Daniel Ragone, vocal coach and pianist, is a native of Philadelphia where he began his piano studies at the age of seven. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Penn State University in piano performance. While at Penn State he decided he wanted to spend his musical future collaborating with singers.
Fortuitously, John Wustman, famed accompanist of Luciano Pavarotti, visited Penn State to do a master class and was sufficiently impressed with Daniel's talent to invite him to study at the University of Illinois. Mr. Ragone received a teaching assistantship there where he spent 2 years completely immersed in the study of vocal music. He received a Master of Fine Arts in Vocal Coaching and Accompanying before moving to New York City.
There he quickly became a mainstay of the vocal scene and one of the city's most highly regarded vocal coaches. He collaborated with many artists from the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera and performed recitals in all of New York City's prestigious concert halls. His reputation as a first rate pianist made him a sought after recital collaborator and recording artist. Among his affiliations were the Carnegie Hall International American Music Competition for Singers, Rome Opera Festival and The Center for Contemporary Opera. Highlights were the musical preparation of the world premiere of Stephen Paulus' Hester Prynne at Death at the 92nd Street Y and the Weill Hall world premiere of vocal music of the Croation composeer, Bozidar Kunc.
In 2007 Daniel relocated to Long Island where he set up a vocal studio in Port Jefferson. Since that time he has become somewhat of a brand in Long Island music circles fulfilling an important need. He is the artistic director of Music on the Sound in Port Jefferson and the concert series at Old South Haven Presbyterian Church in Brookhaven as well as music director of the ensemble, Divalicious!. He has appeared as a performer and guest lecturer at Hofstra University, SUNY Stony Brook, Suffolk County Community College and St. Joseph's College. Daniel Ragone is gratified and honored to have found the Long Island music community, so vast and diverse, welcoming and receptive to his offerings.
To learn more about Daniel and the evolution of his work, please read his Musical Philosophy.
I've often been asked how did you decided to specialize in vocal music and why is it so important to you. A little history is in order. My musical journey has had 5 chapters to it: early piano lessons, piano immersion at Penn State, vocal immersion at graduate school (U of I), working as a vocal coach in NYC and relocating to Long island where I've opened a vocal studio. While at Penn State I met and played for a singer that forever changed my aspirations in the music field. She wasn't even a music major but possessed such an amazing voice and cultivated musicality that I became hooked on vocal music. It was a defining moment for me. Up until that time I thought the ultimate experience was spent alone at the piano but I was to discover that collaborating with singers was what my musical future was about.
What is it about singing? There's an age old argument about which is more important in vocal music, words or music. I believe that when the synergy is right, the two are much more than the sum of their parts. The composer Felix Mendelssohn said, "People often complain that music is too ambiguous. With me it is exactly the opposite, and not only with regard to an entire speech but also with individual words. These, too, seem to me so ambiguous, so vague, so easily misunderstood in comparison to genuine music, which fills the soul with a thousand things better than words. The thoughts which are expressed to me by music that I love are not too indefinite to be put into words, but on the contrary, too definite."
Nothing elucidates the range of human emotion more than the singing voice. This is why singer audiences, whether at an opera or rock concert, often become delirious with emotion. The singer who is free enough to allow their talent to be a vessel for the universal human condition possesses great power and that power comes with great responsibility and sacrifice. Just think of Maria Callas, Judy Garland or Janis Joplin. All three of these incredible artists were tragic figures who gave cathartic pleasure to their audiences.
My years of experience have taught me practical skills such as a pianistic command of the vocal literature but just as importantly what the singer is all about and how I can help free them from the constraints which can be so inhibiting such as technical weakness and self consciousness. I've also come to understand the enormous amount of work required to master this art. I truly believe singing well is one of the hardest things one could attempt.The vulnerability a singer experiences when they put themselves on the line is staggering and I have great respect for those who aim for that goal.
Another question I've been asked if I do this as a side line or hobby. On the contrary, this is a true passion that gives me pleasure every day I work. A colleague of mine once commented that we voice coaches have the best job in the world. Our work day consists of people coming to sing to us. That's true but it's a very serious endeavor. A few singers have disparaged themselves by saying to me that they are just amateurs with no lofty goals. I don't like the word amateur because it implies dabbling or being a dilettante. I don't do this for fun but for the amazing rewards of assisting and supporting a vocal artist in the pursuit of this beautiful art. Whatever a singer's age or vocal state, if they have the instrument and a burning desire to be the best they can be, I can partner with them in this wonderful endeavor.