Vocal Training at the Seminary
This semester, the seminary is offering weekly voice training classes, thanks to the generosity of seminary benefactor Dean Shahinian, Esq. Private voice lessons are offered to any student or member of the faculty or staff who would like to improve his or her voice. Mr. Shahinian is underwriting the program in memory of his aunt Lily Jelalian, a faithful lifetime member of St. Leon Armenian Church in NJ and daughter of Rev. Fr. Vahan Jelalian.
“I proposed these lessons after a seminarian last year suggested that voice lessons would be helpful, and I remembered enjoying taking voice lessons myself,” commented Mr. Shahinian. “I hope the coaching will help members of the seminary community use the voices God has given them more effectively. They will be funded for as long as they are helpful.”
Currently, five students are taking weekly lessons with EphiGenia (Ephi) Kastanas, a professionally trained classical vocalist. “Coming from a family of humble and dedicated priests, readers, choir directors, and vocalists, my first love of music was nurtured in Byzantine chant and the multipart harmony of Western sacred music,” shares Ephi. “This was the impetus for me to train as a classical vocalist. By combing both genres, I am able to offer our dedicated seminarians the training to chant with accuracy, passion and confidence,” she recalls.
Ms. Kastanas’ formal classical music training came from two conservatories as well as private sessions with active and former New York Metropolitan opera stars. Her undergraduate degree began with SUNY Fredonia Music Program in NY and was completed at the Hart School of Music, University of Hartford, in CT. She earned her master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City.
“It is no small blessing to serve St. Nersess Armenian Seminary as vocalist instructor and coach. It is my honor and privilege to help musically and vocally develop and fine-tune men and women who will dedicate themselves as Christian Apostles, Chanters, or Choir Vocalists; all becoming servants to our Lord, Jesus Christ, as well as servants and leaders in the Armenian parish communities,” reflects Ms. Kastanas.
She continued, “They will not only guide Armenian Christians in prayer, but by using their trained and angelic voices, they help participating souls sing harmonious praises to our Lord in order to attain that vital spiritual connection to God. Furthermore, chanting hymns of praise and redemption also helps to unify a congregation, which then fosters continued support for maintaining the longevity of the community,” remarked Ephi.