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Couple helps others reach for the stars

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To say that Michael and Marqui Maresca are singing and acting/dancing coaches, respectively, is loosely analogous to saying that Steve Jobs was a computer salesman.

They may not dominate an industry or be billionaires, but they’ve found a way to reach their clients and help them to get the most out of their own efforts. The Lantana couple has discovered their mutual “calling” and reached down to their hearts to find ways to individually guide their students at the MMOV studios.

While they’re based locally, just off FM 407 in a business strip on McGee Lane in Lewisville, they’ve both lived and worked in New York and Los Angeles, so they bring a top-of-the-entertainment- worldliness to their studios and students. In fact, they met through show business; not in a classroom filled with wannabes, but while they were acting in a full-scale touring production of Saturday Night Fever.

Michael, 27, started teaching at the grand old age of 18. He had already embraced and solved his own talent frustrations and wanted to reach out and teach others. He didn’t prescribe to a formula, though. “I teach technique, not a particular style. I study and observe the students,” he explains. “One of the hardest things to work through is if a singer has gotten stuck in a style.”

Michael had a slight problem of his own that he cured before offering his hand to others. “I was a (lower your reading voice here) bass baritone (lowwwer). But, I wanted to sing higher, like Freddy Mercury or Stevie Wonder. I couldn’t sing like them.”

Fortunately, he refused to believe that none of us can, not even in the shower. He conjured up an idea – or channeled some divine epiphany for what he calls the “middle voice.” This is like a bridge that melds the (GIGANTIC) space between the bass baritone range and the Freddy Mercury pitch. After Michael explained it to me twice, I still can’t really explain it, but I can hear what smooth, fluid midrange he’s cultured, freeing himself from the baritone cave. If he’d lived in Salem, Massachusetts in the 1600s, they’d have probably burned him as a warlock, but he’s safe now.

Actually, safety is the last thing he espouses for his pupils who want to reach for the heights. Your heights, that is, not sounding, “just like so and so…” Michael implores, “We don’t need another Whitney Houston. We need to become ourselves. Be you, be you. Find your voice,” he stresses. “We sing because we have to; we have something to say. The reason you can’t get a part in a show (listen now, stop texting) is because YOUR VOICE IS IN YOUR WAY.” Huh?

“Sometimes a singer will be afraid. Sometimes you have to be willing to sound bad, to let go. When I look at vocalists, I want to see how I can help them become what they should be.” Michael is bubbling over with passion as he points to a wall plaque that says, “Make a list of all the things you believed before you were told they were impossible.”

“By 21, I had something to share.” Having the knowledge is great, but being able to find the students who will listen is another matter, especially when one is just off the freeway in a corner far, far away, in Lewisville, Texas. “I was figuring ways to share the work with the world. Five years ago, I started teaching with Skype. Now, 25-50% of my students are around the country. I can literally work around the world.”

As for his success story, he’s been recognized by major programs such as the Texas State Music Theater, which invited him to teach a master class, and which garnered him tremendous response. He was also invited to teach at the Performing Arts Project in North Carolina, another highly touted program. Michael taught at the Tennessee Arts Academy — not just students – he taught the teachers.

On an individual basis, Michael is particularly proud of work he did with a girl from the Houston area, who could not get past a faux pas of sorts, causing what he described as a, “bubble voice” when she’d get to one part in the scale. “I gave her some exercises that cured her, and then, there was no more…bubble voice.” A lot of his teaching seems more metaphysical than just technique; more belief in one’s abilities to conquer a fear, a glottal glitch, than just physically work with it. If you can take charge of your own weak areas, the world may be at your feet…literally, from the stage.

Speaking of which, while Michael teaches singing, Marqui, his wife, guides people to their best performances with acting and dance. As aforementioned, they met after Michael joined the touring cast of Saturday Night Fever, in New York. When the show got to Las Vegas, he stayed on, but she headed to Los Angeles, where she had studied theater at UCLA. After Michael joined her there, she prodded him to try out for a national touring production of Mama Mia.

“He got the part. I didn’t.” But he still didn’t lose the beautiful woman, proving how amazing he is. He probably opted to forgo the let’s-go-out-and-celebrate-my-success dinner idea.

Marqui was fortunate to have her family’s support for her own very risky career, “My dad had asked me what I wanted to do. Even though his life was very pragmatic, he surprised me when I said I wanted to act, but warned me that I’d better embrace it extremely seriously, which I did.” She’s taught various theater arts, locally, at Marcus High School, too, before the two of them opened their studio, just a year and a half ago.

Since her students range up into their 50s, if you or your parents dream of acting, but know that a little training is needed (okay, a lot may be more like it), Marqui boasts a large, well equipped studio with the ability to playback your work on a large screen. But it’s not about impressing potential students with flashy equipment – it’s about helping students to impress directors with stellar performances.

“One thing I do is to prepare high school students for college auditions – which are very demanding and competitive,” Marqui says, adding, “I also work with people wanting to get into film and TV work. Technique is just a tool. An exercise that works well for one student will not for another.”

Sure, otherwise everyone could act. Marqui uses the technique of ignoring me, here, continuing, “The trend is getting back to being real, authentic, rather than over-the-top. Four or five people came in with no film or TV experience, but they worked really hard, REALLY HARD, and they each had a goal. Within six months, they were able to get Screen Actors’ Guild agents.” That can be much harder than the acting, itself.

“People come in and say, ‘I have a dream and I’ll work really hard. I give them the tools to get there. Some do…but some don’t back it up.’ ”

With so many people struggling to find jobs as the old, security of brick and mortar industry positions are becoming a mirage, nowadays, perhaps there hasn’t been a better time since the 1930s to reach for your lofty dreams. But you’d better work hard if you do.

(Check out the Google reviews from people who did).

Visit www.MMOVSTUDIOS.com, 1865 Mcgee Lane, Lewisville, TX 75077, 214-810-4429

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