by Cynthia Mazzant
The voluptuous voice. It’s not just the voice-it’s the smile, the laugh, the hug,
the raucous joke when you need it. Amanda Siliker embraces her work and her life as if she’s the
the luckiest individual in the world. After spending a few hours with her, I might agree.
I imagine she arrived in this world singing a perfect arietta – in pitch, with a vibrato largesse, and one extremely healthy pair of lungs. A voice that would make one pause and listen. Amanda remembers her first performance as a 1st grade precocious smarty-pants playing Bambi’s mother in the school play. And if you ask, she can still sing you the song in its entirety.
Amanda, known as the “Voluptuous Voice,” is more than her voice, more than her stature. She defines herself as an educator, performer, and healer. I met Amanda a few years ago through my husband and began studying with her about two years ago.
“She’s amazing.” “She’s wonderful.” “She’s got such a beautiful voice.” “She’s fun!” “I learn so much from her.” All I heard were wonderful testimonials. “Wait til you spend some time with her. You want to wait for a spot in her studio to open.”
And so far, they’ve been proven right. But I wanted to know more about her, not just the usual – background, education, shaping experiences. I wanted to know what makes Amanda, well, Amanda.
So first things first – the studio in Bellefonte. Walking into the house, Kita greets you at the door. Kita is the very loving guard dog who will meet you and hang out with you until he’s told to, “find his spot,” often under the baby grand. Walking into the studio, you are greeted with a collage of images and an overwhelming feeling of harmony.
The baby grand piano takes center stage but it’s surrounded by a bevy of instruments–from the euphonium to the
ukulele to the djembek to the hand-made shako and the heirloom F.O. Stanley violin–the place is filled with instruments too many to name.
All make wonderful sounds but even more appealing, the instruments are filled with stories. There was the time the students played with the Boom Whackers and chaos ensued… There is the inherited violin, the handmade instruments and lots of “bells and whistles.”
Joining you, Kita and Amanda will be a small but bold tuft of fur named Molly, one of the household’s two cats, who will sing along with you if you hit the right note. Innanna (the other cat) will also occasionally come for a short visit. There are fish and at one point there were birds that would sing too. Did I mention that Amanda loves animals?
But, back to the studio. One wall is filled with bookshelves–music from different genres, music from different cultures, b
ooks on technique, books on sounds, books on–well you name it, it’s probably there.
I once asked her for a handbook on percussion techniques to teach to small children. Twenty minutes later, I think she had unearthed at least 17 (and that was when I told her she could stop.) Then there was the time I was looking for a 1944 song–and out she produced an entire box of 40s original sheet music. She said she had more in another box. Again, I said stop.
The studio also has chairs, a computer, a chalkboard with a message of the week, music stands, a mirror – the accoutrements one expects in a studio. But this studio feels less like a studio one would normally find. This studio, Amanda’s Studio, feels more like home.
“What I want for my studio is for it to be a safe place. A place where students can explore, create, be authentically themselves. A place to make mistakes without judgment. A place to grow. A place to be who they are meant to be.”
And the studio is designed to offer her students the same such refuge. A place to come home. A place of safety. A place of comfort. A place of ease.
So what makes this studio so unique- besides its “no place like home” feeling? Making complex ideas readily accessible. Finding the digestible, understandable words so that students can relate. Professional standards administered with hope and compassio
“I get such an incredible sense of satisfaction when I see a student find that ‘oh’ moment. When comprehension dawns and you see that sparkle in a student’s eyes. That moment is so cool!”
On an average day, Amanda begins her studio days around 3 p.m. and teaches until 9 p.m. She keeps a running journal and notebook on each student to track progress and ideas. Amanda offers both piano and voice lessons in 45 minute sessions. Her youngest student is in third grade and her oldest is in his 80s. And she still has students who study with her since the opening of the studio in 2003.
Amanda also created the summer children’s theatre group Acting Out performing short musicals at the UU.
She began her teaching career at an early age, when she coached other students while she was still in high school.
Today, Amanda defines herself as an educator more than a performer. But her voice and performances are as memorable as her lessons.
She began singing for a living in churches and remembers one of her earliest professional gigs was in the Harrisburg Opera in 1997 (or 1998.)
Her favorite to play? “Musical of Musicals” where she played Abby and was able to sing a variety of musical theatre styles as the musical created parodies of Kander & Ebb, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, and Jerry Hermann.
Amanda’s latest performance was November 30 as the opening act for The Celtic Tenors at The State Theatre.
She will be playing the role of the Mother in Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors” with the Williamsport Symphon
y Orchestra on December 18.
Take her women’s choir, “The Accidentals.” I asked her, why start a choir? I know that the choir was started as a request but why do it? That’s what I really wanted to know.
“My favorite moments are the organic ones–the times when a group of like-minded people can improvise together,” said Si
lliker. “When they can create something deeper and richer. This group is comprised of powerful, strong women who are not afraid of being themselves. The camaraderie, the laughter, the tears, the music. That’s why.”
And in our own James Lipton 10 Questions, we end our interview.
CM: What turns you on creatively?
CM: What turns you off creatively?
AS: Don’t have one.
CM: Then create one – what would you want your nickname to be?
AS: Pie. Honey Pie. That’s what my Dad would call me.
CM: Favorite word.
AS: Mystery Science Theatre MST3K
CM: Favorite bird.
AS: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Kate Vaiden by Reynolds Price, When Fox is a Thousand by Larissa Lai.
CM: Favorite Recording Artist?
AS: Kate Nash
CM: Favorite Piano Composer
CM: Describe an awesome home moment.
AS: Sitting on the couch with my feet tucked up, cup of hot cocoa, a good book and a purring cat.
Trust me – You will want Amanda to sing, laugh, tell a raucous joke, invite you into her home. You can see Amanda perform during December, join The Accidentals or check out her studio. Email her at email@example.com
See Amanda Silliker in “Amahl & the Night Visitors”:
December 18, 7:30pm
Join The Accidentals:
Tuesday Evenings 7-9pm
At Foxdale Community Room