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June’s Vocal Coach in Residence – Dr. Rachael Gates

Singer with pianist

Dr. Rachael Gates is a singing health specialist and the author of ‘The Owner’s Manual to the Voice’.

As June’s Vocal Coach in Residence, she will share her insights about vocal fitness, hydration and hoarseness, and she will help you demystify your voice box!

Favourite philosophical singing quote:

Sing pieces you love – there is too much music out there to sing pieces you don’t enjoy!

Worst piece of advice you’ve ever heard about singing:

Sing with your diaphragm! What???? This means nothing to a young singer and so many voice teachers preach it without an ability to define what they mean. It is, in fact, impossible to sing or talk without using your diaphragm muscle.

Worst venue experience ever?

As a student, I practiced my concerts at nursing homes. Plush carpets, overstuffed furniture and heavy drapes make for poor acoustics. However, the forgiving audience was just the confidence builder I needed before presenting a finished product!

First record bought:

Joni Mitchell’s Ladies of the Canyon just to listen to “The Circle Game” over and over. Her voice was so lovely before smoking affected it.

After learning about the 16th Century practice of celebrating the castrato, I sat in fascination through the movie, Farinelli

Last record bought:

Dmitri Horostovsky, Petersburg: a Vocal Poem for my favorite settings of Pushkin poetry by Sviridov.

Biggest crowd performed to:

A house of 20,000 at The Louisiana Super Dome. I opened for Vikki Carr when I was 19.

Remember a singing teacher who inspired you?

Dr. Robin Rice at The Ohio State University is the reason I attended OSU for my doctorate and is the finest teacher of voice I’ve ever known.

Childhood ambition:

To be just like Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall – studying apes in Africa!

Favourite film about singing?

After learning about that strange 16-17th Century practice of celebrating the castrato, I sat glued in fascination through the movie, Farinelli and more than a little disturbed reading Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice. While not exactly favorites, these educational resources stood out in my early opera education.

What makes an incredible vocal performance?

I LOVE listening to well-prepared Art Song. This is a rare treat. Art Song is a piece of poetry set carefully and very intentionally to music. Its success lies in the singer relishing the music WITH his/her musicians (usually a pianist). Having analysed the text, the melodic and harmonic settings, and the piece’s emotional journey, the pianist and singer can perform with true spontaneity and act together with similar minds. This art rarely happens. The pianist is rarely invited into such an exploration by the singer and the piece never gets to truly live through the notes, rhythms and dynamics on the page. The singer tends to be too self-focused to remember that the pianist and she are a team in a conversation, relaying another’s emotional state.