Born: September 15 Primary Instrument: Vocalist
Deborah Shulman, Singer, Recording Artist, Vocal Coach Growing up in Los Angeles, Deborah Shulman had the great fortune to be nurtured by a family with a very deep passion for music. Her late parents, both singers, lived in the back of their little music store at Carnegie Hall as newlyweds; her father had aspirations of joining the Metropolitan Opera before WWII intervened in his plan. Considering the family tree includes vaudevillians, a Broadway actor, and music lovers of all stripes, it’s easy to believe the Shulman family lore which says baby Deborah was singing before she was talking. When Deborah visited her grandfather, the renowned violin collector Nathan Posner, at his home in Beverly Hills, she’d sit surrounded by the magnificent instruments and sing her heart out. He made her feel like the world’s greatest singer, though he quietly hoped she would become a violinist. Today, Deborah Shulman is a successful singer and recording artist with an eclectic, international resume. The nurturing Deborah received paid off in a more unexpected way for the music world as well: as a vocal coach, Deborah is in demand by the dozens of professional and aspiring singers who come to her for guidance in overcoming large and small vocal challenges.
Deborah developed and refined her coaching skills throughout the history of her own training beginning at age eleven, under the deft tutelage of her father (Irving Shulman). At age thirteen, Deborah Shulman became the youngest student ever accepted to The Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California where she studied opera with an esteemed faculty. In the idyllic Central Coast setting, with guitar virtuosos Pepe, Celin and Angel Romero in residence, Deborah grew enamored of the sound of classical guitar, and developed her attraction to song cycles, while enjoying the camaraderie of great artists and students. She also unsuspectingly began to lay the foundation of her own success as a teacher based on her father’s style wherein simple, joyful instruction supplants doubt and apprehension.
Deborah jumped into the marketplace while still a student, and sang and auditioned at every opportunity. She hopskotched from operatic soprano and recitalist to pop songstress, musical theater comedienne and back again. She loved Schubert and Judy Garland, Schumann and Barbra Streisand. At 15, she attended the Musical Theater Workshop at UCLA with classmates Bonnie Franklin, Judy Kaye and John Rubinstein, and then returned to her roots soon after in the opera program at Cal State Northridge. At the age of 23, when Deborah met the successful actress and singer Ann Jillian at the Civic Light Opera Workshop at the Music Center, she had already been studying professionally for ten years. The two formed a musical partnership that seemed like just what the doctor ordered for a young woman weary from a decade of intense musical study: a way for Deborah to make a living in music, travel the world and blow off a lot of steam that had accumulated. The two singers played clubs for years in London, Sydney, Manila, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco under the name Jillian and Shulman and often opened for stars Johnny Ray, Robert Goulet and Carol Lawrence, delivering the wholesome brand of torch that was their specialty. When Jillian left to strike out on her own, Deborah quickly retooled the act as a solo, donned an army issue parka, and took off for the Aleutian Islands on a USO Tour.
Later, back in the lower forty eight, Deborah began to pursue more theatrical and musical roles, appearing in many productions with The Actors Alley in Los Angeles. Among her musical theater roles, she portrayed Jellylorum in the second National Company of CATS at the Schubert Theater in Los Angeles. She found success in many other areas of the business as well, including as a librettist for four children’s operas and co-producer of the critically acclaimed L.A. production and National Tour of All Night Strut. She began her coaching career with the help of her friend, voice coach Seth Riggs. Her reputation as a generous, skilled teacher became well known and her vocal clientele has grown to include Bette Midler, Linda Ronstadt, Jennifer Warnes; Deborah received a platinum album for her work with David Lee Roth on his recording SKYSCRAPER.
Recently, Deborah Shulman found herself to be a startled divorcée and a grieving orphan within the span of a few years. After the unexpected end of her first marriage Deborah comforted herself by listening to standards; the lyrics spoke to her and she was drawn by their truth and tenderness. For Deborah, it was the beginning of a journey forward by calling on the past for strength. In 2004 she teamed up with pianist Terry Trotter, in a collaboration which has produced two sophisticated, elegant recordings: 2004’s 2 for the road, and the brand new My Heart’s In The Wind. Trotter, the jazz pianist known for his interpretation of Sondheim scores, gently coaxed Deborah to use her considerable musical knowledge in a new way. They began to record piano vocal tracks, and Deborah’s mother and father were able to enjoy the beginning of her reinvention before they passed on within six months to the day of each other. Deborah’s liner notes described her inspiration for 2 for the road :
“This is my story, my journey, a divorce I never thought would happen;
grief, the kind I had only read about; a strength I never knew I had, and
a new love, a new beginning and a new marriage.”
Trotter and Shulman recorded 2 for the road in Los Angeles in the highly regarded company of guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist Tom Warrington, and drummer Joe LaBarbara. On 2007’s My Heart’s In The Wind, the same personnel appear, with the exception of the bassist; instead we are treated to the talent of Kenny Wild. Deborah’s affinity for song cycles is celebrated throughout the pacing of the repertoire on both recordings. Rob Lester described Deborah’s debut online at Talkin’Broadway.com:
“Silky, subtle, sophisticated and shimmering, Deborah Shulman is pure pleasure to hear if you love a love song sung with an adult been-there, done-that sensibility. She can explore a sad lyric without over-doing the sorrow or skimping on the pure musicality. 2 for the road is a thoroughly classy affair….beginning with the album’s rich, romantic embrace of its Mancini/Mercer title song, to its closer “Some Other Time” from On The Town, this is an album with so many impressive, detailed moments.”
On My Heart’s In The Wind, Deborah continued her embrace of classic American Songbook, with selections like “A Sleepin’ Bee,” and “My One And Only Love.” Yet she skillfully expanded her repertoire to include under sung jewels like
Mandel’s “The Shining Sea,” Dave Frishberg’s “You are There, ” and “Shiver Me Timbers” by Tom Waits.
In support of her recordings, Deborah has been performing in a variety of California clubs, including Spazio’s Restaurant in Sherman Oaks, Holly Street Bar & Grill in Pasadena, Club 10/20 at the Bel Age Hotel in Los Angeles, Tom Rolla’s Gardenia, The Hollywood Studio Bar and Grill, and Peter’s in Palm Springs. She recently made her New York debut at Barnes and Nobles Lincoln Center Location, featured in their Any Wednesday series of live performances by emerging and established artists.
Deborah is enjoying her twelfth year on the faculty of Joe Malone’s Performing Arts Center, where she designed and teaches voice classes for professional dancers. Her successful curriculum utilizes the basic tenets organic to her style: simplicity and joy in learning. As in her private lessons, she uses her technique to build on an individual’s knowledge and gifts.
Deborah . . . I've loved your singing ever since those first notes of '2 for the road' . . . This new CD does not disappoint. The sweet flow of tunes bathes me in a wash of lush romantic feelings. Mitchell Mendys, WKNH
“I just reviewed your CD and it is a truly great listen. It will get a lot of air play on Jazz 88. You are SMOKING.”
- J. Otis Williams, KSDS Jazz 88.3 FM, San Diego
- Tony Cabanellas, KDHX 88.1 FM, St. Louis, Missouri
DEBORAH SHULMAN TWO FOR THE ROAD Rhombus Records
Silky, subtle, sophisticated and shimmering, Deborah Shulman is pure pleasure to hear if you love a love song sung with an adult been-there, done-that sensibility. She can explore a sad lyric without overdoing the sorrow or skimping on the pure musicality. Two for the Road is a thoroughly classy affair with mostly downbeat material that focuses on self-analysis and self-awareness rather than self-pity. With several optimistic numbers, too, it's all well sung with elegance and a depth of feeling. The liner notes are as unguarded and unpretentious as the singing: she states that the arc of the repertoire chosen reflects her reactions to a difficult divorce and her recovery, followed by a new love.
Some theatre and jazz fans will recognize the pianist/ arranger: Terry Trotter who made a series of albums that are instrumental jazz versions of Sondheim scores and one of The Fantasticks, among others. He's joined by Tom Warrington on bass, Joe La Barbara on drums and guitarist Larry Koonse, who does some especially evocative playing. Terry Trotter's work here is key to the album's success: a sensitive accompanist and arranger, he and Deborah work together magnificently to tell the stories of the songs, often coming off as little character studies. They find surprising fragility and depth in what might be tossed off as just a bit of easy fun in I Like You, You're Nice, (Blossom Dearie/ Linda Alpert). As a singer, Deborah is very much an actress who makes the most of the words but is sure-footed musically and has a basic prettiness to her tone that she rarely sacrifices for the sake of dramatic impact. The songs are strung out at length, never rushed, but the underlying melodic line and story are never lost in the leisure. They don't feel long, even the six-minute Where Do You Start as the Johnny Mandel melody is treated with respect while the Marilyn and Alan Bergman lyric is sung haltingly, as if she is discovering the thoughts as they tumble out in painful step-by-step realization. It becomes a three-act play.
The less interesting and successful tracks are a kind of easygoing take on Rodgers and Hart's I Wish I Were in Love Again absent of its built-in cute sarcasm, and a kind of lightly swinging The Boy Next Door with an odd arrangement that only gets to its wistful heart at the end. And only The Meaning of the Blues seems mired in glumville (OK, I know it's the blues, but it just isn't as intriguing as the others that seem to have more going on) and it has some less satisfying low notes. But beginning with the album's rich romantic embrace of its Mancini/Mercer title song to its closer, Some Other Time from On the Town, this is an album with so many impressive, detailed moments.
Deborah has an interesting background: she teaches voice, has performed in musical theatre (like Cats in California), has performed with groups, a duo (with Ann Jillian), and solo, produces shows and has written libretti for four children's operas. And she's just finished a second album that should be on its way soon: I can't wait. She's a gem. After Two for the Road, it'll be great to have one more for the road.
And now it's time for me to hit the road.
- Rob Lester
“Shulman continues to melt listeners’ hearts on her latest release. With a carefully crafted yet delicate delivery, Shulman extracts every ounce out of a melody. Her accompaniment on this session is first rate. Her selection of songs is impeccable, and well suited to her style of singing.
Frank Loesser’s timeless classic, “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” is performed with passion and sensitivity. Pay close attention to Shulman’s phrasing and you will notice that she is working inside the melody, enjoying every moment along the way. Another note of interest is her ability to control the lyric without overextending. Trotter’s piano is a joy to the ear and the soul. He follows Shulman’s voice like a gentle breeze on a sunny day.
Another tune performed with grace and a candid delivery is “Something Cool.” Trotter continues to impress with his ever so gentle touch. Balance is the key to success here. Shulman and Trotter demonstrate how to achieve this without disturbing the natural ebb and flow.
One of the smoothest drummers in jazz is featured on “I Wish I Were In Love Again.” La Barbara’s brushwork is exquisite and timely. Shulman’s nicely rounded lyric and La Barbara’s response gel in a most satisfying manner. Koonse introduces a tender sounding guitar before the group swings for the rest of the piece.
After listening to Sinatra’s version for so many years, it was refreshing to hear a new take on a great tune. With a beautiful melody and a heart-on-your-sleeve lyric, Shulman delivers in spades. Some fine string work from Koonse.
There are so many enjoyable moments on this recording. For aspiring vocalists, “2 for the road” serves as a recording deserving repeated listening. Control, passion, fun and a desire to respect the melody and the lyric are just a few descriptive words describing this finely crafted outing.”
- Randy McElligott, eJazzNews
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Willing to teach:
Intermediate to advanced students
Deborah has taught voice and coached musical theatre and opera, both in Los Angeles and New York. She has served on the faculty of the Musical Theatre Workshop of the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera at the Music Center and the American Center for Musical Theatre in Hollywood. She is presently the head of the Vocal Department at the Performing Arts Center in Northridge. Her vocal clients have included pop stars, Bette Midler, Jennifer Warnes and Linda Ronstadt, and rock stars, David Lee Roth and Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, among others. She has coached actors, radio personalities and public speakers. She was awarded a Platinum Record for her work on David Lee Roth's album "Skyscraper". Deborah teaches Private Sessions as well as an on-going Women's Group Class, which meets every Wednesday night from 7:30pm to 9:30pm and Saturday 10am. Currently there is no Group Class for Men. The fee for a Private Session is $150/hour. (A reduced rate can be negotiated when buying six or more Sessions in advance.) An accompanist can be provided for an additional fee. The fee for the Women's Group Class is $200/month. Payment for Private Sessions is due at the time of the session. Payment for the Group Class is due on the first Thursday of the month. Cash or checks are accepted.