Every singer of every ability level has room for improvement, according to vocal instructor Laurel Massé.

"In every first performance, there is something that is stunningly good, and it is the teacher's job to bring that out," she said.

"You bring every moment of your lived life with you on stage."
A founding member of the Grammy Award-winning group Manhattan Transfer and a successful solo artist, Massé is currently teaching a course called "Skills for Singers: What Every Performer Needs to Know" in Parsippany with vocalist and artists' consultant Wendy Lane Bailey and composer and arranger Rick Jensen.

The class, which caters to advanced, adult singers, is unique for the area, Bailey said.
Though many performers live in northern New Jersey, Bailey -- a Morris Plains resident -- said most of the courses offered in the area are reserved for children and teenagers. Professional singers must commit a great deal of time and money to travel to New York City in order to take a class at their level, she said, and with rising gas prices, that commitment becomes increasingly more difficult to make.
This course caters to singers of all genres, providing guidance on such topics as song performance and interpretation, communicating with an audience, image and dealing with the unexpected on stage.
Massé said she looks for students who are serious about singing and who really want to improve.
"I think one particular lesson I would like to emphasize for people walking into the class is to know the music, know the melody, know the lyrics," she said. "Then we have something to build on."
As an instructor, Massé said, she and Bailey strive to create a comfortable atmosphere and treat their students with respect.
Bailey said she enjoys seeing new talent, and sharing the things she has learned with them -- lessons that often transcend genre.
"It's not really about what you sing," she said. "It's not about genre. It's about helping performers discover who they are and helping them to put that on stage."
The mark of a great performer is being able to make an audience feel like they know you, Bailey said. It's about communicating with an audience, she said.

Collaborative effort
Jensen, a Morristown resident, instructs and accompanies students in the class on the piano. A successful singer, composer and arranger, Jensen has performed at such venues as Carnegie Hall and London's Savoy Theatre. He is currently recording a follow-up to his debut album, "Spring Harvest."
Of the course's three instructors, Jensen said he has perhaps the most unique perspective because he's playing for his students. It's more of a collaboration, he said, and he tries to help less experienced singers choose songs that will serve them best.
His niece, Tina Jensen, recently took the course. She currently sings at Birdland, a Manhattan jazz club. She said she was impressed by how well the instructors worked together and described their relationship as a great partnership.
She said she appreciated their feedback because they helped her look at one of her favorite pieces with a new perspective. She was accustomed to doing it the same way, she said, and they helped her to try new things with the song. She also said the instructors created a safe environment, where it was fine to make mistakes.
Staci Beth Block of Hackensack recently took the course for the first time, but she said she's hoping to enroll again. The feedback she received helped her to see her song in a different way, she said, and motivated her to delve further into the lyrics.
Block said it was more convenient to drive to Parsippany than to travel to New York City for a class, and she didn't have to worry about paying for parking.
Emily Abraham of Manhattan also took the course recently. She said she thought the instructors worked well together and made everyone feel comfortable. Abraham, who typically sings jazz, said she took the course because she saw it as a good opportunity to get in front of an audience and work with someone new.
For more information on the "Skills for Singers" course, contact Park Road Management at (646) 831-0359 or parkroadmanagement@verizon.net.
Upcoming classes
• May 19 and June 16 -- Skills for Singers: What Every Performer Needs to Know, 7 to 10 p.m. The class, taught by Laurel Massé, Wendy Lane Bailey and Rick Jensen, is for singers of all genres.• May 31 -- Jazz Set Performance Skills for Jazz Singers, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The class is taught by Laurel Massé, Wendy Lane Bailey and Tex Arnold.Classes will be held at the Blackbird Studios, 181 New Road, Suite 305, Parsippany. Preregistration required. To reserve a spot, call Park Road Management at (646) 831-0359 or send an e-mail to parkroadmanagement@verizon.net.