From ‘One Voice’ to ‘The Voice’

From ‘One Voice’ to ‘The Voice’

Emily Luther and Natalia De Rezendes

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Long before her recent appearance on NBC’s hit TV show “The Voice,” a young Emily Luther walked into a studio owned by Slatersville-based voice coach Natalia de Rezendes.

The 9-year-old mezzo-soprano was there for singing lessons, but soon found out that she would also have to learn how to play the piano.

“The years that I have worked with youth vocally, I have always exacted that they need to be literate musicians,” de Rezendes told The Breeze this week. “You need to know how to read and know music theory.”

Luther, who de Rezendes says stood out vocally among her students from day one, didn’t much like the idea.

“She told her parents she didn’t want to go back,” said de Rezendes.

It’s a story the voice coach now tells for a laugh. Luther did return, and would spend years in de Rezendes’ One Voice studio, mastering her technique and building a strong friendship with the instructor that lasted through college and her brief time in the spotlight six years ago.

And as Luther prepared for her second shot at a career as a professional songstress, it was de Rezendes who she called for help.

“It’s the technique that makes her impressive,” de Rezendes said of her student, who was chosen to go on to a second round of the nationally televised singing competition in a broadcast that aired Oct. 3. “In the realms of pop and jazz she’s insurmountable.”

Luther’s early years as a singer were filled with local church shows, and fundraisers for causes, including concerts for earthquake victims in Haiti, and a collaboration with philanthropist Alan Shawn Feinstein to benefit homeless children in Providence.

“Just about everything she did here at One Voice Studio was some kind of fundraiser,” said de Rezendes. “She has a quality about her that is just very giving.”

Along the way, Luther developed a love for music theater, and shined in performances at Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Center, and with Cranston-based traveling performance company Kaleidoscope Children’s Theatre.

“She seemed to really love the Broadway repertoire,” said de Rezendes.

And from the beginning, the teacher says that Luther brought to each performance a voice comparable to a “Stradivarius,” a fine violin known for its superb sound quality.

“The thing that made Emily different from most people passing through was that she had an incredible skill for turning notes over perfectly,” de Rezendes said. “From the time she was a little kid you could vocalize her until the cows came home.”

Luther, she notes, has three octaves of vocal range, while most singers have two at most.

“Her huge range was visible from the outset,” de Rezendes said.

And as a student, Luther worked hard to build on that natural ability.

“She developed the most incredible technique,” said de Rezendes.

In high school, the singer had her tonsils removed, a surgery de Rezendes says made an already enormous voice even bigger.

Luther graduated from Woonsocket High School in 2010, and enrolled in Berklee College of Music.

“When she went off to Berklee, she went off with a functional sense of musicianship,” said de Rezendes.

It was the combination of hard-earned skill and that huge voice that made a video, recorded by Luther with fellow student Charlie Puth, go viral in 2011, and eventually earn her a performance on “The Ellen Show,” and a deal with Ellen’s record label, eleveneleven. The singer moved to Los Angeles to pursue the next stage of her music career.

But things did not go quite as planned. On “The Voice,” Luther described her struggles with a music industry too focused on appearance.

“They wanted me to change my hair,” she said. “The most difficult thing was trying to convince these people that all that stuff doesn’t matter. Just focus on my voice.”

Luther stayed in touch with de Rezendes through that difficult time, which eventually led her to move back to Rhode Island.

“The Voice” is another shot at stardom for the girl from Woonsocket who was born to sing. And according to de Rezendes, as the singer navigates the difficult world of show business, she brings with her another advantage: good family. Luther’s parents, Denise and Don Luther, de Rezendes says, were not like the pushy, hovering stage parents she often came across as a voice coach. The family lived in Woonsocket until three weeks ago, when they moved to a home in Coventry.