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Cornelius L. Reid

American Vocal Pedagogue, Author, Voice Teacher
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Biography

If the student stops “doing” and “goes with the rhythm,” while at the same time the exercise pattern selected meets his growth needs, the vocal mechanism will become self corrective. – Cornelius Reid

Cornelius L. Reid was a pioneering American vocal pedagogue, author and voice teacher. He was born in 1911 in Jersey City, New Jersey. At age 9, Reid was a chorister and soloist at Trinity Church in Manhattan. 

He went on to study music at the Peabody Conservatory, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1932. He then moved to New York City, where he studied with several influential vocal teachers, including Domenico Mancini. In 1934 he began his teaching career, as an assistant to Dr. Douglas Stanley. Reid was a passionate vocal instructor and quickly became a sought-after teacher developing his own studio in the New York City area. 

He was particularly known for his unique approach to vocal pedagogy, which focused on the cultivation of a “free” or natural singing technique. The method he developed, which he called “Functional Voice Training,” was largely influenced by pedagogues of the Bel Canto tradition such as Tosi, Mancini, and Garcia

In regard to Reid’s teaching philosophies, he often directed his students toward a “non-doing” approach, which he discusses in his book Voice: Psyche and Soma

[The student] must obliterate from his mind all concepts dealing with what he thinks his voice should sound like, or how he would like it to sound; he must be ready to “do” without being conscious of the manner of “doing;” he must “get out of his own way” so as to permit involuntary movement to take over, to let nature operate on her own terms.

Reid also advocated an approach to vocal exercise design which strategically utilized elements such as vowels and musical rhythms to elicit specific coordinations from the student. He writes about this topic in his book Essays on the Nature of Singing, and states: 

If the student stops “doing” and “goes with the rhythm,” while at the same time the exercise pattern selected meets his growth needs, the vocal mechanism will become self corrective. What results is the emergence of qualities quite other than those entertained in the [student’s] preconcept and which will be accompanied by sensations never before experienced. (p. 58.)

Cornelius L. Reid authored 6 books including Bel Canto: Principles and Practices, A Dictionary of Vocal Terminology and The Modern Singing Master. He also wrote The Free Voice, which has become a classic in the field of vocal pedagogy. 

He was an active member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing and was a frequent lecturer at universities and music schools around the world. Reid’s students have been singers in major in international venues, and many have gone on to be well known teachers. His list of protégées includes: George Shirley, Ariel Bybee, Clamma Churita Dale, Carole Farley, Robert Manno, John Stewart, Mallory Walker, Julian Patrick, Wendy White and many more. Reid died in 2008, and continued to teach until 11 days before his death at the age of 97.  

The Cornelius Reid Project website has an archive of dozens of recorded voice lessons given by Reid: https://corneliusreid.buzzsprout.com/

References

  1. The Cornelius Reid Project: https://corneliusreid.com/cornelius-reid/
  2. VOICE BUILDING EXERCISES FROM THE CORNELIUS L. REID ARCHIVE: AN INTRODUCTION Jonathan S. Yarrington, B.M., M.M. Dissertation Prepared for the Degree of DOCTOR OF MUSICAL ARTS UNIVERSITY OF NORTH TEXAS, August 2014.
  3. Voice: Psyche and Soma. New York: Joseph Patelson Music House, 1975. Reid’s first three books were published as a trilogy in 1975.
  4. Essays on the Nature of Singing. Huntsville, TX: Recital Publications 1992. 

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