It’s not often that amateur singers have an opportunity to choose a song they want to perform, join up with professional musicians to back them and then showcase their talents in a beautiful setting—with the Long Island Sound as a backdrop. However, that is exactly what’s offered for vocal students of Patti Dunham, who will be hosting a cabaret show at the Sea Cliff Yacht Club on Monday, June 27.
“I started putting together an end of the school year cabaret show for my students to give parents a chance to see what their child has been working on,” said Dunham, whose students range from elementary school age to senior citizens. “I hire a group of professional musicians, so the students also get a chance to learn how to prepare music and communicate with a band.”
Dunham, who lives in Sea Cliff, is an accomplished singer with a bachelor’s degree in voice from Fredonia School of Music who toured with the Philip Glass Ensemble as a soloist prior to teaching. Though classically trained, she also enjoys singing jazz, which she has done since her college days. As a freelance musician, she has obtained jobs at an array of churches, temples, sang on the “Hooked On Swing” albums and currently performs with the New York Choral Singers at Lincoln Center.
After her children were born, she wanted to cut back on traveling and started performing at private parties and giving voice lessons to adults. Then she began teaching her daughters to sing.
“People would ask them who their teacher was, then started asking me for lessons,” Dunham said. “From there, it’s really grown on its own.”
On average, she gives about 20 lessons per week. In her tenure as a voice teacher, several students have gone on to be accomplished musicians. Notably, Nikki Blonsky is a former student who starred as Tracy Turnblad in the 2007 movie Hairspray.
“I really enjoy working with young voices and to see them progress and grow,” said Dunham. “It’s very satisfying.”
For the cabaret show, she holds two separate concerts, one for the younger students, which was held on Monday, June 20, and the second for high school and adult students, on June 27, starting at 7 p.m. All performers have been taking lessons with Dunham for one to two years.
“I only invite students who are performance ready,” said Dunham. “And my one rule is that one of the two songs has to be fast—everybody seems to love ballads.”
Dunham has been putting on the end of year shows for years, at various restaurants. This is the second year the show will be held at the Sea Cliff Yacht Club. The show is free and open to the public and a buffet dinner will be offered for a fee.
“I am so thankful for the club for having us; we’re there setting up and rehearsing for the entire day,” said Dunham. “It’s very generous and really nice that help us out. Plus, it’s a great way for the community to come and see the club. I think we finally found a home there.”