Vocal Studio

Training and Performance Bio

I have been teaching voice privately in Sonoma County since 1984. In the course of my musical journey, in addition to singing, I have played several instruments: violin, flute, guitar, percussion and piano. A singer-songwriter myself, I am most drawn to working with students on this path. I have performed in a variety of musical genres: folk, classical, rock, blues, gospel and jazz. I have sung in small ensembles and large choirs as well as being a soloist in all these styles. My formal education culminated in B.A. degrees in Expressive Arts (1979) and Theater Arts (1991) from Sonoma State University. In addition, I studied jazz improvisation with Rhiannon, Bennett Friedman (SRJC) and Mel Graves (SSU). From 1979 – 1982, I sang and recorded with a local progressive rock band, Aircastle. I was one of three singers in the jazz ensemble, Savvy (1985-1994) and performed at both the Russian River Jazz Festival and Harmony Sweepstakes. I have been a member and featured soloist with the Occidental Choir (1984-85) and the New Sufi Choir (1994-2000). I have appeared in numerous theatrical productions in the county and have collaborated with other musicians, playwrights and poets in the creation of several original cabaret shows combining song and spoken word. In the fall of 2018, I released a CD of original spoken word & song. It is titled “I’m Still Alive.”

Who Are My Students?

I have worked with drama students and actors performing in local community theater, singer-songwriters, folk singers, jazz and cabaret singers, gospel and Christian pop singers, choral singers and soloists. Whether beginners or professionals, they are all here to stretch themselves and expand their vocal freedom, to discover their own vocal possibilities. Some are here to learn to match pitch; others are professional singers who need more tools of vocal self-care. Some are here for a short time; perhaps to prepare for an audition or to sing at a friend’s wedding. Others continue for several years, giving themselves the gift of a supportive learning environment where they may grow at their own pace and gradually take on new challenges. My students range in age from 8 to 80.

How Do I Teach?

Fran Carbonaro teaching a young student to sing

Fran Carbonaro teaching a young student to sing

My approach to teaching has been inspired by my own teachers, informed by a range of experiences as a singer and performer, and continues to evolve. A “typical” lesson begins with breath work, moving into a series of vocal exercises designed to increase your awareness of your body as a singing instrument. How can you allow the voice to move freely on a stream of air, with just enough support, into uninhibited vibration and resonance ? The articulation of vowels and consonants will be integrated into these exercises as well as understood within the context of songs we choose to work on. If you are experiencing fear or somatic resistance to letting the voice open, it might also be valuable to embark on a series of improvisational exercises. In addition to “loosening up” and playing, such areas of chronic tension and holding in the body can be unlocked in this way. This work would be combined with the approach previously mentioned, i.e., developing a high degree of technical awareness and control and ultimately moving beyond the confines of a “pretty” or “trained” vocal sound into the true voice…..always a discovery in the moment to be visited again and again. Guiding and witnessing a student’s voice unfold and open is a miraculous and inspiring process. My goal is to lead you to an embodied voice and the pure pleasure of singing from your deepest sense of self.

To Perform or Not To Perform?

Some singers do; some don’t. I will support your choice, though sometimes I will question what’s behind it……i.e., if you choose not to, is it just the fear of stepping out or being seen? If so, we will navigate that fear together, should you choose to work with it and overcome it. Perhaps you are simply called to explore your voice, to become familiar with a part of yourself you may feel alienated or disconnected from. Through pure sound improvisation, breath and vocal exercises, you will begin to unlock your voice and ultimately yourself. If you like, I will help you choose your material…..songs which reflect your true nature. However, I do encourage students to embark on their own “song searches,” which is such a vital step in defining your own unique identity as a singer. I have experience in producing shows and would be delighted to guide you in this process, should you decide to produce your own show. Whatever your choice, to perform or not to perform, I will support your creative journey.

Student Testimonials

I took vocal lessons from Fran for 5 years. Before Fran I was studying classical music and music theory. However, I wanted to sing as an expression of my emotions and not as much for the scholastic side of things. Which is why I sought a contemporary music teacher. This led me to Fran. Fran helped me discover artists that changed my whole perspective on music. She organized countless workshops and performances which taught all of her students to love and be comfortable performing in front of others. Fran has a gift for bringing forth her students’ full talents and is especially talented at working with songwriters. Today, I am fortunate enough to sing professionally! I credit much of my success to my work with the exceptional Fran Carbonaro!

Michaela Thomas

Fran is amazing. She gave me the confidence and support I needed to prepare for a last minute audition, and I have to say, I was rather impressed with the voice that came out of me! The way she languages the singing process was exquisitely helpful and will stay with me.

Mary Diaz

Fran was my first voice teacher as I was figuring out how my voice worked and what it meant to be a singer. She was incredibly kind and knowledgeable, and she set me on the right path vocally. After studying with her for 4 years I went on to get a BFA in Musical Theatre, perform on Broadway, touring America and Europe in shows, as well as write and release several albums of my own music. She’s the real deal and a great foundation!

Brad Standley

Fran was the ideal voice teacher when I was first finding my way in the vocal arts in high school. She taught me about the fundamental connection between emotions and the voice, which was absolutely foundational to my being able to then learn technique. She also was so comfortable with multiple genres that the walls between kinds of music and kinds of singing fell down. I would never have the career I have now without that lesson. And finally, she was also very encouraging of me as an artist and made me feel like it was natural for me to start writing my own music. No professional musician gets into or stays in the business without a huge amount of encouragement and support. Fran was a deep, giving well. I could not be more thankful for her wisdom and guidance when I was such a young, impressionable age.

Gelsey Bell

I took vocal lessons with Fran for seven years and loved every minute of it. Fran approaches teaching with patience, kindness, and a wealth of expertise, and I felt so held and supported even when I didn’t like how my voice sounded. She helped me shape my voice to what it is today, and she also helped me cultivate my presence. As a musician who performs live regularly, I reference Fran’s teachings in both my voice and my stage presence and confidence all the time. She is an incredible teacher and mentor, and I can honestly say she showed me what it is to be a musician and a performer. I cannot recommend her enough!

Emma Noren

Fran Carbonaro is more than a teacher of voice and music. She has the ability to work magic on her students such that latent qualities of soul unfold. Fran is gentle and understanding but very, very persistent in directing her students training, the result is that the student achieves levels of performance that exceed their expectations.

Paul Wheeler

Fran was my voice teacher, mentor and friend for the better part of four years. She explained vocal technique in a way that was easy to understand and always made learning feel very organic. I still use her teachings to this day, whether performing onstage or teaching my own students. She introduced me to new composers and her passion for music made singing a joy in every way. Fran not only taught me singing but incorporated performance and acting into everything we did – which was so very valuable. With Fran as a teacher I starred in numerous high school productions, gained acceptance into NYU’s musical theatre program and am now a working theatre professional. I remember her home as a safe haven where I was allowed to do what I loved best and improve upon on it. I recommend her wholeheartedly to any young singer looking for a encouraging instructor and a wise guide through the world of singing.

Amy McCleary

Excellent vocal instruction! Fran is especially great with singer- songwriters. I have worked with Fran for about a year and seen tremendous progress. Fran has a theater background so she can also assist anyone auditioning for musical theater. I brought my daughter to her while she was finishing elementary school. Within a year she was performing at 6th Street Playhouse. I highly recommend her!

I highly recommend her!

David Comfort

Fran’s warmth and encouragement as a teacher provides an atmosphere that makes the scary business of learning to sing easy and fun. With Fran’s help I am learning that sound and deeper breathing open the body in delightful, unexpected ways. Who knew learning to sing would be such a trip of self-discovery!

Sandy Dennis

When my oldest daughter asked for voice lessons, I wasn’t surprised as she had always sung in choir and loved to sing. The surprise was not how much her voice improved under Fran’s tutelage. The surprise was how she blossomed. Fran said that she needed to find her voice and in fact that was the real goal. My daughter always had strong opinions but was reticent to express herself, her relationship with Fran as a teacher and mentor helped her to discover her voice and gave her the confidence to use it. When my younger daughter asked for voice lessons I knew we would have to have her sister’s permission, as her relationship with Fran was sacred. Big sister said, “No Way”, so once she was safely off to college little sister started studying with Fran. Little sister had access to her voice and it was BIG, Fran helped her know when to use it and how to modulate it. As a mother it was a joy to watch as my daughters’ love of singing was nurtured and revel as their talent grew. But more importantly it was a joy to know that Fran was helping to guide them to womanhood.

Mary Whelan