THE INTERVIEW: Ross Chitwood, The Voice Box December 5, 2012
A new season, a new interview – the last time we posted a feature of ‘THE INTERVIEW’ was at the beginning of August with the amazing Chef/Blogger, Jennifer Doan, whose career trajectory inspired quite a few of our readers! We did not mean to be gone for so long, but we’re back with a wonderful feature for this Holiday edition of THE INTERVIEW. We love interviewing people who follow their passions and have wonderful stories to tell from their journeys, and after you read our interview with Ross Chitwood, we think you’ll agree . Ross is Juilliard graduate and founder of the new, cult-favorite voice training studio in Los Angeles, The Voice Box, that counts both aspiring actors and seasoned vocalists among their devoted clientele.
Hello Ross, thanks for taking time to answer our interview! How did you hear about us? Tell the readers a little about yourself.
First off, I am so thrilled to be doing this interview with YÜLI! I learned about YÜLI through a friend who loved the products, and I have to say, I am HOOKED! I’m a transplant to Los Angeles from Houston, TX, where I spent a few years after graduate school at Rice University. I’m a singer who studied at Juilliard, and I was born and raised on a dairy farm in Oklahoma.
When did you know that singing was something you wanted to pursue?
I was 8 years old when I was cast as Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web. I got the part because of my fantastic squeal. Here I am 20 years later. I just never stopped squealing!
What was it like being trained at Juilliard?
Juilliard is one of those mythical places that you don’t really believe exists until you’re actually there. Every day I woke up in college I was met with the fact that I was in New York City, only a little different from my family’s farm, at THE Juilliard School. I am just so blessed to have been given the opportunity to work with literally the best faculty in the world. All of my teachers were fantastic. The largest class I ever had consisted of a whopping 12 people. At some point it just became “school’, and that was actually a nice feeling.
What are some of the most memorable moments in your training or your career?
My most memorable, eye-opening moment in my training came when I was in my care driving from Houston to San Antonio. I was singing along with an album from one of my favorite musicals when I realized that I was making singing WAY too hard. I started speaking along with the music, instead of singing, and could hear the music in my voice when I wasn’t even trying.
At my next voice lesson, my teacher asked what had happened! My voice made a dramatic shift just almost over night, and for the first time, I felt confident in my singing. I was 24, and in my last month of grad school. Not a minute too late.
What style of music do you prefer to perform?
Almost all of my time in school was dedicated to opera, and I never did care for it much. I’m not at all picky about the style of the music that I’m singing, which has not been a good thing for finding a cohesive career path! I love singing jazz standards, pop, country, musical theatre…you name it. As long as it’s quality, I love to sing it.
List 3 albums everyone should listen to: What are your Top 5 most played tracks?
Gosh. I’m weird when it comes to actually listening to music. In my car I almost exclusively listen to NPR! When I do listen to music, it is almost always one song at a time. My new obsession is Jane Monheit’s recording of Waters of March. I’ve probably listened to it 200 times over the past few weeks. I go through phases like that. I seem to always come back to the same people though. Coldplay, Jane Monheit, Renee Fleming, Michael Buble, Kenny Chesney, Jack Johnson. Random, I know, and NOT an answer to your question.
My top 5 most played tracks of all time are probably:
5. Fix You – Coldplay
4. Honeysuckle Rose – Jane Monheit
3. Depuis le Jour – Renee Fleming
2. Kissin a Fool – Michael Buble
1. Wheels of a Dream – Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell
Do you like living in LA?
For the first time in my adult life, I feel like I’m at home. Los Angeles is such a great city with so many beautiful treasures. I grew up in a landlocked state, so I spent basically the entire summer at the beach! It’s still crazy to me that the weather can be so different from one part of town to the next. Sure, there are parts of town that just feel like “city”, but I try not to go there.
What are your favorite spots?
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the gym, trying to work off 5 years too many in Texas!
I sometimes secretly go watch planetarium shows at The Griffith Observatory by myself, and I absolutely love going to see movies in The Dome at The Arclight!
My friends and I love to go to Sur Lounge in West Hollywood, or to happy hour at Vintage Enoteca on Sunset (amazing bottomless sangria)!
Not gonna lie though….my favorite spot is at home, outside, in my hammock.
What type of clients do you train?
My clients are very diverse in both the music that they sing, and their experience levels. I have students that have never sung a note, and students who have been singing their entire lives. What I love about my client base in Los Angeles is that everyone is so creative and wanting to make their dreams really happen. I love seeing that kind of enthusiasm.
What is one tip you can give to anyone who wants to improve their vocal abilities?
I joke with my students that I’m going to write a book some day, and by the time I actually write it, the only information in it will be, “Keep exhaling and don’t shut your mouth”.
Learning how to sing is all about getting your brain to do the right thing. Sing like no one is listening, and you’re much more likely to do it right.
What has been your most memorable success story with a client?
I’ve had countless students experience very emotional breakthroughs in voice lessons. It’s such a joy to see people really begin to accomplish their goals and live their dreams. I have one student who actually followed me from Houston. He’s probably been with me for three years or so. When he started voice lessons, he was overweight, addicted to drugs, always late to lessons, and the singing was so far from anywhere near professional. Here we are just a few years later. He’s in great shape now, drug and alcohol free for years now, is always early, and is actually starting to work as a musician! Watching his journey has been incredible.
On a lighter note, I just had a student call to tell me that thanks to our work, she got a job as the “morning opera diva” on The Playboy Channel. She’ll be singing topless on cable, and I couldn’t be more thrilled for her. She’s actually a fantastic singer! Playboy is lucky.
What is your skincare regimen?
My pre- YÜLI skincare regimen involved washing my face with Cetaphil in the shower, and following that up with a little Crème de la Mer. It always left my skin soft, but I’ve always hated the feeling of the thick, pasty product, and how it added weight to my skin. I still use Cetaphil as a wash, then spritz and drip with my favorite YÜLI products.
Do you have a skincare philosophy?
I’ve always thought that skincare was a worthy investment, but I can’t say I’ve ever really had a “skincare philosophy”.
I have one grandmother who has never had a skincare regimen other than sunscreen, and the other who is obsessive, using probably half a dozen bottles a day. They are both 79. The first looks 85. The second looks 65. I’d like to follow in her path!
Which YÜLI products do you use and why?
I use the Panacea Elixir followed by M. E. Skin Fuel daily. The elixir just leaves me feeling so refreshed. I LOVE the way it smells. I’m a very scent oriented person so that is very important to me. Sometimes I work very long days, up to 12 hours teaching one student after the next. I used to drink coffee to keep me going, but lately have just been spritzing with the Panacea Elixir. Makes me feel like the day has started fresh again.
I feel like the M.E. Skin Fuel really feeds my skin. I have actually seen a real reduction in the visibility of fine lines, and a decrease in pore size. My skin also literally feels like velvet with this product. I LOVE it!
I started incorporating the Pure mask too because LA can get a little grimy so using the mask made my skin feel lighter and refreshed. Once a week it lets my skin breathe again and recharges it with all those nutrients. Your new Cellular Lip Conditioner is already a hit at work because as vocalists, your lips are one of the first things people look at, my clients love this stuff.
How can readers learn more about you? How can people contact you if they are interested in working with you?
My website is the best way to contact me or find out more information. My business is called The Voice Box | LA . Our website is www.thevoiceboxLA.com Feel free to come in for a free 45-minute introductory session. It can be booked on the website and lessons can take place at my home studio in Hollywood, or if you’re not in LA, over Skype!