SIDNEY — In an ancient fable, a king in a far-off land decides to bestow honors and a bag of gold on the one person in his kingdom who has made the biggest difference.
High achievers from throughout the realm line up to crow about their accomplishments.
“I discovered a theory that will revolutionize medicine,” said the scientist.
“I wrote a book that became a best-seller,” said the novelist.
“I invented a machine that will make manufacturing faster,” said the engineer.
“I bested everyone else in the arena games,” said the athlete.
The king’s assistant interrupted to whisper in the monarch’s ear. He pointed to an old man quietly hunched in the corner, wrapped in a shabby cloak to stay warm.
“That’s who should get the honors,” the assistant said to the king.
The king looked surprised. The old man had said nothing, had not even joined the line of achievers waiting to be heard.
“Why?” asked the king.
The assistant looked at the old man and then pointed to all the people in line, people who had done wonderful things.
“He was their teacher,” he said.
Voice teacher David Schneider, of Lima, has been giving private lessons to would-be singers in Sidney since 1996. Some went on to earn music degrees. Two others are enjoying professional careers. They credit Schneider with giving them the foundation to accomplish wonderful things.
Tenor Taylor Stayton, of Omaha, Nebraska, studied with Schneider for two years when Stayton was a student at Sidney High School. Now, Stayton sings with the world’s leading opera companies. He is currently performing with the Den Norske Opera in Norway, but he has enjoyed rave reviews and enthusiastic applause from audiences of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in London, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Nashville Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Bayerische Staatsoper, Kentucky Opera, Des Moines Opera and more.
Mezzo soprano Samantha Gossard, of Kansas City, Missouri, is a resident artist this season with Lyric Opera of Kansas City. The 2006 graduate of Sidney High School took voice lessons from Schneider for six years. This summer, she will apprentice with the prestigious Sante Fe Opera in New Mexico.
“David was my first teacher,” wrote Stayton in an email from Norway. “He was recommended to me by Frank Fahrer who was the choir director at SHS during my time at SHS. David introduced me to classical singing. When I began working with him I was only familiar with popular music, choral music, etc. He introduced me to Italian song, art song, opera and a number of other similar genres.”
Gossard is grateful that Schneider didn’t ruin her voice.
“A lot of singers have horror stories of voice teachers who pushed them too far too fast, who didn’t give them a good technique. David knew my voice was a big talent. He took care of it. He gave me solid technique. He gave me a solid foundation to build on and exposure to the repertoire — and confidence,” she said.
Before he became a teacher, Schneider earned a Bachelor of Arts from Goshen College and a Master of Arts in vocal pedagogy and a Master of Music in choral conducting from the Ohio State University. He performed as a vocalist with the Robert Shaw Chorale for two years, including concerts in southern France and at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
He was working in a music store in Columbus while his wife finished college. That’s where he first heard about Sidney.
“Frank Fahrer came into the music store. He knew I was moving to Lima,” Schneider said.
“If you come to Sidney, you can have all the students you want,” Fahrer told him. So Schneider began offering lessons here three days a week.
“I’ve had all different levels. Some, I really didn’t have to do much with their voice. Others, I spent more time on pitch-matching and ear training,” he said.
Schneider selects material for students based on their requirements. Many times, a singer will be preparing for a solo or ensemble contest and will have specific music to perfect.
“That’s classical,” Schnieder said. “Or they want to be in a musical or need to do something for church. We tailor what we do to what their needs are.”
A typical lesson begins with vocal warm-ups. Then, pupil and teacher work on songs, concentrating on technical things, including breath, resonance and diction. The most difficult thing to teach is how to achieve the highest register of a voice.
“The high extremes of range take the most technique. You have to do several things at once to make that happen. Until it’s on automatic pilot, you have to get (students) to think about a lot of different things,” Schneider said.
He is sometimes as much mentor as voice teacher.
“We talk about schools and what their goals are,” he said. In the cases of Stayton and Gossard, Schneider was aware they were special talents.
“I think I knew they were good voices initially. I’m still always amazed at what they’ve accomplished, what people’s capabilities are. You plant those seeds and what can come out of it amazes me, ” he said. It was Schneider who got Stayton a trial lesson at Ohio State.
“He was the only freshman. It was opening a door for him. Once he went through the door, he took off. He did the work. But I opened the door,” the teacher said.
Singers who don’t expect to have professional music careers are enriched by the lessons, too. They set the groundwork for a lifetime of loving music.
“No matter what you do for a living, it’s important to have hobbies and interests that feed your soul, so to speak,” Schneider said. “(What has been learned in the lessons) always seems like it gets used anyway. It helps (singers) with choral singing and things like that.”
Both professionals don’t hesitate to recommend their former teacher.
“As someone who grew up relatively sheltered from classical music, he introduced me to the art form that I have been lucky enough to enjoy as a career. I think that speaks volumes above anything else I could say. In simple terms, a young singer in Ohio would see obvious benefits and improvements from working with David,” wrote Stayton.
“He was the ultimate caregiver of my young instrument,” added Gossard. As for Schneider, he likes teaching because of the excitement he sees in his students.
“Students have energy and excitement about singing and are willing to learn and grow. It’s exciting to see kids discovering,” he said.
Schneider now offers lessons in Sidney in the gallery of Gateway Arts Council on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Typical lessons last a half hour each for a charge of $18 per half hour.
“But very young kids, the lesson will be 15 minutes,” he said. For information about lessons, visit davidschneidervoice.weebly.com.
When he’s not teaching, Schneider likes to perform classical musical theater: Rodgers and Hammerstein or Stephen Sodheim musicals. His favorite composers to sing are Rodgers and Franz Schubert.
“Because of how they write for the voice. They write very lyrically,” he said.
Gossard wouldn’t hesitate to agree with the king’s assistant about giving honors to her first teacher.
“He’s a gem,” she said.