By SINDYA N. BHANOO
NEW YORK TIMES
Published: November 11, 2013
Childhood music lessons can sometimes leave painful memories, but they seem to carry benefits into adulthood. A new study reports that older adults who took lessons at a young age can process the sounds of speech faster than those who did not.
“It didn’t matter what instrument you played, it just mattered that you played,” said Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University and an author of the study, which appears in The Journal of Neuroscience.
She and her collaborators looked at 44 healthy adults ages 55 to 76, measuring electrical activity in a region of the brain that processes sound.
They found that participants who had four to 14 years of musical training had faster responses to speech sounds than participants without any training — even though no one in the first group had played an instrument for about 40 years.
Dr. Kraus said the study underscored the need for a good musical education. “Our general thinking about education is that it is for our children,” she said. “But in fact we are setting up our children for healthy aging based on what we are able to provide them with now.”
Other studies have suggested that lifelong musical training also has a positive effect on the brain, she added. Dr. Kraus herself plays the electric guitar, the piano and the drums — “not well but with great enthusiasm,” she said.
This is the official ADA reply to AGT’s email:
Dear AGT Producer,
Thank you for message. I have discussed it with my colleagues (fellow opera agents) and I understand that at least 3 of them have received the very same email you sent below.
I will be honest when I say that I do not believe we have the kind of talent you are looking for. AGT seems bent on finding raw, untrained talent with the potential to appeal to a mass audience that does not choose to understand the musical significance and connection that trained singers offer. It is not my intention to respond out of snobbery or disrespect, but instead from the standpoint of someone who is acutely aware of the kind of instruction, preparation and training our clients endure in order to make a living as professional opera singers. Being a professional, working opera singer requires the same kind of practice, polish, skill and dedication to the craft that an Olympian must dedicate to his or her sport.
We manage the careers of singers with the mindset of aiding them in building a LONG-term career. It is our goal that our singers perform worldwide and realize careers marked by longevity, the experience of being involved in new and innovative productions and the appreciation of both stalwart opera enthusiasts as well as the burgeoning new opera crowd. A true operatic career requires not only years of vocal training, but the in-depth study of languages, musical styles spanning over 400 years, acting, dance, and even stage combat. The people we have seen AGT put forward as “opera singers” wouldn’t be hired in the most humble of opera houses in the real world.
I understand you are doing your job and that the focus of that job is to uncover exciting acts that will then be “discovered” on national television.
I am quite happy to announce that our fine artists have already been discovered.
Best of luck in your search,
Ana De Archuleta and the team at ADA Artists
Original AGT Email:
My name is XXXX and I’m a Casting Producer for America’s Got Talent. I am currently looking for the latest and greatest acts, of all ages and group size. After browsing your website, I believe that the members of your talented network would be ideal candidates for our upcoming season and I would love for you to share my casting information with everyone amongst your database of TALENT! Also, I’d love to speak with you directly and ideally get your stars on board to audition for our 9th Season of America’s Got Talent! If you think your TALENTED CLIENTS and ARTISTS have what it takes to be on America’s Got Talent, then please contact me today!
If you, or any of your colleagues have any incredible referrals or recommendations, please email me directly at XXXX with:
NAME, AGE, DESIRED AUDITION CITY, BRIEF DESCRIPTION of their TALENT, GROUP SIZE, CONTACT INFO and any VIDEOS or WEBSITES they have to showcase their act! **The more the videos can showcase their INCREDIBLE TALENT, INTENSE PERSONALITY and ENTERTAINMENT VALUE, the easier it will be to move forward with our casting process.
PLEASE SUBJECT THE EMAIL WITH – DESIRED AUDITION CITY/NAME OF ACT. This is very important!
Example: ATLANTA AUDITIONS- Taiko Warriors
Example: NEW YORK AUDITIONS – Dance Dance Romance
You can also find more information on our website.
I hope to hear from you soon!
Have a wonderful day.
He curses like a sailor and sings like a virtuoso. He speaks with a slightly gruff timbre that disappears on stage. Michael Keaton is planning to make a movie about his life, but that’s hardly the most interesting thing about Carl Tanner.
That would be the story of how Mr. Tanner, 51, went from poor Virginia boy to truck driver and bounty hunter and, finally, Met-quality opera singer. Last month, he made his Pittsburgh Opera debut as Radames in “Aida.”
At times, his story sounds like a plotline from the television show “Glee.” When Mr. Tanner was attending Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Va., he was a star wrestler and football player. Upon hearing him sing in the shower, a neighbor encouraged him to try out for the choir. At first, Mr. Tanner wasn’t interested — he said he thought guys in the chorus were “sissies” — until the friend told him how much Luciano Pavarotti made.
Carl Tanner, a former bounty hunter and truck driver who now is an acclaimed opera singer, is shown here in performance with Pittsburgh Opera. (YouTube video; 11/13/2013)
For Mr. Tanner, money was an important consideration. His father left school in the sixth grade to work in a sawmill. He eventually became a painter for the government, retiring with an annual income of $23,000. His mother had been a detective for the Arlington County police. Mr. Tanner was the youngest of four boys.
After joining the chorus junior year, he took a few lessons from his choir teacher. Out of high school, he made plans to play right tackle at the University of Maryland. He attended for only a week, deciding he wasn’t college material.
So he drove a florist van instead, picking up and delivering flowers around Washington, D.C. He enjoyed the independence of the job, spending his days listening to the radio. But he was ashamed to tell his friends what he was doing, so after driving for a few more months, he decided to try singing again.
Mr. Tanner auditioned at Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Va. He knew only a few songs — “O Holy Night,” “Amazing Grace” and “Arm, Arm, Ye Brave” from Handel’s “Judas Maccabaeus” — but won over the audition committee nonetheless. He became the first in his family to graduate from a four-year college. His mother asked him what he wanted to do with his new diploma.
“I said, ‘I think I’m gonna drive a truck’ … Even though I was a good singer, I didn’t want it bad enough.”
He got a commercial driver’s license and drove a truck for a picture frame company for four years. During that time, a friend told him about a bounty hunter, an aging ex-Green Beret, looking for a partner. So began Mr. Tanner’s two years both truck-driving and chasing people down, from Haitian drug kingpins to old ladies operating an illegal day care center to lawyers who wouldn’t pay child support. During his first year, he made $80,000. He had never seen so much money in his life.
“It wasn’t easy. I wrestled people to the ground. I got punched in the face,” he said.
His stories go on and on. Sometimes, his dates don’t quite make sense, but you don’t want to interrupt him.
In one job, he hunted down a 16-year-old delinquent hiding out in a West Virginia cabin. When he approached from the front, the teenager started firing at him with a rifle. He and his partner eventually hog-tied him in their truck.
On the ride home, Mr. Tanner lectured the teen. “You can start your life over every day when you’re 16,” he told him.
Years later, at a 7-Eleven, Mr. Tanner saw the young man. He thanked him for helping him get his life in order and said he was now working at a nearby Honda dealership. And Mr. Tanner?
“I said, ‘I’m an opera singer.’ He said, ‘You’re [kidding] me, right?’ ”
Mr. Tanner gave up his bounty-hunting and truck-driving career not long after a man he was chasing was electrocuted by a power line right in front of him. “I saw him light up like a Christmas tree. Slowly, my mind healed after that.
“I’ve seen much worse in opera.”
He moved to New York City to pursue a singing career, taking a job as a singing waiter. After singing an aria from Puccini’s “Tosca,” he was approached by Richard Gaddes of Santa Fe Opera, who recruited him to be an apprentice with the summer opera company.
The gig would launch his career. He was too old, and had too mature of a voice, to do traditional opera training programs. But the tenor signed with an agent, took the occasional gig and learned technique and repertoire. He earned roles on the regional circuit and then in larger companies, from New York City Opera to La Scala.
Before his in-house debut with the Metropolitan Opera in 2010, Mr. Keaton stumbled upon a New York Times article about Mr. Tanner. Mr. Keaton, a Pittsburgh native, contacted his agent and then Mr. Tanner to discuss the possibility of making a film based on the tenor’s life. Like all budding Hollywood movies, its fate is unclear, and it’s too soon to tell whether it will ever make it to theaters.
“I like Carl so much, and I thought his story was so great, and he’s such a decent dude,” said Mr. Keaton, who plans to direct and produce the film. “[The project] has already gone a little farther than a lot of other projects I’m working on.”
Stan Chervin, who wrote “Moneyball,” wrote the script for the latent movie, which Mr. Keaton said will be a comedy.
“It’s not a quiet study. He was a bounty hunter,” said Mr. Keaton.
“As long as it doesn’t make me look dumb,” said Mr. Tanner, a self-described “educated redneck.” He enjoyed his time in Pittsburgh and is even considering moving here with his partner and 5 year-old son.
Having numbers of Mr. Keaton and other famous Hollywood types in his phone is a little bizarre for Mr. Tanner. Then again, it’s just one in a long list of surprising things about him.
“At the end of the day, I’m a poor boy from Virginia, and I’m blessed. And that’s it.”
Elizabeth Bloom: email@example.com, 412-263-1750 or Twitter @BloomPG. Blog: Measured Words at www.post-gazette.com/measuredwords.
By Laura Thompson
7:30AM BST 02 Oct 2013
Downton Abbey is starting to resemble the heyday of The Morecambe and Wise Show. Stars queue up to be in it. Just as Glenda Jackson and Andre Previn seized the chance to cavort with Eric and Ernie, so a Hollywood name like Shirley Maclaine happily trades quips among the teacups with the Granthams. Now we are about to see one of the greatest opera sopranos of the past 40 years, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, in the role of Australian singer Nellie Melba, singing at a Downton soirée (and raising the incidental question of how the cash-strapped Earl could afford Melba’s famously enormous fees).
This is a particularly splendid feather in Downton Abbey’s cap. What is extraordinary, however, is that the legendary Dame Kiri is quite sincerely ecstatic to be part of the programme. Like 120 million others around the world, the New Zealand-born goddess of the opera house is a bona fide fan.
“I nearly choked when I saw the email that invited me,” she says, before describing how, during a stay in New York, she downloaded the previous series then watched it every night in her hotel room. “I rationed myself to an episode at a time. Once I did watch three at a sitting. They’re like chocolates. You try and just have one…”
Kiri Te Kanawa in Downton Abbey’s drawing room
We are talking in a suite at the Mayfair Hotel. Smart as paint in her black trousers and red high-collared jacket, Dame Kiri has the courteous, smiling regality of a true star, but also a down-to-earth Antipodean warmth. The writer and critic Bernard Levin, who was so besotted with her that he proclaimed “When I die they will find ‘Kiri’ written on my heart”, also said, more judiciously, that she “carries such conviction because [her performance] comes from a nature in which there is no falseness, no dissembling”. I have only seen her sing on film, in Joseph Losey’s marvellous 1979 Don Giovanni, and on television at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, but it is easy to recognise the truth of Levin’s perception.
By MICHAEL COOPER
April 26, 2014,
THE NEW YORK TIMES
There was a time, early in the 20th Century, when programs at the Metropolitan Opera warned fanatical opera buffs, in capital letters, “POSITIVELY NO ENCORES ALLOWED.”
The rule has since been relaxed only a handful of times in recent decades. But on Friday night the Mexican tenor Javier Camarena joined the small coterie of opera singers who have literally stopped the show at the Met when he got such a thunderous ovation in Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” that he was compelled to give an encore of his bravura aria “Si, ritrovarla io guiro.”
The only other two singers to have sung encores during Met performances in more than half a century, by the opera house’s count, were Luciano Pavarotti, who sang one during a performance of Puccini’s “Tosca” in 1994, and the man Mr. Camarena was filling in for on Friday night: the star bel canto tenor Juan Diego Flórez, who sang an encore in a 2008 performance of “La Fille du Régiment” and in a 2012 performance of “L’Elisir d’Amore.”
“My God, it’s so exciting,” a beaming Mr. Camerena said, slightly out of breath, in a brief interview backstage after the performance ended. “To feel this reaction from the public — it was like a big mountain of roars and bravos and applause. It’s really overwhelming. Fantastic.”
It was quite a feat for a stand-in. His role, playing the the prince opposite Joyce DiDonato’s star turn as Cinderella, was originally to have been sung by Mr. Flórez, who announced earlier this month that he would withdraw from the first few performances due to illness. Mr. Camarena, who had just had a triumph at the Met in Bellini’s “La Sonnambula,” agreed to step in.
He got rave reviews. Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times singled out his singing of the second act aria, writing that Mr. Camarena “dispatched the aria’s impetuous runs — capped by thrilling top notes, including an effortless high D — finally finishing with a glorious high C that he seemed almost reluctant to cut off.” He wrote that the opening night ovation lasted so long that he expected Mr. Camarena to return for a bow, but he did not.
On Friday night, the ovation was again tumultuous, with several members of the audience jumping to their feet – which is unusual, mid-performance.
Mr. Camarena, who had exited the stage as the ovation continued, said: “I was waiting, because last time, there was very long applause, and I was behind the stage and was trying to think, what do I do? Do I come back, or stay? What’s going to happen?”
This time, he came out again, and not only bowed but repeated the second part of the aria, hitting another high D.
Now, given Mr. Camarena’s reception, there may be suspense about whether Mr. Flórez will return, as scheduled, to sing the three final performances of the opera, including a May 10 matinee that will be transmitted to movie theaters around the world as part of the Met’s “Live in HD” series.
photo:Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera
by Jenni Miller
Meryl Streep is no slouch when it comes to transformative performances, but the latest legend she’s set to play will make Anna Wintour look like a pushover. Streep has signed on to star as Maria Callas in an HBO adaptation of “Master Class,” an award-winning Broadway play by Terrence McNally that takes place in 1971 at Julliard. In the story, the unforgettable diva is teaching a class while contemplating her astonishing career and dramatic life, which includes a torrid affair with Aristotle Onassis that ends when he leaves her for none other than Jackie O.
“Master Class” will reunite Streep with Mike Nichols, who worked with her on “Angels in America,” “Postcards From the Edge,” “Heartburn,” and “Silkwood.” The movie will start filming in January after Streep finishes an entirely different sort of musical performance in Jonathan Demme’s “Ricky and the Flash.” Streep, who stars as an aging rocker, has even been getting some guitar-picking tips from Neil Young for the role. No word yet on whether or not she’ll be attempting Callas’ famous bel canto.
Callas, who starred in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Medea” in 1969, is the subject of a number of projects in the works. Faye Dunaway, who starred as Callas in “Master Class” in 1997, directed and stars in a biopic about the singer that has been in limbo for years. In 2013, she told The Independent “about three quarters of the film has been shot, we are going to film the rest of it soon.” Meanwhile, Niki Caro (“Whale Rider”) announced at Cannes that she will begin production on a biopic about Callas this fall. Meanwhile, the opera singer did take a stab at acting onscreen herself; she starred as Medea in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s take on the Euripides play.
By Amy Ellis Nutt: The Washington Post
Parents who have patiently sat through countless music recitals and questioned their sanity at encouraging all those trumpet or violin lessons need do so no longer. Even ear-splitting dissonance has an upside.
Music training not only helps children develop fine motor skills, but aids emotional and behavioral maturation as well, according to a new study, one of the largest to investigate the effects of playing an instrument on brain development.
Using a database produced by the National Institutes of Health Magnetic Resonance (MRI) Study of Normal Brain Development, researchers at the University of Vermont College of Medicine analyzed the brain scans of 232 healthy children ages six to 18 specifically looking at brain development in children who play a musical instrument. (The original study did not indicate specific instruments.)
“What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument,” said James Hudziak, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families, “it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control.”
The cortex, or outer layer of brain, changes in thickness as a child grows and develops. Previously, Hudziak and colleagues Matthew Albaugh and Eileen Crehan found relationships between cortical thickening and thinning in various areas of the brain responsible for depression, aggression and attention problems. This research, announced last month in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, was different.
“I wanted to look at positive things, what we believe benefits child development,” Hudziak said. “What I was surprised by was the emotional regulatory regions. Everyone in our culture knows if I lift 5-pound, 10-pound, 15-pound weights, my biceps will get bigger. The same is true for the brain. We shouldn’t be surprised we can train the brain.”
Because the study’s participants were all mentally healthy children, Hudziak thinks the positive effect of music training on those who are not could be significant.
“A kid may still have ADHD,” he said. “It’s the storm around it that improves.”
Inspired by his own research, and having never learned to play an instrument, the 56-year-old Hudziak decided to take viola lessons last year.
“I had this passion for health promotion in children, it seemed silly not to do it myself,” he said.
Though music isn’t his only health-related extracurricular activity — Hudziak also engages in regular exercise and meditation — he believes the viola lessons contribute to his overall wellness. They have not, however, contributed much to his overall playing ability — at least not yet. The sanguine psychiatrist had just one word for his viola skills: