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Voice teacher Rosalie Loeding, dead at 86, counted Conway Twitty, Paul Harvey among her students

Conway Twitty started out as a rockabilly rival to Elvis Presley and wound up one of country music’s most-revered stars.

Radio announcer Paul Harvey had a heartland voice so honeyed, his 1978 tribute to farmers was the voiceover for a Super Bowl commercial in 2013 — four years after he died.

Rosalie Loeding helped both of them protect their pipes, as well as countless others. A voice coach and performer, she taught “Vocal Survival” seminars to actors, preachers and singers of opera, rock and jazz. She instructed cheerleaders on how to keep cheering without becoming “Gravel Gerties.”

“There’s a big difference between a scratchy voice and a low, sexy voice like Lauren Bacall’s,” she said in a 1982 interview.

Mrs. Loeding, 86, a mezzo-soprano, died May 7 at Beacon Hill in Lombard. She had a piano at the senior living facility and was still teaching until eight months ago.

“I remember her as a brilliant and warm-hearted teacher,” said Roxane Potvin, who consulted her for three days when her voice grew hoarse and raspy during her time as lead singer with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas — a role she had from 1998 to 2007, doing 475 shows a year. “She gave me important tips on how to keep my vocal cords healthy. She found a way, in that short time, to help me build my confidence again so that I was able to return to the stage and perform again nightly for several more years.”

Before moving to senior living, Mrs. Loeding would greet clients who came to her home in Naperville dressed in a touch of red — her favorite color — and play the piano while they sang in front of a mirror so they could see their mistakes.

As they la-la-la-LA-la-la-la’d up their scales, she might say, “Look, your neck muscles are tight. You have to be able to sing and turn your head to both sides.”

Students learned that small adjustments could ease vocal tension — straightening the back, repositioning the mouth and tongue, keeping one’s chin level.

“Nodules do not form if the voice is used sensibly and correctly,” Mrs. Loeding would say. “Learn your correct optimal pitch, and use it all the time. . . . When the optimal pitch is used, the quality of the voice is clear and does not tire as quickly.”

Grateful clients credit her with saving their larynxes and their livelihoods.

“I always say I received a master’s in voice from her,” said Ginger Stephens Terlep of Naperville, who performs in musical theater and as a soloist and in groups.

She started seeing Mrs. Loeding about 18 years ago, when otolaryngologist Robert Bastian sent Terlep to Mrs. Loeding after her surgery for a hemorrhagic polyp.

“She understood every style, from musical theater to opera, and how not to get into trouble” with vocal strain, “whether you had asthma or allergies or TMJ” — temporomandibular joint disorder, a jaw condition.

Radio newsman and commentator Harvey wanted help for laryngitis, according to Mrs. Loeding’s daughter, Anne Loeding-Foster, who still has the receipt for his session.

Mrs. Loeding presented papers at professional conferences and worked with a voice rehabilitation program at what was then called Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center.

In Nashville, doctors invited her on consultations with patients. That’s how she met Twitty. Mrs. Loeding found him “very nice.”

“Rosalie Loeding was a singer and voice teacher who very early latched onto the idea that voice doctors and speech pathologists should understand the perspectives of singers, and vice-versa,” said Bastian, a professionally trained singer and physician who heads the Bastian Voice Institute in Downers Grove.

“Beginning in the 1980s, she was part of a team that included laryngologists, speech pathologists and herself that attempted to better help singers and other professional voice users via this kind of collaboration,” Bastian said. “Rosalie could always be counted on to attend local and regional seminars on voice. She was irrepressibly interested not only in beautiful singing but also in what to do when a singing voice became damaged or limited. Whenever we shared a singer-patient in trouble, she invested a lot of effort in helping to restore or enhance damaged voices.”

Mrs. Loeding understood the anatomy of the throat. A professor at Benedictine University from about 1970 to 1995, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music from Northwestern University. Vocal cords vibrate “440 times per second when singing A above middle C,” she wrote in a paper about overuse of the voice.

“She was an outstanding teacher . . . beloved by students, dedicated to their potential,” said Susan Mikula, acting dean of Benedictine’s College of Liberal Arts.

A Texas rose, she was born Rosalie Lowe in the city of Lufkin, Texas. She grew up in El Paso, Dallas and Shreveport, Louisiana. At 12, she learned to drive. Her father died when she was 13. Her mother sold real estate and owned a beauty salon to send Rosalie and her brother, Howard, to college.

At Northwestern, she met her first husband, John Loeding, who worked in chemical and nuclear engineering. They married in 1949. They lived in Brookfield, Johnson City, Tennessee, and Orchard Park, New York before settling in Naperville.

All her life, she suffered from asthma.

“I think that’s why she wanted to help people,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Loeding also performed in suburban musical theater, including performances in “South Pacific” and as the sexy siren Lola in “Damn Yankees.” Her daughter remembers being scooped off the front porch by her mother when she was about 4, belting out, “Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)” and “Bloody Mary is the girl I love, now ain’t that too damn bad!”

A good home cook, “She could make a smashing sauerbraten” with juniper berries, Anne Loeding-Foster said.

Her children loved watching her dress to go to the Lyric Opera on Friday nights. She had a frock with a skirt so voluminous they called it “The Tent.” They could climb under it as Mrs. Loeding whirled around getting ready. She loved singing the Habanera from “Carmen.” They thought she was better than the singers on records. “She could do the whole line without drawing a breath,” Anne Loeding-Foster said.

Her favorite divas were Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Montserrat Caballe, “La Superba,” who dueted with Freddie Mercury on the Olympics song “Barcelona.” Among male opera singers, she loved Samuel Ramey and Placido Domingo.

Grateful clients often presented her with scarves decorated with musical notes and pianos. She enjoyed English mysteries on PBS, like “Foyle”s War.” And she always had several bottles of the throat spray — Entertainer’s Secret — nearby.

Mrs. Loeding is also survived by another daughter, Barbara Loeding; her brother, Howard, four grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Her son William W. Loeding and her first and second husbands, John Loeding and Harry Clamor, died before her. A celebration of her life is planned from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 27 at DuPahze Hall at Beacon Hill in Lombard.