She’s performed with the Air Force, on cruise ships, on television, in opera and musical theatre.
Her books have been launch pads for serious singers across the world.
Rachel L. Lebon is now Professor of Jazz Voice at the University of Miami—and VoiceCouncil’s Vocal Coach in Residence for the next 9 weeks.
We’ve given Rachel only one sentence to respond to each of the following questions.
I love listening to Brasil by the Manhattan Transfer and, on long drives, enjoy CDs by former students!
Weirdest thing to happen in a performance
During an outdoor state-department concert in Armenia (then part of the Soviet Union) an approaching lightening storm forced our Jazz Band to stop performing to protect the electric bass player; the audience of 5,000 became restless and angry, under the impression that we arbitrarily refused to of perform, so the keyboard player and I performed a set spontaneously so that they would not be left with a negative impression of Americans.
Best advice someone ever gave you about performing
Be my own person.
The perfect mic for you
I’ve used the Shure SM 58 for years because it is so reliable, durable and translatable to different situations and sound systems, with little feedback— but don’t mind experimenting with the favorite microphones offered by professional sound engineers attached to the larger performance venues.
Bugs that scurry
A favorite nerves remedy
I enjoy watching my fellow performers before I go on, or if it’s a solo gig, lots of mental visualization.
First singing experience
When I was barely 6 years old, I got up in front of the bus to school and sang for everybody whether they liked it or not—although they did request that I sing a few other times afterwards, thankfully.
I steam and warm-up lightly in the morning keep my diet free of irritants, have a meal (some protein and salad) around 4:00, limit my voice use, bring water plus a steamer if it’s a dry venue (large, air-conditioned auditorium), and let the adrenaline set in when we do a quick sound-check.
Vocalists who inspire
I was thrilled to interview Mel Tormé for my masters thesis and have had motivating conversations with jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson and Jon Hendricks.
What drains your batteries?
Bureaucracy and paperwork
What charges them?
My students, who are talented, dedicated and want to be the best they can be, both as vocalists and as persons.
Worst singing advice you ever heard
That I would have to choose between singing classical music or singing in pop/jazz idioms if I wished to continue functioning successfully as a singer, but couldn’t do both.
Your biggest performance blunder
Being a defending champion and feeling a lot of pressure, I threw out my planned selection, switching to a relatively new song at the last minute and lost–learning that it’s not the song, but singing it with familiarity and feeling, like and old friend, that allows it to “sing” and communicate to the audience.
Where do most singers mess up with vocal health?
Many singers, being the verbal individuals that they are, often abuse their voices by talking incessantly and not employing technique in their speech patterns, resulting in fatigue even before they utter a single note in song.
Top recording tip
In a group session, using one side of the headphones behind my ear to monitor in the room as well; as a soloist, not using so much “live” in the headphones that I’m listening to myself too much and not singing spontaneously.
What’s different about a vocalist vocation today compared to 20 years ago?
A vocalist can now write, record, mix, display and market their own material on the Internet and reach millions, enabling creative independence and eliminating total control exerted from music industry executives.
Bad thing to say to a sound engineer
It’s not so much WHAT is said as much as HOW we communicate to the sound engineer, being professional and collaborative throughout. Also, knowing when to BE QUIET, particularly before a take!
Good thing to say to a sound engineer
“Thank You” after each adjustment he/she has made for you during the session.
Favorite quote about singing
“It is important that I use this music and use this time to bring a message of love —because we have to be happy, we have to believe, we have to know that there’s love and happiness and peace. And if we don’t do it through music, what are we going to do it through?” -Khalid, Algerian singer
The perfect day
Working diligently on a successful project, rehearsal, seminar or performance with colleagues and friends, followed by sharing great conversation at dinner.
Your life philosophy in 10 words
Develop one’s unique gifts, nurturing others to do the same.
If you’re signed up to VoiceCouncil’s Peer-Review, you’ll be receiving unique coaching feedback from Rachel for the next 8 weeks. You can sign up now.
Rachel L. Lebon, Ph.D. has been a professional vocalist and studio singer in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Nashville and Miami. She was on the faculty at Belmont College and is currently at the University of Miami, has toured toured world-wide with “Tops in Blue” and on a State Department tour of the Soviet Union and Portugal. Rachel is the author of two published books and conducts lectures, symposia and adjudication worldwide on vocal pedagogy and voice disorders.
Check out Rachel’s Books: The Professional Vocalist: A Handbook for Commercial Singers and Teachers & The Versatile Vocalist: Singing Authentically in Contrasting Styles and Idioms