Mary Eason Fletcher, lecturer in music and instructor of voice at the College of William & Mary, had an exceptional holiday surprise last December. David Lai, of Sony Masterworks in New York City, contacted Fletcher about providing voice lessons for Ron Henry, one of the singers who would be recording “4Troops,” a new group on the Masterworks label. The “4Troops” CD, which features Virginia resident Henry, is a new music collection that supports and honors the troops through song. A portion of the proceeds from the CD will benefit charities that support veterans. The CD will be released this month. The unexpected call delighted Fletcher. “I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to make a contribution to this project,” Fletcher said. “It is the most exciting thing that ever happened to me, a real holiday surprise.” Fletcher noted that Lai’s selection of W&M was an honor, as he could have chosen any school to help. Lai’s only stipulation was that the work with Henry be done expeditiously, as the project was on a “very fast track.”
“With less than four weeks until the recording, and with Ron in New York some of the time, our work had to be compressed into five or six sessions,” Fletcher recalled. The experience working with Henry was extremely positive. “He is an engaging, magnetic performer, with a world-class voice,” Fletcher said. “And he is a man of strong personal faith and ethic. I feel truly privileged to have met him. Seeing Ron on television now, and hearing him on the CD, I feel happy that I could make a small difference in his skill as a performer.”
Fletcher approached Henry the same way she approaches all students who seek her help in achieving goals. “Each person, each singer is equally important, whether preparing for a Broadway audition or fulfilling a general education requirement,” she said. Fletcher’s preparation has helped dozens of singers succeed in professional venues after leaving W&M. Some have gone on to New York to perform opera and musical theatre in the city and with regional companies.
Earlier in her career, she met and formed a professional relationship with internationally renowned Juilliard voice professor Daniel Ferro. He has visited W&M several times, giving master classes in 2006 and 2008. Some of her students have had the option to further their studies with Ferro, including J.D. Webster, who graduated in 1990. Webster has sung on Broadway in Showboat, Ragtime, Wonderful Town and Finian’s Rainbow.
In the past, Fletcher served as director of applied music at the college. Currently, her focus is on individualized teaching, as she instructs some 50 students each semester. “The ability of the students runs the gamut, from total beginners to highly-skilled,” Fletcher said. Whatever the reason they find themselves in her studio, they can be assured of her expert advice, education and direction. “I am privileged to do what I enjoy doing most, every day of my life,” she said. “And that is a real gift.”