Nichelle Nichols Q&A Women of SciFi Convention January 29, 2011, Part 1

16 02 2011

Robert Wilonsky with the Dallas Observer is moderating.

[The crowd is chanting: U-HUR-A, U-HUR-A. There was a large amount of clapping with the standing ovation.]



The awesome Nichelle Nichols. By far, her Q&A was the best.



RW: I can’t believe that was all for me. (crowd laughs). Awfully kind. There is a microphone set up in the center. I have some questions. But, just. Not yet. Just wait. Let me ask a couple. If you would like to ask a question, feel free to line up at this very moment. We will get to you. We have about 45 minutes and let’s take some questions. But I would like to begin with one. And thank you for being here by the way.

NN: It is my pleasure. My pleasure.

RW: Now William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy have inflicted upon this world some of THE worst music ever made.

Ms. Nichols and the crowd laugh a great deal.

NN: I didn’t say that.

RW: No, I did. [Pointing to the audience]: They did. You on the other hand have an extraordinary voice, performed with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton’s bands, released an extraordinary album in 1967 called, “Go Down to Earth.” Only released one album after that. Why? Why not more records from you?

NN: I actually have done a couple of others, but I got sidetracked from my career doing something from outer space. Star Trek interrupted my career.

(Crowd laughs).

NN: And I don’t regret it. The career that I intended, that I felt that I was supposed to do became so much more, and I am really, really glad.

RW: Haven’t you never find time, though, to go back to the studio. Star Trek became a career, working for NASA, working with NASA as a recruiter then and now, became part of a career. You could have found time to get back into the studio. It didn’t stop Shatner.

(Crowd laughs).

RW: Unfortunately.

NN: NOTHING stopped Shatner.

(Crowd laughs)

RW: That may be true. Good God they are already lined up [looking at the microphone line]. Music is still a very big part of your life. In fact, you were serenading a young girl to her today. You were singing a little bit in the green room. You have an extraordinary voice. Do you ever intend to get back to it?


Uhura Singing

Uhura Singing



NN: I never left it. When I’m not working, I have a one-woman show called “Reflections” in which I actually become 12 legendary black women entertainer stars.

RW: Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald…

NN: Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, Pearl Bailey, Mahalia Jackson–just to name a few. I have this quirky voice and I found an incredible voice master at some point, and I was looking for a coach to take me through some areas of music that I wanted to smooth out. He said, “I’m not a coach; I’m a voice builder.” And I said, “Okay.” He was an Italian man named Giuseppe ______, and he was the “little monster.’ He was 4 feet 8 inches. He was gargantuously tall. That was it. I, to his face, called him Little Mussolini. And he said, “Thank you.” Because he demanded of you your best. And you could only work from how he taught it. He taught “bel canto” which “made beautiful voice” and the exercises sound like nothing like singing exercises. As a matter of fact, I think anybody who has ever studied “bel canto” will ever show you what the exercises are because they are vocal exercises that really grab hold to your body, your voice and turns it into something that you can do anything you want to it. There are some very famous people who have studied “bel canto.” I think there were only 4 teachers in the United States. So I told him, “Well if you could help me, this is what…because, you know, I have these two voices and when I sing….” He said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute, what? I said, “Well the two voices that I have.” He said: WAIT….A…MINUTE: What do you mean you have two voices? What do you mean?” He said, “Show me.” I said, “Well, you know I have this high soprano voice, and then I have this other that I sing regular music in.” And he said, “And you call that two voices?” I said, “Well yes, a lot of people have two voices.” And he started laughing at me. So he laughed at me so hard that he fell off the piano stool. He started off saying, “I’m not taking any new people.” And I told the person that had told me about him, “Tell him to tell that to my face.” He said, “Fine, put him on.” He says, “I’ll tell her to her face; I’m not taking anyone else.” Next thing he was, “Well when we work, you will have one voice.” And so I sang to him. He said, “Let me see the two-piece/two voices.” So I sang, like:

[Begins singing]

NN: And then I sang for him my other voice, my soprano voice, [sings a song in her higher range].


NN: And he said, “So?” I said, “When I get to a certain place it stops and then I have to go to the other one. He says, “No everyone doesn’t.” And when he got through with me, I’ve got one voice, so I can take it anywhere I want it to go. At that time, it was about a 4-1/2 octave range, and I think over the years I have about a 3 to 3-1/2 octave range depending upon how I feel that day.

RW: Getting you to sing was my entire goal in coming here.

(Laughter and applause).

RW: I have many questions, and I know you guys do. So we are going to turn the course of this. I’ll ask some, then you guys will ask some, so please. You have been waiting there, go ahead.

To be continued in Part 2



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: