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SINGING with the fishes

Like many of us, Michael Welton sings in his car and around the house. But Welton, 31, also sings to customers as he works at Tony’s Fish Market in Oregon City wrapping up pieces of smoked salmon.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Choose a fish, get a song from Michael Welton at Tony's.“I’ll start singing a Josh Turner song, and customers love it. They’ll tell me I have a great voice,” Welton said.

He’s also been known to sing in the grocery store, with much the same result, in that fellow shoppers will compliment him on his voice, he said.

Welton, a 2000 Oregon City High School graduate, never sang in the school choir, but he does have a dream.

“Going to Nashville and making it; just having people hear me. But I have a lot of learning to do,” he said.

And that is where Diana Fronko Larson, a voice and performance coach with a studio in Camas, Wash., comes in.

“About a year ago, I met Mike’s wife, a makeup artist for Smashbox, and she said, ‘You have to hear my husband.’ I had no idea what he’d be like, but he turned out to have a voice like butter,” Fronko Larson said.

Because Welton has never had any professional training, Fronko Larson began working on his performance skills, like breathing, posture and diction, with the idea of building his confidence.

Welton does karaoke at the Beavercreek Saloon and Puff’s in Gresham, but Fronko Larson has bigger plans for him.

“I took him into Quality Music, a recording studio in Vancouver, and Vic Sorisio, the recording engineer, said, ‘Whoa, this guy’s really good.’ And he did do very well for his first time,” Fronko Larson said.

Ultimately, she wants Welton to have his own concert, sing the national anthem at an athletic event, and maybe even compete in a vocal event at a state or county fair.

“I want to open as many doors as I can for this guy, to share his beautiful voice. I want to develop his stage presence. He’s marketable as a singer, so the sky’s the limit,” Fronko Larson said.

Country songs inspire

Welton, who has worked at Tony’s for seven years, said his grandfather got him into country music, and he admires Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.

Country music “makes you feel good, and when I sing gospel songs, I like the way it makes me feel.”

Some of the songs he sings to his customers include “Long Black Train” and “Your Man.”

Fronko Larson has given him encouragement, teaching him about stage presence and how to present himself as a singer.

And she certainly knows the ropes, since she has had a long career as a professional vocalist, including as a singer with the Oregon Symphony Pops concerts, conducted by Norman Leyden.

Since Fronko Larson has been a voice and performance coach, she has helped students earn scholarships to college. One of her students went to Julliard, she said.

She also worked with a student who made it to the semifinals of “American Idol,” and her students have appeared with the Portland Opera, Oregon Children’s Theatre and Northwest Children’s Theater.

Training is important, Welton said, because he does not want to be perceived as a rookie.

He added, “I want to let people know I’ve done this before. I want to be a professional.”

Contact Diana Fronko Larson at 360-449-9345 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tony’s Fish Market, 1316 Washington St., Oregon City, can be reached at 503-656-7512.



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