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THE MICHIGAN AILY
September 17, 1956
September 17. 1956
THE MICHIGAN DAILY
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An Ageless Artist
Tenor Roland Hayes Remains A Foremost Singer
WORKOUT - Margaret Smith practicing "pose sur le pointe,
sur le cou de pied" at the barre.
.. just beginning.
T HE outmoded idea that one
has to go to New York or Hol-
lywood to study dancing meets
daily disproof in the person of
Mrs. Hamer, who has been
training Ann Arbor residents and
students in the art of dance for
24 years, is a vigorous and in-
formed teacher-artist who devotes
the ma4Tr share of her time to
working with both amateur and
professional dancers. Most com-
pletely interested in ballet, she
possesses a thorough training as
both performer and teacher in
classical dancing that she has
supplemented through the years
with enthusiasm, study and hard
Is ballet dying? Not for Mrs.
Hamer, and most certainly not
in the United States. "Ballet's just
starting in this country," she
says. "People are just beginning
to be conscious that it's a scien-
tific art and that you need to be
scientifically trained to practice
it." And by "scientific," Mrs. Ha-
mer means dance training which
incorporates a knowledge of hu-
man anatomy, the knowledge be-
ing necessary to "bring out con-
tinuity of movement."
"As a performer, you have to
know what muscles to use and
how to use them. And as a teach-
er, you have to watch your pupils'
development and know when to
speed them up, when to slow them
down. The training must coordin-
ate with the normal growth and
development of the child."
S YLVIA HAMERdoesn't even re-
member when she began danc-
ing, but just recalls that it was
"slipped in. My family was very
musical and I was forced to study
the piano. I didn't like it, so my
father let me take dancing les-
sons instead, opposing mother's
family, who objected to dancing."
At 22, she joined the Albertina-
Rasch Ballet Company, an Italian
group in which she was the only
American girl, danced in New
York for two-and-one-half years,
after which she returned to Mich-
igan to marry Ellsworth Hamer,
now a local theater manager.
It was then that she decided to
teach, although, as she puts it,
"I could dance, but I needed to
study more before I could teach;
I needed to learn anatomy to know
what the body was made of' and
how it worked."
AMONG teachers,.Mrs. Hamer
is a highly respected worker.
Once a month she goes to Chica-
go to coach professional dancers
and teachers who travel from the
Southern and Western states to
work with her.
She is past-president of the Cee-
chetti Council of America, which
fosters a graded system of danc-
ing patterned after educational
institutions; and she has been
awarded a Licentiate from the
Imperial Society of London, neces-
sary for teaching in any of the
British Commonwealth nations, a
procedure which she calls "more
advanced than anything in Ameri-
ca, where untrained people can
teach if they want. In London, you
have to prove that you can teach."
Mrs. Hamer numbers the fol-
lowing among her teachers: Kath-
erine Forbes of the American
School of Ballet; Mary Skeaping
and Peggy Van Praagh, both ex-
balletmistresses of the Sadlers
Wells Ballet Company; and Mar-
garet Craske, Cecchetti's pupil.
"These are the people I've stu-
died with'," she says. "I've 'taken
lessons' from many people that
the public recognizes more easily,
but there's a difference between
'taking lessons' and 'studying.,''
A T THE moment, Mrs. Hamer is
preparing to resume her posi-
tion as Artistic Director and Bal-
letmistress of the newly formed
Ann Arbor Civic Ballet. The group,
which had its inception last
spring, is what Mrs. Hamer calls
"a sign of the new interest in bal-
let. All of a sudden ballet compa-
nies are starting to form. Ours is
the first civic ballet in Michigan,
but I've heard of three others that
have since emerged - in Oregon,
New Orleans and Georgia.
"We're trying to prepare a place
for the local people to dance, so
they won't be running off to New
York before they're ready. In this
way they can acquire both ade-
quate training and stage pres-
Mrs. Hamer notes that not only
has ballet began to become an
American art, the entire picture
of dancing has changed in the
United States in the past few
years. "When I began teaching, no
ballet dancer would have dreamed
of doing tap, but there were so
many calls for tap that I had to
learn it. Today, dancers realize
that while tap may not help their
ballet work, it will not harm it
"The call these days is for
the all-around professional, who
knows ballet, can do tap, Spanish
and character dancing, and who
has spent time studying mime."
Mrs. Hamer recalls the summer
of 1954 when she taught in Holly-
wood. "Some of the kids had come
out all the way from Michigan to
take lessons - and who did they
end up studying with? - Sylvia
Hamer of Ann Arbor, Michigan."
By BETTY GOSS
ROLAND HAYES, the greatest
male concert singer of his race,
the first and oldest member of his
race upon the concert stage in
this country, lifted his tenor voice
to echo through Rackham Audi-
torium this summer.
The concert singer is becoming
white as to hair, but there is a
vitality in his warm brown skin
and luminous hazel eyes that be-
lies the hair and his self-acknowl-
edged sixty-nine years. His hands
are one with his voice in that these
are his most expressive instru-
ments. When talking, as when
singing, his hands become alive
and seem to pull forth the words
or the notes.
Queried concerning the young
people of the music and concert
world today, Mr. Hayes spoke
briefly. There can be no compari-
son between his own. early strug-
gles and those facing youth today.
He reminds one that there have
been two great wars, one small one
and a great economic depression
since he began his singing career
shortly after the turn of the cen-
Roland Hayes believes that the
emphasis today is upon the sensa-
tional rather than upon the classi-
cal in all musical fields.
"It is combos rather than con-
cert," he said. In his opinion the
foremost singer today is Adele
Addison. "Regardless of race or co-
lor, hers is the voice of the true
artist," the tenor averred. First
and foremost, Roland Hayes is,
himself, an artist. Then, he is an
American of African descent. No
one has ever been able to get Mr.
Hayes to make a controversial
statement with politicalovertones.
For example, when asked for an
opinion of Paul Robeson, he spoke
of Robeson the folk singer and act-
or, not of Robeson, the figure of
international dispute. "I've never
met the man," Hayes said.
Yet, one is not allowed to forget
that Roland Hayes is an American.
No more does one overlook the fact
that Africa is the country of his
forefathers. Born to parents who
had known bondage in Georgia,
upon the property of a former
slave owner, Mr. Hayes early years
were fraught with legends of the
War Between the States. Once,
Hayes owned the 600-acre farm
where he was born, but after the
depression he lost his holdings in
Georgia and went to Boston to
make his home.
Mr. Hayes began singing at sev-
enteen in his native South, where
he was heard and encouraged "by
a man of my race." But it was in
Boston that he first received pub-
lic encouragement. Arthur Hub-
bard of Boston was his teacher, his
tutor and his guide for eight years.
From the time he started singing
and became interested in using his
voice for something worthwhile
until 1909 he worked, saved, sang
in choirs. During this period Mr.
This is Miss Goss's first ar-
ticle for the Magazine Section
A veteran writer with 34 years
of experience, she has been
published by both newspapers
and magazines. At present,
Miss Goss is enrolled in the
Journalism department where
she is working toward a degree.
Hubbard became interested in the
young man of tenacity.
THE DEBUT took place in Bos-
ton, in Symphony Hall, No-
vember of 1917. The people of Bos-
ton warmed to his tenor and his
manner of presenting himself and
the composers' works. They ap-
proved to the tune of $P,000 which
made possible his trip to England.
In London, Sir George Henschel
became his mentor. Sir George was
to be his friend and teacher
throughout his seven years of stu-
dy in England and on the Conti-
An early concert in London
found the British audience cold to
young Mr. Hayes of America. His
reception by the audience and crit-
ics at that 1920 recital would have
turned lesser men away from mus-
ic as a vocation and profession.
LONDON in 1922 liked the sing-
er quite as much as they had
been disapproving in 1920. The re-
sults were brilliant and Roland
Hayes left England for the con-
It was these years on the con-
tinent that gave Mr. Hayes his pol-
ished concert manners, his exquis-
ite diction in French and German
that mark him high in the history
of American tenors.
Among his teachers, masters and
tutors during this period were
some of the great ones whose
names are all but forgotten. Miss
Ira Aldridge, Victor Beigel and Dr.
Theo Lierhammer were some who
taught the maturing singer his
stage presence, trained his voice,
instructed him in Chansons and
Lieder, and the nuance of phrase
that is an essential of the concert
IN the mid-twenties, 1926 and
1927, American audiences were
to hear one of their-own return to
this country in triumph. Carnegie
Hall heard the richness of his
tones. To the audiences of this
country his decorum set him
apart immediately. Here at last
was a cultured artist of-American
parentage. An American in the
traditional sense of the word, one
who in the established pattern of
the success story had lifted him-
self by his bootstraps and become
one with the greats.
Yet, Roland Mayes remained
and remains a man of the people,
an Afro-American, and a man
proud of his heritage.
As an artist today, he is still a
great man. Before his concert in
Rackham building, he comment-
ed, "There's nothing to see tonight.
I just hope that the audience will
hear enough good music."
ROLAND HAYES today reminds
the music lovers of all time of
the great ones who no longer sing.
They either do not because they
sing with the angels, they cannot,
or for reasons of their own, they
Mr. Hayes is made of different
stuff though. He lives in Boston
most of the year, arranging his
beautiful Afro-American religious
folksongs and other music which
appeals to him. He has an occa-
sional singer whom he assists as
mentor, tutor or with the wisdom
that is his. Annually he goes on
small tours where he does not have
to physically exhaust himself.
R EGINALD BOARDMAN flew in
from Chicago the evening of
the recital in Ann Arbor to accom-
pany Mr. Hayes. Few in the audi-
ence were aware of the fact that
neither Boardman nor the soloist'
had ever appeared in Rackham
MR. HAYES: "IT IS COMBOS RATHER THAN CONCERT."
ADMIRERS - Watched by two younger class members, Miss Smith does a "pose 2nd arabesque."
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TEACHER'S HELP - Mrs. Hamer adjusts hips for proper place-
ment of legs "a la seconde."
FLYING HIGH - Pamela Magoon executes a "Grande 'Jete' en avant?