Interview with Leslie Harrington, master singing teacher
By Barbara U. Jones Ph.D.
April 2007

(Barbara Jones has a Ph.D. from the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology. Leslie Harrington has been her singing teacher for four years. Together, they have a goal to teach the world to sing. In late July they are offering a five day singing workshop in Taos, New Mexico. The intention of this interview is to acquaint the reader with how Mr. Harrington’s singing methodology can lead people to enlightenment, as well as to introduce him/her to the structure and format of the workshop itself.)

LESLIE: Before you even ask me any questions, I want tell everyone, singing is such fun! It is the most fun I know, the most fun I’ve ever experienced. It’s better than sex. Singing is the ultimate act of playing!

BARBARA: What is meant by the title of your workshop – “Come Build a Stairway to the Stars”?

LESLIE: The opportunity exists to experience reality in its eternal glory by capable use of the voice. Some cultures call that reality nirvana, others call it enlightenment. One of the benefits of singing is that enlightenment can occur within a relatively short period of time for those open to it. The stairway is learning the steps that will erect the voice for singing. The voice singing is the stars.

BARBARA: I can better understand why a person might want to sing, but why should they spend their time studying singing?

LESLIE: Learning to sing is even more fun than singing itself! I have more fun preparing music than performing it – always! The real joy is in the preparation.
Because the body is designed to sing, then it must be a psychic requirement. Singing is not necessary for normal existence, but for spiritual enlightenment, vocalization with inspiration is requisite. The most fun I know is singing with inspiration.
All of the emotional experiences of humankind are most clearly expressed in song. When a person sings, they touch the fundamental core of their being and access their deepest emotions. Singing is a necessary element of the fulfilled personal experience.
The vocal process is a complex system which requires conscious understanding of the involved reflexive structures. Though vocalizing is a reflexive function, our socialization process can establish habitual patterns antithetical to it. As a result, our singing voice gets covered up with the “stuff’ of life, rather than being a true expression of who we are. Studying singing can over-ride habits and restore a person’s instinctual vocal freedom.
The impediments culture places upon the voice can be corrected and controlled by learning vocal technique.

BARBARA: What do you mean by vocal technique?

Vocal technique is using the voice with control. The method used here employs the reflexes of the tongue, and the breath. The breath is the source of inspiration, which means breathing in. The tongue is the reflexive control center. Learning and controlling the reflexive triggering mechanisms of the breath and the tongue provides conscious control of the voice. This is vocal technique.

BARBARA: How does it work?

LESLIE: The body is a system of erectile functions. For example, we erect our spine to stand. The voice erects in much the same fashion. When a person sings, the voice erects the body into vocal posture. This erection is reflexive in nature.
There are three master vocal communication reflexes: "Conversation", "Screaming", and "Calling". "Conversation" is the one most commonly used. "Screaming" is used as a warning sending people away, and "Calling" is a beckoning inviting people to gather. "Calling" is the reflexive structure most effectively used in singing and orating. When used as an added benefit, the complete tonal range of the voice is available when "Calling" is employed.
Remarkably I found that the tongue, the palate, and the torso contain the reflexive points of the tonal musical scale; meaning the body has the musical scale built in in several locales. These structures are assembled with coordination into vocal erection. Because of this discovery about this innate or built in scalar structure, I learned that the ability to inflect intent in melody is available to all. Joy, grief, ecstasy, astonishment, all the greatest emotions now become our tools of grace.

BARBARA: Is there a therapeutic benefit to singing?

LESLIE: Culture and society instill inhibitions which block our instinctive responses. Singing restores our instinctual abilities, which can then over-ride cultural/societal habits. Learning to sing, then, provides a means of accessing our emotions, which are also reflexive. As a result, singing can help create emotional balance in the singer.
Singing also teaches another order of time, which is an emotional relief. Time is an artificial construct, which is hard to escape from. The reality is that everything is now. Rhythm, tempo, and speed changes result in a “reordering” of time. Music also exists in another order of time which reconstructs our experiences and memories and allows us to exist out of ordinary time temporarily. . This is also true of music in general.
Through the process of singing, a personal core value structure is established. This happens in part through the resurrection of the instinctive expressive function. Singing also develops self-awareness, as the singer must tune into the deepest parts of his/her body in order to coordinate the reflexive functions needed for singing.
Increased self-esteem is another therapeutic benefit of singing. This occurs as the singer perfects the means to use the vocal function as it is designed to be used. The singer can respect their self more for what he/she can do as a result of mastering the use of the vocal process.

BARBARA: You mentioned that singing can lead to spiritual enlightenment. Would you please say more about that?

LESLIE: The voice is ultimately the center of awareness. It is the first expression of each of us at birth. The first time we utter a sound is when we are born. That first utterance, which is usually a scream, is made because we want to breathe. That scream is the first issuance of self, and of self-awareness. Through our individual awareness of self in our first utterance, we tap into the power of the universal utterance of existence. Enlightenment may be achieved by learning to become the instrument of the universal utterance in song.

BARBARA: How did you discover this method you teach?

LESLIE: I was gifted with a fully functioning singing voice. As a result, singers who were not as facile with the use of their voice regularly came to me and asked how I did what I did. I sincerely tried to help. I must commend all those who asked, because their questions encouraged me to examine what I was doing in order to produce the sounds I was making. As a result, I studied pedagogy along with the biomechanics of the body. I tested my methodology out on students and I can say with complete assurance that any student who works with this method can also have a fully functioning singing voice.

BARBARA: How will you conduct your workshop? What can the reader expect to have happen when they attend?

LESLIE: First of all, I want the participants to have fun while they are learning something new. In the morning, the participants will be experiencing dynamic meditations, which include dancing and production of sound. The meditations are designed to open the chakras, enabling the person to experience the vertical core of their being, which prepares them for singing. After the dynamic meditations, two hours will be given to learning inspirational methodology. A pianist will be present to accompany all singers throughout the week. I will also coach each participant individually on their song(s). By the end of the week each participant will be able to successfully sing two songs of their choosing.

BARBARA: Can participants continue the work they begin in your workshop once they leave?

LESLIE: Absolutely! Through the internet with a webcam and microphone, I offer intimate instruction in the privacy of their home. We can view each other and converse live. For more information, please visit my website. Also, out of town visitors are always welcome to work with me in my studio.

BARBARA: Before we close, I would like to hear more about your goal to teach the world to sing.

LESLIE: This gift comes to me with requirements. I cannot imagine anyone in the world not being as fulfilled as I am. In my studies and experience I have come to understand that human beings are designed to sing and are not fulfilled until they do. All artists can find spiritual enlightenment through their work, but what is special about singing is that it is accessible to all because they are designed for it.
The process of singing is virtually inside inspiration. The inspiration is the medium of the art. Enlightenment through singing manifests physically by expanding physical ability with the spiritual experience. Every one should have the opportunity to experience the shine, the immanence, the illumination, and the enlightenment of others, which can happen with singing.

Author's Bio: 

Leslie Harrington
Early Musical Experience
Leslie Harrington’s early years were on a ranch in western Oklahoma. His first musical experience was in a talent contest in 1951. Leslie and his brother won the contest and he made his first income from singing. Private study of music and performance in voice began with Mary Pedigo in Elk City, Oklahoma in 1959. In junior-high and high school Leslie was in all the choirs and musical productions and contests, receiving many commendations and awards for his singing in secondary school.

Oklahoma State University awarded Mr. Harrington a full music scholarship grant for vocal performance. At Oklahoma State University he began the study of vocal pedagogy with Sunny Van Eton along with choral conducting, elementary and secondary music education, as well as stage and concert performance.

Performance Training
At American Conservatory Of Music in Chicago Mr. Harrington studied Bel Canto technique with Eileen Deneen and coached art song repertoire and opera styles with John Browning, renowned concert pianist and vocal coach.

In Los Angeles, California he studied vocal technique privately with Elisabeth Parham, Professor of Vocal Music at California State University, Northridge. There he coached with David Scott, Dean of Music at Cal-State - Northridge, and appeared in several of their productions. He also coached and performed with Henrietta Pelta, founding director emeritus of Euterpe Opera of Los Angeles. Mr. Harrington prepared several roles with well-known vocal coach Jack Metz, Marilyn Horn’s favorite repertory coach in California.

Mr. Harrington has also been in many workshops and master classes in acting and performance with other prominent performing artists including Lee Strasberg (eminent actor and founder of the Actors’ Studio), Beverly Sills (distinguished operatic soprano, General Director of New York City Opera), Tito Capobianco (famed operatic stage director, General Director of various major opera companies), Licia Albanese (soprano, celebrated opera star), and Luciano Pavarotti (illustrious tenor, opera and concert star).

In New York City he studied vocal technique many years with John Bullock and Franco Iglesias (teacher of Placido Domingo, famous opera tenor).

Performance Career
Mr. Harrington’s performance career has taken him from the gospel music platform to the concert and operatic stage around the country and internationally. He commenced his concert career almost as soon as he began vocal studies. Mr. Harrington has appeared as principle artist in concert nationally and internationally. Leslie has credits in musical theatre, film and television, as well as audio recording and commercial advertising.

Stage Performance
His operatic career got underway, semi-professionally, in Chicago with several community groups leading to a summer workshop with Isaac Van Grove at Inspiration Point Music Festival in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. He continued professionally in apprenticeship with Santa Fe Opera and Western Opera Theater in San Francisco and San Diego Opera Workshop. Leslie also toured professionally in the western United States with the William Hall Chorale of Los Angeles as principle soloist. In New York City he performed as principle artist with many regional opera companies, with various NYC community theater, opera, and musical workshops, and international productions. He was invited to join the Broadway cast of “EVITA” in 1980. While in “EVITA,” Mr. Harrington began performing in broadcast commercial advertisements.

Recording Performance
In 1981 he recorded the American Musical Theatre Commemorative Edition of “NAUGHTY MARIETTA” honoring Victor Herbert for the Smithsonian Institution of Washington, D.C. Following the gala performances and recording for the Smithsonian Institution he joined the Broadway National Tour of “OKLAHOMA!” from the musical’s first Broadway revival. Upon returning to NYC after the “OKLAHOMA!” Broadway National Tour he continued working in film, television, musical theater, concert, opera, and television and radio advertisement. Mr. Harrington received critical acclaim by Stereo Review (Feb. 1982) and other publications for the recording of “NAUGHTY MARIETTA.” He has similarly been acclaimed for his concert and operatic performance by news and current affairs periodicals including THE NEW YORK TIME, NEW YORK MAGAZINE, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE, THE LOS ANGELES TRIBUNE, and many other publications around the United States and internationally. His singing has also contributed to two national Obie Award winning primetime television commercials: “Diet Pepsi – Uh Huh!” with Ray Charles (1991), and New Coke “Desert Island” (1985).

Teaching Career
Performing has been most rewarding to Mr. Harrington and he enjoys sharing his experience and education. At every occasion whether simple or grand, in ensemble, as soloist, principle artist, or teacher he shares the gift of singing with as much fervor as when he first began. Because of his expertise in vocal pedagogy and performance experience his co-performers frequently turn to him when they have vocal problems. Mr. Harrington has been on the faculty of the University of New Mexico - Taos as adjunct instructor. He has also taught applied music courses in voice at Adams State College, Alamosa, CO and at the College of Santa Fe, NM. Mr. Harrington teaches privately in Taos, N.M. and has developed this website to instruct vocal technique in live videoconference sessions to all those who wish to learn the thrill of singing with ease.