“Performing has always been a love of mine. I love walking onto a stage, looking up at the lights and gazing out at the audience. It’s always a little nerve-racking but also very exciting!” These were the words of Stephanie Marie Nahous in an interview with WomanWise. Twenty-two year old Nahous placed third in the Classical Music Development Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago’s (CMDFTT) first annual music competition. The young woman who also received the Audience Choice Award is, according to her peers, “truly a combination of beauty, brains and talent which is so rare to find all in one person. She is a great role model for our youth as she is very serious about both her studies and her music.”
To secure her place in the competition, the songster did Widmung by Robert Schumann and Perduta ho la Speranza by Stefano Donaudy for the semi-final round. For the final she sang Ouvre ton Coeur by Bizet and Quando me’n vo’ by Puccini. How does the beautiful Nahous feel about placing third in the competition? She disclosed, “this competition was a fantastic opportunity for all of Trinidad and Tobago’s budding young singers. Competitors had the opportunity to put their best foot forward, to interact with extremely talented musicians and to work with some distinguished professionals in the world of classical music. That being said, placing third in this competition was a big accomplishment for me and I am very happy about it.”
From a young age Nahous, as she puts it, “was immersed in all aspects of the arts” - singing, dancing and playing the piano to name a few. “Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember,” she related. “One of my earliest memories is singing ‘You are my sunshine’ at a family function at the age of seven. I sang in the choir through primary school and joined the choir at St. Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain, led by Michelle Varley, when I was 15 years old. I also joined The Assumption Church Choir led by Juliet Eckel. I later entered music festival and began training with June Nathaniel.” Nahous placed third in the Girls’ 16-19 solo category in the North Zone at the age of 16. “After that, I kept up my training in Trinidad with June Nathaniel and later joined The Marionettes Youth Chorale for a year before leaving to attend University.” Still, this young woman is committed to contributing to building her country in whatever way she can. When she is in Trinidad she still sings at The Parish of the Assumption and at various charity events and weddings. “I have been keeping up my training abroad where I am pursing a vocal performance minor in the United States” she added. She is also majoring in Communications with a minor in Business Administration.
Not only is Nahous serious about her academics and music but she also places great emphasis on her family life. She was actually inspired by her grandfather. “My Grandfather, Ramon Sabga, was a big influence in my life. He has always been one of my role models. He taught me so many wonderful things about life, business, family…but aside from all of that, he was also able to share with me his love for music, thus, introducing me to the world of classical music.” The singer then continued, “He discovered his voice at a young age and his singing was inspired by tenor Mario Lanza. Though he was not a professional singer he was still able to share his talent and his love for music with his family and friends. He was never one to turn down an invitation to sing. If I had to sum up my Grandfather’s advice on singing it would be something like: ‘do things with passion or not at all’. He really encouraged me to be confident, relaxed and passionate. He taught me to sing from the heart.”
Her love for her grandfather clearly evident. Nahous continued, “It is difficult to sum up the many wonderful memories with my grandfather. A few, however, that come to mind are singing at his annual Christmas Day lunch with Felix Roach at the piano and relaxing to the sweet sounds of old Hollywood musicals and his favourite Mario Lanza films. They were always days filled with love and laughter.” Over the years, Nahous has been involved in five choirs. What was her greatest challenge in moving from choirs here in Trinidad to massive choirs in the States? “A difficulty that I came across is the need to sight sing music. It is something very common in big choirs in the United States,” she said. So does Stephanie Nahous think enough is being done here in this country to encourage young people in the arts? “I think that there are a lot of opportunities for young people in the arts, especially for singers,” she said. “There are so many great choirs and teachers in Trinidad. The young people just need to reach out and seize the opportunities that are available to them. Of course there’s always room for improvement.” For those young people Nahous sent out some words of advice: “Nothing happens overnight. It takes hard work, dedication, discipline and sacrifice. Stay focused on your goals and be prepared for the obstacles that may come your way.”
Nahous indicated that competitions such as the CMDFTT’s first annual music competition not only provide great opportunities for singers but they also help in creating memories that will last a lifetime. “A memorable moment for me was on the night of the finals. All of the competitors were backstage waiting for the adjudicators to make their final decision. Instead of waiting in silence we gathered around the piano and took turns playing our favourite tunes and singing along. It was fantastic!” She then added, “Another memorable moment was the day after the finals. The eight finalists were invited to take part in a master class led by Hilda Harris and Carlos Aransay. It was an insightful experience. Ms Harris and Mr Aransay were able to share their expertise and knowledge with us and also provide some feedback and constructive criticism on our performance and technique. I am grateful to the CMDFTT for providing such a great platform for young aspiring musicians to obtain experience, gain exposure and just have fun.”
Who does Nahous wish to thank for her success? “I would like to the almighty God for his many blessings. I would like to thank my loving family and friends for their unending support and constant encouragement over the years; especially my parents, grandparents and brothers” she said “And I would also like to thank my wonderful teachers for their patience, dedication and example of excellence.” It is clear that Stephanie Nahous’ love for music is undying. She concluded, “Music is universal. It transcends time, language and culture. It warms the heart and touches the soul. It is an expression of emotion that touches every person in a different way. I think music is important to everyone since it gives people something to relate and aspire to. I can’t imagine my life without music.”