The Power of the Voice- Interview with Spencer Welch- Master Vocal Instructor

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Where were you born and brought up?

I was born in Ferney, in the Kootenays, BC. A year later, we moved to Calgary. And when I was five, we moved to Mexico.

Oh, that’s how you know Spanish.

Yeah. I grew up in Mexico in a small little city of two million people called Puebla. It’s about two hours outside of Mexico City. I lived there from age five to sixteen.

Did you grow up in a musical family?

Well, sort of. My grandpa and grandma on my dad’s side both played instruments and sang. And my dad sings beautifully and plays the piano and guitar all by ear. He has no idea which notes he is playing. He can only play the piano in about four or five keys. And they’re actually the really difficult keys. From very early on, my dad would bring a bunch of vinyl records home and would play all this music for me. He had a stereo with huge speakers and he would crank it as loud as he could. The windows would start shaking from the trumpets and the canons going off.

Haha! That is awesome.

Yeah, so it wasn’t like there were highly trained musicians in the family surrounding me. But there was all of this music in the house. Also, my friends that I was surrounded by were very good musicians. I remember being in bands from when I was 9 or 10 years old.

What instrument did you first start playing?

My first instrument was actually the accordion. We didn’t have a piano. We just couldn’t afford one. I took some accordion lessons but I wasn’t that into it. Then I got into guitar and I learned that by ear. I started teaching myself piano by ear after that. I got so deep into piano that I basically begged my parents for lessons. That started in Mexico.

And you started training your voice more in Canada?

When I came to Canada, I continued taking more theory and piano. And it wasn’t until I got into college that I started taking voice lessons. I always sang, and I started to perform professionally by the time I was about sixteen. I was getting hired by bands to play keyboard and sing back-up vocals. But at that time, I was just all self-taught. I had no vocal training. But I had lots of instinct built up. The majority of my formal training was when I went to college in Canada and studied jazz theory and composition, as well as piano and voice lessons. I did a little bit of Royal Conservatory before then too.

Spencer20I was introduced to the book The Talent Code through you and one of the other instructors at the Spencer Welch Vocal Studio– Rebecca Lam. What are your thoughts about the premise behind it- that talent is not born but learned?

I was afforded the opportunity from a very young age to be musical and to explore music. It was modelled for me in my dad and in my friends around me. And I didn’t have parents that looked down on music or singing as if it was somehow unimportant to explore that.

When I was five years old, I’d get pushed on stage at church and I’d be playing my ukulele and singing. I also went to a really small international school in Mexico where there were always big roles in every musical, and I very often got to be the lead. I think I was no more talented than the next person. It was just that I had lots of opportunities to express my musicality.

So I can relate to the premise behind the Talent Code in that way. The combination of all that was around me made singing, being on stage, and playing music seem natural. It was made to feel like a normal part of my life from a very early age. The talent was grown and nurtured, not necessarily something that I was just born with. Continue reading

Piano As Therapy- Interview With Tyler Wilson

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How long have you been playing piano, and what is your preferred genre to play?

I’ve been playing piano now for about 18 years, ever since I was 6. After a few too many times banging on the keys of my grandma’s old upright, she sat me down and began teaching me classically, initially. This built a good technical foundation, but as I got older, I started getting into playing pop music. Eventually, I found my passion in jazz, specifically the old standards and swing!

I find sometimes it can be difficult to follow your artistic passion as an adult, especially with certain societal or cultural pressures to pursue something more “practical.”  Did you find those around you encouraging your music pursuits?

Luckily, the stigma against following the arts as a career path doesn’t seem as prominent in my generation. The rise of the entrepreneur/side gigs among millennials has made for a relatively accepting environment for people that are pursing their own path. But I would definitely agree that culture, upbringing, and environment have a heavy impact on people actually pursuing music and the arts as a sole source of income.

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Celia Cruz’s Cure For Headaches…

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celia c“My life is singing. I don’t plan on retiring. I plan to die on a stage. I can have a headache but when it’s time to sing and I step on that stage there is no more headache.”- Celia Cruz