Kudisan Kai, Associate Professor
"Vocal technique is my specialty, not only because of my classical training, but because of my experience in performing other styles of music. I know how to utilize standard classical technique in these styles and still maintain integrity. I tell my students, 'I want you to marry yourself to your technique, and know it so well that, like breathing, you don't have to think about it; you just do it. Which requires you to be disciplined and to commit to practicing it until it becomes muscle memory.'"
"I also tell my students to be fearless and go for it; you won't get anything unless you try. There is nothing you can hold on to, that is secure, as a fallback."
"My approach also comes from a more emotionally connected point of view. Journaling is an important way for students to start paying attention to their lives. All artist-singers have to be songwriters, so I tell my students to start journaling—start thinking about what you've been through, start allowing yourself to feel, and use the tools that I give you that will allow you to utilize all those experiences in your performance."
"When you see progress, and you see the 'aha' moment, when a student gets it, it's so moving that it can bring you to tears. I remember a student in one of my jazz labs who came from a classical/musical theater background, so he knew how to emote and have a choreographed performance, but he didn't know how to just be himself. He also had great ears but had never improvised before. We went through the song and what it meant, and found an experience that related the song to him in a way that made sense only to him. He sang it again and was able to improvise—he didn't even know what was coming out of his mouth—and I had to leave the room to hide my tears. A new teacher was observing my class, and I heard the student ask him, 'Did I do something wrong?' And he said, 'No, you did everything right.'"
"And when it works, I say, 'Now you know that you always have it inside of you to do. All you have to do is live your life, and allow yourself to recall and feel your life experience, no matter how horrendous or how amazing, it's all good, all the time.' That's also a life lesson."
- B.A., Howard University
- Graduate studies, Eastman School of Music and New York University
- Toured with Anita Baker, Natalie Cole, Elton John, Chaka Khan, and Jeffrey Osborne
- Performances with Sting and Beck
- Recordings with Joe Cocker, Ofra Haza, Elton John, Salif Keita, Bette Midler, and Diana Ross
- A Down Beat magazine Jazz Vocalist Award winner