It’s the Top 5 showcase and, unlike previous weeks, the singers were required to utilize their own artistic resources in the selection and interpretation of their songs. No guest artists, no guest vocal coaches, no specific themes or genres! This week, the Top 5 were able to select two songs each, the first reflecting a song released during their birth year and the second reflecting a song that is currently gracing the Top 100 Billboard Charts.

So, with two opportunities to showcase their vocal and creative skills, I expected the singers to select songs that highlighted their distinctive style and musicality. And, generally, they delivered as expected extremely well, I thought! I won’t waste valuable word space in this Masterclass header. With two songs to evaluate this week, I will save my brain power and finger strength for the individual adjudication of the Top 5 singers. So, let the Top 5 showdown begin!

Also, many fans have asked for some clarification on the vocal terminology. I always aim to please, so click here and, hopefully, the technical veil will be lifted.

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!

Or come and visit my page (a work in progress) on MySpace.Com.

Chris Daughtry,

Elliot Yamin, Katharine McPhee

Paris Bennett, Taylor Hicks

Chris Daughtry     “Renegade” (Styx) and “I Dare You” (Shinedown)”

Strengths: First of all, Chris, I was very excited to discover that you were performing a Styx number this week. I love the classical pop sound of this innovative band and, like Queen, their vocal sound is extremely distinctive and singular.

This week, both songs reflected your sustained commitment to the rock genre of music. At this stage of the competition, it is imperative that the singers choose songs that reflect their musical statement. Although I would have enjoyed more contrast between your two songs this week, you nonetheless performed songs that identified your unique brand of artistry. You have remained true to the rock essence that has infused each and every song performed by you throughout this competition. Good for you, Chris!

In both numbers, your voice exhibited that now familiar and distinctive muscular timbre. At the beginning of Renegade, your voice sounded absolutely lustrous against the percussive and a cappella vocals. I have always loved the meaty and bright timbre of your natural vocal sound. You have a wonderful instrument, Chris that penetrates the naturally loud accompaniment of rock music. So many rock singers have a grating presence in their voices that becomes tiresome to the ears; however, your voice has a classical rock sound that I absolutely love. Never lose that, Chris!

During Renegade, your distinctive vocal sound remained consistently present and technically secure. In your second number, I Dare You, you alternated your pure vocals with an edgier sound and, stylistically, this worked to reflect the tormented emotion of this song. I felt that your vocal technique was absolutely stellar in Renegade.. You voice sounded seamless and even from top to bottom. I loved the movement into your head voice midway through this song. It added inflection and nuance to your melodic line and, additionally, challenged the extremities of your upper range. And that is always a very good thing, indeed.

In both numbers, I appreciated your strong adherence to the bel canto vocal method of singing. Your mouth maintained a circular position on all your vowels and your jaw was relaxed and free as you navigated the upper areas of your vocal register. Additionally, your eyes remained open and relaxed, thus allowing your voice to vibrate freely in the resonators located behind your eyes.

It was great to see you move off stage, Chris, during the Renegade number. By doing so, you allowed yourself to be more communicative and liberated during your performance, thus establishing great rapport with your television and live audience. For me, this was the best visual performance I have seen from you. It seemed that the added movement energized the entire performance and gave it a life of its own. For once, you were not lost in your rock- induced world. You involved the audience in the performance and it made a huge difference in audience response. TIVO this performance and you will see what I mean. Renegade rocked big time!

Both songs were well- paced, well- formulated performances and I congratulate you on an excellent showcase his week, Chris! Bravo!

Critique: Chris –last week, I was concerned about your head raising habit. However, I really felt that this week, the habit was in the beginning stages of correcting itself. However, at times, during both numbers, we were left with a view of your neck when you sang and we lost all contact with your facial expressions. This is not a habit that one can lose overnight; however, continue to work judiciously to eradicate this poor performance and technical habit. You must maintain eye contact with the camera and with your audience; it fortifies improved communicative and technical components during a vocal performance.

Additionally, you truly over extended your voice during I Dare You. I understand that you want to deliver a powerful dynamic during this song; however, the louder and stronger dynamic areas of this song have to be reinforced through the correct technical process. If you push the vocal sound from your throat muscles, your voice will crack and will sound less resonant.

You had the correct technical approach during Renegade and there were some pretty powerful dynamics during this number as well. I think that your stationary position on stage during I Dare You encouraged you to feel less relaxed and less energized, thus allowing your technique to falter as well.

You must maintain a sense of momentum even when you are standing still. Sounds crazy? It’s true, however. The body must be buoyant and free – always – and this encourages the diaphragmatic muscles to support in a accurately energetic and consistent manner.

Also, Chris, make certain that when you sing in your falsetto range, as you did during Renegade, that you access the diaphragmatic muscles to place and properly pitch the melodic line. I felt that your sound was a little unfocused and sounded a bit breathy when you navigated this area of your range, so make certain that the diaphragmatic technique is enhancing your falsetto vocal sound. Keep your throat open and free and allow the sound to resonate in your vocal masque.

Finally, vocally, both of these songs had a similarity in style. It was great that you moved more aggressively in the first number; this added better contrast when you performed your second number on stage. However, vocally, I would like to see you select songs from the rock genre that are distinctively different in speed, mood and style. Hopefully, you will have this opportunity next week.

However, these performances were very good, Chris and Renegade was just plain exceptional. Great work once again! Bravo!
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Elliot Yamin     “On Broadway” (George Benson) and “Home” (Michael Buble)

Strengths: Elliot–good for you for selecting two distinctly different song styles. I feel that, at this point in the competition, all singers need to understand the concept of programming numbers that allow the listeners to see many sides to their personality. In your case, Elliot, both song selections highlighted your vocal strengths and performing ability.

During your first number, On Broadway, I loved how you incorporated your rustic vocals into areas of this song performance. It was very good to hear you add inflection and nuance and this gravelly vocal timbre was so appropriate for the correct stylistic interpretation of this number.

Also, in both numbers, you stayed very true to the correct technique and your mouth remained circular and relaxed throughout these performances. You really worked very hard to maintain the correct bel canto technique, as you allowed the vowels to resonate freely in your vocal masque. (face)

Your head position, which has been problematic in past performances, was vastly improved. I sensed that you were working very hard to maintain eye contact with the camera and avoid the upward tilt of the head position. Like your Top 5 peer, Chris, this cannot be achieved overnight, so continue to make this part of your rehearsal regime as you strive to improve and refine your technical and performing skills.

As always, you internalized the emotional core of the songs just beautifully. You delivered your On Broadway number with a sense of fun and abandon and, during your Home performance, your sensitive and caring persona shone like a beacon in the dark. It was such a heart warming and genuine performance, Elliot. I just loved it so much.

Congratulations on your fine showcase this week, Elliot. You are a very meticulous and diligent performer and this will take you a very long way in your singing career. Bravo!

Critique: Elliot –you know how much I absolutely love your vibrato. I have always commented on this quality in your voice every week, adding that it added a distinct timbre to your natural singing voice. However, I also cautioned you to maintain the proper level of technical control in highlighting this element in your voice, so as to avoid the wobble effect when vocalizing.

This never was a problem until this week. I don’t know if you were tired and just couldn’t draw the proper amount of energy from your diaphragm, but your vibrato was not secured with enough technical efficiency. The vibrations were really unmanageable, I thought, and the pitch – centered clarity of your voice was adversely affected. When the vibrato lacks control, the voice sounds poorly pitched and, additionally, it distracts from the inherent beauty of a singer’s natural vocal quality.

You struggled with this technical problem in both numbers; however, it was more apparent during the slower paced Home number. The peaceful, calming nature of the song was disturbed by the poorly controlled vibrato. You must make certain that you are accessing a consistent level of diaphragmatic breath support when you sing, Elliot, controlling your vocal sound – and the level of vibrato – solely and completely from the diaphragm.

You need to know when to turn the vibrato element on and when to turn it off. It should never be a continuing presence when you sing. Usually, I like to hear more of the vibrato element in the forte (louder) passages of a song and, even then, you must make certain that there is a balance of pure head tone to compensate for the excessive vibrations. I felt that you lost your ability to blend enough head tone into your voice and, as a result, your voice lacked focus and clarity in both numbers.

Also, Elliot, make certain that you do not conduct yourself with your right hand. This was not problematic in your Home number, but rather it was a distracting force during your On Broadway number. I think you started a little over pumped at the outset of this song and your stage technique lost a level of control and finesse. Additionally, your pitch faltered at the beginning, indicating that the diaphragm was not fully supporting your voice.

It is always better to ease into an upbeat song. You have to keep some energy in reserve at the beginning of a performance, so as to balance the choreographic and technical ingredients properly. Then, having done so, you can let loose after 30 seconds or so into your number, having ingrained a level of control and comfort on stage. Additionally, your performance would have enjoyed a level of surprise from having introduced different levels of energy and dynamic range throughout the showcase.

Finally, I felt that the key of Home was a little low for your natural singing range. I would have liked to hear your sing this song a semitone or tone higher; I think the overall vocal effect would have been more intense and passionate, allowing your beautiful tenor range to shine more effectively. Also, in a song like Home, it is really important to add speech like inflection. This song has a melancholy, verbose quality in the lyrical composition and, when added to the repetitive melodic line, it is imperative that you add nuance and modulation so that the heart of the song is truly exposed. Hushed vocal sounds alternating with a brilliant vocal timbre was the way to go in the performance of this song, Elliot.

I felt that, it sounded a bit one dimensional, at times and it didn’t help that you had to sing a poorly abridged version of this song. It’s too bad that the arrangement was so disjointed and fragmented. It lacked continuity. Your voice deserves better than this arrangement, so it is unfortunate that you were confronted with this dilemma. This is another reason why singers must choose their songs so carefully. When not allowed to perform a song in its entirety, the song sometimes lacks all the essential ingredients that expose a singer’s true depth and artistry.

Hope all this helps Elliot! You are a sensitive and caring performer and your voice, when secured with the proper technique, is absolutely stellar! Bravo!
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Katharine McPhee     “Against All Odds” (Phil Collins) and “Black Horse and Cherry Tree” (KT Tunstall)

Strengths: Katharine – congratulations on selecting two visually and stylistically diverse song selections this week. Each week I feel that you have unveiled different levels of your artistry and vocal talent. There has been a progressive improvement in your performances since the beginning of the Top 12 competition and this level of achievement is to be applauded and acknowledged. You are a meticulously prepared performer and it was obvious that your disciplined and detailed approach to your song performances was and continues to be a top priority in your rehearsal regime.

In both numbers, your voice enjoyed the implementation of a stellar bel canto technical approach. Your voice radiated a seamless and even quality throughout your vocal registers and you continuously resonated your pure vowel vocal sound in your vocal masque (face). The presence of your head voice in every area of your range never disappeared and this added to the ringing pitch centered security to your voice in both numbers.

I was a little confused about the judges’ comments regarding pitch problems at the beginning of Against All Odds; it really was not apparent to my ears, so I cannot comment on this. To my mind, I remembered the sultry vocal quality that you introduced at the beginning of this number, followed by the richly passionate vocal delivery. As always, I was impressed with your ability to add inflection and nuance in your singing style. You have a highly developed dynamic range, Katharine – perhaps the very best in this year’s competition- and I so appreciate this quality in a singer’s voice.

Additionally, throughout both numbers, you experimented with the original melodic line and added your own creative bend in the interpretation of these songs. I always appreciate hearing a new and innovative interpretation of a well-known song; it distances the artist’s performance from being identified as a karaoke version of the original recording. No one can accuse you of this, Katharine, as you have always approached and showcased your performances in an inventive and imaginative manner.

And speaking of imagination, I loved your kneeling position throughout Black Horse and Cherry Tree; it was the bomb, I dare say! Of the two performances, this was my favorite because you successfully exposed your fun loving and carefree personality. Your vocals sounded more energized because you were having a blast and a half on the floor.

I always emphasize to my singers that it is so important to get on a stage and just perform! Although technique must always be the foundation of your vocalization, you cannot allow it to overshadow the performance; if this happens, the performance falls flat and lacks artistry and soul. One must achieve a balance between the fundamentals of technique and performance. Katherine, this week, you successfully achieved this goal. It was style and substance all the way!

In both songs, your stage choreography was just excellent. You moved in a graceful and musically flowing manner, even when on your knees. Some singers cannot move as well on foot, but there was little Kat floating across the stage on her knees. Bravo on an excellent showcase this week, Katherine! Kudos!

Critique: Katherine – last week I cautioned you to judiciously choose your songs, making certain that your song selections fit your classical pop vocal qualities. I always worried when you performed a Christina or Mariah or Whitney song, as these artists have naturally larger vocal instruments than you and can therefore produce a bigger sound that rings true. Your voice, on the other hand, possesses a pristine soprano quality that must be incorporated into your overall vocal technique to achieve the same result as the belters.

However, this week, your song choices were more appropriate and your vocal delivery sounded effortless and naturally spontaneous. These songs were perfectly suited to your voice and style and so many technical issues from last week spontaneously disappeared.

However, I must make one small suggestion. As much as I really liked the song Against All Odds, it has been repeatedly performed on many Idol shows and needs to be retired. I would have enjoyed hearing another less performed song as your first song selection. I think this is why I so enjoyed your Black Horse and Cherry Tree song selection. It offered something new to the Idol show and, therefore, left a memorable impression in the minds of the viewers.

However, I have very little else to critique. Vocally, you were a strong presence on stage. Congratulations once again on an excellent showcase, Katharine! Outstanding work!
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Paris Bennett:     “Kiss” (Prince) and “Without You” (Mary J. Blige)

Strengths: Paris –once again you were an absolutely adorable presence on stage throughout both of these song selections. As I said so often in previous weeks, you exhibited a highly developed rhythmic sense, as you effortlessly strutted and sashayed through these numbers. In both numbers, you established a very strong communication with your television and live audience. Your camera work was excellent and you smoothly choreographed your movements on the secondary stage in the audience. You are one consummate performer, young lady! You know how to engage an audience and never cease to involve everyone in your inherent love and passion for the art of singing.

In your second number, Be Without You, I loved your choreographed hand and arm movements, as they assertively punctuated the verbose text of this R&B song. By doing so, the repetitive melodic elements of the song enjoyed a higher degree of gradation throughout your performance. Stellar choreography can add so much to a performance. It was obvious that you had rehearsed and refined your stage movements to beautifully compliment the vocal elements in both songs. Good for you. Both of these songs were very difficult and you didn’t leave anything to chance.

The rhythmic elements alone would be enough to give other singers nightmares for weeks, but this, along with your stellar vocal gifts, have never been problematic for you throughout this entire competition. Talent is imperative, but so is fastidious preparation and respect for the music. I always feel that you have an ingrained work ethic Paris. Your artistic intelligence and acumen is extremely advanced and can only spell the greatest success for you in the years to come.

Vocally, your voice sounded beautifully rich and resonant throughout both performances. There was a fluid forward momentum to your vocal phrasing that never relented. Both numbers oozed musicality and technical brilliance. You were applying such a cohesive approach to your vowels that it seemed that you were using crazy glue to achieve this desired vocal component. Your voice enjoyed a ringing pitch centered head tone presence throughout both numbers and your diaphragmatic technique was absolutely excellent.

One can measure a singer’s technique during up- tempo songs by listening for a breathy or unfocused vocal quality. If the voice always sounds clear and resonant, then you know that the singer must be enhancing her voice through the correct technical resources. Paris, this was the case with you this week. Last week was a distant memory.
This week, you paced yourself so well throughout both of these numbers, managing your breath efficiently and resourcefully. You achieved an optimum balance between both the technical and performance aspects of these songs.

Bravissima young lady on two exceptional performances!

Critique: Paris – if I have anything to critique, it would pertain to your song choices. It would have been wonderful to hear you sing a ballad to contrast with either your Kiss number or the Without You number. In past weeks, I loved listening to your resonant voice as it wrapped effortlessly around the melodic lines of a ballad. I was really missing this performing opportunity this week, Paris. In some ways, both songs had a stylistic similarity that may have negated the overall performance impression.

As much as I appreciated your supreme musical effort on stage, I was concerned that you were not addressing the general voting audience with your song choices. You must remember that programming is essential to a successful showcase, so, in the future, remember to diversify your song selections, alternating slow vs. fast, happy vs. sad or melancholy.

However, both performances were still extremely effective and I congratulate you once again on your superb work!

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Taylor Hicks:     “Play that Funky Music” (Wild Cherry) and “Something”(Beatles/George Harrison)

Strengths: Taylor –talk about choosing songs from opposite sides of the genre spectrum. Now, attention everybody and “listen up”! This is how you program your music and keep it real and interesting. Taylor, your song selections this week defined who you are as an artist. Your musical vibe is assuredly blues and soul; however, this week’s performances confirmed that you are extremely capable of incorporating your distinct soulful sound into any song from any genre.

The result was an innovative and new cover of a familiar classic such as Something. We are so accustomed to hearing the Beatles version. The original version is a gem; however, your take on this song was absolutely refreshing. The Beatles were responsible for introducing classical components into the rock genre and their innovative composing method paved the way for the numerous composers who followed in their footsteps. However, Taylor, you added a soulful sound to this song, while still maintaining the classical elements in the melodic and harmonic structure. It was absolutely beautiful.

Technically, I think this was your best performance. The musical elements are always present in each one of your performances, but, this week, your voice sounded absolutely radiant and energized throughout both numbers. However, it was your Something performance that afforded the listener opportunity to hear the depth and beauty of your vocal talent. And the sincerity and sensitivity was so palpable, it resonated long after the performance ended.

It was interesting to see you look so “in the moment” of this heart- rending song after you completed your performance and you were awaiting the judges’ critique. It was obvious that you had deeply internalized the song lyrics and the emotion of the song was still part of your essence long after the music stopped. It was quite a revealing picture – and yet startling at the same time, as we are all so accustomed to that ubiquitous “taylorized” smile after each performance. It almost seemed to me like you were thinking, “Analyze this, judges! Don’t mess with this song!” Well, that’s what I was thinking nonetheless!

Your Play That Funky Music number was an inspired song choice as well. The stage exploded when you began this number. Taylor Hicks doesn’t need fancy lighting and fireworks. It comes prepackaged with the man! How could anyone not like this song? It was a tour de force, a soulful masterpiece that left no artistic stone unturned. You should be teaching a Masterclass in Performance Arts, Taylor, because this is how it’s done.

And no one listens to the Three Stooges aka the “judges” anymore, so they can pout and mope ‘til the cows come home because nobody cares what they think. However, their tiresome comments are better than chamomile tea at night, so that’s a good thing I guess!

Also, during “Funky Music, I once again loved the mixture of rustic versus pure vocals. You use your gravelly voice wisely and judiciously. You are obviously grounding your vocal sound through the correct diaphragmatic technical process. If the opposite were true, your voice would have sounded breathy and unfocused and this was definitely not the case.

Your voice was a viable living presence on stage and your spirit was contagious and positively infectious. I rarely see a performer who loves the stage and their audience more than you. As I said last week, the only other current performer that comes to mind is the great Michael Buble, so you are in great company.

What more can I say, Taylor! You were just superb. From the song selections to every element in your vocal performance, your brilliance and positive spirit remains unparalleled in this competition. Bravo and congratulations for two memorable performances Taylor!


Critique: Taylor –there is little if anything to critique in this performance. Your dual showcase was virtually flawless. Your vocal and choreographic elements were meticulously rehearsed and I always felt that you were in total control of every aspect of your performances this week. What you have brought to the Idol stage this season is nothing short of inspiring and I know that, regardless of the outcome, you are destined for greatness beyond the confines of American Idol.

Kudos and bravissimo!
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Rosanne Simunovic is the Voice Instructor and Conductor for the. 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!

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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