Why I Train Singers-My Journey from Failure to Success as a Singer

Desire to Sing and Perform

To fully understand why I opened Sing Voice Studios and why I train singers, you need to understand my journey from failure to success as a singer. I attended  Benton High School in St. Joseph, Missouri.  When I was in the 9th grade I went to see our school musical, West Side Story and was so emotionally moved by the performance that an intense desire to learn how to sing and perform in musicals started growing inside me.

The spring of my sophomore year, our directors decided they were going to do Camelot the following year.  So  they took a bus load of students down to Kansas City to see Camelot at South High School.

South High School Playbill, KC, MO-1969

South High School Playbill, KC, MO-1969

Camelot  1970

Chuck Gilmore, King Arthur; Ted Markt, Lancelot; and Vickie Albert, Guinevere

I loved this show and my girlfriend and I decided  we would audition  for Lancelot and Guinevere .  But after we broke up that summer, I felt I could relate much more to Arthur.  I understood heartache and tragedy!

As good fortune would have it I got the role of King Arthur.  My former girlfriend was cast as Guinevere and my best friend was cast as Lancelot! We had an amazing, life changing experience together rehearsing and performing Camelot and the show was a great success.

Arthur and Jenny Camelot 1970

Arthur and Jenny Camelot 1970

Limited Range and No Vibrato!

I wanted to be a better singer so I started taking voice lessons from a  talented singer/teacher.  She was classically trained and had her master’s degree in vocal performance.  She helped me a lot but I had  two problem areas with my voice:

  • I couldn’t sing past an E above middle C.
  • I had no vibrato.

I didn’t know these were problems I could do something about.  In fact, my teacher told me some singers have vibrato and some don’t, and I was one that didn’t.   My range wasn’t really an issue either.  I was a bass/baritone and so I just sang songs in that range of my voice.  Any songs that had anything above E above middle C was for tenors (and was very scary).  It was that simple.

I Couldn’t Sing an “F”

The lead role the next year was Billy Bigalow from Carousel.  But he sang “F’s” which meant it was a tenor part…so I auditioned for a supporting role and was cast as Enoch Snow.  That was fun, but the point is I didn’t even try because it wasn’t in my range…so I thought.

Inspired by an amazing musical experience in high school I decided to attend BYU as a music major.

I was leery about the voice teachers at college.  My teacher at home warned me to be careful that someone didn’t ruin my voice.  Nothing bad happened with my college teachers, but nothing changed or improved.  In fact, my confidence was declining.  I was a music major surrounded by very good singers.

Singing Confidence Plummets

I took a two year break and went to California to serve as a missionary for the LDS Church.  While serving  in California things took a turn for the worse.  I sang a solo for the Santa Barbara Ward Christmas program where I was serving.  I was awful.  I was off pitch  and shaky.  My confidence plummeted.  It only confirmed what I was secretly worried about, maybe I’m not really a soloist…. I’m fine with choir and chorus, but maybe I just don’t have the voice for lead roles and solos.

Chuck Gilmore, Missionary, 1972, Santa Barbara, CA

Chuck Gilmore, Missionary, 1972, Santa Barbara, CA

Details of Bombed Solo

I actually had my journal with me and made an immediate entry into my journal right after I bombed the solo.

Here it is with all the emotions:

“Dec 24, 1973, Sunday.  I just sang a solo for Sunday School Christmas program.  I did what I thought I would-terrible.  One of the biggest struggles I’ll ever be faced with is the struggle of gaining confidence while singing a solo-The more I think about it the worse it is-I was so rotten-if somebody tells me it was good they either don’t know anything about music or they’re lying!  I don’t even want to look up from writing in this journal because I don’t want to look at the people I just caused to squirm and suffer while I made a fool of myself!

“Oh well-I’ve never claimed to be a soloist! Never!  ….  After experiences like these I wonder what I’m going to do in my life?  I sure won’t perform solo’s professionally—how can I direct someone to sing if I can’t do it myself?…

I don’t Think I’ll Ever Sing a Solo Again

“…While I was practicing last night my companion made a wise crack and I told him ‘the righteous shall be persecuted’.  He said ‘you mean like the ones that have to listen to you?!’  I was worried that would prove to be prophetic!  Boy was I terrible!  I’m sure glad I don’t have to stay here very much longer—I don’t think I’ll ever sing a solo again until I get a chance to study again and then I might be told to forget it!  The closing song is almost through, ‘Joy to the World’…Elder Gilmore is through singing!  End.”

No Performing for 19 Years

Unfortunately, I continued to believe this about my voice.  Partly due to my insecurity about my singing I changed my major when I returned to school.  I sang for 3 more years in the Oratorio Choir in college, performed in “No No Nanette” in a community theater production the summer I graduated from college, and sang in church choir.  That’s all I did vocally for the next 19 years!

I loved to perform and to be on stage but I lost all confidence in my voice.  Although the longing to sing and perform never went away I believed I didn’t have the voice to do it anymore.

Seth Riggs Speech Level Singing Workshop

One day in the fall of 1996, my kids brought home a flyer announcing a vocal workshop with Seth Riggs, The Teacher of the Stars, from Los Angeles, CA  to be held at the high school…free.  My wife, Judy, and 3 oldest daughters, Deborah, Sara and Becca, and I all went to the workshop.

I was very impressed with what I saw and heard but I felt skeptical.  I thought the singers demonstrating the technique were all born that way.  However we signed up for some group voice lessons from a local teacher and began to learn about Speech Level Singing.

Amazing Things Started Happening with our Voices

I’ll quote from a journal entry five months later dated April 11, 1997, Friday.

“Several months ago –approximately 5 months ago, we started taking voice lessons …We’ve been taking now almost weekly…“

“Since that time several exciting things have happened.  First, there is a marked improvement in all our voices.  Sara auditioned for the Centerville JHS madrigals…a very competitive situation and made it!  What makes it interesting is she had performed for the class several weeks previous and wasn’t too impressive…it was nice …but not very memorable. After her audition Mrs. Cazier said, ‘Your voice has really grown in the last few weeks….a lot!’  She asked if she had been taking voice and wanted to know with whom.

Singing Notes I only Dreamed of Singing

“Deborah had taken for 6 months or so from another teacher but she couldn’t get rid of a nasal quality in her voice.  Within a few weeks she began loosing that nasal sound and started sounding more natural. Becca’s voice has progressed significantly. Judy’s too.  Mine too.  I’m singing notes I only dreamed of singing and I’m just getting started with this…

“So what am I doing?  I’m so excited about this experience, I’m so hopeful about the development of my own voice and what is potentially out there for me to do with it…I’m having a resurgence of feelings and emotions that I haven’t experienced in years and years.”

Chuck Gilmore and Seth Riggs

I began auditioning for shows again in 1997.  Since that time I have been in over 28 semi-professional regional shows. My roles have included Don Quixote (Man of LaMancha), Captain Hook (Peter Pan), Ben Rumson (Paint Your Wagon), Fagin (Oliver), Tin Man (Wizard of Oz), John Dickinson (1776), Duke (Big River) Danvers Carew (Jekyll and Hyde), and many others.  I’ve literally sang for 1000’s of people!

I’ve been a featured soloist on two CDs; Pilate on the CD “He Lives”, an Easter Cantata by Dean Kaelin, and Jubal on the CD of the original cast of “The White Star” by Doug Stewart (Saturday’s Warrior) and Janice Kapp Perry.

I’m not being dramatic when I say all this has changed my life! Having had this experience and journey with my own voice, and feeling the deep fulfillment which has come to me, I want to help others do the same…and preferably early in their search for improvement.  And so, Sing Voice Studios was born and I’m training singers!

Video Singing Demonstration

Here’s a video I made in January 2011.

I am very interested in any comments about my story or any thing about your own singing journey you’d like to share.

About Chuck R. Gilmore

My personal singing journey from failure to success gives me a unique perspective and special insight into the problems you face as an aspiring singer. Everything from not being able to sing high notes to lack of confidence singing in front of others. Because I've solved them in my own voice, I know how to help you.

Comments

  1. I have a 4 yr old niece who loves to sing. Sometimes she just composes songs. Yes she sings her own melody and lyrics as if she got the song from somewhere. But she also sings songs like “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie. I would like to know what is the best age to start a child into voice lessons.

    • Hi M. Russell: I’ve had private students as young as 5 years old and they did great. And I’ve had some 11 year olds that weren’t ready for private lessons. It seems to be a matter of disposition and interest than age. A good starting point for the very young is group lessons if you can find something available locally. For example we have a small group class for ages 3-11 and they sing as a group. As they become more comfortable and interested they can easily transition into private lessons.

      As far as the vocal cords in a little child, there is no reason to be concerned about taking lessons unless the teacher has the student yelling or pulling their chest voice where it should be the mix or head voice.

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