About Celeste

 

Celeste Simone

Celeste Simone

Voice Teacher / Performance Coach / Director

Celeste received her BM in Voice from the Manhattan School of Music. As a vocal teacher and coach Celeste has worked with Adam Chandler-Beret, Chita Rivera, Didi Conn, Sally Kellerman, Loni Ackermann, Elaine Joyce Simon, actress Amy Irving, composer David Shire, American Idol’s Kimberly Locke, Dancing with the Stars’ Mark Ballas, Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess and Kristin Chenoweth. She has worked alongside Andrew Lloyd Weber and director Joel Schumacher as the NY vocal coach for Gerard Butler on the movie Phantom of the Opera. Celeste’s voice students have appeared on Broadway in The Lion King, Chicago, Gypsy, Nine, Wicked, Spamalot, Tarzan, The Color Purple, Hollywood Arms with Carol Burnet, The Grinch, The Carnegie Hall concert version of South Pacific (starring Reba MacIntyre, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Alec Baldwin), West Side Story, Baby It’s You, Rent, Follies, Next to Normal, Billy Elliot, Peter and the Star Catcher, Shrek, Once, Newsies, Matilda, Beauty and The Beast, The Producers, and the 1st national of The Band’s Visit.

The Roger Rees Award for Excellence in Student PerformanceMany of Celeste students have been nominated for The Roger Rees Award for Excellence in Student Performance. In 2018, student Alyssa McDonald took home the award.

Celeste is the one to go to when you want the best in Cabaret direction.”

- New York Times

Celeste has directed over 400 cabaret shows and has been nominated numerous times for Best Director by MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabaret). She has been vocal coach on productions of Anything Goes, Singing In The Rain, Ragtime, Pippin and Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She directed the nationally seen An NBC Christmas starring Alan Rachins. Celeste has been HIGH5 Vocalworks artistic director for ten years. Her Onstage Cabaret Workshop is one of the most popular performing workshops in NYC. The New York Times article “Life is a Cabaret” says “Celeste is the one to go to when you want the best in Cabaret direction.”

Celeste has performed around the world as a singer/comedienne. Celeste has appeared in numerous TV commercials and was featured in the movie DIRT, which was seen at the Cannes and Toronto Film festivals. She has shared the stage with Rita Moreno, Wayland Flowers & Madame, Linda Hopkins, Marty Allen, Kaye Ballard, The Pointer Sisters, Bill Irwin, Alan Ruck, Barry Boswick, and American Idol Arranger/Pianist Michael Orland. Her Television credits include the NBC series Fantasy with Leslie Uggams and Tom Wopat. She hosted MCTV’s Cabaret Beat. Among her theatre credits are the off-Broadway production of Rappicicini’s Daughter, The Good Speed Opera House, The Birmingham Theatre and The Paper Mill Playhouse.

Celeste teaches from her studios on Manhattan’s West Side and Nyack, New York. She is a former faculty member of the Coupe Theatre Studio and Turtle Bay Music School. She holds a position on the Board of Directors of the Bel Canto Institute in residence in Florence, Italy.

Celeste is on the Faculty of Acteen NYC, Broadway Artists Alliance NYC and Bergen Community College, NJ. Celeste has been the vocal coach for the HHYT double cast productions of Les Miserable and Chicago. She was the vocal coach for ABC’s ALEX INC. starring Zach Braff, vocal and performance coach at St. Louis Cabaret Project, St Louis University and at the Kristin Chenoweth Broadway Boot Camp.


Kristin Chenoweth rehearses a song with pianist Michael Orland at Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center.

A learning experience: Kristin Chenoweth Broadway Bootcamp gives lessons in professionalism

Sitting in on this rehearsal is Celeste Simone, a renown voice teacher who is part of this year’s bootcamp faculty. Once Chenoweth manages to make it through “Much More,” she sits down with Simone, who has a few words of advice. Or, rather, one word in particular: Instead of pronouncing the word “more” in the song, Simone suggests Chenoweth sing the syllable “Ma.”

It’s important for someone like Simone to be here, because she brings so much technical knowledge about the way the voice works.”

- Kristin Chenoweth

In the context of a performance, the difference in the sound of the two syllables is imperceptible. But the effect is immediate — the phrase is much more resonant and powerful. “But you see,” Simone said, tracing a finger across Chenoweth’s cheek, “how that opens every thing up.”

“It’s important for someone like Simone to be here, because she brings so much technical knowledge about the way the voice works,” Chenoweth said. “She speaks in a way that reminds me a lot of my first voice teacher, Florence Birdwell. And for the kids, they can begin to understand how their voices make those incredible sounds, so they are better able to take care of themselves, to fix problems on their own.”


 

A Healthy Belt

As a teacher, I feel it is my responsibility to guide a student in the understanding of all different musical styles and teach them to translate style to the voice. I love music – the human voice and the artistic process.

There are no two people alike; therefore, there are no two voices alike. I feel it is important for me to have a vast vocabulary to draw from in order to make concepts clear to the student.

I was trained classically at the Manhattan School of Music (MSM) and I am very grateful for that training. However, the classical technique does not necessarily translate well to the Musical Theatre or Pop music of today. You do not approach Brahms in the same way you would Cole Porter or Gershwin like you would a current pop artist. There must be adjustments made to the technique to allow the singer to create the colors that will best celebrate the modern composers/songwriters and bring to life what is on the written page.

My understanding is first hand. When I graduated MSM (1978), I was lucky enough to start working immediately, but not as a Classical singer – as a Theatre and Cabaret performer. Not knowing anything about Belting or Mixing, I just had this big voice and “yelted” out those C’s and D’s not knowing what I was doing. Well, no muscle can be abused without consequence. And I quickly found myself in deep vocal trouble. After a 3-month silence (not so easy, especially if you know me), the cords were back to a healthy place. My adventure was to learn how to make THAT SOUND and NOT injure myself. I did just that, and 35 years later I have never had a vocal issue since that experience. The tools that I teach have allowed my students to sing 8 shows a week with ease.

It’s the understanding of the space in the resonating cavity – the different colors that can be produced in the passagio (the break), a free and healthy upper register, vowel modifications and the ALL important and very often misunderstood use of BREATH. I must say all these concepts are based upon the Bel Canto technique.

I feel it is so important for my students to understand intellectually and be able to verbalize what they are doing.

  • What do you feel?
  • Where do you feel it?
  • What were you thinking?

For many this tool is a very powerful one, especially if the student plans to teach one day. I tell my students that “I will take the joy out of singing for a while.” I feel as a responsible teacher I MUST stop and correct. Technique is the knowledge behind the gift. When the technique becomes second nature and A PART OF YOU, then the music flows and the joy of singing is so much richer and more gratifying. I believe a singer uses the entire body to sing and should have a clear understanding of the muscles involved. The human body IS the instrument so a singer must understand how the body works. It’s an art form that takes patience from both the teacher and the student.

Besides technique I also work on creating a strong audition book, Song Interpretation, Performance/audition skills and everything in between. Oh, and we can’t forget the fun and laughter that goes along with it all!

Enjoying the process of being an artist…a life long journey.