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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.
The word cabaret brings to mind images of singers in nightclubs, or maybe Liza Minnelli performing years ago in the movie "Cabaret."
What the word does not bring to mind is college dormitories, dining halls and early morning classes. But for the past eight summers, hopeful singers have come to the International Cabaret Conference at Yale University.
Think of it as a cabaret training camp in New Haven, Connecticut.
The artistic director is Erv Raible, a club owner in New York City. He says cabaret is a deeply emotional experience for a singer.
ERV RAIBLE: "The intimacy of it, I think, is the most important part. The fact that, unlike any other genre in the entertainment world, you actually go into a room where you go out of there feeling like you know the person. You know something about them. They have touched your heart."
Learning how to touch the heart may be the main goal of the conference. But the students also learn how to dress and do their hair and makeup. And they learn about sound, lighting and marketing.
The thirty-eight students this year were ages sixteen to sixty-six. They came from all over the United States and other countries.
Harold Sanditen is from the state of Oklahoma. He began his professional life as an investment banker.
HAROLD SANDITEN: "Then I became a theater producer for twenty years in London and I gave that up three years ago to start singing, which is what I wanted to do in the very first place, but I never had the confidence."
Harold Sanditen and his classmates had the chance to spend nine days working with top music directors and cabaret artists. They included Laurel Masse, an original member of the singing group Manhattan Transfer, and Faith Prince, a Tony Award-winning actress.
So now it is time for the first performance session. Mr. Sanditen tries his own version of a Beatles song.
Faith Prince likes it, but ...
FAITH PRINCE: "I need you to not close your eyes. I feel like you're closing your eyes on the most important contact."
Mr. Sanditen nods his head in agreement and tries again.
His classmate, Lindsay Sutherland Boal, is a singer from Vancouver, Canada. She trained in opera. But she changed her mind and became interested in cabaret singing.
The teachers think she sounds too theatrical at times. They work with her through a week of fourteen-hour days. Ms. Boal says:
LINDSAY SUTHERLAND BOAL: "It's not important, frankly, to be a singer to be a cabaret artist. It's all about storytelling and while I, of course, I knew that before, I understand that at a much deeper level now."
On the last night, all the students have three minutes to show what they have learned in front of a paying audience. The concert is called "Cabaret Stars of Tomorrow."
And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. I'm Steve Ember.
Reporting by Jeff Lunden