line encompassed a wide area of the your vocal range. Any higher would have been detrimental to and outside the comfort zone of your natural singing range.

Therefore, always remember to apply a really secure technical approach to every part of your vocal range. Never compromise or dismiss the proper technical support in the lower register. As with the higher register, the lower register must be focused and resonated in the vocal masque – but in the lower part of the lower masque. I always tell my students to pretend that they are digging into the sound. Keep the mouth circular and the jaw relaxed; however, be careful that you do not overextend the jaw – just a nice relaxed “ah” formation will do!

However, your second and third numbers were wonderful. Pure enjoyment! The technique and the artistry were exemplary! It has been a pleasure to review your performances Bo! You are a consummate professional and what I have come to love about you is the phenomenal level of growth I have witnessed throughout your Idol performances.

Cheers to your very bright and extremely promising future. I am very excited to see and hear where this Idol experience takes you. Congratulations are extended to you and to your loved ones in this celebratory event in your musical life! God Bless!
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Carrie Underwood:     “Inside Your Heaven”: American Idol 4 Single; ” Independence Day ” originally performed by Martina McBride and “Angels Brought Me Here”: American Idol 4 Single

Strengths: Carrie –your first song, Inside Your Heaven definitely came alive when you moved into the higher melodic sections of this song. You voice enjoyed such a bright and ringing timbre in this part of your range and was generally resplendent with the appropriate compliment of head voice. You did attempt to sing with a cohesive approach to your vowels and the diaphragmatic breathing process was pretty consistent.

However, your second number, a reprise of your Top Ten performance was a more believable and confident performance. I heard a seamless, even quality throughout your sparkling vocal range. You maintained a circular and relaxed mouth formation throughout this great number, allowing the rib cage and back muscles surrounding the diaphragm to positively enhance and project your vocal sound. You had a more classical approach to this number and used it quite judiciously to pitch center and resonate your vocal sound in your vocal masque.

Once again, you were performing music from familiar Carrie –tory(chuckle) and as a result your performance technique was more relaxed and effortless. You were a passionate and believable presence on stage during this number, Carrie, and, consequently, your communication skills were more efficient and artistically skillful! Good for you!

However, it was your last number that impressed this writer. This was a fabulous selection for you Carrie and I applaud 19E for selecting this number for your voice and persona. It appropriately addressed you distinct artistry and musical skills. Truthfully, I much enjoy your voice when you sing these pure, unadulterated ballads. I feel that it allows you the opportunity to use your technical skills more consistently and, consequently, this consistent technical approach elevates your confidence level as a performer.

Therefore, the overall performance of this number was very good indeed. I was very impressed with your pitch perfect ability to negotiate the dynamically potent key change midway through this song. Your voice sounded glorious and resonant and energized in this section of the song and these vocal attributes remained a constant presence from this point on.

You once again used your classical technique extremely well. There were a few glitches along the way, which I will address in the critique portion of this evaluation; however, generally, your voice and persona came alive during this number and your connected in a more believable fashion with the audience.

I also loved that you ended the song with a quieter, more sensitive dynamic. Yes – your voice did crack a little, but, at least, I felt that you were addressing the emotional content of the lyrics in appropriate style and fashion.

I have come to appreciate this trait in your performances Carrie. I believe that you have the ability to display multi-level dynamics in your voice. With further development and practice, this vocal attribute will become even more evident and secure. However, your natural head tone ability is a natural component of your enormous vocal gift and you should strive to really highlight this aspect of your voice to greater effect in the future.

Good luck and congratulations on your final Idol performances!

Critique: Carrie –your encountered a variety of problems in all three of your numbers. I believe the fatigue and stresses of the competition were challenging the necessary physical and emotional strength and/or endurance for vocally coherent performances. This is understandable and I have taken all this into consideration.

However, some vocal difficulties were carried over from previous weeks and, with the competitive schedule behind you, I needed to, once again, address these problems. It is time to become truly serious about protecting your voice for the remainder of your musical career. You are only 22 years old – that’s a lot of years to consider and you must make certain to equip and protect yourself with the correct technical armor.

In your first song, Inside Your Heaven, you once again encountered resonating problems in the lower end of your vocal spectrum. Your diaphragmatic breathing muscles were not accessed in proper fashion and – bingo- your voice lacked presence and charisma. You must remember to dig into this part of your range and allow the rib cage muscles to support and project your lower register.

Additionally, you needed to incorporate the essential head tone quality so that your lower register maintains a resoundingly pure and pitch centered vocal timbre. As well, the vocal sound must be sustained in bel canto style in the lower half of your vocal masque (your mouth and lower part of your nasal area). When all these components come together, you will enjoy a greater vocal presence when you navigate this part of your range.

Also, this problem aggravated your vocal quality in your upper range. Because the head tone element was missing in the lower range, you carried too much chest voice to your upper register. This situation became even more problematic when you tried to center the transitory notes in the key change of this number. The pitch was severely compromised and really hindered the remaining moments of this song selection.

Additionally, watch that posture, Carrie! Your shoulders exhibited a droopy demeanor and the ribcage area was not sufficiently elevated for proper expansion of the entire diaphragmatic area. Not only did this impede the correct technical process, but also it signaled a less confident stage persona. In every performance, your entire bodily demeanor should embrace the audience and you must learn to create more space around your body so as not to confine your physical and artistic presence.

Additionally, you must work at becoming more inventive with your interpretive skills. This was an original song selection and, as I said last week, you must strive to internalize the emotion of the song to greater efficiency. The originality of this song selection should have encouraged you to be more creative with your phrasing and interpretive skills; however, this was not the case. The song sounded melodically disjointed and artistically deficient.

I know that Barbra Streisand may not compliment your particular genre of music, but you would do well to listen to her interpretation of legendary song material associated with distinct artists, such as Judy Garland’s Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Surely you know that number. It’s a given! Listen to Judy Garland’s fabulous rendition and then listen to Barbra’s equally spectacular rendition. Same song – two distinct artists – two unique interpretations! Recordings are a primary, fundamental process for all singers to further hone and develop their interpretive skills, as long as you don’t copy the original artist’s adaptation.

Your second and third numbers, Independence Day and Angels Brought me Here, suffered the same problems as the first, but to a lesser extent, largely due to the fact that you were performing material within you comfort zone. However, be careful of that “twang” effect when you sing this genre of music. It works against the proper technique and, unfortunately, encourages you to sing in a disheveled fashion.

Make certain that you maintain clean diction when you sing this music, particularly in your lower range. When you sang through your higher register, the more potent vocal sound encouraged you to precisely enunciate your lyrics; however, this skill must be reinforced in the lower, less resonant area of your vocal range. In doing so, you will notice a revitalized vocal timbre in the lower register.

Good luck, Carrie and, once again, congratulations on your success on the American Idol Season 4 competition!
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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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