Marty Heresniak, B.M., M.M


79 Hudson Heights
Ithaca, NY 14850-3869

National Association of Teachers of Singing

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Carl Gutekunst


This all began when I was in the third grade and, whilst the class was dramatizing one of the stories we had read, was cast as the hero's sidekick's horse. I knew then I would somehow spend my life in the performing arts. In many ways I am still horsing around.

I had the typically scary upbringing of a 1950s suburban kid and survived the sixties by spending my weekends with the ladies of the Hudson Valley Opera Workshop, where I learned most of the basics of stage work. At fifteen I debuted as Papageno. Every teenager should have a bird suit.

In 1970 I went off to study music education at Ithaca College , where the perhaps most important single factor of my training was waiting. I was assigned to voice study with Carl Gutekunst , then 75, who became my most enduring influence. I studied with him a total of fifteen years, during my undergraduate and graduate training and privately thereafter, until his death.

Carl's influence is seen in my approach to singing and voice pedagogy. He taught how to sing, not what. Students brought in the repertory on which they wished to work, and Carl taught them how to negotiate it. He introduced us to other repertory, but he would accept a student singing a folk tune with guitar and even put up with my wanting to sing opera long before my voice was ready for it. I learned that singing technique is not repertory-based, but must stand alone and be adaptable to any musical material or style. Technique liberates the voice for the work it needs to do.

My training in the education side of music was another major influence, as I wasn't taught just about music and singing, but how to teach. I am always grateful for the solid grounding I received in music methods, educational philosophy, aesthetics, and psychology. During my graduate work I also had one-on-one voice pedagogy training with Carl as the school didn't offer a course at that time.

After completing my time in the ivory tower, I taught for a while in public education, but found my personality was no match for that environment. I ended up back in my alternate career, hospitality and food service, worked in a great Danish restaurant, and married the chef. But the call of the performing arts would not be thwarted. I always kept a small teaching studio, did solo and ensemble singing, dabbled a bit in community theatre, and served as Music Director of the Germania Singing Society
of Poughkeepsie.

In 1988 I returned to Ithaca for a business opportunity and have made the town home since. I have held positions in several fields, but again, always spent my evenings and weekends teaching singing. I began devoting more and more time to private teaching until I had to make the leap of faith and give up the day job to sink or swim teaching. I've been a full-time self-employed private studio teacher in 1998. Still blowing bubbles now and then.

My training with Carl Gutekunst and my general approach to education has lead me to work with students at any level of development and in any styles. While I can still coach a dynamite performance of an aria, these days I pretty much prefer to work in musical theatre, jazz, alternative, and pop styles.

As for my own singing, I am a trained classical singer in recovery. The typical training for a classical career requires discipline to learn the vagaries of technique. But discipline can be overdone. Great singing does not come from an anal-retentive control-freak. Been there, done that. I found jazz, improvisation, and a sense of freedom in my collaboration with Christopher Woitach that I never had known in any of my previous training. Having found this technical freedom, I continue to learn how to take it back into the classical realm and how to pass it on to my students.

Yes, I do still perform. buy really very rarely. I prefer making music as a private matter. I did do a few gigs with the Ithaca Opera Company in the last Millenium and John Rowehl and I performed Die Schöne Müllerin around New York State. During the Naughty Aughties I performed Cyrano de Bergerac for the Hangar Theatre Company and Hamlet with the Ithaca Shakespeare Company . But, really, I would much rather see my students on the stage and enjoy the results of my teaching.

These days I'm far more likely to be heard performing a jazz standard or two. My favorite time of the week is leading the residents of the health care wing of Kendal at Ithaca in an hour of jazz and popular songs. I'm available for full jazz gigs with a trio or larger ensemble.

And I still have my bird suit.