Our Story

WHERE WE COME FROM
and where we’re going

On March 12th the unthinkable happened: The Metropolitan Opera closed its doors as New York buckled down for its extended battle with Covid 19. It was clear even in these early days of quarantine that we were entering trying times for the performing arts, inextricably dependent on the ability of performers and their audience to gather both in rehearsal and performance.

Read the article about Rachelle’s work in Fortune magazine

On March 16th Rachelle Jonck and Derrick Goff launched an online practice diary to provide community and inspiration for the singers we regularly work with in New York. It was designed to provide singers virtually with what ballet barre class delivers to dancers: a systematic exploration and practice of the basics of bel canto technique according to the well-known lesson book of Nicola Vaccai – the Vaccai Project was born!

Rachelle and Derrick on Zoom

Soon learning that their program was of interest not only to their immediate circles but also to a community that grew to include over 1400 singers, voice teachers, coaches, conductors, and opera lovers around the world, Rachelle and Derrick realized that they had discovered a method of delivering content that was not merely a quarantine-era substitute, but rather a powerful and promising method of disseminating high-level musical information while building a community of both established and aspiring operatic artists and teachers. The Vaccai Project prompted the birth of Bel Canto Boot Camp — a place for alumni of the course to apply the lessons learned at the feet of Vaccai to other repertoire and to explore additional historical texts as a group. 

The beauty of the program lies in its inclusivity, an expansion of the richness of the New York opera community available to artists all over the world, breaking the often prohibitive barriers of distance, cost, time, and audition-only programs. Vaccai Summer Session involved singers, teachers, coaches and conductors from the UK and mainland Europe in addition to Southern Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. Shared practice videos and interactive Zoom seminars have connected this international community to us and our team of mentors, as well as to celebrated guests including Will Crutchfield (history and influence of the microphone on acoustic singing) and Daniel Lerner (psychology of performance and positivity).

Bel Canto Boot Camp is here for the long haul! Our roots lie deep in the bel canto tradition and we are looking forward to seeing the fruits of this project for many years to come as our community reaches stages and schools around the world. 

OUR PHILOSOPHY

Rachelle is a proud African currently living in New York City – a city she embraced with open arms when she first visited in 1998. She loves the energy of her current home, but her life philosophy is very much centered in the African spirit of ubuntu. Derrick is an American who loved Africa and her people, the generosity of welcome, and the importance of community from the first he set foot on it.

They often visit South Africa together and enjoy the wonder of wildlife in Kruger National Park and the silence of sunset over the Zambezi river – as well as cherished time with friends new and old – and the beach! One can safely say that they spend most of their time outside of Bel Canto Boot Camp thinking about their next safari. The beauty of Africa and the spirit of its people never leaves those who come from it or visit it.

What is UBUNTU? 

Ubuntu relates to bonding with others. This is in line with what the word expresses in most African languages: being self because of others. This is also in line with the popular Zulu saying: umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. Such sayings as I am because we are and I am human because I belong express this tenet. This means that in African philosophy, an individual is human if he or she says I participate, therefore I am

Various words have been used to describe the presence of ubuntu. Some of these are sympathy, compassion, benevolence, solidarity, hospitality, generosity, sharing, openness, affirming, available, kindness, caring, harmony, interdependence, collectivity and consensus. 

When you join Bel Canto Boot Camp and its projects, you do more than enter our shared, safe, creative space: you enter into the spirit of ubuntu.

Lions like to sing, too!