In addition to being one of the premier jazz vocalists on the scene today, Stephanie Nakasian has been a respected jazz educator for more than 30 years, teaching jazz vocals and jazz history at the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the College of William and Mary, as well as providing private lessons. This experience has led her to gather many observations about vocalizing and the various aspects of teaching students with a wide variety of backgrounds and personal quirks.
In Breathing Room: Stories of Personal Transformation from Voice Lessons (Stephanie Nakasian, Charlottesville, 114 Pages 2020, Paperback), Nakasian relates, in a series of short vignettes, many of the situations that she has experienced and how she deals with the various issues presented by her eclectic cast of students.
Students come to her with a variety of experiences and objectives. She hears from students who insist they have no vocal ability. She believes that almost anyone with the proper instruction, frame of mind, and desire can become at least an adequate singer. Most people who are insecure about their ability to sing, she says, have never been given the proper tools, understanding of vocal techniques, and correct mental approach to sing effectively.
Nakasian also has encountered students who are stubborn, might think they know it all before they start lessons with her, or have no real idea of the subtleties involved in developing their vocal talents. She relates various techniques she has developed to address these and a wide range of other situations.
A common problem is that most young people today are exposed to many performers who are successful despite having horrible deficiencies in their vocal approaches, many of which can lead to permanent damage to one’s vocal cords. Nakasian has had to find ways to neutralize these influences and set her students on the road to developing techniques and habits that will enable them to sing effectively and safely.
As you read through her stories, you come to realize that much of Nakasian’s teaching involves working with her students’ minds as much as with their vocal techniques. Dealing with shyness, a lack of confidence, stubbornness, overcoming bad influences and poor judgement are among the major problems she has to assist her students in overcoming.
If you like to sing but have doubts about whether you can do so outside of your shower, this book will be a source of encouragement. Even if you never get to the point where you seek professional help to develop as a singer, but continue to indulge in singing around the house or in church, the advice offered in these pages by Nakasian can prove helpful and valuable. In addition, it is a fun read! (stephanienakasian.com/store) –JOE LANG