Eureka Springs musician forges new career, will sing at The Aud

Monday, August 6, 2012
C. Myron Flippin, a former professional cellist, will perform a vocal recital and concert at The Aud on Saturday, Aug. 11.

C. Myron Flippin is a man of many talents. Music director for the Ozarks Philharmonic Youth Orchestra Inc. and conductor of the Youth Symphony of the Ozarks, he earned Master's of Music degrees in cello and vocal performance in 1990 and completed the coursework for his Doctorate in Musical Arts in orchestral conducting in 1994, both at the University of Oklahoma.

He worked for the next 14 years as a professional conductor and primarily as a professional cellist, performing with orchestras all over the United States.

Then something happened that changed his life forever.

"On April 19, 2008, I had been conducting the Ozarks Chorale at The Auditorium in Eureka Springs. When I left the building I had a tux bag in one hand and a thermos under my arm. I stumbled and fell (onto the thermos arm) injuring my shoulder badly.

"After eight months of therapy, the shoulder was more or less back to normal with one big difference -- I could no longer play the cello professionally. I could play for 15 or 20 minutes, but not the length of time necessary for rehearsals and performances."

Flippin decided then to hang up his cello, so to speak.

"It was while I was sitting around moping about that, that I began to wonder if I could still sing," he said. He hadn't tried in years -- since college.

"In 2010 I had been guest conductor of the New England Symphony in a performance in Carnegie Hall. One of the people I met there was studying at Juilliard and recommended a book to me by a professor there named W. Stephen Smith. That book was called "'The Naked Voice.' He was so emphatic that I read the book and decided to try it."

So Flippin contacted the author Smith to ask whether he took students.

"He told me he had no openings, but he agreed to let me audition for him anyway," Flippin said. "So I went and auditioned for him. When I had finished, he told me that I had a fantastic voice but did not know how to sing. By this he meant my singing would sound just fine to a layman, but on the level of technique where he operated, not so. But he also agreed to take me on as a private student."

Flippin said that initially, he worried about his age: "I was pushing 60 and hadn't sung in 17 years," he said, "so there was the potential there to damage my vocal cords. But he told me if I learned his technique correctly, I can sing until I am 80 or beyond."

So for the next 20 months, Flippin traveled back and forth to New York for his voice lessons with Smith, and later to Chicago after Smith moved there for a teaching position.

He says he sold his gun collection, his antique car and dozens of other valuables to support his new effort.

And, eventually, he learned to sing using Smith's techniques as laid out in "The Naked Voice."

"He teaches by technique rather than repertoire," Flippin said. "You learn using those six basic exercises or 'inventions,' as he refers to them. They are the crux of my story as far as learning how to sing goes."

Smith worked hard, traveled much and practiced often -- for nearly two years.

"At the end of that time, he said to me, 'Now you have no excuse. Go out and sing."

Since then, Flippin has done just that.

"I decided not to pursue the opera route because of my age and the amount of travel involved," he said, "but I do orchestral solos in concert, specializing in the requiems, oratorios, and orchestra solos. I did two performances in Florida last month and was invited to return there to do one in December."

Flippin said his solo career is a new experience that he is just starting to sink his teeth into.

But he said he enjoys being based where he currently is -- Eureka Springs -- and going off on weekends to sing in before appreciative audiences.

So he'll get the best of both worlds on Saturday, Aug. 11 when he performs a recital concert at The Auditorium, beginning at 7:30 p.m. The concert is also an audition to perform a vocal performance concert at Carnegie Hall. For more information about this event, please call (479) 253-2772.

"Meanwhile," he said, "I am also conductor for the Youth Symphony of the Ozarks and have a private studio where I teach. I also teach several home-schooled students who have no access to music."

And he directs a local cello choir of Eureka Springs musicians who jokingly refer to themselves as the "Nine Flippin Cellists." He laughs this nickname off and shrugs, but his eyes sparkle as he does so.

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