Andy Anselmo has devoted his life to musical theater as a performer and much-sought after vocal coach to the likes of Tony Bennett, Brooke Shields, Mandy Patinkin, and Liza Minnelli. Photographs of these stars and numerous other celebrities fill his Canterbury Woods home.
Anselmo opened the Singers Forum in New York City in the 1960s. Along with instilling the mechanics of singing in his students, Anselmo passed along his belief in the power of positive thinking.
“I taught my students to walk into an audition with the right mindset, projecting positive energy.” Without adopting that mindset himself, Anselmo said, “I couldn’t have handled all that was hitting me all the time.”
Six years ago, Anselmo returned to his native Western New York after more than 50 years in the Big Apple. Despite his declaration of retirement, the 89-year-old has barely slowed down. He still flies to NYC twice a month to give lessons to up-and-coming singer, Caroline Jones, who has trained with him since she was a little girl.
He also presents master voice classes to theater students at Buffalo State.
Recently, he made another significant contribution to Buffalo State; he committed annual and planned gifts to the Theater Department. The gifts will support a musical each year, officially named the Andy Anselmo Musical Theater Productions.
Prior to his contribution, the department did not regularly include a musical in its yearly lineup partly due to the expense. In addition to the costumes and props that musicals require, there is the added cost of song rights.
“They are very expensive. The funding that he gave us goes a long way toward making the annual musical happen,” said Carlos Jones, assistant professor of theater and dance.
Along with adding variety to theatrical offerings, providing students with a yearly musical experience makes them more marketable.
“Performing in musicals is a very viable means for actors to make a living,” Jones said. “One of the No. 1 exports out of New York State is the Broadway musical. It’s also big business across the country and the world. Musicals are always big sellers.”
Although Anselmo did not attend Buffalo State, he made a connection to the institution and its theater program after talking to theater professor and former department chair Drew Kahn at community events.
“Andy’s generosity benefits the Theater Department on several levels,” Kahn said. “Practically speaking, his gifts make it financially possible to include musical theater production and training to our students with regularity and purpose. Educationally, and most important to our students, he brings an unparalleled quality of expertise, training, and experience to our students’ lives. Andy is a legend — to have his professional, personal, and financial commitment to our program immediately places us among an elite class in undergraduate theater training.”
Likewise, Anselmo said he has been impressed with the theater students with whom he has shared his expertise.
“The Buffalo State students are wonderful to work with,” he said. “They are so open and eager.”