Neil Semer is recognised internationally as a vocal specialist. Although his studio is based in New York, he has worked in Toronto, London, Paris, Copenhagen and throughout Germany. Neil specialises in classical and music theatre, and you will hear his students performing in the leading opera houses of the world (including Melba alumni Alexandra Flood and Jeremy Kleeman) or in the latest Broadway hits. His teaching combines principles of the ‘bel canto’ style of singing, scientific understanding of vocal function and, most importantly, an emotional connection to music. Neil focuses on coordination of the heart, mind and body.
Neil provided us with some insights into his work with our singers:
“It was an honor and great joy to work with the wonderfully gifted Melba Scholars on my recent trip to Oz. The level of talent is simply so excellent, and the commitment to developing into the best artist one can be was so high.
When I work with people whom I know I’ll see only once or twice, I like to get right down to certain basics of technique. I’ve found that when singers are greatly gifted by nature, some basics of technique are often not well understood or practiced, because an attractive musical result emanates from them despite basic deficiencies in their emission of sound. Frequently, they have been coached more on beautiful music-making, without necessarily having a sound technical base that allows these musical ideas to be embodied simply and organically.
Therefore, I work quite a bit on optimizing body alignment so the weight of the body is elegantly carried, allowing muscles to balance the body rather than rigidly holding it. Secondly, I implement a clear and simple idea about what it means to have an open throat and body, allowing for an easy passage of incoming and outgoing breath, and unblocked emission of sound. Insisting on deeply connected but brilliant diction allows the middle voice to sit well, and clears the way to allow effective work on the passaggio. I work with precisely worded, scientifically verifiable information rather than images, so each singer leaves with clear, implementable ideas that they can work on by themselves, rather than just being left with a vague feeling that is hard to reproduce alone. Connecting people to their most open ‘core sound’ is a primary focus of mine since highly gifted singers can often make attractive sounds that seem ‘good enough’ rather than truly excellent.
For native English speakers, it is essential to have fine linguistic skills if they are to be competitive in Europe. It’s wonderful that Melba Opera Trust is committed to develop this in their singers. The coordination of language, breath and space is the technical basis of this art form and young singers need to know that having beautiful, expressive, poetic usage of language will make a significant and positive impact on their futures. Living for a while in Germany and/or Italy and doing serious language study is a great idea. Otherwise, there are language courses in person or online that one should avail oneself of.”
Neil’s impact was evident in this sentiment from scholar Cleo McGowan:
“I loved working with Neil; he helped me access new and exciting parts of my voice.”
Several of our scholars will be continuing their work with Neil in lessons via Skype; an innovation that has proven highly beneficial for Alexandra and Jeremy.