American Idol Season 9 Top 11 Vocal Masterclass Article: Billboard #1 Hits

American Idol
By: Rosanne Simunovic

This week’s American Idol theme was Billboard #1 Hits. That being said, logic would dictate that each of the singers – barring clearance issues – would have an equal opportunity to select songs  suited to their artistic style and substance.

However the question is: Were they all successful and were there some surprising results during the performance process?

Some of  answers may lie within my Vocal Masterclass evaluations and I welcome your commentary and suggestions after the read!

Here are my evaluations and, remember, I am reviewing each singer in (first name) alphabetical order. Your comments are always welcome. To quickly access individual singers, simply click on the singer’s link below.


Aaron Kelly, Andrew Garcia,

Casey James, Crystal Bowersox, Didi Benami,

Katie Stevens, Lee Dewyze,

Michael Lynche, Paige Miles

Siobhan Magnus, Tim Urban

AARON KELLY 16-years-old: “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing”

Strengths: Aaron- I am sorry that you have been ill with laryngitis and tonsilitis. Oh my, great timing, huh?  This was a big and powerful song and, although you were ill, you still managed to deliver a very strong performance.

You communicated the song with sincerity and conviction and, although the vocals were not working for you this week because of  your illness, you left  a strong musical impression that stage.

Good work, Aaron!

 Critique: Aaron-although I loved this song, I thought it was just too powerful for the light, lyrical quality of your voice. Your technical skills aren’t “there” yet and, that being said, you do not have the natural vocal timbre to execute the dynamic demands that this song requires.

A s I said in the “Strengths” portion of your evaluation, you did feel and internalize the emotional core of the song, but, vocally, you just were not ready to deliver this song.  It’s too large for the current development of your voice.  You need to realize your limitations (and I mean this is in a positive way) as a vocalist at this stage in your singing career and start selecting songs that highlight the inherent youthful beauty of your vocal timbre.

Also, I must remind you to continue working on maintaining a circular mouth position when grabbing those pure vowels.  This week, you noticeably created a “spread” in your mouth position on the “ee” vowel when you sang the word “sweet” and, then again on the “eh vowel” in the word “ever“. And once again, that “eye” diphthong caused you some vocal distress.  Always think “ah” when approaching that diphthong.

Pure vowels, coupled with a consistently round mouth and relaxed jaw, will immediately add depth and resonance to your voice, even at your young age and will also center and focus your voice – thus avoiding further pitch issues.

Also, remember  to breathe more deeply and from the diaphragm, especially when you are ill.  You also need to expand your  facial features and release the resonators in your face.  Your looked mighty distressed and all that facial tension created havoc in your vocal delivery.  Your voice had nowhere to go, so it basically stayed locked inside your head.

How about trying something a little more upbeat next week, Aaron?  You need to release some bodily tension and also add some diversity to your programme. An upbeat song, if properly rehearsed, would do all this and more.

Good luck next week, Aaron,  and get well very soon!

ANDREW GARCIA 24-years-old: “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”

Strengths: Andrew- well, thankfully, Miley talked you into losing the guitar because, personally, I have had enough of all the guitars.  And this song really should be performed without the guitar.  And, guess what?  Without the guitar you performed  this song extremely well.

This is the first time that I felt I could really enjoy and sense what you were capable of achieving as an artist.  By allowing yourself to command the stage and move around with confidence and conviction, your still green technical skills became less noticeable.

You also increased  the visual aspects of your performance and, although both the aural and the visual are important, it cannot always be about technique on that stage.  One has to perform, to entertain, to touch the  hearts and minds of the listeners and, this week, you did just that Andrew.

Your voice sounded more resonant this week because your body was energized your movements.  Movement is very liberating and I think you did feel more free and thus more confident on the stage this week.

As an aside, I would also like to applaud  the three female background vocalists.  They were very good and added great entertainment value to this number.

I thought you enjoyed enormous improvement this week.  Very good work! Congratulations!

Critique: Andrew – first of all, I felt that this was not a strong song choice for the simple reason that it has been performed innumerable times on this show.  This song is getting old really fast and unless you were to bring something new and refreshing to the table, then this song should never -ever-  be performed on this show again. It has had its day in the sun and needs to take a breather.

So, I would caution you to really research your songs choices in the future and try to unveil something new and different. Go on YouTube, download music from ITunes – anything – but start to challenge your self in terms of song selection.

Additionally, you need to challenge yourself in honing and crafting the correct technical skills. Your voice is aching to acquire the  potency and support that  diaphragmatic breathing skills would give you.

Also, you have to make certain that your stage movements do not interfere with your vocal delivery. Did you practice this song minus the stage movements?  The song should stand-alone and sound terrific before you add the choreography. It’s all about balance.

You must make certain that your voice is technically capable of delivering a strong vocal performance before you add the visual aspects of your performance.  A singer cannot and should not use stage movements to mask inferior vocal quality – it never works in the long run.  Yes, you must entertain and reach your audience but, at some point, your audience will want to hear a ballad from you and then what will you do?

For easy reference, Andrew, you can refer to your Top 12 Vocal Masterclass evaluation and, hopefully, continue working on developing your technical skills.

However, all in all, this was your best performance since this show began.  You were making an effort to improve your presence on that stage and, in a general way, it worked.  Congratulations, Andrew!

CASEY JAMES 27 -years old: “Power Of Love”

Strengths: Casey- this was a great, great song choice  –  one of the best of the night in my opinion.  I loved the brass band ” hanging loose above you“.  Great visual touch!

You sang this song with great personality and, even though you didn’t move away from the mike stand until the final chord, it was still a dynamic and communicative performance.  Your voice had presence  and personality and your guitar skills were excellent.

Your charismatic  level on that American Idol stage is increasing monumentally each and every week.  I am truly enjoying  the “Casey evolutionary process” from shy Top 24 Semi-Finalist to a now very confident, very musical Top 11 Finalist. This is what I have always loved about this show – watching stars emerge before our very eyes.

This was a memorable and exciting Top 11 performance – one of the best of the night and certainly the best we have seen from you thus far.

Congratulations on your fine work, Casey! Bravo and standing “O” from MCL!

Critique: Casey- I have to slightly agree with Simon in the sense that you could have been more inventive when approaching the melodic line.  It really did sound like a carbon copy of the original – a great carbon copy nonetheless – but still a carbon!

All that was necessary was an effort to become more creative with the phrase line, adding a few notes here or there, moving up when the melodic line moved down, carrying some phrases through in one breath – little things that would have made an artistic difference.

Also, at some point I would love to hear you sing an acoustic ballad, as a slower song choice would urge you to apply all the fundamental essentials of the”bel canto” singing technique. As much as I loved the expansive array of background musicians, we need to see you perform without all the bells and whistles – if, for no other reason than to add diversity and dimension to your performances.

It would also encourage you to focus on the fundamentals of solid vocal production, particular your ability to sustain and phrase your melodic line in a seamless and fluid manner.

However, at this stage of the competition, you were very astute in selecting this song – it was a crowd-pleaser, it was highly entertaining and, most important, it punctuated the inherent effectiveness of your musicality and  performance ability.

Amazing work this week, Casey! Bravo once again!

CRYSTAL BOWERSOX 24-years-old: “Bobby McGee”

Strengths: Crystal-once again you strummed your guitar and remained very tranquil by your microphone stand. However, this week, despite the lack of movement, I felt more connected to this performance  because you were making a very determined and expressive effort to communicate the essence of this song to your audience

I loved the liberated, soulful style you delivered and, additionally, the manner in which you added escalating dynamics as the song moved forward. The song just oozed passionate artistry – the expressive  levels in this song were brilliantly executed.

You are thoroughly in touch who you are as an artist and, as a listener, I was able to relax and just enjoy the journey you took us on.  You looked comfortable and confident on that stage, quite possibly because you sang a song that was so perfect for your distinct style and persona.

Excellent work, Crystal!

Critique: Crystal- make absolutely certain that you articulate your words when you sing through your lower register. Ditto for the softer passages!  At the beginning of this song, I could barely understand your words or hear your voice, signaling to me your lack of solid vocal skills.  You have loads of natural musical talent, but, now you need to increase the technical aspects of vocal production.

For example, the horizontal position of your mouth contributed to a less brilliant and less resonant vocal sound.  Oh how I wish I could get you in a room and teach you a few tricks but this is the best I can do.

Really try to secure a more circular mouth position when sustaining your vowels on the melodic line, as this formation, coupled with a relaxed and open jaw and diaphragmatic breathing skills, will add depth and dimension to your voice.

Also, articulate the consonants with precision and clarity, using them as a springboard toward your vowels. By doing so, you will notice increased energy and focus in your voice. Additionally, your lyrics will be more coherent and, thus, more distinct.

I am glad you have big plans for us next week and I am hoping that involves a movement away from the guitar and the microphone stand. We need to see more diversity from you and you need to take escalating steps to toward a more  approachable and confident stage persona.

Good work, Crystal. Overall, a very fine performance indeed!

DIDI BENAMI 23-years old : “You’re No Good “

Strengths: Didi – I loved this performance and your voice wrapped so beautifully around the melodic  line. This was a great change of pace and I am glad that you generously unveiled a new dimension to your performing ability.

I loved your playful gestures with the bass man and really loved the gritty vocals midway through this song.  I felt that this vocal performance was loaded with nuance and inflection and with at.ti.tude!

Yes, like so many others this week, there were some issues with pitch and I could have predicted this for many of the singers back in January. Many have come to this competition equipped with very green technical skills.

However, to  your credit, Didi, you did try to elevate your performance skills in this week’s showcase, looking beyond your present technical deficiencies in favour of capturing a memorable and distinct performance. I feel that this was a very good call – technical development comes with time, but, singers have to realize that when it is time to perform, then one has to perform!

This was very good work, Didi! You had fun on that stage and, basically, surprised everyone with your visual and aural transformation. Surprises are good when they are – well – good! And this was very, very good!

Keep up the excellent work, Didi! Kudos to you, young lady!

 Critique: Didi – now it’s time to work on the stability of that lovely voice!  This week, you experienced pitch problems for two reasons – your lack of efficient diaphragmatic breath control and the addition of your stage movements.

Let us briefly examine the first problem.  Presently, your mouth adopted a horizontal position throughout your song  and, as a result,  it became difficult for you to center your sound.  The focus of your voice was askew and it lost its focus and core.  Circular is the way to go and that means maintaining a circular position on all the pure vowels, similar to the way the British speak.

Hopefully, you are working on the development of your voice through the “bel canto” approach in your singing style.  When you finally grasp it,  you will be amazed at your increased levels  of ease  and confidence as a vocal artist.

Finally, to reference the second problem affecting your pitch, you must make absolutely certain that your movements are meticulously rehearsed so that they do not  interrupt the natural flow and focus of your vocal delivery.

This was problematic for many of the singers this week in an effort to communicate more tangibly with their audience, many through “caution to the wind” and forgot that they were being evaluated on their singing and recording skills.  I think this is what was frustrating to the judges and I echoed their frustrations in many instances.

As I have previously mentioned to other singers,  rehearse your song well, paying attention to areas where you are encountering vocal issues and then correct them. Then  – and only then – add your stage movements. This way your will maintain “muscle memory” in your vocal and performance delivery and the impact will be much more effective to the listener.

However, all things considered, this was  an excellent performance, Didi! You sparkled on that stage!

KATIE STEVENS 23-years old: “Big Girls Don’t Cry”

Strengths: Katie – I absolutely loved the song choice – it was refreshing and it was current and it suited you perfectly. Your voice is wonderfully refined. You are gaining in confidence and momentum with each passing week and it looks that Miley’s mentoring actually did help you. Who knew?

Thank you for singing with such stellar technical skills. Your pitch issues generally are the result of nerves more than a lack of knowledge of the proper technical skills. Your mouth is behaving as it should and your facial features are open and free. Additionally, the focus and resonance of your voice is extremely efficient and liberated.

You obviously rehearsed every aspect of this song performance meticulously  – you added some movement to increase the visual dimension of this song and the aural dimension came from within the song structure.   Your power vocals were outstanding – give or take  a few minor pitch problems.

Similar to a few other singers this week, I truly enjoyed the escalation of your stage presence and charisma.  I said in a previous article that this will be the season where stars are born and developed before our eyes over a two-month span and you, Miss Katie, are indicative of this very statement.

Brilliant work, Katie! Brava!

 Critique: Katie – watch your support in your lower range. Sometimes this area of your voice was less centered and, therefore, you did encounter some pitch problems.  It helps to remember to articulate with clarity and precision when singing through the lower range – this will add energy and focus to the lower end of you vocal sound while allowing the words to maintain their clarity.  Keep the diaphragmatic support front and center on a consistent basis.

Also, be careful to pace yourself during a number that requires some movement. You want to be able to access your diaphragm with ease and consistency and, if the stage movements become too overwhelming, then the diaphragm can become compromised.

I think this very fact was problematic for you this week, but also, I feel that the stage movements, however subtle, made you a little nervous. With you, it is more of a confidence issue than a technical issue and I feel that this will be remedied with time and experience plus positive feedback from the judges – which you thankfully received this week.

All and all, this was  very strong performance, Katie! Brava young lady!

LEE DEWYZE: 23-years old “The Letter”

Strengths:  Lee –  this song and, in particular, this song arrangement was a wonderful choice. And, hurray, you moved away from the guitar and commanded the stage with your complete vocal presence.  See, that wasn’t so bad was it?

I loved the brass band – very nice addition. You voice was nuanced and chock- full of inflection – very expressive.   I also appreciated your bluesy approach – it was free and expressive and those gritty vocals really complimented your R&B style to perfection.

And look how more effective you were as an artist once your freed your body from that microphone stand?  Movement equals magic in terms of the level of relaxation and freedom an artist feels on stage and I am so happy that you took advantage of this crucial stage element.

With each week, Lee, you are increasing your confidence level on that stage. You are taking risks and risks, when planned wisely and within the parameters of your vocal abilities, are often compensated  in a monumental way.

Excellent work, Lee!  Rehearse wisely and continue to make absolutely certain that your song selections speak to who you are as an artist. Kudos!


Critique: Lee – once again I could annoy and/or burden you with technicalities, but this song was all about the performance. Yes, I want you to make certain that you continue to use the correct breathing skills and, perhaps, relax those throat muscles. Wait – not perhaps! You must relax those throat muscles and feel the push and energy coming from your diaphragm.  Allow the intake of air to outwardly guide and direct your voice.

As I mentioned last week, you” still need to make sure that your vocal energy is consistently supplemented through strong diaphragmatic support.”   And, strongly connected to this statement is the fact that you need to work on the formation of your mouth and the placement of your vowels in your vocal masque, wherein lie the resonators for solid vocal projection.

However,  the very fact that you were moving  about the stage and communicating more fully to your audience should be dutifully rewarded. You are to be applauded for your efforts.

In actuality, you  increased the energy  and momentum in your vocal delivery and, as a result, the visual and aural aspects of this Top 11 performance soared to new and exciting heights.

Excellent work, Lee! Bravo!

MICHAEL LYNCHE 26-years-old : ” When A Man Loves A Woman”

Strengths: Michael- what a superb song choice. And look at you – backed by a string ensemble. What a lovely touch!

This song was so perfect for you and for so many reasons. First of all, as an artist, you are at the  ideal age to sing this song and can sincerely and realistically communicate all that is being conveyed through the lyrics.  You bring life experiences to this song and this is why your Top 11 performance was so outstanding and so meaningful.

Additionally, your soulful vocal style was a perfect fit for this song. You most certainly aren’t a country singer and you aren’t a rock singer, so kudos for you for staying true to your artistry by selecting this exceptional song classic.

You also came equipped to this competition with solid vocal skills – the technical foundation is there and, because you know how to hone and craft your voice during a song, the dynamic levels were varied and meaningful. Additionally, your voice sounded even from top to bottom – there was beautiful symmetry throughout your vocal range.

Your performance skills were equally wonderful and so very genuine.  You sing with your heart and soul and your natural ability to use your body and arm movements strengthened the communicative elements of  this and every one of  your performances.

Additionally, I loved the head voice at the end; it was so beautiful and it added that extra expressive touch to this wonderfully nuanced song performance.

In closing I would like to say that you, Michael, own a beautiful vocal instrument and you use it wisely in every respect. Furthermore, you understand your direction as an artist and have been able to select songs that highlight your artistic strengths. Perhaps, you should mentor some of the other singers! (smile)

Michael -your Top 11 performance was easily and without question the best vocal performance of the night.  Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

Critique: Michael – I have so very little to critique this week.  This was a splendid performance in every respect. It just flowed and was delivered with such sincerity and conviction.

I would like to caution you, however, to be more vigilant with that mouth position when sustaining your vowels.  A few times during this performance, that horizontal mouth position crept in, particularly when you had to sustain the notes with longer time values. This allowed your throat muscles to constrict and, thus, overwhelm the full complement of power in your diaphragmatic rib cage muscles.

However, other than that, I applaud you for such a stellar Top 11 showcase. Standing “O” from MCL!

PAIGE MILES 24-years-old: “Against All Odds”

Strengths: Paige – I loved the manner in which you began this number, seated serenely on the stairs, thus establishing the quiet demeanor at the beginning of this song.  And, when you stood and moved toward your audience, this added the all-too-valuable visual component to this song, preparing you for the powerful vocals still to come.

You are a very earnest and passionate young artist and you worked extremely hard to communicate the essence of this beautiful song.  This was an ambitious song choice and, yet, I can understand your thought process in choosing it. It is a classic and, when performed with genuine passion and artistry, is an extremely memorable number.

However, you, unfortunately, did encounter some problems along the way, which I will discuss below.

Nevertheless, congratulations Paige for your hard work and effort in preparation for this Top 11 show.

Critique:Paige- diaphragmatic breath support is key here! You are presently not making use of the confidence and support that comes from your diaphragmatic breathing muscles. At the very least, the assurance of solid technical skills would have assisted you in handling your obvious case of nerves during this week’s Top 11 performance.

The pitch issues you experienced  at the beginning of this song – when vocalizing through your lower range – were due to your lack of consistent breath support. You have an amazing vocal instrument, but, as I said to some of the others, one’s natural vocal ability will only take you so far.  You need to develop the true potential of your vocal ability through ongoing technical guidance or you will continue to encounter vocal performance problems as your career unfolds.

When you stood and began to walk to center stage, I  was hoping that  the added movement would aid and relax you, but it was not meant to be. The power vocals midway through this song allowed you to free your voice to a certain extent but, they were also very revealing. I could hear the push from your throat – that glottal attack – every time you attacked a different phrase within the song.  There was so much tension in your throat and upper body that it is no wonder that your pitch wavered.

You must also work on the correct placement of your pure vowels and increase your ability to sustain your sound on pure vowels on a consistent and disciplined basis.

I have given you much food for thought in last week’s Vocal Masterclass article and it seems almost senseless to repeat it. Hopefully, all of this advice will not overwhelm you. It is meant to assist and encourage you to follow the correct process in the development of your voice.

Best of luck Paige!  I have my fingers crossed for you!

SIOBHAN MAGNUS 20-years-old: “Superstition “

Strengths: Siobhan – while walking down the stairs. I hardly recognized you. I loved your fashion transformation for this song, especially your lovely upswept  hairstyle.

The first thing that struck me was the relaxed tempo you established for this song. It allowed you to pace yourself with ease and, considering the high amount of vocal energy you exerted during the performance, this was a judicious choice of tempo.

And did you notice that I said vocal energy and not physical energy?   I thought you balanced your choreographic movements and vocal delivery to perfection. It was all about the vocals and, with that huge orchestra behind you, why do more than was necessary in terms of moving around the stage?

You managed to genuinely connect with your audience without being too intrusive and, in the end, it was your vocal delivery that everyone remembered – not how many times you “high-fived” your audience members.  A true vocal artist should not have to rely on gimmicks  – if you have a voice and wear your emotions on your sleeve, then you will be touch and move an audience to their feet. Which you did!

And your scatting was absolutely brilliant – so liberated and so centered. This was another reason why this showcase was so memorable. You injected nuance and inflection at every turn of the road and left no stone unturned on that stage.

Exceptional performance, Siobhan! Standing “O” form MCL!  Brava!

Critique: Siobhan- who told you to wear those high heels – you looked a tad awkward walking around the stage.

Also, I noticed that your posture was poorly elevated.  As a result, you walked around the stage with a deflated rib cage thus negating  a confident stage persona and discouraging your ability  to breathe fully and completely from the diaphragm,

Also, this is just a suggestion, Siobhan. I have had enough screaming from Adam Lambert last year to last me a lifetime, so you are going to have to come up with another game plan in which to end your songs.  It seemed that the primal scream at the end of your number was unnecessary. Your voice is better than that – so much better.  I am not suggesting that you completely eliminate this from your vocal delivery – just use this tactic sparingly.

And, as time moves on here, I would love to see you sit on the stage and sing a quiet ballad – one that would highlight the inherent head voice clarity within your soprano range.  It’s there – you know it’s there and we know it’s there, so it’s time to relax and let your voice flow freely and transparently through gentler means. So, sift through your catalogue of ballads and take us on a quiet journey next week.

However, this was yet another magical performance, Siobhan!  Kudos, young lady.

TIM URBAN 20-years-old: “Crazy Little thing Called Love “

Strengths: Tim – you , as well, moved away from the microphone and your trusty guitar this week and showcased your veritable performing skills in this great song classic by Queen. I loved your  slide across the stage and the increased boost in your confidence level as you moved toward and among your audience members.

I am happy that you performed an upbeat number this week, You basically have a beautiful voice, Tim, one that resonates naturally with little effort. You are fortunate!  However, your natural ability can only carry you so far.  Given your natural vocal gifts, you are so close to achieving solid technical ability. It is yours for the taking – all you have to do is practice and research and then practice some more.

Good work, Tim!

Critique: Tim- first of all, try not to raise your head when you sing those upper notes. The support cannot be found on the ceiling but rather from the diaphragm.

Also, you must remember that your stage movements must be balanced very carefully with your vocals and I think, to a great extent, this did not happen.  It was too much movement and not enough singing – the focus was removed from your vocal delivery because you were too busy partying with your audience. It seemed as if were campaigning for votes with all the “high-fives” and “nice to meet you” gestures. The idea was right, but, unfortunately you went overboard. Too much too soon!  Remember -baby steps!

Additionally, you must learn to rehearse the song separate from the choreographic skills, making certain that the song can stand on its own.  Then, when you have solidified every aspect of the song – phrasing, nuance, dynamics,  etc., then you add the choreography – not before.  Other wise, the song will run away from you during the performance and this is what happened.  You didn’t pace yourself. You tried to implement too much movement while sacrificing the naturally playful element within the song structure itself.

As I said last week you have a beautiful timbre to your voice and need to work on maintaining this God-given vocal gift through solid technical skills. Also, the advancement in technique would encourage you to be more creative in your vocal style and you will be less inclined to rely on your guitar and/or excessive stage antics to sell a performance.

Best of luck, Tim! I truly love your voice – now it’s time for you to love and cherish it through the correct technical process.

For all the latest American Idol News, visit SirLinksalot: American Idol or the American Idol Official Site .


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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

33 Responses to “American Idol Season 9 Top 11 Vocal Masterclass Article: Billboard #1 Hits”

  1. Thank you for another lovely masterclass article, MCL! =) I truly admire your ability to be so encouraging in your remarks.

    I agree that Andrew’s voice did sound more resonant this week (although he still encountered some vocal problems, as mentioned).

    Nearly all the contestants could’ve done with better song choices.

    Didi is a case in point of my theory that contestants on American Idol who’ve had vocal training are often ones that you don’t expect to have had any. [Another example: Haeley Vaughn.] I think Didi is excellent in a specific range of notes, but for some reason, once she reaches into her high range, she tends to constrict. I wonder if the reason is mainly nerves because I would think that her training would’ve given her the technical skills to tackle these notes. She also self-identifies as a soprano, interestingly enough.


  2. I just hope that no idols read your critque becasue you know nothing about music and Im not sure who died and told you that you did! Oh, there is a difference between screaming and having the ability to sing in a high range using control of your voice, Siobhn does not have that ability, she screams like she seen a ghost and doesn not do it in a way that is pleasing to her ears but I couldnt help but see you imply with sarcasm that Adam Lambert screamed like her! You couldnt be farther from the truth on that one! Next, you will tell us that Robert Plant screamed too? hmm I hope these idols dont take what you said to heart because you were so wrong on all of them. Yes, I know my stuff, someday I would like to compare my credentials with yours but for now I will leave you to pretend you know what you are talking about! Good luck to all idols!


  3. Normally, I don’t believe in acknowledging trolls by replying to their comments, but I’ll just say this:

    Anyone who’s read any articles from last year can tell you that MCL was a huge Adam Lambert fan during his Idol run. Also, if you have any particular points of disagreement with MCL’s comments, I am sure she’ll be happy to hear you out.

    As for the rest of the comment, I won’t dignify any of it with a response. That is all.


  4. Also, for anyone who’s curious, here are the voice type self-identifications for each contestant:

    Identifies self as soprano: Didi Benami, Siobhan Magnus, Paige Miles
    Identifies self as alto: Crystal Bowersox, Katie Stevens, Lacey Brown

    Identifies self as soprano: Aaron Kelly
    Identifies self as tenor: Andrew Garcia, Casey James, Lee DeWyze,
    Identifies self as bass-baritone: Michael Lynche, Tim Urban

    (I got these from taking the poll on each of the contestants’ official pages.) For the record, I agree with most (but not all) of them.


  5. I am so frustrated right now. I am trying to post a youtube link of Freddie Mercury’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”, but for the life of me I just can’t do it. Some people are so good at this, but I am not one of them.

    Anyway, I read MCL’s critiques and found them quite enlightening. I agree with J about Didi. I hear her losing it when she goes for the high notes. Also, she doesn’t have the power and loses her pitch.

    I still am having trouble with Katie. If it’s not vocal technique, then I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s nerves. But she did sound really sharp in a good part of the song. Maybe I just don’t like the sound and timbre of her voice. I can’t deny what I am hearing. It’s not even a question of pitch at this point. Sometimes I just don’t like someone’s voice and that’s all there is to it. I can’t really analyze it any further.

    I heard Siobhan say that she wanted to get on the tour and it appears that she felt that the scream was necessary. I sincerely hope that now that she is there, she can settle down and relax. I wish someone could tell her that she is so much more than the screaming.

    I think America got it right in sending Paige home. She didn’t even look that upset. I think she was done. I am not sure why, but I got the feeling that she was almost relieved in some way. Her voice sounds completely shot. When you are losing your voice this early in the competition, that’s not a good sign. I think it was for the best.

    So I am stuck with Tim. Unfortunately, I have just shut the door on him. It’s not because he sang Freddie Mercury either. It started before that. I don’t think it serves to go on anymore about it. But I give people a certain amount of time and, if I don’t find enough there, then I just tune them out.

    As a heads up, Ryan revealed that it’s going to be r&b soul as next week’s theme with Usher as the mentor. At least they will have someone decent. The complete list of songs is available on itunes now. I think there are about 122 songs. This seems like it should be great, but it’s a minefield. There is danger everywhere. Song choice is going to be more important than ever. There are some legends on the list and I sincerely hope that the contestants choose carefully. I already have a few in mind, but I want to wait a day or two to think about it more.

    As a final note, I am with J in preferring not to respond to despicable personal attacks against MCL. However, I feel compelled to say that this site is a very special place. We all treat each other with dignity and respect. There is no place here for negativity and cheap shots or attacks on anyone. I consider coming to this site a privilege which I would not in any way ever abuse or demean. This is a place for intelligent, lively, meaningful discussion about the performances and vocals not mean-spirited and petty attacks.


  6. Dearest Mindy,

    I believe that if you copy the embed code on the YouTube page (look on the right side, under the video description) and paste it in the comment box, WordPress will embed the video. If you want to post a simple text link, WordPress should recognize the URL and automatically convert it to a link. OR you can use HTML (this method is sure to work):

    <a href=””>whatever you want the link to say</a>


    As for Katie, she is encountering some noticeable pitch problems despite her mostly sound vocal production; you are right. I happen to love the timbre of her voice, but I am still not keen on her performances. (Timbre only goes so far.) I know the disconnect is odd, but it is possible for a singer to have good coordination and still have pitch problems. The culprit is probably her sense of relative pitch. She clearly does not have perfect pitch, and if she can’t hear herself on stage, then she’d have only her sense of relative pitch to guide her. Really, she probably just needs to pay much more attention to her pitch. I’ve noticed that even good singers can go off pitch if they’re not vigilant about staying on pitch. (In terms of technical elements, proper diaphragmatic breath support and the proper “attack”/inhalation also help with staying centered on pitch.)

    I happen to think that Usher is mad talented, so I hope he’s able to give some helpful advice to the contestants! 😉

    And I agree 100% with your last paragraph. This site truly is a very special place.

    [In the most random aside ever, I don’t know if you’ve heard of Anthony Callea (he was the runner-up on Australian Idol 2), but this young man has the most accurate sense of pitch I’ve ever heard in a singer! I don’t think I’ve ever heard him off pitch. It’s positively inhuman! Here are some performances you might enjoy: 1 2 3]


  7. Please someone let me know if this link works. I got it from someone who posted it on mjsbigblog. I had been thinking about “People Get Ready” as a song someone should sing next week, but I was trying to figure out how they could do it differently from the Impressions original version. Here, hopefully, is a link to Eva Cassidy singing an incredible version of this song. Crystal could be great with it, but so could Siobhan.


  8. It works perfectly, Mindy! =) I love Eva Cassidy. We lost her too soon; what an artist!


    On a completely random note, memo to American Idol contestants: is your friend. 😉


  9. J – well, sometimes training is not enough for these singers. Training plus confidence plus natural musical talent plus artistry = phenomenon – similar to what we heard from David Archuleta and David Cook during Season 7.

    Thank you for your kind comments. Always love hearing from you! Keep the comments coming!


  10. Roni – I love Adam, I truly do! I think the comment came across in a wrong way.

    But, I still think that some of these vocal antics – from screaming to scat singing to whatever start to get old very fast. Artists have to take direction and listen to different opinions about what works and what doesn’t. Case closed.


  11. Normally, I don’t believe in acknowledging trolls by replying to their comments, but I’ll just say this:

    Anyone who’s read any articles from last year can tell you that MCL was a huge Adam Lambert fan during his Idol run. Also, if you have any particular points of disagreement with MCL’s comments, I am sure she’ll be happy to hear you out.

    As for the rest of the comment, I won’t dignify any of it with a response. That is all.

    Thank you J! Much appreciated!


  12. As a final note, I am with J in preferring not to respond to despicable personal attacks against MCL. However, I feel compelled to say that this site is a very special place. We all treat each other with dignity and respect. There is no place here for negativity and cheap shots or attacks on anyone. I consider coming to this site a privilege which I would not in any way ever abuse or demean. This is a place for intelligent, lively, meaningful discussion about the performances and vocals not mean-spirited and petty attacks.

    Thank you as well Mindy! Much appreciated and very well stated!


  13. Great article! I love love love how you give both positive comments and improvements that can be made. The idols NEED to be reading this, especially if they are constantly hearing only negativity from the judges. And those who are alread “there” in the judges’ eyes can always find ways to get even better.

    Mindy, I’ve been thinking about Katie. I do like her and her voice to some extent and like you there is just something not jelling with me. At first I thought that it was the fact that she seemed too molded – know what I mean? I did get that pagentry sense about her – that it wasn’t her true self up there on stage. I have trouble connecting to an artist if I feel that there has been too much parental influence / push / molding. This week she seemed to break away from that mold a little. One other thing that I thought of has to do with the sound of her voice. I DO like it and there is quality there but I do find that she sounds a little like she has marbles in her throat. That’s not meant to sound mean – I don’t know how else to describe it. Maybe MCL knows what I mean and can describe it better. It’s still a good sound it’s just different. And of course there is the pitch issues but she is young. That will work itself out as she and her vocals grow and mature.


  14. On a completely random note, memo to American Idol contestants: is your friend.

    Great resource! Thanks again J.


  15. Hi Cookie Monster:

    I think what is going down with Katie is that her vocal delivery is firmly rooted in her technique – which is a good thing. However, that being said, she needs time and assurance to allow herself to take risks and musically “free” her voice.

    I know from experience that young vocal students have a difficult time balancing the technical skills with the artistic skills. David Archuleta was the obvious exception to this. He was and still is a vocal genius and all singers would be wise to follow his lead. The same could be said about David Cook, athough Cookie didn’t have as solid technical foundation as Archie – but it was still there.


  16. MCL, do you believe that Lee is the weakest vocalist of the remaining contestants from a technical standpoint? I really cannot stand listening to him and I don’t think he’s a good performer either.


  17. Vance – no I think he is handling his vocals quite well. All the singers could improve, Lee included. Right now, the only singer that I feel is extremely well-trained re vocal technique is Michael, then Katie then Siobhan. The others are pretty well even in their vocal delivery – not their style – but the actual substance of their voice.


  18. Hello. I tried to post this response last night but I suffer from very very slow Internet connection at home. Interestingly, I think what I wrote last night serves as a counterpoint to the comment from Roni above. Based on what I have learned from my own teacher over the last 7 years, I think your remarks are right on the money especially in your emphasis on keeping the mouth round in order to maximize pure vowel consistency. So here are my thoughts from last night:

    Great synopsis & analysis of this week’s performances. Kudos to you!! In other venues that I go to on the Internet (Twitter in particular) I am seeing a constant litany of “This is the worst Idol season ever” and “I miss Season 7/8”. Some of this comes from the fact that I follow quite a few committed, diehard Adam Lambert fans (and I would count myself among them although I have not liked all of what I have seen from him since Idol ended). So it’s great to read so many positive comments. In particular, as you may have noticed, I am enchanted with Siobhan. I just think she is a total breath of fresh air. Obviously there is much to admire about Crystal. I suspect that the last 4 standing will be Crystal, Siobhan, Michael & Lee but Katie could certainly be a huge factor. Your analyses & comments help me both in enjoying the performances more and also in my own personal journey as a singer. Thanks so much!!


  19. As an addendum: I am listening to the studio version of Siobhan’s “Superstition”. She does an absolutely lovely “slide” (glissando? portamento?) from toward the end of it. I do recognize that it’s possible that the studio versions have some sonic “airbrushing” going on – hope not too much though. But I do hope she tackles something softer this coming week. Does anyone know what the topic is yet? I don’t know that I’m the best person to recommend songs but I do listen to a lot of music & I could see her performing “Fields of Gold” (another Eva Cassidy standard – who by the way is a singer that I absolutely adore & whose loss at such an early age is truly tragic). Ok, nuff said for now, work is calling :).


  20. All I can say is Crystal gave me chills–once again. Me and Bobby McGee is one of my favorite songs of all time and Crystal just slayed it. As for Siobhan, I wish she would lose the scream at the end of her performances. They aren’t like Adam’s at all. I think she is a fan of Diamanda Galas and is trying to go for a disturbing wail, rather a melodic one like Adam went for so much (and that got old too).


  21. Cookie Monster,

    Thanks for your comments about Katie. I really want to be fair to this girl, but am having a tough time figuring out what it is that I don’t like in her singing. Maybe it is that quality in her throat, like marbles. Some of it is definitely pitch problems and that drives my ears crazy. I am so sensitive and pick up everything. It might seem like a gift to have perfect pitch ears, but at times like these it is a bit of a burden.

    MCL did address a few things that may explain what I am hearing. She said Katie could well have relative pitch. That would explain why I think she is off in her singing. It might not bother many people, but it drives me crazy. I do think she connected more with the song this week and seemed not as robotic. I did notice that quality you mentioned, a kind of pageanty presence. I just think this girl need some more time to get it all together.


  22. We all treat each other with dignity and respect. There is no place here for negativity and cheap shots or attacks on anyone

    Mindy, I appreciate your comments well-stated comments. Thanks to you and to J. There is no doubt in my mind that someone can participant on this blog and disagree with MCL (and us) without any kind of nastiness. Although I am not trained or schooled in musical creativity, I have enjoyed coming here all these years. I respect MCL’s comments and hope those who disagree will do so properly.

    MCL, thank you for an insightful and interesting critiques. As always I learn from you, and from the wonderful particpants posting their knowledgeable thoughts.

    How wonderful to see Siobhan and Crystal’s performances, as well as several others. I know the best is to come!


  23. Mindy, your comments were well-stated and expressed how I feel! Same with J. Thank you so much! Sorry about the typos, again.


  24. Could some post the code on how to post a quote from someone elses post? Sorry for the off topic.


  25. Katie is only 17 years old, not 23. 😉 Other than that, love all of your critiques!


  26. Cathyrn – thank you for alerting me of Katie’s age. I noticed this typo one night and have been meaning to correct it – totally forgot! Mea culpa! Will do so ASAP!



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