Q&A with Jaime Garamella ‘99, Director, The Voice Studio, NYC Guitar School

Major: Comparative Area Studies / Minor: Japanese

What are 2-3 ways your Duke experience helped prepare you for your current career role and/or previous roles?

I took late Prof. Paul Jeffrey’s jazz class, and even though I knew nothing about jazz, he invited me to join the jazz ensemble. It was a transformative experience, in that it got me thinking, “I might actually be able to make music part of my life.” I also met pianist Clark Stern in my freshman dorm, and our experience playing parties on campus in the Terry Wiley Band helped me cut my teeth.

How did you make the transition from Duke to your career? What are a few helpful takeaways from your first years out of Duke?

I bounced around, moonlighting as a musician for a few years, until I decided to really make it a career. I enrolled at Berklee College of Music, where I studied voice, guitar, songwriting, and music production & engineering. If I had to do it again, I’d have sought out more mentors along the way.

How did you decide what you wanted to do after Duke? And how did you make transition(s) to different fields?

Music is not exactly a linear field. I played and toured in bands, played solo gigs, wrote jingles, and taught lessons in order to make a living. At one point, after moving to NYC and temping for a while, I needed a steadier income, so I decided I’d apply for a job at every single music school in the city. I got two offers, and one turned out to be with the amazing company I’m with now.

What is your favorite thing about working in your profession? Most challenging?

I love going to work every day. I love coaching personal greatness through the medium of voice and guitar, something that has such a positive impact in the world because of the uplifting and inspiring approach we use. I’m a people person, so I love that my job is all about social interaction. The hardest part is the energy it takes to teach hours on end. It’s like a really long performance!

What are 2-3 pieces of advice you would offer to a student interested in your field(s)?

Look long and hard at the economics and trade-offs. If you enjoy music, you can always do it as a hobby, and it’s less stressful if you have a good job to keep you afloat. Our family couldn’t get by on my salary alone. Find great teachers and mentors. Fail quickly—try many things and quickly discard the ones that don’t feel right. Be kind. And be adaptable!

Anything else to add?

I teach group classes and private lessons in singing and guitar, and direct the Voice Studio at NYC Guitar School. After teaching guitar for several years, I developed a voice curriculum for the school where none existed. I wrote three books and recorded exercises for group classes. Since then, the Voice Studio has expanded to include 5 voice teachers and hundreds of students. In my free time, I play bass in a rock band, Thrilldriver, write songs, and raise two amazing children.

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