Stephanie Nakasian is an instructor of voice specializing in the non-classical styles of jazz, pop and theater. She is listed in the Biographical Encyclopedia of Jazz as one of the world’s leading jazz singers. She first came to international attention in the mid-80s when she sang and toured with the vocal jazz master Jon Hendricks and Company – her “vocal jazz apprenticeship.” Since then, she has toured and recorded as a leader and with her partner and internationally acclaimed jazz pianist Hod O’Brien. Together with their daughter Veronica (who also sings and records under the name Veronica Swift) they make their home in Charlottesville,Virginia. Since 1980 Ms. Nakasian has been actively recording. Her debut CD “Comin’Alive” (V.S.O.P.) features legendary saxophonist Phil Woods and received four stars from critic Leonard Feather. “French Cookin’” (V.S.O.P.) spotlights the beautiful combination of Ms. Nakasian’s voice with virtuoso French hornist Bobby Routch. Her “Bitter Sweet” CD (JazzMania) was also very well received. Her “Escapade” takes the audience on a fantasy swing voyage and her “Lullaby in Rhythm” is in tribute to Kenton singer June Christy and features tenor saxophonist Harry Allen. In 2006 two CDs were released: “Thrush Hour” (VSOP), a tribute to 20 great jazz singers featuring a 20 page booklet co-authored by Scott Yanow with pictures, bios and educational tips as to how to listen to each singer to hear the nuances of style and phrasing. “I Love You” (Spice of Life) was released in Japan to rave reviews and a full article in “Swing Journal” in which they called Stephanie “the perfect jazz singer.”
There are many jazz singers on the scene now. Jon Hendricks chose her because of her hip, swinging rhythm. The Jim Cullum Jazz Band features her frequently on their internationally syndicated show Riverwalk portraying Lee Wiley, Peggy Lee, Helen Ward, Helen Humes, 20s singers and blues singers. Their reason – swing and authenticity. She portrayed herself on the show with Dick Hyman on tributes to composers Hoagy Carmichael and Walter Donaldson. The Richmond Times- Dispatch “compared her to Ella…and (she) deserves it.” In Europe they have heard similarities to Sarah Vaughan. In New York, they heard early Margaret Whiting. Her clean, clear lovely tone is another reason for her popularity.
Her original concert revues such as “The Great Ladies of American Song” and various composer and singer tributes have been favorites with schools and universities and concert goers. Her “Great Ladies” revue tracing the development of jazz singing has also been offered as an academic course at the University of Virginia where Ms. Nakasian teaches private voice. She teaches jazz voice and vocal jazz improvisation at The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. She has directed and coached vocal jazz ensembles and gives numerous workshops each year to schools and conferences. Ms. Nakasian authored the vocal jazz book “It’s Not on the Page! How to Integrate Jazz and Jazz Rhythm into Choral and Solo Repertoire” which she has presented in workshops to over 25 state and national music education conferences in the U.S., including MENC, IAJE and MTNA. She also adjudicated at the McKnight Fellowship Competition in Minneapolis in 2005.
Ms. Nakasian has appeared on television and radio in the U.S., Europe, Japan and the Caribbean. National Public Radio featured her on a one-hour concert on “Jazz Set” hosted by Branford Marsalis. Her many festival appearances include the Northsea Jazz Festival (Holland), the Kool Jazz Festival (NYC), S.C. Jazz Festival, N.C. Jazz Festival, Main Street (Columbia, SC) Jazz Festival, the Big Gig (Richmond, VA), the Bethlehem Musikfest (PA), numerous appearances at the Delaware Water Gap Jazz Festival (PA) and a Public Television special featuring duets with trumpet legend Clark Terry. She was featured on tributes to June Christy with the Pete Rugolo Orchestra at the West Coast Jazz Festival in Newport Beach, CA, and at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and also with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra (OH) and Kansas City Jazz Orchestra, the Fargo Arts Group (ND), and at the NJ Jazz Festival. Since then, appearances include the Kennedy Center Jazz Club (DC), The Jazz Standard (NYC), Pensacola Jazz Festival, three cruises including James Moody’s 80th Birthday Cruise, Great Waters Festival (NH), Gulf Coast Festival (Panama City, FL), a week’s stint at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase in Chicago, and the Telluride Jazz Celebration. She also headlined with her daughter Veronica Swift at the Women in Jazz Festival at Lincoln Center in NYC. Most recently, Ms. Nakasian was featured on the National Public Radio program "Fresh Air". To read or listen to the intereview, click here.
Concert appearances as a featured performer include performances with Urbie Green, Pat Metheny, Bobby McFerrin, Milt Hinton, Clark Terry, J.R. Monterose, Joe Temperly, Scott Hamilton, Harry Allen, Sheila Jordan, Bob Dorough, Valery Ponomarev and (with Jon Hendricks) Red Mitchell, Hank Jones, Philly Joe Jones, Roy Haynes, and Annie Ross to name a few.
The final element which makes all this so exciting is her electric and personal stage persona – she does a world class vocal trombone imitation and she’s fun to watch. It’s exciting to be part of the experiment and spontaneous creativity of her art. .
Swing, authenticity, sound, fresh and innovative improvisations and a great, personal show.
An Authentic Jazz Swinger for the New Millennium!