Best known for bringing Billie Holiday to life on stage, the singer and vocal consultant talks to John Byrne and offers her advice for students and graduates
How did you start off in theatre?
I did a bit of children’s TV presenting for the BBC and got the bug and trained at the Guildford School of Acting.
What instigated the move into teaching?
I started teaching alongside my acting and singing career to explore and understand the demands of the voice and then carried that back to my students and my own career.
What is your best piece of advice for students and graduates today?
Practise using your voice daily and pay attention to areas you need to improve so you are always prepared for that long-awaited role
What would you change about the industry?
There’s room for more black, Asian and minority ethnic actors and singers so what we see on stage is a representation of what we see in our everyday lives. Black Lives Matter’s recent shake-up has unearthed a plethora of material that shows how diverse the industry should be. To include more black, indigenous and people of colour can only enrich all our lives, especially correcting depictions of historical events where BIPOC have been inadvertently left out.
What is the best part of your job?
Watching everyone discover the potential and love of their voice as their vocal problems disappear and they grow in confidence.
Which practitioners you admire the most?
James Earl Jones, Judi Dench, Sidney Poitier, Viola Davis, Julie Andrews, Maria Callas, Jessye Norman, Billie Holiday, Ian McKellen, John Boyega, Beyoncé, Sandra Oh, Margot Robbie and Nina Simone, to name a few.
What is the one skill that every successful theatre professional should have?
Making sure your voice is in good working order. Learn your lines and turn up on time.
Any tips that readers could use to increase their mental and physical wellbeing?
Empty your lungs – breathe in for a slow count of four, exhale on an ‘sss’ until you run out of air and then repeat on ‘z’, ‘f’, numbers, lip trills, rolled Rs and sirens. It’s also great to do regular yoga, walking, dancing, stretching or running.
Nina Kristofferson teaches at vocal-coach-london.com. She was talking to John Byrne