Voice Faculty

Gwendolyn Leathers

Instructor, Voice
gleathers@berklee.edu | 617 747-8107
  • B.M., Berklee College of Music
  • Vocalist
  • Member of Metro
  • Background vocalist on Read between the Lines CD by Jan Shapiro

Carolyn Leonhart

Assistant Professor, Voice
cleonhart@berklee.edu | 617 747-3180

"I want my students to be able to make any artistic choices they want, and not have their instrument limit them. It's very easy to develop bad habits without knowing it, so we need to take our instruments in to be tuned up, just as other musicians do, to check in with someone who can hear what's going on and guide you. I want my students to have an awareness of their instrument and the relationship between the voice, mind, body, and heart—but it needs to be a healthy balance. Be compassionate with yourself, but do the work and push yourself so that you're not afraid to let go in the moment."

Donna McElroy

Professor, Voice
dmcelroy@berklee.edu | 617 747-8439

"The students . . . love the fact that I can still have fun and that I love the music. The music comes first, and then I still have a lot of attention, space, and joy left to share with them. That's what they love. And that's a gift. I don't claim that; I just accept it, maintain it, and manage it because I know that it's a gift from God."

Clare McLeod

Assistant Professor, Voice
cmcleod@berklee.edu | 617 747-6335

“I want my students to have a strong sense of the lyrics and what it is they are saying. Great singers have a connection not only with their instrument, but with their material and their audience. Once they have a vision and the training to produce a range of sounds freely and efficiently, they can express themselves with greater precision and emotion. Knowing the options they have removes some of the fear and guesswork from the process of singing. The answer to fear is knowledge. I live by that.”

Laurie Monahan

Professor, Voice
lmonahan1@berklee.edu | 617 747-6336

"I teach 'the art of singing' from the vantage point of a long career as a performer, recording artist, and teacher. What a joy all three facets have been! This extraordinary universal language of song is truly a marvel of creative forces merging in the human voice, via tonal colors, rhythm, text, and the soul of a singer. My aim is to assist students in cultivating these unique forces in their voices and to help them dip down into the depths of their emotional expression. This beautiful language of music defies all boundaries, and meeting each student at their current juncture is an exciting challenge."

Duane Moody

Associate Professor, Voice
dmoody@berklee.edu | 617 747-6016

"When I was touring with Three Mo' Tenors, I applied my classical technique to nine to ten different styles of music: opera, musical theater, jazz, gospel, new school r&b, hip-hop, old-school Motown, spirituals, and rock 'n' roll. So I teach my students not only a very good classical technique, but also a way to apply that same technique to different styles of music. It's about different placement of sound—how and where you place the sound as it is being delivered from your mouth."

Nichelle Mungo

Instructor, Voice
njmungo@berklee.edu | 617 747-8957

"I teach lessons for the Voice Department where I focus on vocal technique, assuring that students are singing in a healthy manner. The students are aware of my philosophy for warm ups: the more relaxed and flexible your vocal mechanisms are inwardly, the better your voice will produce outwardly.  If you maintain your voice, keeping it warmed up using proper technique, your voice will be one of great longevity. I tell the students to treat their voices just as an athlete would treat their bodies before a game or a race. You wouldn't just wake up one day and say, 'I want to run a 26-mile marathon!' You have to properly prepare for it."

Paul Pampinella

Assistant Professor, Voice

"I see my job as being a tour guide to the student's own voice, rather than coaching them in any particular style of singing. It's often the case that students simply don't know how to fully operate this instrument that they carry with them."

Anne Peckham

Chair, Voice
Also affiliated with: Berklee Online
apeckham@berklee.edu | 617 747-2513

"I want students to know that they can sing in a healthy manner in the style of music that they love. It's not like making cookie-cutter singers where everybody has a certain quality of tone or a certain sound to their voice; you can sound like yourself and still use vocal technique. Technique really has to be habituated so that it's almost invisible to the naked eye. That way, you're watching the singer perform, be expressive, and be him- or herself, while technique is the underpinning that's allowing the singer to sing freely, but with good stamina and good intonation."

Janice Pendarvis

Associate Professor, Voice
jpendarvis@berklee.edu | 617 747-6019

"My professional experience has been very eclectic. I've worked as a soloist, a background vocalist, and a voice announcer. When it comes to genre, I've done everything from the avant garde classical with Philip Glass to rock with Sting to singing duets with the reggae great Peter Tosh. I've sung in different languages, from the South African click language Xhosa to Japanese. And I think having an eclectic background allows me to easily relate to a range of students who have different interests. There really isn't any type of music I don't like; I find something to like in just about every genre. So I'm interested in seeing where everybody's at and where we can go within the confines of the subject I have to teach."

Dale Pfeiffer

Assistant Professor, Voice
dpfeiffer@berklee.edu | 617 747-8318

"You need to nail your technique, but also understand how to immerse yourself in a song and let it work its way through you and out to the audience. I had an international student once who was having a hard time with 'Smile' by Charlie Chaplin. I wanted her to feel that she was singing to someone. We talked about who she was close to, and it turned out she was missing her mother. We talked about the meaning of the words, and she sang it again. It was spine-tingling. She really got the emotion. And that to me—that sense of space you get when someone really opens up—is just so moving."

Rene Pfister

Instructor, Voice
rpfister@berklee.edu | 617 747-8025

"I'm big on repertoire. The song is the medium through which singers express their talent. I encourage my students to listen to vocalists of all genres, analyze what is happening vocally, both technically and stylistically. It's critical that a singer learn to choose the right songs. All of my students create a book of songs in the proper keys so that they are prepared when someone says, 'Can you do this gig?' Yes, and I'm ready to sing 50 songs to prove it."

Annette Philip

Instructor, Voice
aphilip@berklee.edu | 617 747-6152

"My first love is working with multiple voices, and in India I have a group, over 250 members now, called Artists Unlimited. The whole concept of circle singing is something that is so very powerful. Circle singing is a concept that as far as I know Bobby McFerrin introduced to the world. It's very organic. He assigns a part to the bass singers, and another interlocking part to the sopranos, and something else for the altos, and something else for the tenors, and maybe he would improvise over it. It's a very dynamic form of composition; it's always improvised. One of the students started a circle singing group at Berklee. You have to really surrender to the moment. I think in all music that's what we're trying to encourage our students to do, to surrender and be totally present in the moment. And I feel that circle singing is a very noncompetitive, nonhostile, supportive, healing, and liberating space to just give yourself to and then see what happens."

Jeremy Ragsdale

Instructor, Voice
jragsdale@berklee.edu | 617 747-6246

"Berklee is a place where you can truly find your unique vocal sound, in whatever style you want. Where most voice programs require their students to study voice with one private teacher for their entire undergraduate career, Berklee has adopted the "it takes a village" approach to educating our voice students. Students are encouraged to jump around from one teacher to another. When I was a student at Berklee, I loved that approach. I gained amazing insight into vocal technique, improvisation, how to overcome stage fright, how to conduct myself onstage, how to interact with a band, how to write music for several different performance situations, and much more."

Jeff Ramsey

Associate Professor, Voice
jramsey@berklee.edu | 617 747-8110

"Having sung background for many different recording artists, I know how important it is to have your vocal technique together. As a background vocalist, you are basically called upon to become a chameleon. What that means is that you are going to be asked to take your voice out of its natural habitat so to speak. You have to come up with different timbres in your voice to match the other background singers and, in many cases, the lead vocalist. Versatility is an important factor in background singing. It means warming up your voice constantly to maintain the flexibility of your vocal folds as you diversify your singing style of the moment."

Sofia Rei

Instructor, Voice
srei@berklee.edu | 617 747-8154

"I have always been fascinated about the endless possibilities that the voice has as an instrument. My experience in jazz, improvised music, classical music, and Latin American styles made me aware of the importance of vocal technique to create a versatile instrument that can easily switch from one style to another. I remember when I began improvising how frustrating it was not to be able to sing the melodic ideas and sounds I could hear in my head. A healthy and flexible instrument is crucial and will give you the freedom to make any artistic choices you want, without limiting yourself."

Diane Richardson

Assistant Chair, Voice

"I think one of the most beautiful instruments is the voice. I love exploring its different textures and tone colors. I try to motivate my students to develop a solid technical foundation, find an emotional connection to the music, and fuse their interpretations with honesty and integrity."

Ned Rosenblatt

Associate Professor, Voice

“Some people might say I’m very ‘old school.’ I really am big on having a good attitude and respecting others. These ensembles are the ultimate team sport. Performers are responsible to each other. Work ethic and teamwork are crucial to being a successful professional musician. If you are not reliable, it doesn’t matter how talented you are. I try to build a sense of family and responsibility with each ensemble. When band mates are committed to each other, it really shows both in the rehearsal room and on stage in performance.”

Daniela Schachter

Assistant Professor, Voice
dschachter@berklee.edu | 617 747-6063

"I work a lot as a leader and also as a side player, so I'm trying to teach students how to be a leader and how to be a side player. If I'm performing with my own group, I decide what to play. This is challenging in a way, because you have to think which tunes to put in your set list and how to organize a set that is not boring for the audience. At the same time, as a side player, you need to try to understand what the leader wants you to play. Even if you don't have the melody written, you need to try to use voicings that don't interfere with the melody. Don't play too much. Try to be more respectful of the leader. If you are playing for a vocalist, also try not to interfere with the melody or play too many fields that may distract the melody—give it more space."

 

David Scott

Associate Professor, Voice
dscott@berklee.edu | 617 747-2822

"I try to remind students why we're doing music. It's about creating beauty and it's something you enjoy, something your audience will enjoy. Musicians can get really competitive. If you're just trying to do better than the other guy, or if you're trying to get better out of fear of being exposed as a fraud, you're not really in the right space. If you're singing out of fear, you have a 100 percent chance that it's not going to be right. Even if the notes are right, even if you're doing everything correctly, your listeners are going to be able to tell, and it's just going to ring false somehow. Now if you have a spirit of joy in creating music, you still might mess it up. Maybe then you have a 50 percent chance of getting it right. But at least you give yourself a chance. Yes, everybody should learn to play the piano and should learn their 251s and should learn music theory and sight reading—I'm all about competence. But I never want my students to forget that this is all in service of something that's supposed to be beautiful and supposed to be a pleasure."

Maggie Scott

Professor, Voice
mscott2@berklee.edu | 617 747-8347

"If you want to do something professionally, the whole package should be there, which means taking responsibility for your music, knowing your songs and the presentation aspects, knowing how to work the microphone—having your own microphone so you know what you sound like all the time and get used to hearing it."

Jan Shapiro

Professor, Voice
Also affiliated with: Berklee Online
jshapiro@berklee.edu | 617 747-2103

"I teach private lessons, vocal labs, and ensembles. When I teach private lesson students, I teach classical technique and how it applies to contemporary vocal styles. As a teacher, I see myself as a guide to each individual student as they travel down the path of vocal development and their own individual progression. Whether a singer becomes a recognized household name as a recording artist, a full-time performer, a session singer, a backing vocalist, or a singer in a wedding band, I try to prepare all my vocal students for the changing music industry and vocal styles."

Rebecca Shrimpton

Assistant Professor, Voice
rshrimpton@berklee.edu | 617 747-6345

"I love exploring new styles with students and helping them find new ways to use their instrument. I also am keenly aware of the vocal mechanism itself. The human voice is by far the most complicated instrument you can ever play, and you can’t even look at it or put your hands on it. I try to help students understand the anatomy of their voice, not just what the different parts are, but how they move and how they create sound. I like to keep up with the science of that, because it contributes enormously to vocal longevity and health."

Adrian Sicam

Assistant Professor, Voice
asicam@berklee.edu | 617 747-6433

Lorree Slye

Associate Professor, Voice
lslye@berklee.edu | 617 747-2688

"I tell my students, 'I'm here to blow a hole in the myth that singing is easy.' But if we're well trained, we can make it look effortless. Singers are multitaskers; we have to do so many things simultaneously. We've got to breathe, we've got to read, we've got to count, we've got to interpret. And because we're interpreting, we have to use every emotion—we have to be actors. If students are going to study with me, I want them to understand that we're going to deal with the whole spectrum of their emotions. We are the voice of the composer when we sing."

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