Lenora Zenzalai Helm is making it possible for people that say they want to be a “singer” to take a giant step further and become a Vocal Musician through two accessible and affordable on-line programs: Vocal Jazz Online and its offshoot The Vocal Musicianship Academy. These are internet learning programs where an intensive curriculum provides rounded knowledge of theory, vocal techniques, business acumen and industry insider truths that will make them more broadly educated, confident and unimpeachable in their craft.
Helm – a world traveled vocal expert with a Masters of Music degree in Jazz Performance, a voice professor at North Carolina Central University, and inductee into the prestigious Pi Kappa Lambda and Golden Key International music societies – describes her programs thusly: “Vocal Jazz Online” is a music university at your laptop fingertips of 180 videos in multiple categories using jazz concepts to teach anybody any style of music. Because jazz musicians have such a high level of acumen, those concepts are usable to teach musicianship skills to vocalists from rock to classical that place them at the highest level.”
“The Vocal Musicianship Academy is a shortened intensive 5-week self-study offshoot program of Vocal Jazz Online for people who love to sing and want to insure that they can be marketable, eligible and the very best musician they can be. It’s an answer to the plethora of ‘reality’ shows that purport this misconception that it doesn’t take a lot to be able to sing. I have people walking in my door wanting to take singing lessons for a month because they have an audition for ‘America’s Got Talent’ and want me to ‘presto-change-o’ them into readiness. Would someone walk into a cooking school saying, ‘I want to be Wolfgang Puck in 30 days?!’ This thinking keeps singers at novice levels preventing them from having CAREERS.”
One major instigator for Helm to create The Vocal Musicianship Academy is making knowledge available to people that cannot afford to attend conservatories and universities. “I created The Vocal Musicianship Academy for the singer that ‘knows what they want to know’ to have access to timely and timeless lessons. It’s video modules, PDFs, worksheets and conference calls with expert guest speakers – from artists to music entrepreneurs – talking to students about aspects of craft (what to study and practice) AND the business (what you better know). Things like how to pick repertoire, how to write a lead sheet in your own key, how to pick a band, contracts, touring, how to attain solid breath control – all aspects one needs to know. I took what I was teaching in class and put it all on-line so they could tap in on their iPad and connect to a network of professionals and peers.”
“Lenora Zenzalai Helm is a highly imaginative, adventurous musician who likes to write lyrics and reconstruct familiar songs to reflect her thoughts and feelings. Singer, composer, arranger and lyricist, Ms. Helm uses all of her exceptional gifts to push the envelope and make very personal statements with her music.”
– Dr. Billy Taylor
A Chicago native, Helm confesses, “When I was growing up, my parents couldn’t afford music lessons. It wasn’t my fault we didn’t have those funds but I wanted to learn how to be a musician. I had Roberta Flack and Joni Mitchell LPs in the attic, the gospel my mom played on Sunday, all the great music on the radio and what I learned in public school. When I got to Berklee, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I caught hell my first year playing catch up but I finished in 3 years instead of 4. I was just that hungry. Years later when I traveled to South Africa to teach a master class, a kid ran up to me crying, ‘Will you still teach and keep in touch with me?’ It was heartbreaking that he had extraordinary talent but potentially no access.”
Helm also envisions The Vocal Musicianship Academy for professionals striving to soar higher. “It could be a background singer with a dream to make their own record. With ‘VMA,’ they can spend a few hotel room hours on the road honing their craft by coming to my website to get a week-by-week structured program designed to fill in the gaps of what they need to know. They get the week’s lesson live on-line then a downloadable ‘coaching call’ lecture on MP3. The following day they tune in for conference calls with professionals ranging from record company executives to Grammy®-winning producers. The next day they upload questions for me and my team – all from their home or hotel room. Once people complete 5 weeks with The Vocal Musicianship Academy, they may opt for Vocal Jazz Online as an ongoing aftercare program on the parent site.”
Passionate Arts Educator and Arts Advocate Lenora Zenzalai Helm – a Fulbright Music Specialist – is currently scoring a modern dance piece and a re-imaging of the children’s book “The Pied Piper” titled “Indigo Blue,” promoting her latest CD, I Love Myself When I’m Laughing… and studying for her Doctorate. The lady edifies musical excellence and wants to pass that masterfulness onto others.
“When a singer walks into an audition amongst instrumentalists,” Helms states, “they are often presumed incompetent. You hear jokes about a singer not knowing keys, acting a diva and always needing production assistance. My online programs are designed to level the players’ field. Through The Vocal Musicianship Academy and Vocal Jazz Online, I want to cultivate a powerful community of singers, connecting and creating amongst each other…then unleash them on the world!”