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Carnegie Hall at Skidmore
Residency starts strong
Voice of the stars
Ghost singer Marni Nixon visits
Better firefighting through science Smith joins in Homeland Security grant
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Rap and race Sharing and exploring hip-hop culture
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Putting the face with the voice

Everybody has heard Marni Nixon, but not many have heard of her. That changed at Skidmore last October, when the prolific and accomplished ghost singer visited as part of the college’s venerable Filene Concert Series.

The singing voice of Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, Deborah Kerr in The King and I, and Natalie Wood in West Side Story talked about her career in a public interview with Skidmore music-faculty members Anne Turner and Chuck Joseph. Starting violin lessons at the age of five, Nixon quickly discovered her perfect pitch and clear soprano voice; she was on stage by the age of seven—seventy years ago. She has worked with figures ranging from Victor Borge to Leonard Bernstein, Liberace to Stravinsky. When it was revealed that she was also the voice behind the stars in the hit movie musicals of the 1950s and ’60s, she was rocketed to fame as “the ghostess with the mostest.”

“What Marni Nixon stands for is versatility with a capital ‘V,’” declares Turner, who teaches voice. Nixon’s expertise in acting as well as music shone through in a public master class she conducted for eight Skidmore voice students. In helping “take them to the next level of understanding,” she noted, what needs work isn’t always the voice itself. “Sometimes it’s just getting into the song, sometimes it’s perception and physicality.” When it comes to performing, she has said, “musicians have a way of knowing about abstract flow. You have to have
a sense of what’s going on…and what to do about it.” Hear, hear. —SR