Class Notes

MidWeek visits with some of Oahu’s voice teachers and coaches who are dedicated to helping Island vocalists find their voice, whether it’s for fame and fortune or just plain fun

Friday - July 22, 2005
By Moon Yun Choi
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Neva Rego works with Kea Ho, daughter of
entertainer Don Ho

As Jasmine Trias’ voice teacher, Neva Rego watched her perform on American Idol , along with millions of Americans. But Rego couldn’t watch too much of the show because she’d get upset every time the judges were rude to the contestants. We all remember when Trias finally broke down in tears amidst the pressure and the criticism, but Rego has more pleasant memories of the Maryknoll High graduate from working so closely with her.

“I think she is a very talented girl,” says Rego. “She’s very intelligent. She’s very much older than her age tells you. She knows just where she’s going. And she’s a lovely person. She takes instructions beautifully. I saw her at a concert she did for a Maryknoll School fundraiser. And that was the first time I had seen her sing outside. I was just blown away … I really think the girl will go places (and) will succeed in what she wishes …”

You could say Rego is a very good judge of talent — she studied at the G. Verdi Conservatory in Milano and lived in Italy for 25 years where she sang in Italian opera houses.

Rego isn’t the only one to help build Hawaii’s talent. Eunice DeMello, who has a national reputation, and Dennis Oshiro, who specializes in traditional Japanese singing, give lessons out of their studios. Beebe Freitas, a voice coach, works with young opera students. And Roslyn Catracchia, Freitas’ daughter, has followed in her mother’s footsteps.

Eunice DeMello (at piano)
and student Kelly Watanabe
share a light moment

Not all the students take lessons to become professional singers. Some of them do it for pure enjoyment.

Oshiro spent five years in Japan, where he performed as a singer and recorded one album.

While other teachers have high-profile students, Oshiro says he’s not in it for the glory or the fame, but for the satisfaction of having helped someone.

“(What I like about teaching is) when I can help people who are either handicapped or if they weren’t too good and I can help them out … To me that’s more gratifying than a lot of students that I have who’ve won contests,” he says.

Oshiro, who’s been teaching for 25 years, currently has 115 students and teaches a wide range from traditional Japanese, to karaoke, to Broadway songs, and some Hawaiian.

DeMello’s services are so sought after that she even teaches by telephone students in Los Angeles and Massachusetts. One of her L.A. students is headed for an opera profession — pretty impressive, but after all, she has been teaching for more than 30 years, and has had “hundreds and hundreds” of students.

“They’ve gone to Broadway. They’ve been in all areas of music. Because the technique that I teach is physically oriented, it can take you in any direction … The most beautiful thing a person can do is express himself with his own voice,” she says.

DeMello also finds time to be musical director at the Parish of St. Clement, where she produced a CD of the choir titled Bach Magnificat.

And there’s no such thing as not being able to sing. “Everybody says they can’t sing, but they can. They just haven’t allowed themselves to do it,” insists DeMello. “The possibilities are there for anyone.”

11-year-old vocalist Kristin Mikami
practices with Dennis Oshiro

Freitas, the associate artistic director of Hawaii Opera Theatre, identifies herself as a “voice coach,” not to be confused with voice teacher.

When asked what the difference between the two is, Freitas explains: “A voice teacher takes the instrument and teaches the singer how to use that instrument … how to breathe, where to place the voice … to develop the voice. A (voice) coach can help you develop your own personal style (and) take it to a place that shapes it musically and that is pleasing and exciting to the listener.”

She coaches young students at the opera studio. “I try to work with it so it is more exciting for an audience to listen and to hear what they do.” While Catracchia grew up with music because of her mother, she admits it didn’t work when Freitas tried to teach her piano. Eventually she had to go to someone else, but having her mother help her with the practicing “made it so much fun.”

Catracchia is both a voice coach and voice teacher. While her mother leans toward the classical, she likes musical theater, pop and folk. A voice teacher for 15 years, she’s also a songwriter and female vocalist of the year nominee for the Na Hoku Hanohano Award.

“The respect we have for each other is pretty great. It’s nice to have a beautiful pool of teachers here,” says Catracchia.


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