By Peter Leavy, Published in CABARET SCENES on November, 1999

Linda Amiel Burns as kidIN THE HIT BROADWAY DRAMA, Master Class, audiences glimpsed the plight of performers studying with one of the great divas of her time. The harsh and frequently heartless methods used by the teacher may have startled viewers not familiar with such behind-the-scenes training, but many professionals would have ruefully nodded with recognition. As a young performer, Linda Amiel Burns studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse and The Musical Theater Academy. Recalling her experience under the tutelage of the renowned Lehman Engel, she found his bellicose scorn at the aspirants’ exercises highly unsettling. Years later, she still retains a sense of outrage. “He had a garden full of blossoming actors and he was trampling on the flowers.” The students, perceiving their instructor’s disdain, shrank back and hoped not to be called upon. “I thought ‘if I had a garden like that, I’d water the flowers and nurture them.’” Burns was convinced there must be a more compassionate way to help performers develop their talents and the creation of that more humane environment eventually would become her goal and her career.

Linda Burns is known for a variety of accomplishments. She’s an active and long-time Director of MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs), and the newly-elected President of The New York Sheet Music Society, which includes both the most successful and yet-to-be-heard-from American composers and lyricists among its members. She was recently named to the Board of TRU (Theater Resources Unlimited). A few years ago, with the cooperation of Sammy Cahn, Linda reestablished the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in The Symphony Cafe. She owned and operated the venerable One Fifth Avenue Restaurant and Bar, providing a Greenwich Village showcase for pianists and singers (some lucky diners heard Tony Bennett entertaining those in the room.) For many in the cabaret world, though, these high-visibility positions pale to near-insignificance beside her work as the founder and guiding spirit of The Singing Experience workshops.

The national media has been fascinated with Burns and The Singing Experience. Magazines, newspapers, CBS, CNN, ABC, and Live with Regis and Kathie Lee all have given the workshop feature coverage. Katie Couric, the morning anchor on the Today TV show who a year earlier had sung a duet with Barry Manilow, signed into a workshop, intending to tape it and her performance for the TV show. (The broadcast was squashed when word of the plan leaked out prematurely). Noting such high-level interest, Cabaret Scenes felt it was time to visit Linda Amiel Burns and The Singing Experience.

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