Songstresses In The Pines Of Strawberry

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The splendid voices of Julie Andrews, Barbra Streisand and Ella Fitzgerald echoed from the Stewart family stereo when Gloria (Rich) was a child.

"The Queen of the Night" aria from "The Magic Flute," the last opera Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote, is the record Rich recalls listening to most.

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Mother and daughter songstresses Sharon Stewart and Gloria Rich came to the clean air of Strawberry to teach music.

"There aren't very many people in the world who can sing Queen of the Night. You have to be a coloratura. When Mozart wrote it, people said he must have hated women because there are so many staccatos above high C. I think it is the best part of the opera," Rich said.

Music as a profession

Mother and daughter are both professional singers.

Combined, they have been teaching and performing for more than 48 years.

Stewart has sung with the Utah and Arizona opera companies and the Los Angeles Opera Ensemble.

"I wrote some avant-garde '60s music that I took into the studio and they said it sounded like Miles Davis," Stewart said. She used musicians from Frank Zappa's band to record her songs.

When singer Paula Heckman developed nodes on her vocal cords from singing the wrong way, Stewart said she got a phone call.

Heckman was scheduled for surgery and would need a vocal coach when she recovered.

"I told her, why don't you come over and we will see what we can do without surgery," Stewart said.

She coached the singer, building on short vocal exercises for two years, two days a week.

Heckman did not have surgery and recovered to headline the City Lights Show at the Flamingo in Las Vegas in 1980.

Rich has produced many benefit shows at the Phoenician Resort in the Valley.

Rich performed the national anthem with her daughter Holly, at the opening of a Diamondbacks game a few years ago.

Locals may have heard Rich sing at cowboy church and at the rodeo.

Together, Stewart and Rich have performed convention shows and owned the off-Broadway show "Two Generations."

They coached "American Idol" hopeful "Suzy V" the season Fantasia won.

Their move to Strawberry two years ago provided a nice hiatus from showbiz. The women have re-focused on giving singing lessons to adults and children.

Their method is "bel canto," Italian for beautiful singing.

Stewart studied with many trainers, but credits the two years she spent in Italy studying under world-renowned opera diva Christina Carroll as the most helpful to her own career.

Countless students, including her daughter, have learned the techniques for correct posture, breath and muscle control.

"When babies scream and cry they are doing it right. "When you sing, you should not be tightening your throat at all," Rich said.

"Pavarotti used to say that singing is refined yelling," Stewart said.

"Most pop music is really not healthy to sing in terms of your vocal cords. That's why we teach opera and classical music, so our students are vocally strong enough to sing pop," Rich added.

They record everything they teach so students can take the practice tape home and hear how their voice sounds.

The method has helped their students go onto lead roles in musicals and operas, as well as win competitions.

Their students backed ABBA at the Arizona State Fair and were chosen by producer David Foster to sing solos at The Heart Ball, headlined by Josh Groban.

Each has taught students who were told by someone else, "give up. You can't sing."

Both maintain that is not true.

"You will learn to improve in one half-hour lesson," Rich said.

Profile

Names: Sharon Stewart and Gloria Rich

Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah

Occupations: Sharon is a singer/ performer/vocal instructor and Gloria is a producer.

When did you move to Strawberry and what brought you here? Mother and daughter moved to the Rim Country July 2005 for the clean air. "Phoenix was spraying 40,000 gallons of insecticide a night to combat West Nile Virus and it was ruining our voices."

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? Sharon: "Let go and let God.

Gloria: "Trust God."

What did you want to be when you grew up? When Gloria was a child, she wanted to be a math professor. Sharon always wanted to make a career of music.

Musicians who inspired you:

Gloria -- Celine Dion, Faith Hill and Whitney Houston -- not now, but when her career began. Sharon -- Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald and music from the 1940s.

Contact: Gloria Rich at (928) 476-3383; Sharon Stewart toll free at (866) 583-1973.

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