Bringing sound to the inexpressable

October 30, 2013 — by Minu Palaniappan

Senior Nina Jayashankar has long held a deep love for singing and musical theatre; however, this passion only surfaced at age 7 during an moment that changed her life forever. On that fateful day after her routine piano lesson, she heard a 13-year-old fellow piano student named Jessica sing a rendition of Ella Fitzgerald’s “Summertime.”

“I remember being particularly drawn to her tone color and vibrato because it was so smooth and sweet despite the high range of the song,” Jayashankar said. 

Immediately enticed by the older girl’s stunning voice, Jayashankar resolved to pursue voice and musical theatre.

So inspired, she decided to test her abilities as a vocalist and contacted Jessica’s teacher, Jennifer Notely, a former Broadway performer who has done theatre and operas.

Notely required Jayashankar to try out before agreeing to teach her.

“She was extremely reluctant to take me because she felt I was too young to learn the technique even though I could hold a tune,” Jayashankar said. “After hearing her tell my mom this, I was so determined to prove her wrong. She did agree to teach me on the condition that for several months she would only teach me breathing.” 

After countless 30-minute breathing sessions and voice tests at Notely’s house, Notely believed she was ready to begin vocal conditioning. 

“When she finally let me learn a song with her, I noticed a difference in my voice. It was more powerful and my phrases were smoother. That was when I realized the kind of singer she could make me,” Jayashankar said. 

After years of persistent practice, Jayashankar has found success in many music-performance venues. She initially participated in middle school choirs and show choirs, but as she grew, Jayashankar developed a voice capable of performing on high school, state, national and Olympic choirs.

In addition to music, she also discovered a love of theatre, which allowed her to demonstrate her voice in a different medium. 

Jayashankar credits her parents with her interests in the arts.

“My parents for constantly played oldies for me and inspired my love of music, particularly my dad who encouraged me to try another style of singing when Carnatic [South Indian classical music that Jayashankar learned at age 4] wasn't working out,” Jayashankar said.

Now, as a student prepared to enter college, Jayashankar doesn’t question her decision to pursue music.

“Whether it means earning another degree and trying to work another job on the side, I'm willing to face whatever setbacks necessary to be a performer one day,” Jayashankar said.


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