Faculty Profiles: Olga Román
After teaching at various Spanish educational institutions, Olga Román B.M. ’87 joined the Berklee Valencia faculty in Valencia, Spain, in 2015 as a voice instructor in the Master of Music in Contemporary Performance program (production concentration). “Teaching is something I have always enjoyed,” she says. “I take pleasure in helping others develop their musical skills and feel it’s a gift to see them improve. I feel a sense of duty to give back some of what I have received.”
Román’s approach to teaching stresses technique and ear training. She helps her students gain these skills through improvisation. In Román’s view, improvisation instills confidence and self-expression. “Singers usually lead projects,” Román shares. “The more they expand their musical abilities and the harder they work, the more self-assured they will become.” She also guides her students in the search for their own unique voice. “We all have an individual personality, and everything that happens to us is usually reflected in our voice and the way we sing,” she adds.
Román’s own distinctive voice is familiar to Spanish and Latin American audiences. She first gained recognition singing alongside established songwriters such as Joaquín Sabina, Luis Eduardo Aute, Jorge Drexler, Pedro Guerra, Fito & Fitipaldis, Pablo Guerrero, and Ismael Serrano in the 1980s and 1990s. “Being part of someone else’s project means that you have to be able to blend with the other person’s singing, phrasing, interpretation, and emotion,” she states. “Forget about yourself and just flow with the other, as if you were part of his or her voice.”
In 2001 she released her first solo album, entitled Vueltas y Vueltas. Being the artist was a completely new role for her that involved leading and taking responsibility for the outcome of the project. “You feel much more vulnerable and exposed as you reveal yourself through your compositions,” she says. Since then, Román has issued three more albums, including her most recent; De Agua y Laurel (2012), a tribute to Argentinian composer Gustavo “Cuchi” Leguizamón.
Román says that the professional success she’s enjoyed is partly due to her Berklee studies, which she undertook with the help of a scholarship and a Fulbright grant. “Berklee’s methodology helped me to understand music much better and gave me tools and opportunities to develop my professional career,” she shares. “It also enabled me to get in touch with wonderful musicians from all over the world, learn about genres from different cultures, and to become part of a community.” She remained in Boston for eight years before returning to Spain in 1993. A highlight of her Boston years was forming a Brazilian-jazz band that performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival, Quebec Jazz Festival, and Boston Globe Jazz Festival.
Román recently became a member of the Berklee Valencia Faculty All-Stars, a group with fellow instructors from the contemporary performance program. The ensemble’s inaugural gig was at the Festival de Jazz de València in July. The experience offered the group the opportunity to collaborate and then take its music to an audience beyond the Valencia campus.
Román combines her teaching and performing careers with other ventures. For three years she hosted the show Madrid a otro ritmo at Spain’s Cadena SER radio station. She also wrote and recorded a song to support Fundación Theodora—a non-profit organization that brings entertainment to children in hospitals through a campaign called Felices Por Narices (Happy, No Matter What). She also works with Fernando Botella, the CEO of Think & Action, on a project called Growing Harmonically. Botella offers business coaching as Román and her band perform to support and enhance his message.
Román is a believer in hard work, and encourages her students to actively search for a comfortable environment in which to release their creativity, find their voice, and take risks. “This path is not easy,” she says “It took me years to start writing my own songs and record my first solo album. Success has many faces, but to me it means that you are fully in charge of your professional decisions and have developed a career that enables you to make your living at it.”