October 2009

With a smile and lilting voice, Lauren Carley and her little dog, Harry, welcome me into her sunny North Oakland bungalow. A grand piano holds pride of place in the airy front room, and an enormous painted canvas with a Lotte Lenya-like figure fills one wall-a back drop for her Kurt Weill performances.

Lauren has been immersed in music since before she was born, as she tells me while making us a cup of tea. Her mother was very involved in the music world in Madison, Wisconsin, and encouraged Lauren in musical pursuits. She played the cello, sang in choruses, and by the time she was fifteen was included in a concert production of Bach's B minor Mass. It was a life-altering experience for the teenager, and she knew then she wanted to sing.

Her education includes a degree in music from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and two years of study at the Westminster Choir College at Princeton. While there she studied with some of the world's leading composers and conductors and gained depth of experience both in performing and teaching.

Guided by her ambition to become an opera singer, she moved to New York, living first in Brooklyn, then in the Village in Manhattan. That aspiration for a career in opera gave way to the realities of the sacrifices and "steely resolve" required of that life. She turned away from the "cloistered nun life" of the operatic voice to a satisfying mixture of choral, solo, and theater work. She earned an MA in Interdisciplinary Arts Studies from NYU and worked with Merce Cunningham and John Cage, among many others. .Always studying, always teaching, always performing in what she describes as a "revolving platform," she gained experience that she could pass on to her students One of the highlights of her career has been her one-woman show of Kurt Weill music which she wrote and performed.

After years of this whirl-wind life in New York, she fled the canyons of Manhattan for the somewhat less hectic pace of the East Bay. The revolving platform of her career continues, however, with involvement in many aspects of performing and teaching. Recently she served as vocal/choral director for the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, Director of Middle School Choirs for the Oakland Youth Chorus, music director for the female Shakespeare company Woman's Will, and director of the community chorus Variety Pack. She has private classes in her home studio, including sight singing for beginners.

Her generous, light-hearted spirit is expressed in her philosophy of teaching: "My work is to teach you to sing through your body with ease and power. We will engage your whole self as a singing, breathing mechanism....We will train your inner eye to spot tension and release flow, your inner ear to feel pitch. You will learn the singer's breath and simultaneous inner/outer focus....The result is that you will sing freely with your whole body." About singing in a group: "Singing together sets up that good energy, endorphins that counteract stress and strain. The vibrations created in the body truly do heal us on a cellular level, and counteract age and illness-related depression while giving us a chance to learn skills, connect with others, laugh, and make something beautiful."
What a very good reason to sign up for Lauren's OLLI @Berkeley class.

More information about Lauren Carley's classes and performing schedule is available on her web site at www.lcarley.com.