Cornelius L. Reid began his studies in music at Trinity Church Choir School in New York City as a boy soprano in 1920. His teaching career began as assistant to Dr. Douglas Stanley from 1934 to 1937. Since then he has developed his own school of functional vocal training based on Italian methods of the pre-scientific era, combined with insights afforded by modern concepts of physiology, acoustics, and psychology.
Mr. Reid taught in his New York studio up until eleven days before his death. He gave numerous master classes in the United States, Canada and Europe, including seminars in Germany, Austria, Switzerland as well as the Guildhall School of Music in London. Mr. Reid lectured and gave demonstration lessons for many teaching organizations such as the German Singing Teacher’s Association, the National Association of Teachers of Singing of the United States and the New York Singing Teachers Association. Some of his final master classes were sponsored by the American Center for the Alexander Technique and compared his ideas and theories with those of F. M. Alexander.
The pedagogic theories espoused by Cornelius Reid over the course of a seventy year teaching and writing career are based on the works of the early teachers of the eighteenth century. The main focus of those masters was the vocal registers, the chest voice and the falsetto. To this Reid added the insights provided by physiological research as to how the vocal mechanism works. In his research he discovered that the most efficient way to train the vocal mechanism was not by the institution of overt control systems, but by working indirectly. Since the muscles that bring the vocal folds into tension are involuntary, the entire mechanism must be treated as such.
Considered from this perspective, Reid’s training philosophy is founded on what amounts to an ecological principle, where the vocal mechanism is regulated and controlled by changes in the environmental conditions to which it is being exposed.