My Instrument – Natalya Romaniw
What makes a person devote their life to the learning of a single instrument?
We’ve been asking some world class artists just what it was that led them to do what they do.
Here, soprano Natalya Romaniw reflects on her own journey through the early life of a singer.
(Click HERE for Natalya’s new album: Arion.)
I can’t quite remember if it was the very first time, but certainly one of the first times I remember hearing real, beautiful singing live was when I was as an undergraduate student at the Guildhall School of music and Drama. I’d managed to get a ticket in the amphitheatre of the Royal Opera House to see Anna Netrebko as Massenet’s Manon and I remember being blown away by her performance.
It was my teacher at the Guildhall, John Evans who told me I could really make something out of my singing. I say this because I entered the Guildhall at the age of 18 not having a clue about opera, or knowing I could make a career out of it, but with some real encouragement and guidance along the way from many dear people, here I am!
I’ve always been encouraged to do what I love by my family and in particular by my Mother. She never once pushed me into doing anything. She, much like I did, let it all unravel in front of me.
I hinted at this already but growing up, I truly had no idea about Opera. I’d never seen one and the only thing I knew about it was that it played in the Julia Roberts film ‘pretty Woman’, where he flies her to see what I now know to be La Traviata! Growing up, I watched musicals with Judy Garland and Doris Day, they were very strong influences to me at the start of my musical beginnings.
If I had to describe the sound of an ‘operatic voice’, I would say that when I was discovering my own voice at around the age of 16 or so, it felt to me like a very wobbly sound! That wobbly sound is actually one of the characteristics of an operatic voice – vibrato. Though it should definitely not sound wobbly, it’s where the vocal cords vibrate in a controlled way via breathflow, which is one of the main factors that determine operatic voices from others. Although all voices have the ability to vibrate, we just use it throughout the voice! You can hear it more in the extreme ranges, in a soprano and tenor, particularly at the top and in the lower voices, it almost feels like a snarl! (Don’t tell them I said so though…)
I absolutely listen to recordings of song for pleasure, especially if it’s something I’m longing to learn for the future but I also love to listen to my colleagues singing and playing too. You can learn a lot from listening to others.
If I couldn’t sing, I’m not sure the music world would be ready for or willingly accepting of the only other instrument I learned to play, which was the flute! I stopped playing in order to pass my GCSE performance exams with my singing…so I think that’s better left alone. I would always want to be involved with opera somehow though. I’m not sure administration would be my strong point but I have a passion for this industry and I would find a way to be sure to put that to good use one way or another.
I’m not sure I actively hate anything about being a musician but there are frustrations…for example, being away from home and living out of a suitcase for a long period of time (and accumulating more clothes and therefore more luggage *ahem- soprano*) can be quite frustrating at times. The other bugbear of mine is too much self promotion on social media (she says eating her words having totally trashed all outlets of social media today with Arion promoting!) but I would hope I don’t do it incessantly. Music and its integrity is what should always be at the forefront of any promoting. I think we all tend to forget that sometimes, let this be a reminder to us all!
Singing, no matter how good, is a great form of therapy and an instant release for the soul. Have a go! You can do it anywhere, as long as you’re brave enough. I personally recommend supermarkets in today’s climate.
Any regrets? One MASSIVE one! Not learning to play the piano. That has cost me far more time sat at the piano trying to learn roles without being able to help myself or support myself vocally with accompaniment. Ugh. The lesson: If you refuse to go to piano lessons when they’re offered to you as a child, make sure to befriend LOTS of pianists.