(Photo courtesy of Nina Setner)
This week’s featured artist is Nina Setner, an incredibly talented singer with a broad range: jazz, cabaret, vintage and current pop/R&B, musical theater, and opera. She is a lifelong lover of music and has studied vocal performance in university, record stores, and beyond.
Q: When and how did you find out about Second Life?
A: I'm an oldie in SL--I'm coming up on my 13th rez day this October, which seems particularly insane to me. Back in 2007, my life changed radically because I'd had my first child earlier that year. Going out with the girls had been replaced with staying home with the baby, so all of a sudden I found myself without much of a social outlet. One night we happened to be watching a now ancient episode of CSI with a storyline in which SL featured, I was intrigued, and here I am--though to be fair, I would say that in addition to the life-changing relationships I've made along the way, it's the music first and foremost that has kept me here. It has always been my touchstone, in both lives.
Q: You sing in a wide variety of styles, two of which are jazz and cabaret. For people unfamiliar with these genres, how would you describe the difference?
A: Oh wow, great question--I'll do my best! In the simplest terms possible, jazz is a musical style, and cabaret is a performance style. Jazz requires a lot of imagination and willingness to experiment and be fluid with rhythm, time signature, melody--but often within a pretty strict framework. In order to excel at it, I think you have to be brave and give into the process. You can't scat sing or improvise 8 bars timidly--you have to go in with your whole heart. Cabaret on the other hand is a more intimate performance setting, as opposed to a larger theater or arena, etc. It can be free form (on the piano bar end) or it can be scripted ahead of time in a more formal cabaret club, but in both settings, singers are enjoying a rapport and a connection with their audience, either by telling them a story through songs they've chosen ahead of time or engaging with them off the cuff. Cabaret singers commit hundreds--thousands, actually--of songs to memory, because in a setting like that, you need to be ready and able to sing requests from multiple genres, jazz certainly being one of them.
Q: You mentioned that you are a mother. How do you balance your creative outlets with raising kids, and do they like music as well?
A: I was a regular in the club circuit here in Chicagoland where I reside in the days before I had my kids. When I stumbled into SL, I had NO clue about the live music community or potential opportunity to continue performing at a high level, but thankfully I found out pretty quickly. While they were little, I had to keep my schedule incredibly light--one, maybe two shows a week tops. As they've gotten older and can entertain themselves for an hour (though everyone who follows me regularly has heard my kids in the background *far* more often than I'd like over the years!), I've been able to increase that show load. My kids are young musicians as well, but neither of them enjoy singing. Apparently they're “too shy.” I keep hoping that'll magically change one day. Fingers crossed!
Q: When books are adapted into films, there are always purists who say the source material was better. Has there been a film adaptation of a musical that you feel should only be experienced live in the theater?
A: Another fantastic question. I think musicals that are more on the visual spectacle end--for example, The Lion King--I think that those are best appreciated live and in person. It's difficult to transfer the director's vision to the screen in those circumstances. I'm also a bit of a Sondheim fanatic/purist, so while I've been really happy to see his work getting the wide exposure and recognition it deserves through film adaptations of Into the Woods and Sweeney Todd, nothing takes the place of seeing Sondheim done as Sondheim intended. On the flip side, some musicals transfer brilliantly--the film version of West Side Story is still, for me, the one to beat. I have yet to see a live performance of it (or any other movie musical) that I liked more.
Q: Did you study music or are you self-trained?
A: At this point, it feels like I've been studying it my whole life. I started playing piano as a young kid and added voice lessons to the mix during my early teen years. Those piano lessons really helped shape my ear and broaden my repertoire beyond what I even understood at the time (I was playing Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" and songs like it back in high school out of random piano collections I'd pick up at the local music store--who knew I'd still be singing those songs 30 years later?) I did study music in college--I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and hold degrees in both choral music education and vocal performance, and I'm still studying today--that never stops!
Q: What is the most meaningful aspect of the SL music community to you?
A: So, so many things. What SL and the music community in particular have added to my life and work as a musician is sort of incalculable. But I think reaching out over thousands of miles, making those connections and sharing your art and your passion with people you never would have had the opportunity to meet otherwise? I think that's pretty damn special. I hope we're here for years to come.
Thank you so much, Nina!
Don’t forget to check out her calendar for upcoming performances, and her group in SL.
If you or someone you know would like to sign up to be featured in Music Mondays, please fill out this form. For more information, take a look at our official announcement.