When singers & legends need some voice work, vocal tips, training or vocal rehabilitation, they all go to “voice builder” Gary Catona!
With iconic clients such as Whitney Houston, Steven Tyler, Andrea Bocelli, Muhammad Ali, Brian Wilson, Usher, Liza Minnelli, Lorde, Katy Perry, and Lenny Kravitz, amongst many others, Gary has earned a status in the music industry that nobody else has.
With another upcoming book in the works and on a promotional tour of his Ultimate Voice Builder (www.ultimatevoicebuilder.com) teaching guide and DVD set, Gary took some time from his busy schedule in Hollywood, California to open up about his career to The Levity Ball…
1. You refer to yourself as a “Voice Builder” and not a “Voice Coach”. What is the difference so our readers can understand more of what you do/provide?
A voice builder, simply put, builds voices – that is, develops the muscles of the vocal mechanism through rigorous voice building exercises ( voice muscles control and determine every aspect of your voice). Voice coaches, by contrast, don’t build the musculature of the vocal mechanism. Instead, they focus on breathing management (useless), diaphragm support (a myth), mask resonance (another myth). In my view, vocal coaches are in the dark when it comes to understanding how the voice works and what is required to improve it. Even more simply: for a voice builder, singing is a kind of sport and the singer a kind of athlete. Such an athletic approach to vocal training is radically different from those of voice coaches.
2. When did you first know you had the skills to become a voice builder and help people to become great singers and also help those in vocal rehabilitation?
Since I was a young teenager, I had a special aptitude for recognizing deficient voices. My voice building abilities developed when I discovered the crucial importance of vocal muscles to singing (and speaking). Proceeding by trial-and-error, I uncovered the ideal exercises for developing voice muscles – which meant abandoning years of vocal study with many vocal coaches.
3. You were born in Philadelphia and then moved to Texas. When did you make the move to Hollywood, and how was the “Hollywood scene” back then in comparison to how it is today?
Once I established myself in Austin, Texas and became a noted voice builder, I realized that Los Angeles is where I could make even greater strides in reforming how the human voice is understood and trained. The Hollywood scene in the 1980s was more inviting, musically than today. For instance, there were greater chances for an up-and-coming artist to get some attention in local clubs and to be discovered by record labels. Singers were also more committed to singing and creating music for the sheer love of music. Today, by comparison, the interest in making money and becoming famous have corrupted to some extent the passion for honest, artistic expression. And then there is the impact of new digital technologies – for all their advantages, they’ve had the unintended consequence of creating a “cheating musical culture” where, for instance, authentic of vocal performance are replaced by voices that have been modified by “digital tricks” – both in the recording studio and in live performances. The result has been s new kind of vocalism: sanitized singing with little evidence of a human heart or artistic integrity. But the love of “real” music will never die. It’s only a matter of time until new creative geniuses emerge and redirect the art of singing and commercial music generally back to their rightful place: in the hearts and souls of commercial music lovers.
4. You have worked with a lot of greats… Do you ever get star struck? What goes on in your mind when working with these legends for the first time?
My first famous student was Muhammad Ali, who was a hero of mine since I was a young boy in the 1960s. Teaching one of my heroes and “the most recognizable person in the world” at the time was nothing short of mind-blowing. And it’s always thrilling teaching legendary singers. When I teach them, I always strive to push them beyond their extraordinary abilities – after all, that’s really why voice building interests them to begin with. I am also aware that I am being tested to see if I have the powers to achieve what they want, which requires that I work hard to create confidence in my abilities. I have quite a strong and resonant voice and by demonstrating with it, I typically win their approval as a voice builder worth of respect.
5. You are the “builder/teacher”, but what is the best advice a past client has ever given you?
One of my first students in Los Angeles, guitar god, Larry Carlton once advised me to focus my energies on producing excellence in my work and everything else – great students, money, and public/professional recognition – will eventually come. He was right.
6. What is your advice to others wanting to a pursue a career in music and move to Hollywood?
Become a master of your craft. Study and work with others from whom you could learn. Success is rarely easy – which means that being tough-minded and tirelessly committed to becoming the best you can be is paramount. Being self-critical and open to criticism from qualified sources will only elevate your game. Don’t party as a lifestyle, practice, and go to live performances of your favorite artists.
7. People can purchase your teachings via The Ultimate Voice Builder. Why was creating this product important to you and your students?
My Ultimate Voice Builder is an excellent tool for helping a person build their voice. Even the students who see me in person often use the Ultimate Voice Builder.
8. Besides working with vocals on a daily basis with people all over the globe, what do you do in your spare time personally?
Exercise, go to museums, concerts, attend lectures in art and science, write, and I love healthy food and the cafe life.
9. With everything going on in today’s society, how important is music and the power of it in your opinion?
Art is the soul of a culture – it’s where beauty and even perfection make their appearance to make our lives more than just fulfilling biological needs or about making money to survive. Art must be protected at all costs or else we risk losing a vital connection to beauty and to moments of amazing transcendence. Music is the most personal of the arts – it has the mysterious power to transform us, to make our lives magical.
10. And final question: What do you want to be remembered for?
Any beauty, insight, and joy that I may have helped bring into this world through my work with the human voice and in philosophy.