David Lee Brewer is an opera and theatre singer, a TV producer, a well known psychological voice therapist and the author of techniques and methods taught to famous artists such as Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland, LeToya Luckett, H-Town, Frida Gold and many more.
David kindly answered some of our questions during his master class at the international competition of young pop singers “Big Stage” which took place in October 2021.
“What do you feel?” You’ve been repeating this question so many times. Can we say that the ability to explain what do you feel at the moment of singing is the main key for a singer?
What do you feel, what do you see, what do you think are those three phrases that I constantly use. I can ask them to a student 20 times in five minutes. Because of what they feel, what they see (and I mean inside their imagination) and what they think (inside their brain) has everything to do with singing and success.
So when I was asking the kids yesterday about what they felt, I was trying to get them to identify what was happening in their body, to see it, to make a mental connection to it and to understand why it is moving or why it’s stretching or why it’s pulling. And what else? Is it pulling, is it connected to anything?
So that’s why you have to identify your body, you must learn as a professional artist to identify what’s going on with your body. And that’s the only reason why I am asking what do you feel, what do you see, what do you think. Because if you don’t sharpen that in the singer, they will fail. It’s very important.
Your strengths. What is your special skills in teaching? What is the main focus?
I gave an interview once to a German newspaper, who ask me the same question. My answer to them is the same as I’m going to give you.
“Singing is my talent, teaching is my gift”.
I am so connected to God and spirituality when I’m teaching. When I’m working with a student, I’m not just dealing with a student, I’m dealing with the spirit and the soul. I want to give the fuelled knowledge for the soul.
Why that makes sense? I think that I need to explain that most teachers of singing are called either a voice teacher or vocal coach. Those are the most typical names that we all know.
But there is the voice teacher which is the person who understands technique. There is the vocal coach who understands that what I was doing yesterday, coaching pulling the best out of the kids in five minutes. That’s the coach. A coach uses tricks to help you have a better performance. But tricks, you can’t remember tricks. Those tricks just help you to understand what’s possible.
Then you have the speech therapist. The speech therapist is the person who deals with the kids vocal problems, like if they have a cleft palate in the lip or they have a problem with the vocal chords. These people get exercises, strange exercises sometimes to help the health of the voice.
What I’m doing is called psychological vocal therapy. Psychological vocal therapist must be a voice teacher, a vocal coach, a speech pathologist and a psychologist. So my work is specifically dealing with the environment of the child, the holistic approach of the child, the spirit of the child, the joy of the child, the pains of the child, how can I get the child to become the individual that they need to be in order to stand on the stage in front of millions of people and exert confidence. That’s why every singer that studies with me must understand the most important things:
When you get to a certain level you become an influence. What comes out of your mouth, kids follow. They do what you show them to do. They listening. So you have to be taught to be socially aware, psychologically aware, spiritually aware.
So that’s why I’m doing all this work. I’m trying to make a student or a performer who is going to understand their social responsibility to mankind. I told Beyoncé once (I think she was 13):
“Beyonce, I want you to remember one thing. The applause that you get, the praise that you get, the love that you get from your audience will not mean anything. It’s your humanity that changes the world.”
Tenor. Author. Teacher. Can you say that music is your life’s work? Or, besides, is there something else?
Music is not only my life, it is my entire life. People that know me intimately, privately will tell you I go to bed with music, I wake up with music and I’m thinking about music on the toilet. I’m thinking about music when I’m eating, everything about happening to me. When I eat I’m thinking about the muscles that are moving in my face and how I can translate that to my student.
All I do is music, that’s all I do. I’m not interested in anything else other than music.
“And given to me, music is God’s gift to humanity”.
And I understand the responsibility of that.
And so I spend every waking moment of every waking day learning, reading scientific articles, talking with doctors, visiting with doctors, watching their work with their patients, asking the patients questions. It’s like I’m doing my own scientific review, because I need to be able to make my students the very best in the world. And in order to do that I have to understand the environment, I have to understand the psychology and I have to understand the science.
How does THAT student understand? For instance, yesterday In the master class you heard me talk about girls holding their stomachs in. I’m going to tell you something. What happens when a girl holds her stomach in? Her buttocks tighten, her butt tightens. The minute her butt tightens, her breath tightens. So, she might wanna get that high note, she may pray to God to get a high note, but if she flattens her stomach and tightens her butt, her breath gets tight. And if her breath gets tight, the back of the neck gets tight. The back of the neck is attached to the tongue. The tongue gets tight! The tongue is connected to the larynx, the larynx is tight and then the high note fails. That’s what I’m talking about, teaching my students. Don’t hold the stomach in and why. The science of it.
It’s interesting to ask you about the Grammy Awards which everyone wants to get. What does the Grammy Award mean to you? How can we recognize the talent of an artist so that we can say that the award is ours? Should artists strive for awards?
Now you’re asking the question about the importance of awards. Well… I can just tell you… that I like awards! Don’t you? I mean I LIKE awards. Awards are just a part of our business. This competition is what I LOVE about Russia. Is that they are starting to give children the experience of WINNING and LOSING. This is tremendous. People in the world don’t understand that if you don’t give a child the experience to fail and get back and try it again, how are you going to be a star? So, yes, to answer your question, awards are very important and I want my students to get many Grammys. In fact, I think that’s my students who have the most Grammys! I want them to get as many Grammys as possible. Whatever the Grammy equivalent is in Russia, I want my students to get that. I want them to win awards because winning awards is validation. Getting the certificate at the competition says that you were there, it’s a validation. That is why it’s important.
David Lee Brewer’s perfect day. How do you relax? Share your best script with our readers please.
Okay, my day off is music. I don’t take day off, I really don’t take it off. I lay in my bed and I just rest and I don’t do anything…
But inside my brain is music! So, that’s what I’m doing. My day off is about music because somebody can come through my door, I don’t know when. And they gonna have a special problem that I need to have already solved in my head. I’m thinking about everything. I go to the ear, nose, and throat doctor, the doctor who checks the vocal cords and I know every vocal problem there is. And in my head on my day off I’m going through each of those vocal problems, attaching the muscles, how can I get the student in their brain to change their behavior.
So that’s my day off. I mean I have no life. When I say I don’t have life, I mean personal life, if you know what I mean. But the reason why I do it is that smile on the child’s face when they understand. And not only when they understand but when they can do it again and again and again. Because you know what? This competition is not telling kids you only become a professional when your performance is 85% and above, always it’s about consistency. If you can’t do it consistently, you can’t call yourself a professional. And the music industry will drop you from the label.
Think about it. A record label spends millions of dollars planning a tour, for you to be irresponsible and get sick and have to cancel? Because you don’t know what you are doing? They will drop you. So, it’s about consistency, that’s why you’re studying, that’s why you have to get a technique. You gotta be performing at 85% level and above all the time. Even sick, even with a laryngitis, when you can’t speak. You can sing, because when we sing breath flows differently than when we speak. I have some many performances with that laryngitis. So it’s possible. That’s why it’s not about just learning where to put your tongue and how to sing a high note. Can you sing it everyday under any circumstance consistency? That’s what makes the professional.
And the last question. What are you dreaming about?
My dream… I’m getting my dream. For the longest time I’ve dreamed of having my own school. School for the arts. That dream is slowly coming true. I can’t say a date, but I am opening a school. It’s called the Nick Chiles Institute. It will be in America and Europe, but I’m going to travel the world and audition kids, invite them to that school. They will travel to America, they will be housed, they will be fed, they will be taught in dance, theatre, acting, singing, entrepreneurship, finance, in how to run a business and social engagement. And that’s what the point is. The Nick Chiles Institute.
Nick Chiles was my cousin. He was born in 1867 and he was a huge civil rights activist who fought for a livelihood and betterment of human beings. He is the reason why we have black press in America. He was an incredibly important man kinases, wealthiest, black citizen and he left a huge legacy for me to feel and his buildings, which are still standing in Topeka, Kansas. I am going to build this one.
So, my dream is coming true. And I will be coming to Russia to look for children, I promise you.
I think that’s why I wake up at three-thirty in the morning because I’m in love with the business deal in Russia. My dream is coming true. I don’t know which Russian kid is gonna be lucky. Kids! because it is important. Normally a school of the arts starts at high school level, I’m starting with the kids at eight, just like I did with a Beyoncé. I started her at 8 and she stop studying with me when she was 20. I believe in age of 8 kids need proper education, not just some tralala.
Photo: Konstantin Voronin