My early influences began as a child, but they weren’t singers, they were instruments. The hypnotic brass on the Stan Kenton Band, the sounds of Charles Mingus and John Coltrane... As a teenager in the 1960s, I was a guitar player in my own band, playing anywhere and everywhere we could. And anyTHING we could: from R&B, soul and jazz to post-bop and early rock & roll... And then in my senior year of high school, much to my surprise, I was chosen to sing the lead in our spring musical. I also began singing in a cappella groups and in regional competitions, and began to realize something special was going on.
I have always been a sound guy, and have always payed attention to pitch, color, weight, core, resonance and timbre of everything thing around me. But in the spring of 1963 I heard the voice of the great Italian bass Cesare Siepi on the television and I was thunderstruck. I don't know what else to say. It changed my life. His voice had an aspect of mystery and magic to it, the color, the weight the power, the sustain, the sheer beauty and expressiveness of it. I am still memorized by his voice today.
When I turned eighteen I auditioned for the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus under the direction of Robert Shaw and I accepted and worked closely as a chorus member. And at the same time I also auditioned for the Cleveland Institute of Music and was granted a Ford and Rainey Foundation scholarship. My first opera stage director was Anthony Addison, head of the opera department at CIM—where I performed leading roles under the coaching and conducting of James Levine, formerly of the Metropolitan Opera—in the Marriage of Figaro, Verdi's Falstaff and Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande. I also performed with the National Symphony Orchestra and Opera of Iceland.
In 1970 I moved to New York City to continue studying with the great Eleanor Steber, performing many leading roles in regional opera companies. I also began training with vocal and acting instructor Conrad L. Osborne and acting instructor Hal Holden at the HB Studio in New York City.
In 1981 I received a unique opportunity teach voice and acting for singers in Reykjavik, Iceland. I also performed for the National Opera on the radio and in recitals. During this time I was also invited to study with Hanne-Lore Kuhse, the great Wagnerian Soprano in what was then East Berlin Germany.
I returned to Cleveland in 1988 to begin teaching at the Cleveland Music School Settlement and at the Outreach Department at the Conservatory of Music at Baldwin Wallace College. I was a soloist and choral member of the Robert Page Singers. I also enjoyed the opportunity to sing with the Cleveland Opera as well as many local venues and churches.
In 1992 I founded the Opera Gala at La Dolce Vita in Little Italy where I performed with countless young musicians and singers. It was so successful it ran for 13 years. During these past 25 years I have mentored and taught thousands of students of all genres. It has also been my great privilege to be the soloist with the First Church Christ Scientist Cleveland. To this day I have been soloist for over 1,100+ services. I continue to be a working, performing, teaching signer. In addition to private lessons I am employed by the Community Music School at Baldwin Wallace University.
In 2011, the Senior Barbershop quartet "Over Easy" won the World Gold Medal for their division in the World Barbershop competition in Las Vegas. I had coached this quartet for several years when their lead Carl Ondrus, Baritone Glenn Siebert and Tenor Al Reese were private students—working alongside Darryl Flinn who coached the quartet on presentation and style which lead them to the gold medal. To watch them sing click here.
Singing has led me in many directions I did not anticipate in my early life. I believe that singing is a spiritual experience, and a personal journey to the self.
Robert Becker is located in Little Italy, Cleveland Ohio. Click here to contact Robert to learn more about uncovering your Natural Voice.
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