Jack Romano loves singing and music so much that the freshman at West Milford Township High School in West Milford, New Jersey feels calling to spread the love by inspiring others as a teacher.
“As a singer, my goals are to become a choir teacher in a school setting,” he said. “I love being around music, and I like to teach; so what a better career than a choir instructor.”
Natural Performer + Old Soul
His voice teacher, BMA associate Deb “Zuke” Smith, sees Jack as an old soul, having wisdom and character that extend far beyond his years and life experience.
“He is my intellectual performer, channeling an old soul from Vaudeville,” Smith said. “Jack embraces his character so deeply on stage it’s impossible to ignore the fact that he’s destined for the stage. As a freshman in high school, he got the lead role as the Devil in Damn Yankees. He’s extremely smart and a natural performer.”
Support Is Key
Jack remembers hearing at his very first lesson with Smith that she had come to a play he was in that also included some of her students.
“This left a lasting impact on me because I then knew that she supports her students by seeing them perform,” he said. “She also has great advice on not only the voice, but performance-wise in general.”
Like A Rocket Ship
One of the biggest challenges Smith faced in working with Jack initially was with getting his frenetic energy and stress under control.
“At Jack’s first lesson he was holding on to the arms of the chair so hard I said, you look like your getting ready to take off in a rocket ship,” Smith said. “His tension was so great; I used to give him a stress ball to squeeze during his lesson. He doesn’t need the stress ball anymore, and is very well grounded here on earth. We have peeled away many layers of tension, and it’s amazing to hear the progress.”
Winging It With A High Chest Voice
Jack admits that before his first lesson with Smith, he was inexperienced and would just wing it but also had an issue with bringing his chest voice up way too high.
“However, now that I have had several lessons with Deb, I feel like I do have some experience with my voice rather than just winging it,” Jack said. “I now try to use different registers of my voice rather than trying to kill my neck by trying to hit those high notes in my chest voice. But most of all, I am extremely relaxed now. The rocket has taken off and left me behind this time.”
The Bass + Beyond
One of the biggest turning points for Jack came at a point prompting some doubt and frustration as he realized that bringing his chest voice up so high is not singing.
“This was an extremely difficult transition for me, and I thought that I would stay a low bass my whole life,” he said. “But Deb told me that all guys who are basses like me go through this transition between their chest voice to the pharyngeal register. It was this that made me realize that I should continue.”
Smith has recently had Jack working on a Billy Joel ballad and managed to address the tension issues that still come up from time to time with the young entertainer.
“I had him looking in the mirror while he was singing,” she said. “As I kept encouraging him to let go of his tension, you could literally see the veins in his neck disappear and every muscle in his face relax. It was cool to watch.”
Teacher Sparks Student Spirit
The abilities to inspire, encourage, and engage are key to any effective teacher, and Smith is an overflowing fountain of all three. She has clearly refreshed the spirit Jack’s spirit in the refining process as he attests to.
“My all time favorite tip that I have received from Deb, is that when I sing it has to simply feel good because after all singing is supposed to be fun,” he said. “And my best Deb “Zuke” Smith moment was when she held a recital type concert at a restaurant, and our parents were invited. We each got to sing a song! It was a lot of fun, and I gained a lot of experience from it.”
Student Sparks Back
And the teacher admits to having been inspired, encouraged, engaged, and educated by the student, with more shining moments to come.
“Jack reminds me that the jester in the court needs to set aside the time to be himself and not always entertain others,” she said. “And they are usually the most sensitive ones in the kingdom.”
Go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEFx-_wSKxk to catch a glimpse of Jack in action. It’s from Smith’s spring concert showcasing her students for friends, family, and very lucky guests.
Deborah “Zuke” Smith Notes
Deb “Zuke” Smith is a renowned music copyist, piano teacher, songwriter, vocal coach, and self-proclaimed “East coast chick,” who credits Brett Manning’s Singing Success with not only saving her life but forever changing it for the very best it can be.
In 2000 Zuke was diagnosed with breast cancer and braved the brutal battery of tests, surgeries, chemotherapy, post chemo drug regimen and physical therapy. She believes that Brett Manning’s programs and method are absolutely essential to bringing out the full potential in any voice. You can find her on Facebook listed as Brett Manning Vocal Method: East Coast, U.S.A.