Today: The remarkable story of Arthur Lessac, the renowned vocal coach.
Odds are you were taught in some form by Arthur Lessac.
Whether he taught you one on one, or as a professor, or through his clinic, or through one of his two books or through a teacher he taught, he has touched your life. His students include actors Martin Sheen, Michael Douglas and Faye Dunaway among many.
But this story is not about them. It is how Arthur rose from hardship to attain what he did.
Arthur was born in Haifa in what is now Israel, on September 9th, 1909. When he was 2 years old, his parents took him on a ship with them to the United States.
Unfortunately, their marriage fell apart and he was left at the Hebrew Sheltering Guardian Society Orphan Asylum in Pleasantville, N.Y.
No family adopted Arthur. He saw other children arrive and be adopted into loving families but he grew up in the orphanage.
However, one summer when he was about 12 years old, he worked as a delivery boy for a Brooklyn delicatessen. One of his customers, the Lessac family was impressed with the boy and briefly took him in.
Arthur was so appreciative, with their permission; he took their last name as his own.
Never would he speak of his parents who he felt abandoned him nor his original name.
But Arthur had a gift. He could sing. It earned this poor boy a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. and the start of his advanced education. He later earned Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in speech from New York University, as he strove to build a great career.
Arthur became successful as a renowned vocal coach on Broadway and he taught hopeful young actors at the prestigious Stella Adler Theater Studio. He also taught aspiring young Rabbis at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
For decades, Arthur taught in a wide variety of venues. He was a New York University Professor, and a visiting Professor holding workshops across the U.S. and in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Yugoslavia and Germany.
Starting in the early 1960’s he worked with actors at the new Lincoln Center Repertory Theater and later worked with actors at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute Playwright’s Conference as the list of his work is nearly endless.
In addition, Arthur authored two books, “The Use and Training of the Human Voice” (1967) and “Body Wisdom: The Use and Training of the Human Body,” (1978), which are a fundamental part of acting, singing and speech programs across America and elsewhere around the world.
In his personal life, Arthur married Bertha Braverman in 1935 and they remained married until her passing in 1983, almost 50 years later. They had a son Michael and a daughter Fredi.
But his talent aside, here’s the interesting thing that made Arthur successful: He was a ball of fire, passionate about speech and about life. He could make you laugh and make you strive to be the best you could be. And his techniques were at first, unconventional.
Think of the 2010 Academy Award winning movie, “The King’s Speech,” in which Britain’s King George VI has a severe stammer, which his speech therapist Lionel Logue helps him overcome. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzI4D6dyp_o
But Arthur didn’t look like the formal therapist and Shakespearian actor Lionel Logue as superbly portrayed by Geoffrey Rush. Arthur was muscular and fit, casual and fun.
And he never slowed down. Arthur remained actively involved in his profession until the final days of his life. On April 7th, 2011 at the age of 101, he passed away in his Los Angeles home.
But he fully lived those 101 years and held a teaching session at Rijeka University in Croatia just weeks before he died. He also attended a Carnival during his 10 day Croatian stay and you can watch him in this attached 5 1/2 minute clip: http://vimeo.com/22194675
If you’d like to be like Arthur and make the most of your life, find something you love and put your heart into it. However long you live, you will savor each day.
Success Tip of the Week:
Whatever your profession, like Arthur, let your enthusiasm burst free and allow you to uplift others. That will make it a thrill for them to be around you and bring greater happiness to their lives and to yours.
In the next KazanToday:
How a failed business led a father and his two sons to huge success.