Olga Román: A Voice of Her Own
Picture courtesy of Olga Román, by Jerónimo Álvarez.
At least two generations of Spaniards and Latin Americans have grown up with singer Olga Román B.M. ’87, either through one of her many collaborations with the most prominent names in the Spanish-speaking music scene or, more recently, as a solo artist.
She credits her success in part to her years at Berklee College of Music, which she attended on a scholarship and a Fulbright grant. “Berklee’s methodology helped me understand music much better and gave me the tools and opportunities to develop my professional career,” Román said.
She formed a Brazilian-jazz band that performed at festivals such as the Montreal Jazz Festival, Quebec Jazz Festival, and Boston Globe Jazz Festival.
Upon returning to Spain in 1993, Román began working with Joaquín Sabina, a renowned songwriter with whom she recorded several albums and toured Spain and Latin America. “Being part of someone else’s project implies getting into his or her musical world,” she said. “You have to melt into what the other person is looking for and enhance it, learn to become part of a whole.” She also has collaborated with Jorge Drexler, Pedro Guerra, Fito & Fitipaldis, Pablo Guerrero, and Ismael Serrano.
Román released her first solo album, Vueltas y Vueltas, in 2001, which she described as a unique experience. “When you are the leader of a band, you are responsible for the project and the outcome, and you feel much more vulnerable and exposed, as you are revealing yourself more through your compositions,” she said.
Picture of Olga Román by José Aguilar.
Román has a special affinity for Argentina, where she has performed several times. In 2006, she presented her solo debut in Buenos Aires. “We had to do two shows in the same day because the first one sold out, and the second one also sold out,” she recalled. As further proof of her love affair with the country, Román recorded her second album, Olga Román 2, in Buenos Aires in 2005. And her most recent album, De Agua y Laurel (2012), is a tribute to Argentinian composer Gustavo “Cuchi” Leguizamón.
Román began teaching when she was 13, explaining solfège to neighbors and other children. “Some boys wanted to be around my youngest sisters, so I helped them with their singing and guitar playing,” she recalled. Román said that when she teaches, it is “a great gift to see how students improve. I have a sense of duty to give back what I received.”
She joined Berklee’s campus in Valencia, Spain, in 2015 as a voice instructor after working for other institutions. In addition to developing a vocal technique, singers must expand their ear, Román said, because “this sense is our guide—if we can’t hear it inside our head, we won’t be able to sing it.” She also teaches students how to strengthen confidence, vocal improvisation, and self-expression.
Each singer has a unique personality, and it is critical that each voice is developed to enhance its singularity. Vocal technique is a prerequisite to “getting to know your instrument and improving your skills,” she added.
Although success can be measured in different ways, Román said that to be able to enjoy a fulfilling career, singers must find an identity and repertoire that really fits. “But sometimes this search is not that easy,” she noted. “It took me years to start writing my own songs and record my first solo album.”
Lastly, Román stressed that singers should be proactive. “Sing with everybody you can sing with, join any group you might be interested in, and surround yourself by people you admire and [who] make you feel safe so you can explore and take risks,” she said.