By Liz Valicenti and Kathleen McGuire
The American Songbook repertoire is a wonderful collection of songs written for Broadway and Hollywood from the 1920’s -1960’s. What makes this body of work so great is the craft of the writers, and the timelessness of these beautifully-crafted songs. They all stand the test of time. The stories and emotions are relatable, and speak to us directly, no matter who you are.
South Shore Conservatory’s American Songbook class, for young adult and adults, uses this rich repertoire to help singers deepen their artistry, build their vocal technique, confidence and stage skills. Students Liz and Kathleen share their experience with the class and instructor Dianne Legro, a Broadway veteran.
Kathleen: When I found my way to American Songbook, I was looking for a voice class to help me get my voice ‘in shape’ so I could be the best version of me with the voice I have. I thought a small group voice class would be more fun than private lessons, since I just want to enjoy singing and meet some people. Prior to joining the class, my singing experience was performing in high school and college musicals and choruses, about 40 years ago. I sang in the St. Mary’s Cathedral Choir in San Francisco about 20 years ago, and joined Snug Harbor Community Chorus last year.
Liz: I’ve always been drawn to the type of music and singing from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and felt this would be a good fit for me. I immediately felt very welcomed by Dianne and the other students. It was a very inclusive, non-judgmental environment. There’s always going to be some trepidation and angst in making oneself vulnerable in front of strangers, but Dianne quickly put everyone at ease.
I originally thought that the time when other students were singing and getting instruction might be somewhat wasted time. However, I was surprised at how much I learned from listening to both student and teacher. I also didn’t realize I would become a cheerleader for others in the class as I wanted them to improve and learn as much as I wanted to!
Kathleen: Even before the class started Dianne took the time to call each student to welcome each one and let us know she was there to “serve” us, her upbeat, warm and ‘at your disposal’ message made me feel great. I was surprised how quickly I was able to learn a couple new songs and perform them for the other students. It was great to have Mark Goodman to accompany us on the piano. I had no idea when I signed up for the class that Mark would run adult workshops, and that I could go to recitals and concerts sponsored by the Conservatory.
Liz: I’ve sung on and off most of my life, mainly in church choirs, or community choirs. I realized I really didn’t have the tools and the skillset to improve my singing. I knew there was still so much to learn. (You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!) Dianne is an amazing instructor. She has an amazing talent for identifying and focusing on the positive, but she can also deliver criticism without it every feeling like criticism. I think the fact that a room of strangers can get together and share something they have in common is just a wonderful thing to experience. We have a shared love of music and expressing ourselves through our voices.
If you like to sing, and are eager to discover more about breathing techniques, phrasing, exploring different ways of using your voice, check out American Songbook at South Shore Conservatory, One Conservatory Drive, Hingham. The spring session runs Wednesday evenings, from 6-7:30 pm, until May 29. More at sscmusic.org/american-songbook, or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.