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Nina Moshman has reluctantly had to put her voice lessons on hold while heading off to college. She told her coach, Zuke Smith (Brett Manning Associate), that she realized she’d have more on her plate than she originally thought, and was engaged in a crash course of ballet, trying to learn enough in time for school. She did request that Zuke still send her e-mails with tips, articles, and notices about performances. Nina graciously took time out of her frantic schedule to answer a few questions about her journey to singing success under Zuke’s tutelage.

Q + A

SSO: Describe yourself before your first lesson in terms of fear and confidence, as well as the state or condition of your voice at that time?

Nina: Before my first lesson I had done some singing in the choir at my high school, and I had been in two of the musicals. It was a struggle for me to audition for both of these groups, even though I would only be singing in front of one or two people. I was even afraid to sing for fear the people around me would hear me! So, I was petrified to sing for Zuke, I couldn’t even face her at first when I did sing. I would say that at the time I could carry a tune, but that’s about it as far as the state and condition of my voice.


SSO: Do you remember a specific breakthrough that clearly began to fight through fear?

Nina: My biggest breakthrough was at a group lesson in preparation for an audition for the school musical. Zuke had us sing the audition song as a group, then in smaller groups, then in pairs, and finally (when we were ready) by ourselves. Everyone was supportive and critiqued each other, and it gave me the confidence to sing in front of other people, something I had never done before, even casually with friends. I’d say that was a huge step for me, and I never regressed, I’ve only moved forward since then.


SSO: What was the biggest challenge with working through the program, and did you ever have an experience where you thought you might give up? If so, what got you through it?

Nina: The biggest challenge I had was confidence. Sometimes, I would get discouraged by how I would sound doing a certain exercise and I would become very embarrassed and want to stop. Zuke got me through it, as she always does, by showing me how one little exercise connects to the bigger picture. You have to practice the smallest elements of singing before you can sing an entire song. She would also tell a personal account of how she was before she overcame the same hurdle, and reassure me that I was doing everything right, and that my voice is beautiful. Somehow, she always knew just what to say and I would forget why I was discouraged and embarrassed and suddenly be confident.

SSO: Describe yourself now after your latest lesson in terms of fear and confidence, the state/condition of your voice, and aspects of your life that the program (and Zuke) have impacted?

Nina: As of now, I still have some issues with confidence, but nothing that would keep me from singing in front of people. There is always fear, but it’s good to be afraid because it makes you more aware of yourself. Plus, I can control my fear and channel it into my excitement to sing. The condition of my voice has greatly improved from when I first started, because I now know what I need to do to sound good, and I have a variety of exercises to use when I need to take care of my voice. Zuke has also impacted me in other ways. Her teaching style is so unique, because she truly connects on a personal level with each of her students, and she knows just what to say to each one to make them comfortable. When I become a teacher, I hope to be just like her, and connect to my students on a personal level. I want to be able to help them with their confidence hurdles as she did with me.


SSO: What is your favorite tip, exercise, or lesson learned?

Nina: My favorite tips would have to be her confidence boosters. I heard a lot of them in my time with her, and use them in every aspect in my life. They truly impact the way I sing, as well as the way I live.

SSO: What will you be studying at school, and how do you feel your experience with Zuke and the program has helped you prepare for going to college?

Nina: I will be attending Muhlenberg College in the fall, and will be pursuing a double major in Dance and Psychology. I will also be a member of the college choir, thanks to Zuke. She helped me prepare for my audition, and without her, I would not have gotten in. Zuke has inspired me in multiple ways, aside from vocal training. I strive to be like her, because there is truly no one else like her. She not only teaches you how to bring out the beauty in your voice, she helps you learn how to find the beauty in your soul, because singing does not only come from your vocal cords! My experience learning from Zuke has been one of the best, and I don’t know what kind of person I would be without her help. I might not have even chosen the same career if it hadn’t been for her! She is truly a unique person, and one of the best teachers I have ever had.

The Teacher Learns From The Student

Every great teacher feels they learn something from every student, and Zuke is the first to admit that each person she helps opens her heart to soul to a greater awareness on some level.

“Nina has taught me to go into the most sensitive side of myself…the part I don’t want anyone to know about or touch,” Zuke said. “Yet, she came to me so she desperately wanted someone to find that part of her and love it. I could only reach her if I faced every single side of myself…which I had…but I had to revisit it to understand her sensitivity. I didn’t want her to be afraid…I wanted to let her know I was there for her every step of the way and that her voice meant something very special to me.”

Mastering Mix

Zuke is also excited about the tools she has been given to worth with as a Brett Manning Associate. She is also very excited about the Mastering Mix program and all it will do to further enhance the growth, progress, and performance of students like Nina.

“Let me give you my succinct interpretation of the mix voice,” Zuke said. ” You need compression to bring together the vocal cords. When you hold your breath, you automatically close the cords because no air is escaping. You need just enough air to pass through the cords in order to create a sound (think of pinching a filled balloon and it makes a sound because you are letting out just enough air). The finesse comes in balancing the two – the compression and the air. I call it the perfect dance. A chest voice has compression (your speaking voice). A heady voice has air. There has to be a way to transition between the two so it’s called the mix. It’s like mixing a cake batter…you blend it long enough and it gets creamy and smooth. Some people make the mistake of bringing the chest up too high and it’s like lifting a rock over your head…it’s too heavy and you sound like your constipated. Others bring their head voice down too low and they sound like a bad Miss America contestant…nervous and breathy…or an opera singer trying to sing rock. We are trained by Brett’s method to hear exactly what the student needs and how to guide them into their mix with more ease. Mix in itself has many different combinations, which you can imagine – a chesty mix, a breathy mix, a heady mix, etc. We teachers not only can hear these different mixes, but we need to be able to demonstrate them as well.”

The possibilities for Nina are staggering as she takes her uniquely powerful voice out into the world to master the mix that comes with sharing her gifts.

Randy Moomaw

Author Randy Moomaw

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