The NATS Bulletin: You have also been a successful teacher for a number of years. Can you tell us what you think about “support,” “placement,” “open throat,” or similar expressions which keep surfacing in discussion of vocal pedagogy? What techniques do you consider important for the young singer? And was there some particular teacher of singing of most help to you?
Eleanor Steber: All of these technical matters were developed and nurtured by my beloved Maestro, William L. Whitney, who taught me through his bel canto method how to handle my voice. I studied with him for six years in Boston, in which time my voice found its core, grew, became increasingly more manageable. Mr. Whitney was concerned that his students develop beautiful tone primarily. He never allowed us to push our voices or to try to make a big sound which was unbeautiful. Through many vocalises and studies we all – soprani, mezzi, bassi, and tenori – learned to sing with a brilliant coloratura technique. As for repertoire, we were guided through Mozart, Haydn, Handel (never Bach!), Bellini, Rossini, Donizetti, songs and arias, with special attention to the works which emphasized the technical problems we might face in all music.
Much attention was given to studies such as Vaccai, Lütgen, Abt, Concone, etc. And Mr. W. made up many vocalises from “hot spots” in the various arias we studied. Throughout six years of this concentrated study, my voice developed to the instrument it still is. Of course, maturity and bigness of sound came gradually.
Eleanor Steber on her 70th Birthday. The NATS Bulletin: The Official Magazine of the National Association of Teachers of Singing 40 (1984).