It has often been said that home is where the heart is. If that is true, then former Durant resident Stephanie Nadolny’s true home is right here in Bryan County.
When I was first contacted by Nadolny, she told me of her past job of being the voice of Goku on the wildly popular anime series “Dragon Ball Z.”
Having a 12-year-old brother who loves the show, I was excited to meet her. When I told my brother, he was super excited and begged for an autograph.
Nadolny was more than happy to oblige. “Sure!” she said and signed a picture of Goku in fighting stance. “I will write ‘Kame-hame-ha,’ because he always says that,” she explained.
The autographed picture is now a prized possession of my brother, and thanks to Nadolny, I am now the “best big sister in the world.”
I was curious how Nadolny became involved with doing voice for cartoons. She said she auditioned while she was a member of the traveling musical group Vince Vance and the Valliants.
“It’s something I’ve always known I’ve wanted to do, but didn’t know how to pursue it. Even as a young child, my favorite thing in the world was my cassette player. I’d get the little blank tapes and I’d record anything and try to imitate what I was recording and I would record myself afterwards and see if I could imitate those characters because I thought it was fun and quirky,” she said with a smile.
“I auditioned and they liked my little boy voice the best, so they cast me as kid Gohan [Goku]. I didn’t know what I was getting into – I’d never seen the show and I knew nothing about Japanese anime,” she said. “And, I’ve just been cast in a brand new animated feature for Cartoon Network, but I can’t say anything else right now. They found me by hearing my voice on ‘Dragon Ball Z.’”
The bubbly blonde has had a successful career singing and doing voice over work; Nadolny has made quite the name for herself as a singer and performer.
She currently performs with the Highrollers every Wednesday and Thursday at Winstar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma.
“I was actually selected for the group along with five other amazing musicians out of the Dallas area,” she said. “We’re going on a year and a half of performing. I’m able to utilize all of this history from the singing and the dancing and the voice overs and the costuming, even. It’s turned into something really exciting.”
The history that Nadolny references started when she was just a little girl. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, she knew from the beginning that she was destined for a great career. “I was absolutely enthralled with music, with singing voices, from an early age. I remember as young as three, my dad had an eight track player and would hook up microphones and my brother and I would sing and my dad would record us. They couldn’t get the microphone away from me,” she said laughing. “Even in my three year old mind, I knew I was going to be living a career dealing with the voice.”
When Nadolny was six years old, her parents divorced and her mom remarried the following year. Her stepfather was often transferred for jobs.
“We moved based on his career; his job kind of dictated where we went,” she said.
In June 1981, the family moved to Durant and her stepfather became the administrator for Bryan County Memorial Hospital.
“Thankfully it was summer and not the middle of the school year,” she said. “I started attending church at First United Methodist and I made fast friends with all the kids from my neighborhood. I started fifth grade at Northwest Heights and absolutely loved it here [Durant]. I think it’s an amazing place to bring up a family. It’s a small community and tight knit, but there are a lot of arts here.”
And, for someone like Nadolny, that was a dream come true. She was soon involved in children’s theater and was cast as the lead role in “Sleeping Beauty.”
“It was musical theater, so I ate that up – it was acting, singing, dancing and costumes,” she said.
At Durant Middle School, Nadolny continued to flourish and expanded her singing career through show choir and other vocal opportunities.
Even though Nadolny loved Durant, her residence in the “City of Magnolias” would not be permanent. Her family soon moved to a small town in Kansas.
“We were transferred again and of course I was devastated. There, I tried to fit in and kind of failed sort of miserably. I missed everyone here. I made the transition and stayed with everything I loved with choir and acting and singing. I tried to stay involved in all things music and participated in talent shows in things like that,” she said.
When she was a junior, Nadolny’s family moved one last time. This time, they moved to Lewisville, Texas.
“My mother felt horribly about doing this to me again, so she kept talking about how much closer I would be to my friends in Durant,” she said.
Nadolny said as soon as she arrived in Lewisville, she was on the phone reconnecting with her friends.
After she graduated high school, Nadolny attended the University of North Texas. While there, she auditioned for the music group Vince Vance and the Valliants.
“We had a tour bus, traveled all over the US, traveled overseas for a US Naval tour. I loved it – I stayed in the band for 10 years,” she said.
In 1999, Nadolny’s mother was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia and passed away suddenly in August. Her blue eyes clouded over with sadness as she spoke about her mom.
“My mother was my everything; she was my biggest fan, my biggest supporter. She was all about my career flourishing. She was wonderful. She was involved in all the things I was doing growing up. Knowing she believed in me and wanted me to be happy, I was able to find strength and move on,” she said quietly.
Nadolny’s face lit up when she recalled an event she considers to be a turning point in her life. In 2009, Nadolny attended the 20 year reunion of the Durant High School class of ’89. This would have been her class if she had never left Durant.
“I attended my 20 year high school reunion had I not moved. I could not wait to see everyone – it had been 20 plus years for me. When I walked in the room, I wondered if they would remember me. Well, everyone remembered everybody. It was the best night of my life and I ended up meeting the love of my life. We’ve been dating almost three years and if his career, he’s a lawyer, takes the turns we would like, he is thinking about opening a practice here in Durant,” she gushed.
“My life has taken this big circle and now the love of my life is from this little town I fell in love with. Now, I visit Durant more than ever.”
Nadolny said she enjoys visiting her old haunts in Durant. When she comes to town, she drives past her old schools, the house she lived in and her former church.
“The nearest and dearest people to my heart are from Durant or still live in Durant, so it’s very endearing to come back. Having been pulled away against my will and coming back as an adult and being able to do that is really great. I felt an attachment living here and that attachment never really went away. It’s really neat to come around and watch and see the changes in Durant, but yet so much is exactly the same. My whole life is kind of migrating north. I’m finding myself back in Oklahoma, and perhaps that’s where I’ll wind up. The big thing was the reunion and getting in touch with everyone.”
Nadolny added she wishes to continue “entertaining people of all ages” and has no plans in sight of stopping.
“I’m just sitting pretty and happy and excited for my future. It took a long time to get where I’m at, but you can see how each chapter kind of contributed to the final product. In a way, I feel was though I’m just starting to live my life. Basically, I as just a little kid and I find myself coming back and possibly starting a life here in Durant,” she explained.
“Moving to Durant when I was younger has kind of been a key component of how things are going on in my life now,” she said quietly, then smiled. “It’s like, I never wanted to leave and I got to come back.”
Even though Nadolny has lived in different places and traveled to big cities all around the world, in her heart, she remains a small town girl.