Joining Faculty of San Francisco Conservatory in August 2016
Susanne Mentzer Voice Studio: Carmel, CA and San Francisco, CA
Susanne’s teaching philosophy
We sing because we have something to say, share, and have a need for emotional expression.
My own journey:
My experience studying voice is as follows:
- As a high school senior I realized my voice was different from my classmates- loud and mature. I began studying with a woman in the area.
- I applied to and was accepted to The University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA to major in Music Therapy and soon changed to Vocal Performance at the encouragement pf my teacher, Shirley Thompson.
- During the summer of my sophomore year I attended Aspen Music Festival where I studied with Thomas Paul and was encouraged to apply to Juilliard.
- From fall of 1976 through June of 1980 I attended Juilliard where I first studied with Daniel Ferro and then Rose Bampton
- In 1981 I joined the Houston Opera Studio and began studying with Norma Newton who remained my teacher until she passed in 2009. She taught me the technique I now use and swore by form entire career. She as also the first teacher to really work with me technically and had to spend a lot of time undoing some preconceived notions and bad habits.
As teacher I feel that each singer is unique and has their own genetic influences and physical structure. As a result, I do not teach in a formulaic fashion. Instead, I work to find the best sound placement for each singer – the freest space, if you will. I also try to use semantics that make sense to each student and tailor exercises and vocal warm up to their individual needs. I expect my students to communicate as they try to replicate what I ask of them.
I am also aware that one teacher does not fit all so I am very understanding when something might not work out. I am here to help, not hurt.
That said, the technical basics for all students:
- free but forward placement
- forward tongue
- released jaw normally placed back and out of the way
- low support to use as a tool in conjunction with breathing
- larynx low but not pressed ever
Once a student can find their ideal and most economic production, they will be able to then use their voice in the musical, phrasing, dynamic, stylistic demands as well as to enhance their acting and interpretation.
Often these things are learned before learning a solid and free song production. This can be problematic and exhausting on a voice.
I also work on pronouncing languages while singing in a way that is least contracted but still understandable.
My mantras are:
“Open. Support. Sing”
“Get out of your own way”
But the goal is the path of least resistance from the lower abdomen to the audience.
Therefore, head and body line up is quite imperative.
Being an opera singer is an athletic endeavor so I work with students to stay healthy and be aware of this as well.
I am a major advocate of vocal health. Having experienced a year of vocal hemorrhage due to a pesky blood vessel back in 1994, I am hyper aware of clean onset and vocal fatigue. My injury was not due to technique but rather a blood vessel that was there my entire life. I received the VERA (Voice Education Research Awareness) Award from the Voice Foundation for my outspoken approach to vocal health.
Role and aria coaching
San Francisco: Trial lesson $100, Regular lessons $125/hour
Carmel: Trial lesson: $75, Regular lessons $100/hour
Guest master classes: $500 plus expenses for 2 hour class
(does not include accompaniment; if accompanist is needed, student must bring them)