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Ian Howell

Ian Howell is a countertenor based in Boston, Massachusetts. He regularly performs as a concert and operatic soloist all across North America and writes from time to time. He was educated at Yale and Capital Universities, sang with Chanticleer from 2000-04, and is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts student at the New England Conservatory of Music. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

The Seventh Biennial Bach Vocal Competition for American Singers

March 16, 2012

The Bach Choir of Bethlehem and the American Bach Society announce the seventh biennial competition for American singers with special interest in the music of J. S. Bach.

On May 6, 2012, ten finalists will appear before a panel of distinguished judges and a live audience in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The First Prize winner chosen by the judges on that day will receive a career development grant of $3,000 and a solo performing opportunity with The Bach Choir of Bethlehem and Greg Funfgeld, Artistic Director & Conductor, in a future season.

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The Louis CK Effect: How Should We Fund and Distribute Art Music?

February 24, 2012

Comedian Louis CK has gone into business for himself, cutting out the middle man, distributing a new DRM-free video comedy special directly through his website for $5. He made his first million dollars in under two weeks. It is exciting to see someone in the arts take a chance and elegantly use the Internet to distribute their work.

I see many classical musicians using tools like Kickstarter to raise funds for the sorts of projects that used to be funded by old media companies. Recordings – even live performances – are now being funded directly by backers rather than legacy institutions. In a way, this is how we wish the arts could be funded, by putting more ticket-purchasing butts in (virtual) seats. Perhaps the Internet has simply expanded the audience base by allowing the music lover in San Francisco to participate in performances by a New York-based group. A $10 donation is certainly cheaper than an airplane ticket.

I have a few thoughts, though, that give me pause, albeit insufficient pause to suggest that classical musicians stop doing this! Obviously any tool that gets people interested in supporting the arts is fantastic…

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TCV Turns One Today… Our Most Popular Posts from 2011

January 1, 2012

One year ago today, The Countertenor Voice published its first issue.  We have published around sixty articles on vocal technique and the singing life, as well as in depth reviews of recordings and artists.  THANKS TO EVERYONE who has read, shared, and commented on these pieces. Extra special thanks to my team of writers (Oliver Camacho, Nicholas Tamagna, Bryan DeSilva, Henry Lebedinsky, Tai Oney, Frank Richards, and Dr. Peter Hennen).  What a nice little countertenor community we have formed here :-) .

I want to re-share our top five most popular articles from 2011.  Maybe you missed them the first time around, maybe you will enjoy re-reading them now that some time has passed.

To all our readers across the internet world, happy new year, and best wishes for 2012.

Now go practice.

Seriously… go now… :-)

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Happy Holidays from TCV

December 21, 2011

Hello Dear Readers,

We have been hibernating for the past month or so, but will return in force mid-January with more articles and reviews!  Many thanks to those of you who have posted and responded to comments on our articles (Todd Gregory, I might be looking at you…)

You will find a little present in the form of my latest piece about performing, Some Thoughts on the Nature of Stage Fright, a.k.a How to Stand and Deliver.  I hope that it gives all you singers something to think about over break, and renews your commitment to the art of live performance.

As always, facebook and twitter shares are better than gifts this year :-) .



Some Thoughts on the Nature of Stage Fright, a.k.a. How to Stand and Deliver

December 21, 2011

Most issues related to technique and performance are solved when we step back from the actual point of struggle and frame the question correctly. Stage fright is just such an issue. Debilitating and confusing, yes. Can we fight it in the moment? There are tricks that calm the body and mind, but it is difficult to rationalize your way past the bio-chemical experience of The Fear. The Fear laughs and sends another cold shot of cortisol through your tummy. However, change your thinking toward the act of performance and the roles that both you and the audience play in that extended series of present moments, and the brain’s natural defense mechanisms will have no need to kick in.

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Vocal Technique: An Organizing Principle for Singers, Part 1

October 6, 2011

What is the optimal approach to training the singing voice? Right at the root of it, what are the ideal conditions for optimal tone production and what thought patterns best exploit the physiological strengths of the voice while de-emphasizing (or at least respecting) the inherent limitations?

This month I begin a two part series explaining my concept of an Organizing Principle, a manner of organized thought that elicits a dependably optimal vocal response in the present moment, and that respects the inherent limitations of the neurophysiology of the singing mechanism. Part one introduces the concept. Part two will layout a specific method for implementing this approach in the practice studio.

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Watch This Now! Howell & Van Doren Sing Pergolesi

October 6, 2011

I have been hesitant to post clips on this blog of myself singing (this is for me an academic rather than PR outlet), but this often programmed piece, Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, is a great example of what Bryan Desilva mentions in his recent article, The Vocal Soloist as Ensemble Singer. Notice how both Yulia Van Doren and I constantly modulate our vibratos to best serve the drama of the ensemble’s interpretation. Movement twelve, Quando Corpus from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater featuring the Seattle Baroque Orchestra.


Social Media for the Classical Singer: An Interview with PR Guru Maura Lafferty

September 2, 2011

Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube; all of these social media streams offer an unprecedented level of connectivity for the budding classical singer, connecting artists to other artists, and artists to their audiences. It is noisy out there in social media land; how can we best compete in this Darwinian arena, especially when the ‘level’ playing field includes wealthy corporations and legacy arts institutions? I was fortunate enough to pose these questions to an expert in this field, the San Francisco Bay Area’s online PR Guru, Maura Lafferty. Her message for us? Focus on your story as an artist (something many of us never even think about!) and be smart with your social media streams…

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Vocal Technique: Boring Exercises That Will Make You a Better Singer

August 3, 2011

That exercises are non-musical/non-expressive could be obvious. How can one compare the expressive potential of a Bach Passion aria with an ascending and descending major triad? Dig a little deeper, though, and I hope that you will apprehend my point: It is technically valuable to exercise the voice without the imposed layer of an expressive construct, specifically because the desire to express something often engenders unnecessary layers of muscular tension.

With this in mind, this month I present a series of exercises initially designed by voice scientists to help rehabilitate the voices of non-singers. These exercises not only serve a “non-expressive” function, but also fill a likely gap in your practice routine, namely isometric exercises. Scientifically measured benefits to the inclusion of these exercises in a regular practice regimen includes increased awareness of breath control, increased sense of relaxation during both inhalation and exhalation, decreased rate of airflow while singing (and decreased sub-glottal pressure), increased phonation volume, increased maximum phonation time, and many more…

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Countertenor Stephen Wallace Interviewed on RTE radio

August 3, 2011

I stumbled upon this interesting interview of countertenor Stephen Wallace given on Irish National Radio. Excerpts of his singing, as well as some astute observations on the history of the countertenor voice and technique follow.

Listen to the interview…