Ilona Tipp creates music with a nearly endless palette of vocal colors through emotionally stirring performances. Trained in classical bel canto singing and later in jazz, blues, folk, country, and other styles “outside the box,” her seamless multigenre technique is employed not for its own sake, but in service of the feelings she seeks to evoke in the music of the moment. Her original songs are infused with elements of R&B and jazz as well as classical counterpoint, and she brings this eclectic sensibility into interpretations of standards and covers. Heavily influenced by artists from Aretha Franklin to k. d. lang, Joni Mitchell to Cecile McLorin Salvant, Ray Charles to Jamie Cullum, Ilona’s artistry continues to evolve through performance explorations that include singing with art rock blues bands to synagogue choirs to swing-style Klezmer.
Musical roots run deep in Tipp’s family—her grandmother was a piano teacher, and so Tipp learned to play the piano and read music at a very young age. Though primarily a singer now, she’s thankful for her years of piano study and frequently accompanies herself and her students on the keys. Tipp received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New England Conservatory, where she studied with singer and composer Dominique Eade; pianist, composer, and MacArthur Fellow Ran Blake; and multi-instrumentalist, composer, and Klezmer Conservatory Band founder Hankus Netsky. She maintains a private studio in Boston and in the seacoast region of New Hampshire with lessons in voice, songwriting, and ear training.
- Career Highlights
- Performances with Ran Blake, Dominique Eade, Aoife O’Donovan, MIT Jazz Ensemble, and Hankus Netstky
- Solo album of all original songs, Unadorned, 2018
- Recordings as a contributor with Dave Fabris and Ran Blake, Lettuce Prey, 2014
- Vocalist, pianist, composer, and songwriter
- Arranging for a cappella vocal ensembles, small jazz combos, rock bands, and folk groups
- Guest lecturer on healthy belting for Vocal Pedagogy at New England Conservatory
- Over 20 years teaching and performing experience
- B.M., New England Conservatory
- M.M., New England Conservatory
In Their Own Words
"I want students to feel they have more control over their voice after studying with me. I teach what I practice: healthy vocal technique that is meant to last for a lifetime. I love coaching repertoire and fostering musicality in a variety of styles, but the essence of my teaching approach is a technical one. Different methods and exercises work for different students: with some students, we talk directly about what works and what doesn’t and why, while other students respond better to imagery and metaphor."
"My studio is also a safe space. I respect each student’s individual identity, which I believe is crucial to the singing process: their own personalities and experiences are going to inform their singing deeply, and they need to feel supported in who they are in order to be supported in how to sing from an authentic place. I approach each student as an individual, and craft an individual approach for that voice. No two voices are alike: each voice is singular, so my approach and support for each voice is unique. In particular I have specialized in guiding singers of all genders from all stylistic backgrounds in healthy belting techniques though balancing all the vocal registers. I work a lot with mixed voice: knitting registers together, strengthening all registers from lowest to highest, with a specially tuned ear to progressing smoothly through an unbroken middle range. While the end goal is to sing repertoire, much of each lesson is devoted to technical exercises to build strength, agility, flexibility, and control. All technical exercises have a focus and clearly stated goal, and are not employed 'just to sing warm-ups.' I approach technique through a functional system which supports all styles of music, from traditional bel canto classical through all styles of contemporary commercial music, including but not limited to rock, musical theater, blues, country, bluegrass, folk, etc."
"I sing in many styles including classical, jazz, blues, country, and rock. We all have personal aesthetics, but I endeavor to separate mine from the business of teaching and building technique. I do not teach students to sound like me. I teach students to sound like themselves. I share opinions about which sounds I like and those I do not (and why), but my primary concern is that of a healthy vocal technique in a stylistically appropriate manner. (For example: I do not generally listen to thrash metal for my own musical enjoyment, but I have guided students through ways to sing it without injuring their voices... and applying a classical bel canto tone to thrash metal would be stylistically inappropriate.) To that end, with all students I employ numerous technical exercises that are designed not to sound good, but instead to isolate and strengthen (in a healthful manner) a particular tone or timbre that may be utilized. Keeping an open mind includes keeping open ears."
"My musical path has led me down some unconventional rabbit holes, and I wouldn’t be able to teach the breadth of genres that I do now without those diversions. I had very intensive early training in classical bel canto singing, and I began my undergraduate conservatory days thinking I would be an opera singer. While that is not where I ultimately found my musical calling (though I still enjoy singing classical gigs occasionally), there’s no question that the technical work I did in my classical days gave me a strong foundation to explore—and teach—other styles. This path has led me to a deeply held belief that informs both my singing and my teaching: healthy, efficient, and easeful vocal function can be employed in almost any style of music in a stylistically appropriate manner. As I enjoy exploring different techniques and finding new colors in my own voice, that better equips me to guide students on their own paths… and my students never stop inspiring me to stretch my own limits! I am a teaching artist as much as a performing artist, and I find the two inseparable. My singing informs my teaching, which influences my singing, and it all comes around in circles. Any issues I’ve struggled with become things I can help my students overcome, and I learn so much from what all my students bring to lessons. I take my role as a teacher very, very seriously, and particularly because the study of voice is so deeply personal and unique, I approach all students with a deep respect and compassion."
"Also, during my graduate work at New England Conservatory, I took a series of courses taught by Vocal Pedagogy director Ian Howell which have also greatly informed and enriched my teaching. After years of teaching in ways that were effective yet somewhat mysterious (the voice being a fairly “hidden” instrument, after all), I now have knowledge of the latest voice and acoustic science, giving me a specific understanding of why things work (or don’t), a deeper knowledge of vocal anatomy, and much more efficient methods of addressing technical issues. The field of voice science and its application to pedagogy fascinates me, and I am passionate about staying current in that area."