My 11-year old homeschooled daughter has wanted singing lessons for oh-so-long and I, being the obliging and attentive mother that I am, have procrastinated terribly. With five other children in my busy household to think of, I was having difficulty embracing the thought of another activity. I imagined myself driving across town with the littles in tow, comforting some small person who had forgotten to use the bathroom before we left. I had a perfectly clear image of waiting outside of her classroom with the baby crying and the preschooler demanding multiple potty trips, trying to nurse discreetly and discipline and entertain and… oh dear, I forgot to restock the diaper bag and put the ground beef away. The ride home likely would fall during rush hour. I envisioned myself collapsing onto the couch and trying to shut out all thoughts of the dinner that hadn’t been prepared… and next week’s lesson.
So perhaps it isn’t so strange that when I first heard of online voice lessons, I was extremely interested. My first visit to the website of tenor Daniel Foran caught my attention instantly. It was very professional with pages and pages of reading, listening and viewing material. Almost every question I had was answered: credentials, experience, fees, structure, audio, video, method; all covered. And then I heard him sing. I was completely sold. The only thing left was to talk to Mr. Foran himself to see if online instruction under his mentorship was a match for my family.
Since that time, I have been very pleased with my fortuitous discovery and consider our family blessed to know and study under Daniel Foran, who was not only homeschooled himself from third grade through high school, but has continued to embrace and grow in his Catholic faith.
Faith and Family
The first time I sat down in front of my computer to have a live chat with Mr. Foran (via Skype) we spent a little time covering the basics. “So how many children do you have?” he asked me. “I have six,” I replied. I’m accustomed to the shocked exclamations of those who think my family is extraordinarily large. Instead, Mr. Foran laughed and quipped, “You’re just getting started!” You see, he is the ninth child in a family of fourteen. Just getting started, indeed… I’m not even halfway there yet!
Born to a musical family who sang together weekly in their church choir, Mr. Foran was exposed to music from the womb. He was also exposed to the beauty of life within a strong and faith-centered family. Music and faith have never left him. In his words:
“Catholicism has always been in my life. The faith we have been raised with, in most cases, has been exemplified to us at home, which is where real faith begins. It has served as a guide to me through all things.”
“Certainly, we are always put in a position in which we have to make choices. These choices, however important or menial, become the embodiment of who we are. I have made many choices in my life that have been carefully considered through the prism of that beautiful guide of Catholicism. To do so (for me) has always been as normal and natural as breathing. So I feel I can truly say that my faith affects every aspect of my life, including my work.”
It does indeed affect his work. From the very beginning of our communications, Mr. Foran has made it clear to me that he considers the parents to have a primary and pivotal role in the development of his students. I found this incredibly refreshing. A true mentor is one who seeks to bring out the most good and beauty in the life of a child, even if it means stepping aside to defer to a greater good at times. Mr. Foran sees, through the eyes of his faith, that there is no replacement for the family and he dignifies and compliments this great gift of God through his teaching role.
As the homeschooling movement grows in numbers and longevity, the fruits are becoming apparent. Daniel Foran is one of those fruits. His homeschooling adventure began when he was in the third grade when his parents, unwilling to allow their son to be mislabeled with a learning disability, began their homeschooling journey. At that time, homeschooling was almost unheard of and yet they willingly took up that cross and became pioneers for the love of their children. What happened to the little school boy who wrote his letters the wrong way? Daniel Foran graduated from college magna cum laude and continued on for his Master of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music, which is considered to be the best music conservatory for voice in the world.
When asked if he considers his homeschooling experience any advantage to his professional work and teaching, Dan replied:
“I believe that homeschooling has helped me immensely in my ability to diversify with others or, more simply put, I mingle well with all ages and peoples. Associations we have with others and our handling of them are usually based on our childhood experiences with people and the relationship exemplified to us through our parents. For me there existed an extra level of this due to the uniqueness of my family size and our constant dependency on each other to get things done. This has allowed me to understand synergy as a way of life without even realizing it. Also, since I often studied on my own, I learned how to focus and how to learn what I have to learn when I have to learn it. This, too, has been a tool of immeasurable value to me, especially learning roles.”
As a homeschooling parent, I have never had the privilege of having my children mentored, coached or instructed by a homeschooled adult (other than myself and my husband, of course). I am finding it to be a great and unexpected blessing. Mr. Foran understands our family situation as few other teachers can; and not only that… he delights in our uniqueness. He considers it a great opportunity to serve homeschoolers since he has a particular insight in the matter.
Sometimes technology really knocks my socks off. My daughter stands before the computer for her lesson with her music teacher. He’s showing her proper jaw positioning and then turns toward the back of the room, apologizing that his piano hasn’t yet been moved to a more visible spot. He plays the notes and she sings. He turns around and they talk together before the next exercise. My mind flashes back to all the Jetsons episodes lurking in the recesses of my brain (“Yum, it’s been light years since you programmed synthetic brownies!”). How is it that this man in New Jersey is able to share his knowledge and enthusiasm and joy with my family when we’ve never even stood in the same room together? It boggles the mind. But it is a fact.
One of the things I appreciate most about Mr. Foran is his willingness to be a pioneer… just like his parents. Online voice instruction is an unusual idea that has come into its time; and he is ready to explore it. For a mother like me, it is a gift.
Pope John Paul II wrote, “Artistic talent is a gift from God and whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste this talent, but must develop it.” By living a life engaged in this mission and determined to share it with others, Mr. Foran is doing just that.
When asked about the factors that helped develop his talent and teaching goals, Mr. Foran said, “As far as preparing me for online teaching, I think that my entire life has helped prepare me more than any single event or experience. Online teaching is something that is still very, very new. As I work toward improving it and making other disciplines online accessible, such as guitar or piano, I am constantly looking for inspiration for accomplishment in the people I meet. I can’t help but to see God helping me along every step of the way here and things seem to get more exciting as we go forward into the future.”
Catholic Performing Artist
The first time I heard Daniel Foran’s voice on his website I thought, “Where can I buy this?” I am not incredibly knowledgeable about music but I know what I like. I know what is beautiful and what raises my heart and mind higher toward their Creator. My second reaction to hearing him sing was the greenest envy of the parishioners of the church at which he cantors! As a professional singer, he has appeared regularly in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area and a few of those performances can be heard or seen through his website. New Jersey is certainly a lovelier place for his presence there.
What is it like being a faithful Catholic in the classical performing arts? I suspected that Mr. Foran’s answer would be much like the answer that any Catholic adult would give in this culture; a mixture of good and bad and a story of many a Calvary and Easter morning. But I still wanted to hear his words of struggle and faith and encouragement. I was not disappointed.
“Performing in the classical world is a cultural endeavor and (in most cases) it appeals to the highest profundities in the visual entertainment world. While subject matter tends to be real life scenarios and include bad decisions that people make in their lives, those decisions are usually presented as an insinuation rather than blatant manner. This lends itself quite nicely to the morally conscious artist.”
“The most difficult challenges I have faced in the industry have been by far, the weight of perceived social norms from those with whom I have worked… That constant striving for the ideal and the human desire to belong can often conflict…”
“What then of they who think it no big deal to pursue their own designs? I have seen the destructive power it can have on a life and I have seen how wonderful it can be when done the right way, according to the law. Only one of these choices will bestow that deep, personal peace. Those who come to know me often wonder and ask why I am always so happy. I reply with a smile, ‘life is good!’ ”
What Catholic mama wouldn’t be delighted to have a person like this teaching her children? For me, the potential benefits outweighed my uncertainty about the unconventional format of internet instruction. And now, after having engaged in the adventure, we’ve discovered that the concern was unwarranted. It is with great pleasure that I recommend Daniel Foran to you and your children.
If you are interested in learning more about Daniel Foran or contacting him about lessons, please visit his website at www.danielforan.com. And don’t forget to listen to him sing while you’re there; just select Multimedia from the menu options… and enjoy.
Copyright 2011 Melody Lyons