Jazzitalia - Mary Setrakian's 5-day Course
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Mary Setrakian's 5-day Course
Milano, Wednesday 8th November – Sunday 12th November
By: Eva Simontacchi
Pictures: Eva Simontacchi and Mario Livraghi

Fai click qui per leggere la versione in italiano

Mary Setrakian was born and raised in San Francisco. She has been a resident of New York City for the past 20 years performing professionally, in conjunction with teaching master voice to a variety of artists in New York, Los Angeles and internationally throughout Italy. She has been seen on Broadway in "Hello, Dolly!" starring Carol Channing, and toured the US and Europe with shows including "Phantom of the Opera" (Madame Giry), "Les Miserables," "Hello, Dolly!" and "Evita" (as Eva Peron in Duisberg, Germany). Mary was featured at Carnegie Hall in "Jubilee" directed by Herbert Ross.
As a voice teacher, Mary prepared Nicole Kidman for her Golden Globe Award winning and Oscar nominated performance in her first musical, Baz Luhrman's "Moulin Rouge." She taught the stars of John Turturro's musical movie "Romance & Cigarettes" to sing, including Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini and Bobby Cannavale.
Mary is presently working for Disney as the voice coach to cast members of Phil Collins' Broadway show, "Tarzan." Her services were also called upon by Disney for the Broadway and touring companies of Elton John's "Aida" and "The Lion King," and Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Bombay Dreams." Other students include Juliette Binoche, Milla Jovovich, Annabella Sciorra, Mandy Moore, Keri Russell, Tate Donovan, Josh Strickland, Simone, Patrick Cassidy, Kelli Fournier, Elizabeth Hendrickson as well as actors and singers who are just starting out.
Mary is a graduate of Stanford University and holds a Masters in Voice Performance from the New England Conservatory with Distinction. She studied at the Tanglewood Music Festival with Phyllis Curtain and was a voice student of Joan Heller.
Mary Setrakian teaches a voice class at the acting studio of Susan Batson and Carl Ford, BLACK NEXXUS in New York City and in Los Angeles. She has studied acting with her mentor, Susan Batson, for 20 years.
Mary is presently giving Vocal Workshops in NYC, LA and throughout Italy. She went to Rome six times last year, teaching and performing, and returned this October and November 2006 to teach in Rome and Milan.
Presently, Mary is performing her one-woman "salons" and concerts with orchestra around the country and in Rome, Italy. She made her concert debut in Milan, Italy, this November with the Avant Orchestra. The evening of Big Band meets Broadway was a special night for the nearly sold out crowd at the Teatro Delle Erbe.

The organization and management of Mary Setrakian's courses and concerts while she is in Italy is taken care of by Domenico Stante, a Roman actor who had the honour of bringing her to Italy for the first time two years ago, after having followed a one-month course with Mary Setrakian at Susan Batson's acting studio, Black Nexxus in New York City. Domenico Stante is in charge of the scheduling of the courses in Rome and Milano and in Italy in general, and is the person that may be contacted for information.

This course in Milano is the second course ever held by Mary Setrakian in our city. The first one, held in June, was a three-day course, and this one, the first five-day course held in Milano, which included a Showcase at the end of the course. Mary Setrakian has held twelve courses in Rome in the past two years, and her students keep wanting her back, while new students keep enrolling.

When we meet Mary Setrakian on the first day, we meet a very energetic and positive person. We all come with our scores and each one of us has one or two different songs to sing. Mary Setrakian sits at the piano and accompanies every student listening very carefully as they sing. Then Mary leads us all to another room where she introduces us to the "circle dance." Mary puts us in a circle and calls each one of us into the center of the circle to dance to the music, and, as she told us "to release our bodies, emotions and minds." All the other students around the student in the middle follow their dance, dropping into a character of that person. After the "circle dance," Mary stands in front of each student and asks "What are you aware of?" This question is the beginning of our individual journies in the class. Mary will ask this question many times in the course, "What are you aware of?" Since our bodies, emotions and minds are also a part of our singing instrument, we have to become "aware" of every part of ourselves.

After the "circle dance," Mary approaches vocal technique issues, and we all do exercises on support and breathing and connecting our voice to our body.

Already the energy in the room becomes very positive. We're not only trying to understand it for ourselves, but help each other "get it." The atmosphere we all breathe is very supportive. Mary Setrakian is a very supportive, talented and gifted teacher. We immediately go on with other acting exercises that involve visualization, working on the fourth wall, and finding one's need, which are important actor tools that will be used during the whole course.

After this, Mary Setrakian works on connecting the deep emotions and the need of each one of us to our voice technique. During our individual work in front of the class, she helps us release tension in the voice technique and connect the intimacy of the need to our work. I realize that the changes in our performance are immediately visible.

On the second and third days of the course, we start with the "circle dance" and then go on to the other exercises; but now we start working a little more on our character. We also go on with new voice technique exercises. Then Alessio Quaresima Escobar, a classical pianist from Rome, arrives and accompanies us all for the next four days under the careful guidance and suggestions of Mary, connecting the acting technique with the voice technique. The work we carry on is very intimate and we are all honing our craft in this very supportive atmosphere.

The fourth course day is the last course day before the student showcase. We run the show twice and do our best to put into practice all that we've experienced and learned with Mary during these intense days.

On Sunday we all meet at the Atmosphere Live Club in Milano, where the showcase will be held. We have a sound check, we perform the show, and then, before we even know it, the showcase is over! The result of our efforts and of Mary's teaching is evident in our performances. We know how we started on Wednesday, and we are aware of the blossoming each one of us experienced. And, we are already looking forward to Mary Setrakian's next visit, which will be in February (Rome) and March (Milano) 2007. (The pictures that accompany this article are pictures of the student's showcase at the Atmosphere Live Club in Milano.)

Personal note: This experience has been very important to me. I believe Mary Setrakian is a very gifted and talented educator, and I truly believe I would have missed something very important if I hadn't met her. I had a chance to work more than I usually do as a jazz singer with acting while singing. I realized what great expressive power we all have, and what great emotional intensity may be reached by using these acting tools. Of course we all had to face the fact of "being naked" in our emotions, and this is something that may make somebody unsure, or raise some defences. But Mary supported each of us in our individual journies. I sang a piece I have been singing for years, but with Mary I connected my singing with my acting. At first, I wasn't sure of what I had to do. But listening to Mary's suggestions, and then being inspired by the other performers in the class, I understood what my job was about. I felt I had the permission to be that character, and it all became so easy and natural! During the performances of the other artists, at times the tools they used were so effective that some of us were moved to tears. Moreover, Mary Setrakian's voice technique instructions are clear and very effective. I already used some of the tools Mary gave to me in my concerts, and I'm very happy with the results.

Here are some links in case some readers would like to browse or contact the organizers for Mary Setrakian's courses in Italy:
Mary Setrakian's official website: HYPERLINK http://www.marysetrakian.com
Domenico Stante (Italian manager and organizer of the courses). HYPERLINK domenicostante@yahoo.it

Related articles:

Interview with Mary Setrakian: "...I work on the "need". The need is something you have when you're a little child. A need to be loved, a need to be seen, a need to be heard, a need to be somebody. There are all sorts of different needs, and the actor is to connect to the need sensation and sing and speak through that sensation..." (Eva Simontacchi)


Mary Setrakian & Avant Orchestra, When Broadway Encounters Jazz in Italy: "She has no microphone, but we hear her voice quite well, even though a whole big band is playing. She is singing and walking toward the stage in the isle between the rows of seats of the Teatro delle Erbe to reach the orchestra. She carries such a positive energy with her, and spreads it around to all the people in the audience." (Eva Simontacchi)


5 day course with Mary Setrakian: "...we all had to face the fact of "being naked" in our emotions, and this is something that may make somebody unsure, or raise some defences. But Mary supported each of us in our individual journies." (Eva Simontacchi)

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Publishing Date: 03/02/2007

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