Voice major Theodora Nestorova launches a campus group for singers.
Soprano Theodora Nestorova ’18 is certainly not new to campus. She is a fourth-year student in the conservatory, preparing to graduate next spring with a major in vocal performance and a minor in musicology.
But even last year, as a junior, Nestorova was learning of on- and off-campus resources she’d been missing out on. When she stumbled upon Student NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing), she was inspired to create a chapter at Oberlin Conservatory. Fast forward to today, and OC SNATS (Oberlin Conservatory Student National Association of Teachers of Singing) has been providing singers on campus with performance opportunities, educational experiences, and exposure to compelling guest technicians and musicians for an entire year. Though Nestorova is about to graduate and head off into the professional world of music, she sees a bright future for OC SNATS. (The organization is hosting a body mapping residency with Dr. Melissa Malde ’84 on September 15 and 16 in Stull Recital Hall—keep scrolling to learn more!)
What first inspired you to make music? What has your Oberlin experience looked like?
I have been singing ever since I can remember. At age 5, I started playing piano, and I used to sing my piano pieces instead of playing them when I practiced; that’s when I knew I wanted to be a singer. As a young soprano, I performed Oberto in Handel’s Alcina with Oberlin Opera Theater in spring 2016 and Amore in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea with Oberlin in Italy in summer 2016. In January 2017, I participated in Emmanuel Music’s Bach Institute in Boston,, which sparked my love for and current work within Baroque music. This past May 2017, I went on tour with the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble under maestro Tim Weiss at the New York City Bang on a Can 30th Anniversary Concert, which was also an incredible experience.
What inspired you to start a Student NATS chapter at Oberlin?
When I was working as a Student Laboratory Assistant one day in the Otto B. Schoepfle Vocal Arts Center, I was looking through Professor Emeritus Richard Miller’s materials, and came across a National Association of Teachers of Singing journal. The NATS organization is well-known across America, but I wasn’t aware of the opportunity for student NATS chapters until I spoke with my voice professor and advisor, Lorraine Manz. Brainstorming with her, I was surprised to find that Oberlin didn’t have one and realized what great opportunities this could provide for the student body. In September 2016, I gathered a group of fellow voice majors who were interested in education, and we formed the first Oberlin Conservatory Student National Association of Teachers of Singing Chapter.
What are some of the activities you aim to offer students?
Other than exposing students to guests that aren’t a regular part of our curriculum, last year, we began Peer Performance Practice Nights: monthly gatherings for voice majors from all studios to come together in a supportive environment with their colleagues and provide a performance simulation experience. This event arose with high demand to provide a safe place to practice the art of performing. We are continuing this series this year, with a special, fun themed one in December! Also, we organize activities to bring together the vocal department, including screenings of master classes, operas, and concerts, and non-music-related events to build community! In the high-achieving, high-pressure environment of being a singer at Oberlin, we hope to alleviate some stress and bring together students to rekindle passion for what we all love to do.
Who is welcome?
ALL are welcome! We don’t just aim to serve the vocal studies division. We extend the invitation to our entire vocal community within Oberlin—anyone in the college is welcome.
How does the work you do with NATS play a role in your life as a voice major?
I have a special interest in education and vocal pedagogy, and forming SNATS has really compelled me to be more in tune with the student body and given me a better perspective for what is out there in voice teaching today. Classical singing is a multifaceted art, so I believe that, for developing singers, exposure to different aspects of singing is crucial. I have learned a lot about arts administration through running the organization, helping me learn even more about the business of singing. I am looking forward to the lessons to take away this year from Dr. Melissa Malde’s upcoming body mapping residency, and hopefully many more such events!
What exactly is “body mapping,” and how can it be beneficial to musicians? What are the goals of this weekend’s residency?
I first found out about Dr. Malde from the Teaching of Singing class, taught by Professor Manz, actually! Ms. Manz handed out some excerpts from Dr. Malde’s book, What Every Singer Needs to Know About the Body, and after taking Ms. Manz’s suggestion, we contacted Dr. Malde. Body mapping is the conscious correcting and refining of one’s body map to produce efficient, graceful, and coordinated movement. The body map is one’s self-representation in one’s own brain, one’s assumptions or conception of what one’s body is like, in whole or part. Many musicians are aware of body techniques to eliminate tension and strain, such as the Alexander Technique, but body mapping is a bit more individualized, which is great for singers, since we all have a unique construction. The goal of this weekend is to expose students to a different method which hopefully can be taken back to the practice room, lessons, and performances with positive effects on vocal technique and body awareness!
What are some of your goals for NATS? Are there any NATS chapters that you’re inspired by? Have you been to any NATS events outside of Oberlin?
As a student organization, we aim to extend the range of vocal knowledge and provide unique resources and opportunities to the wider community. We work to listen to suggestions and thoughts of our community and are committed to doing as much as we can to serve those members and ideas. This year, our goal is to make SNATS available as a resource to all interested students in Oberlin. The Indiana University Jacobs School of Music SNATS chapter has offered some wonderful and engaging events in the past that serve as inspiration to us. Like most young singers, I have competed in the NATS Regional Competitions for many years, but I also had the pleasure of attending the Boston National NATS Conference in 2014, where I saw great lectures and participated in excellent workshops.
How can interested vocalists join OC SNATS?
Everyone and anyone is welcome to attend our open meetings (which we hold once a month on Sundays from 7:30-8:30 p.m. in Robertson 308). Just bring your love of singing and ideas! The public can find us on our Facebook page, where we publish the dates of our open meetings and other information about events at.
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