The Velvet Singer Approach: Data-Driven Life

Bill Bennett of Chicago, Illinois created Velvet Singer to help him manage his singing career. You will quickly pick up that he is also an engineer by trade and has a unique approach to things like this. Velvet Singer was built on the belief that data can show you how to be more successful, and that it shouldn’t take a lot of work to obtain objectivity and confidence about your career.

President & Founder — Velvet Singer, LLC

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After earning a degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia, Velvet Singer’s president and founder Bill Bennett moved to Chicago to pursue a Masters in Music at DePaul University. In Chicago, he worked as a part-time consultant for Soliant Consultingwhere he refined skills as an analyst and database developer.

He began sharing Velvet Singer Software with his colleagues in 2006, and shortly thereafter founded Velvet Singer, LLC (www.velvetsinger.com), distributing his product to hundreds of active and loyal users. He has given seminars on the “business of singing” and provided one-on-one career counseling at over 30 of the country’s top universities and opera companies including Chautauqua Opera, Opera New Jersey, Opera North, Seagle Music Colony, CoOperative Program, Chautauqua Voice, Caramoor, OperaWorks, BASOTI, Westminster Choir College, Manhattan School of Music, Northwestern, DePaul, Roosevelt and Boston Conservatory. At the Chautauqua Voice Program, Bill developed a scheduling database (now in use at multiple summer programs) to manage scheduling of students, teachers, coaches, rooms, concerts, and rehearsals.

He sings regularly with the choruses of the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Chicago Symphony. Bennett has performed leading roles in educational productions with both the Lyric and the CSO, covered lead roles and performed supporting mainstage roles as a young artist with Chicago Opera Theater, Ash Lawn Opera, Cedar Rapids Opera, Sugar Creek Symphony and Song and has presented title roles with regional companies such as DuPage Opera Theater, Light Opera Works and Elgin Opera.

Bill serves as the Outreach Chairman on the Board of Directors for Chicago Chorale, a semi-professional 60-voice ensemble, where he introduced a flourishing high school Apprentice Program and interactive pre-concert study guide materials. He developed a unique benefit concert series (see YouTube link) as a member of the Fundraising Board for an African agricultural non-profit, One Acre Fund. As a Deacon at Chicago’s historic Moody Church, he enjoys helping other young married couples make lasting commitments with service organizations such as Uptown’s Inspiration Cafe.

bowers_3“As the CEO of a mid-sized technology consulting firm, I’ve had the pleasure to work closely with Bill Bennett on dozens of projects over the past eight years. Bill is one of those rare individuals who excels at everything he attempts, be it database development, singing, or golf. His success results from a strong work ethic combined with deep technical skills, business savvy, rock-solid reliability, and exceptional communication skills.”

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Bennett with Maestro Pierre Boulez at the CSO. Bennett covered the tenor soloist in Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass.

Team Velvet

jodieResearcher Jodie-Marie Fernandes is a soprano with a varied cultural and educational background. After growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, enjoying the spheres of both science and music, she traveled to Massachusetts for her tertiary study. Her first degree was a Bachelor’s in Electrical Engineering from MIT and a minor in music. Although the majority of her time at MIT was spent in rigorous technical classes and projects, her passion for singing was displayed by her long-term membership in the Concert and Chamber choirs for whose concerts she performed solo roles, and undertook section leader responsibilities for running rehearsals. At the completion of her engineering degree, Jodie took the plunge and went on to study voice at Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA. During her musical study at Longy, she gave two solo recitals as well as several more performances collaboratively. A love for art song and the music of Bach led to very varied programming at her performances, including a full Bach cantata, and song sets by composers such as Debussy, Fauré, Schumann, Schubert, Granados, Tom Cipullo and a mixture of Russian composers. Soon after graduating with distinction from Longy with a Graduate Performance Diploma, she began teaching voice privately, singing with the Boston Cantata Singers under the direction of David Hoose, as well as with Boston Opera Collaborative, and plans to be involved with both engineering-related and musical fields as her career continues.

ewartResearcher Dan Ewart is a young Bass-Baritone living in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Roles performed have included The Duke of Plaza-Toro in The Gondoliers, Seneca in The Coronation of Poppea, Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus, Dr. Bartolo in Le Nozze Di Figaro and Il Commendatore in Don Giovanni.  His orchestral solo engagements have included Dvorak’s Te Deum and Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Themes.  Mr. Ewart earned a Bachelor’s of Music from Michigan State University and a Masters in Music from DePaul University.  He performed in China with the MSU / China vocal performance exchange. This project included several concerts in China and the United States with a mixed cast of American and Chinese singers.  He has pursued over fifteen years of Japanese Martial Art Study including Aikido, Judo, and Karate, has attended master classes with the Stratford Festival Stage Combat Troupe, and was the stage combat director for Don Giovanni at MSU.

anzen376webResearcher Carla Janzen is a young soprano poised to create an exciting career. According to Opera News, Ms. Janzen “… invested [her] words with weight and feeling and effectively drew in the listener … with her measured, affecting style” in her recent performances with Aspen Opera Theater Center. A graduate of Chicago Opera Theatre‘s Young Artist Program, Ms. Janzen’s repertoire includes Cio Cio San in Madame Butterfly, Mimi in La Boheme, Donna Giacinta in Mozart’s La Finta Semplice, and the title role in Monteverdi’s L’Incornazione di Poppea. A signature role is Fiordiligi, which she has performed with Intermezzo Young Artists Development Program and Opera in the Ozarks, and covered at Chicago Opera Theatre. Ms. Janzen was featured as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus in the beautiful Serenade to Music by Ralph Vaughn-Williams, performed in concert with Maestro Lawrence Renes and the Aspen Sinfonia and is two time central regional finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Ms. Janzen earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She is a student of master teacher W. Stephen Smith.

daniellewright-e1285856898354-197x300Researcher and Instructor Danielle Wright is a dramatic mezzo soprano currently living in Princeton, NJ. Ms. Wright recently made her main stage debut as Mrs. Ott in Des Moines Metro Opera‘s 2010 production of Floyd’s Susannah. Other performances have included Principessa in Suor Angelica, Ortrud in Lohengrin, Third Lady in Die Zauberflöte, Quickly in Falstaff, Mrs. Herring in Albert Herring, both Dido and the Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas, the Mother and the Witch in Hansel and Gretel, Maman in L’Enfant et les Sortilege, Madame de Croissy in Dialogues des Carmélites, Madame Flora in The Medium and Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro. Ms. Wright is also well known for her symphonic solo work, having performed Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah, Saint- Saëns’ Christmas Oratorio and Dubois’s Seven Last Words of Christ. After receiving her undergraduate degree from the University of Kentucky, she completed her Master’s degree at Westminster Choir College.

sarah_alo1-200x300Journalism Intern Sarah Alo is a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently in the College of Media working on obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree in News-Editorial Journalism, and also has a minor concentration in Spanish. She worked for a year at Buzz Magazine as a staff writer for Arts & Stage, previewing and reviewing arts and stage performances and galleries, as well as writing articles on other topics on arts in the Urbana-Champaign area. She is a junior this fall scheduled to graduate in Spring 2012.

test2-212x300Research Intern Amanda Koopman is currently a master’s student at Northwestern School of Music. She received her bachelor’s degree from Calvin College, in Grand Rapids Michigan, in 2009. Through her college years she has had many opportunities to perform. Recently she had the opportunity to perform in Northwestern’s Opera Gala and was also a finalist at the NATS Competition and the North Shore Competition in Chicago. She performed as the mezzo-soprano soloist in Corigliano’s Rage and Remembrance and as a soloist with the Green Lake Festival. Amanda appeared with the prestigious Grant Park Chorus and is a member of the Northwestern University Baroque Ensemble.

Thank You

Thank you to Amanda Bennett for your wisdom, support, and energy. Thank you as well to many mentors and peers who have helped develop the vision for Velvet Singer. These include mentors at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Juilliard School, Curtis Institute of Music, Chicago Opera Theater, the Chautauqua Institute, DePaul Unversity, Roosevelt University, and Northwestern University. Thank you specifically to Richard Bouldrey and Terry Brancaccio at Northwestern University School of Music, Dana Brown at Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, Laura Brooks Rice at Westminster Choir College and Jane Bunnell at DePaul University.

Velvet Singer also thanks Karen Pearson and her team at Rhyme and Reason Designfor their fantastic design work setting up logos and branding. Thank you to Chicago designer Neal White for his creative energy producing stunning brochures and flyers for Velvet Singer. Ameet and Sejal Modi have been abundantly gracious in supporting our trips through New York City. We also thank our brilliant team of technical and marketing advisors: Mislav Kos, Wes Blemker, Robert Bennett, and Bob Bowers.

All first fruits from this project go to the humble service of the Lord, helping to lift up the poor and lowly even if only in a small way. “Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices!”

One Response to “About”

  1. Carla says:March 17, 2013 at 5:00 pmI just have to rave for a moment. First, I love this product. It is so easy to use, and really helps me keep my singing organized. I have a great place to keep all my information about auditions, past, present and future, and all of the expenses that go along with it. But above all I have to say I love and adore the customer service.

    I was first introduced to this product and staff at the Classical Singer Convention in 2010. Since then, whenever I have had a problem, question, or concern Bill has been right there to answer and help out. Honestly it never takes him more than a day to get back to me, and most times it is even less than that.

    I am not very tech savvy and sometimes I feel like my questions are a bit silly, but I have been made to feel like my problems are the most important and deserve immediate attention. My latest problem was that Velvet Singer seemed to have disappeared off my computer. I panicked because I have a meeting within the week with my accountant and I really didn’t have time to figure everything all out again.

    Bill immediately helped me out and was able to, not only find my missing file, but the backed up and most up to date version. What I thought was going to be the longest and most painful process took I think 30 minutes.

    I couldn’t be happier!

    This is a great product and an amazing staff!