Full disclosure: Steve Maddock and I have a few things in common. We’re both PKs (preacher’s kids) who grew up in southern Ontario adding our piping, angelic treble voices to the choirs in our fathers’ churches.
Point of departure: I struggled through the guy-hood change of voice as a scholarship student of an Ursuline nun, whose ignorance of male puberty helped shred a once-promising voice by not giving it time to rest.
Maddock, on the other hand, was fortunate to find a perfect mentor at the precise time he needed one, in the person of Nikolai Kolesnikov, a Russian emigré and renowned vocal coach on Canada’s west coast.
As a result of our different experiences, I ended up a growly old bass with practically no vocal range to write home about, while Maddock developed into a silky-smooth lyric baritone whose jazz stylings found a lucrative niche on cruise ships, as well as in jazz clubs, concert halls and musical theatre stages.
Last January, when Maddock and I spoke for the first time, the conversation included much technical talk about tessitura (the texture of the human voice and the range within which it falls), as well as passaggio (the point of movement between a singer’s chest register and what is known as head tone).
“A lot of times, male singers make the mistake of thinking the head register is falsetto. There are actually three specific registers in the male voice: the chest register, the head register and falsetto, which is above the head register,” he explains.
Figuring that out involved more than two years of study with Kolesnikov.
“It me took me that long to understand how to manipulate my anatomy and be able to make the sound and hit the bull’s eye, so to speak, with that head register,” he says.
“What I discovered was that most of my range is chest register. The head register is only maybe a fourth or a fifth, from upper boundary to lower boundary, but it is such an important part of my range.”
Much of Maddock’s professional life has been dedicated to sharing that knowledge with other aspiring singers, both as a teacher in the jazz faculty of his alma mater, Capilano University, and in the kind of master classes he will conduct this month in Whitehorse.
“It’s a completely different can of worms dealing with female passaggio, the head-voice/chest voice register changes,” he admits.
Jazz Yukon guru Duncan Sinclair apparently has him hopping, as he kept Maddock and fellow Vancouverite Karin Plato hopping last January.
When he flies into Whitehorse this Thursday, he will immediately launch into a series of master classes with Whitehorse singers.
“And apparently there are a lot of singers who wish to do some one-on-one coaching, so that will be nice. I’ll do some private coaching as well. It will be busy, but I like being busy.”
People who attend the two-and-a half-hour master will likely bring their own tunes to work on, but Maddock has things covered if they don’t.
“I’ll also have some repertoire with me, just in case someone’s there who doesn’t have a tune they’re working on. I can give them some options.”
Maddock clearly relishes his role as a guru to both male and female singers, but his performing career is equally important.
“It doesn’t matter how much I continue to develop myself professionally as a vocal instructor, when it comes right down to it, all we really have to offer as teachers is what we have experienced through our own work as performers.”
In addition to his role as a teacher, Maddock is coming to Whitehorse next week primarily as a singer. He will be onstage at the Yukon Arts Centre on Sunday, November 20, as part of this year’s Jazz on the Wing concert series.
The prospect of his second trip to the Yukon capital clearly pleases him.
“I was literally shocked to get up to Whitehorse and experience how much music there is in that town,” he says.
“Looking at the listings of where to find music on a day-to-day basis, or evening to evening, there are more places to play there than in Vancouver,”
Maddock is also proud of his own pending contribution to Yukon’s jazz scene.
“I’m really excited about bringing up the band that played on my CD (Memory Café), which we recorded in 2009,” he says.
“We’re going to be doing quite a few of the tunes, and the arrangements that were on the album, so it won’t be too difficult at all for them to pick it up, because they’re the ones who played it on the recording.”
His quintet that night will include Miles Black on piano and Bill Coon on guitar, as well as upright bass player Jody Proznick and drummer Craig Scott.
The cabaret-style performance starts at 7:30 p.m. More information is available at www.jazzyukon.ca.