You can bless folks with your talent for a night, or you can draw forth the talents lurking within themselves that will bless them and many around them for a lifetime. And, moreover, such a cultivated talent can be the cornerstone of a sense of community bringing people together.
It goes with the old saying of the Chinese philosopher and founder of Taoism Lao Tzu that “You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or teach him how to fish and feed him for a lifetime.”
Wesley Diener grew up in this area discovering and then honing his skills as a baritone singer through his participation in high school musicals and then as a music major at the University of Virginia.
But even as this Northern Virginia native continues to cultivate his own talent through educational and performance-based efforts here and in Europe, at his young age (being only in his mid-20s by now) he’s discovered and initiated a way to build aggressively on the Lao Tzu principle. Not that many do at such a young age when often their obsession is to make it as a performer, and fewer have figured out how to use the best of modern resources to fashion a truly innovative approach with the help of a handful of similarly gifted young friends.
So, Diener is now the founder and voice instructor for his own undertaking that goes by the name of the WD Studio for virtual voice training.
Through the miracle of the Internet, he and his team of “passionate, professional and innovative artists in the fields of vocal performance and pedagogy” have been able to guide many scores of aspirational singers from places all around the world, and he’s just getting started.
Diener has been a frequent performer at Falls Church’s innovative Creative Cauldron theater, delighting audiences with solo shows featuring both traditional operatic favorites and some of the best of Broadway, as well. A native of this area, and youngest son of Michael Diener, a prominent Falls Church businessman, even though he now lives in Chicago, he is a frequent visitor here and promises his fans here that is going to continue.
His new undertaking, providing the gift of song far and wide, is grounded in a philosophy, he says, that “individuality fuels collaboration.”
“At WD Studio,” he asserts, “We believe in providing the best instruction that will empower our students to access their authentic artistry. Unlike other programs, we don’t stop at individual growth. Our studio is designed for collaboration. Through studio performances, group and guest workshops, we aim to build a community that learns, grows and performs together.”
As he states on his website, it is his view that “collaboration is the most essential, most unique and most rewarding aspect of music. The shine of the spotlight can be exhilarating, but what ultimately draws us to performing is the sense of community that arises out of a shared artistic experience. Here, we foster each student’s individuality and the collaboration it inspires.”
Connecting through the Internet with his students, participation, as he describes in promotional materials, involves “meeting regularly with a personal instructor, who will guide you along every step of your vocal journey.”
For example, a year-long Core Program for exceptional young singers aged 12 to 18 was created to “foster artistry, community and musical excellence” offering weekly individual training lessons, collaboration in group workshops, performance in regular recitals, interaction in a virtual classroom, and engagement in custom program content” that is designed to empower and inspire our most committed singers to reach their fullest potential.”
Diener states, “In a field that is highly competitive and rarely collaborative, we strive to create a community that collectively uplifts each singer. Through group training, peer feedback, and generous mentorship, the Core Program singers discover their deepest artistry through the support of their fellow singers.”
Established just last year, the Core Program has already acquired a reputation for excellence, placing first in the entire state of Virginia at the All-State Choir Auditions, performed in professional and pre-professional musical theater productions across the country, invited to and attended prestigious performing art academies, signed an agreement with a leading national talent agent in film, TV and theater, performed leading roles in school and community theater productions, accepted to numerous district honor and all-state choirs, and won a local songwriting competition.
For example, all Core Program participants will be invited to join, in person, the prestigious National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competitions as “these awards are fantastic resume builders, networking tools and confidence boosters.”
Three recitals over the course of an academic year put a student’s newly developed skills to the test to perform alongside talented colleagues, designed to be safe enough for a student to take risks, but important enough to feel excited, and each recital features a surprise expert guest who will share feedback with the performers following each recital.
Core Program programs “build artistic friendships in their small groups filled with like-minded singers” that “meet for pre-performance classes and workshops before each recital, offering a perfect setting for deepening connections, trying out new techniques, learning from peers and developing individual artistic perspectives.”
This year, Sunday Soirees have been implemented to gather the entire Core Program during the evening on the second Sunday of each month for an hour of student-led education and social amusement. They are optional and casual but will be recorded for playback.
The program’s dual emphasis on creative development and the special virtues of collaboration make it unique and capable of transcending the isolation that the Internet and pandemic ages can otherwise cause.