Opera Coaches Rachelle Jonck & Derick Goff Launch Bel Canto Boot Camp

By Chris Ruel

Two New York City-based opera coaches, Rachelle Jonck and Derrick Goff have launched Bel Canto Boot Camp, a space for singers who had their performances canceled and have no access to in-person rehearsals, lessons, or coaching.

Bel Canto Boot Camp originated as The Vaccai Project, a program started in March 2020, that serves as an online practice diary akin to what a ballet barre class provides to dancers: a systematic exploration and practice of the basics of vocal technique according to the lesson book by Nicola Vaccai, according to the July 31 press release. The Vaccai Project soon grew to over 1,500 singers, voice teachers, coaches, conductors, and opera lovers.

Virtual attendees connected with the founders, mentors, and renowned guests such as Will Crutchfield, who lent his knowledge of the history and influence of the microphone on acoustic singing, and Daniel Lerner, who shared his insights on the psychology of performance and positivity.

Bel Canto Boot Camp plans to offer a fall 2020 presentation of The Vaccai Project — scheduled to begin on September 7 and continuing through November 22 — for singers new to the program, as well as for those who have completed the course. The returning participants will explore and apply the principles learned to the operatic repertoire and song literature. Reading groups will examine Stark’s “Bel Canto: A History of Vocal Pedagogy.” Repertoire studies include the “Ariette” by Bellini.

On September 20 at 3:00 p.m. EDT, author Conrad L. Osborne will join Bel Canto Boot Camp’s Metropolitan Opera tenor, Steven Tharp to discuss “Yesterday and Tomorrow – Learning from Listening (today),” while Derrick Goff will present “Prima le parole: The Language of Opera,” an interactive Italian course for singers and opera fans.

“The Vaccai Summer program was an eye-opening experience. As a conductor, I have learned much of my crafts and knowledge from working with singers in coachings, rehearsals, and performances,” Chaowen Ting, The Dallas Opera’s Hart Institute for Women Conductors (conducting fellow) and Director of Orchestral Activities at Georgia Institute of Technology, said in a press release. “However, what Rachelle Jonck and Derrick Goff built was a systematic way leading you to the holy grail of the bel canto singing, only step by step. The daily post is as informative as any masterclass. They not only demystify the ‘Italian style’ with practical exercises, but with achievable goals, learning objectives, and great historical resources. Through this supportive community, everyone is encouraged to thrive and shine at one’s pace, while continuing to be mentored and inspired. This is a program that I would recommend to all my fellow conductors, and am confident that they would enjoy it and learn as much as I did. Thank you, Rachelle and Derrick!”

Jonck hails from South Africa where she was awarded her country’s premier opera awards: an FNB/Vita award for her contribution to opera in South Africa with special mention of her work with the State Theater Opera Chorus and, in 1998, the Nederburg Opera Prize. In the same year, she moved to New York City as Head Vocal Coach and Assistant Conductor of Bel Canto at Caramoor. She has made a name for herself in New York City as a specialist Italian style coach – Handel, Mozart, and the bel canto masters, including Verdi. Her master class topics, while related to her main study field of bel canto, explore the wider application of the bel canto style. She is the Music Director of Baltimore Concert Opera, the Principal Coach of Teatro Nuovo, and teaches at Westminster Choir College. Most recently she led performances of Rossini’s “La gazza ladra” (Teatro Nuovo) and Donizetti’s “Anna Bolena” (Balmore Concert Opera).

Goff is a recent alumnus of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program. He was an Apprentice Coach and Pianist at Florida Grand Opera. He has been a coach, pianist, and chorus master for Bel Canto at Caramoor, and continues his work with Maestro Crutchfield at Teatro Nuovo. He has also worked at Opera Theatre of St. Louis where he prepared and accompanied their Opera Tastings series. He served as Director of Music at St. Thomas’ Church in suburban Philadelphia for nine years where he played the organ and conducted a semi-professional adult choir and chorister program. As Artistic Director of the Princeton Opera Alliance, he conducted performances of “Idomeneo,” “Don Pasquale,” “Faust,” “L’elisir d’amore,” and “I Capuleti e i Montecchi,” among others, in the Princeton area, and has also conducted “Don Giovanni” in Lawrence, Kansas.