I just heard that the music world has lost legendary bass Giorgio Tozzi, who taught for many years here in Bloomington. He had been a highly successful and esteemed performer, and his presence at the IU School of Music (sorry folks, I matriculated before the “Jacobs School” days, and I just have a hard time referring to it that way…) was one of the first things to really make me aware of how exceptional an institution it is/was.
One of the first tidbits of information that I — and I’m sure countless others — heard about him was that he dubbed all of Emile de Becque’s singing for the film version of ‘South Pacific’. This naturally made him a cultural icon in my eyes. When I later learned that he had received a Tony nomination for his performance in ‘The Most Happy Fella’, I remember being even more impressed that this indisputable master of the opera stage also clearly had the chops to rock out on Broadway — decades, I might add, before Kristin Chenoweth and others made such things fashionable.
I had but one brush with Mr Tozzi: spring of my freshman year, I received what was and remains the only voice training I’ve ever had from Chris Burchett, who was in Tozzi’s studio at the time. Come the end of the semester, I and every other elective voice student were trotted out in our teacher’s teacher’s studio to sing for the professor and any other voice AIs from his studio. I honestly don’t remember what I sang (I probably forgot on purpose, considering I didn’t care for it at all…), but I must have done alright since I passed. I can only imagine what he must have been thinking as there in front of him stood this awkward, eighteen-year-old piano major who could still barely manage a middle-C (one day I’ll tell you all about the very long evolution of my singing voice…).
It’s tempting, when such a grand figure in our field passes away, to focus on what is lost in his passing — the knowledge, the talent, the mysterious mixture of intangible qualities that form a distinct and formidable artistic presence in the world. But the gift of being an educator is the comfort that can be taken in knowing that these things are never fully lost, but passed on — maybe not perfectly, nor in whole, but in bits and pieces that are themselves bequeathed to future generations of artists.
And so it goes.