Preparing artists for fame

Orange Coast College music instructor Anne Walsh plays the piano during a class on campus. She is a Grammy-nominated pop/jazz vocalist.

Anne Walsh brings a lifetime of music to the classroom.

The Orange Coast College music instructor, a Grammy-nominated vocalist with her husband Tom Zink for the album “Pretty World,” exercises her students’ voices as she teaches and takes an interest in each of them as an individual.

“It is an awesome compliment that none of my students sound the same. My job as a teacher is to find out who they are as an artist and help direct them,” Walsh said about her approach to the classroom.

Walsh is classically trained in the “Bel Canto” method of operatic singing, which originated in 16th-century Italy, and directs the women’s vocal jazz ensemble Inner Vox from her home music studio in Long Beach. Members of the group range in age from 13 to 65.

She moved on from opera into musical theater and jazz. Now she is studying piano.

“I am an avid learner. I am taking jazz piano because my goal is to be able to play for my students, but I also want to be able to play for myself and get solo gigs as well. If you really want to be good, you need to know the theory,” she said.

On a recent night in her pop vocal class at OCC, Walsh sported a single, large pearl on a delicate chain around her neck. In classic  style and dress, she could have stepped out of a painting.

As her student’s strolled in, they found their chairs and waited. Walsh greeted everyone and spoke to students before class began as she took her place at the piano.

As the warm ups began, Walsh’s ear picked up on something off with the tenors and she requested they start over. She does this several times until they get it right. Her students are rapt, focused only on her and exercising their voices.

“Anne has not only been an amazing professor, but a good friend over the last year. She has afforded me an amazing opportunity to sing with her at places like the Laguna Festival of Arts, and has helped me grow as both a singer and performer. As for her own education, Walsh is studying jazz piano at the moment,” Griffen Runnels, a 20-year-old communications major and student of Walsh’s said.  

Walsh was classically trained in opera but despite her appreciation for the style she moved on.

“I love the art form, but it’s stressful. There are a lot of rules and it is very formal. So I got back into musical theater and when Tom and I met, we did some jazz gigs together. And then in 2008 to 2009, I was doing ‘Pirates of Penzance’ and thought, ‘this is my last show for a while.’ We made a decision on an entire project and that project was ‘Pretty World’ which was Grammy-nominated,” she said.

Walsh and her husband are working on a new album scheduled to be released by 2021.

Runnels said Walsh has been an amazing teacher and has helped him grow as an artist.

“The Pop Vocals classes (at OCC) are not only fun but incredibly helpful for a performer like me because it allows me to get valuable training and watch others be coached. I am incredibly grateful for professor Walsh and the opportunities she has granted me,” she said.

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