Celebrating Vermont’s young vocal stars
Article published Oct 16, 2014
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By Janelle Faignant
For Bill Reed, singing is in his blood. The 69-about-to-be-70-year-old voice teacher’s life has been eating, sleeping and breathing singing, beginning with his father’s influence — he was a tenor in the Buffalo Bills barbershop quartet, the one famous for being in the Music Man, both on Broadway and in the Hollywood film.
“I grew up in a house where it was just normal for the men to sing,” Reed said in a recent interview.
He had a busy career in music in Manhattan for 35 years, teaching music and singing as a college professor, performing as a concert singer, with the musical theater program he co-founded at Circle in the Square Theatre School, and with his private studio in the Lincoln Center area. Many of his students have gone on to Broadway, TV and film careers, some nominated for Oscar Hammerstein, MAC, Emmy and Tony awards.
Thirty years ago a series of family health-related events led him and his family to move to Vermont where he continues to bring his passion for singing to his students, while still working in Manhattan, making the commute from Burlington for 25 years.
Some of Reed’s students from Vermont have become well known but a number of them who have gone on as classical music singers are no less talented, though somewhat less recognized.
So he decided to present a new concert series called the “Singer’s Art” Concert Series, beginning this Sunday, Oct. 19 at 4 p.m. at College Street Congregational Church with two Vermont rising opera stars and former students, tenor Christopher Colmenero and baritone Geoffrey Penar, accompanied by pianist Paul Orgel.
“There aren’t a lot of opportunities for my young students here to hear really good singing, especially classical singing,” Reed said. “And it gives my young singers a chance to hear what happens if you stick with it.”
Reed says Colmenero and Penar are both excellent opera singers, “local homegrown boys” who were referred to Reed by their singing teacher at Rice High School several years ago.
“When it came time to audition for university study,” Reed recalled, “with Chris at one point, I had one college on my landline and another university on my cellphone at the same time, outbidding each other with scholarships.”
Penar went on to study at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., one of this country’s premier conservatories.
Reed chose them because “they’re not famous yet, they’re not so busy that I can’t get them.”
Just at the beginning of their careers, Reed says their voices are fresh and he wanted to get them while he still had a chance.
“It’s unusual to have young men who are doing this,” Reed said, “especially athletic young men, and that’s kind of fun. They’re really wonderful young performers.”
Reed is hoping to do at least one concert like this per semester on an ongoing basis, and credited pianist Paul Orgel as one of the inspirations for starting it.
“He plays chamber music with instrumentalists and does recitals,” Reed said, “but he loves to work with singers and I just put two and two together.”
“He’s really a Vermont treasure as a pianist and his enthusiastic support and involvement was a big piece of the puzzle starting this series.”
Reed’s enthusiasm for what he does is infectious, and with ideas for future shows and recitals in the works, he hopes to give many more talented young Vermont singers the spotlight at home.
Bill Reed Voice Studio presents “An Afternoon of Art Songs, Arias and Duets: Vermont Rising Opera Stars return for Gala Concert,” tenor Christopher Colmenero and baritone Geoffery Penar, accompanied by pianist Paul Orgel, at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19, at College Street Congregational Church, 265 College St. in Burlington. Tickets $20 at the door or through www.billreedvoicestudio.com.