FIVE PERFORMING artists from country singer to choreographer were asked," Who influenced your life and work the most?" Their answers were as varied as their careers. Dolly Paron

To many people, Dolly Parton is outrageous and exaggerated - her hair, her chest and her country twang. She looks fake, like a stuffed, down-home Barbie Doll. But when you listen to her sing country-western you say, "Now that is genuine.

Her style was never polished by professional training, she said. And she learned everything she knows about music from her "preaching granddaddy," Jake Owens.

"My granddaddy was an old-timey musician," she said. "He went to college for a couple of years, which back in those days was probably no more than a high school education, but he did study music.

"And he used to teach us phrasing and how to feel excited when we'd sing. He's 80 years old now and still singing."

Parton can neither read nor write music, but the tunes she hums into tape recorders still echo the Elizabethan folk tunes she heard on her front porch in Sevierville, Tenn.

"Those tunes just float through the air in the hills," she said. "I remember way back to my great-grandma and all the singing she would do all the time. She used to play the dulcimer and banjo and make up her tunes as she went along.

"All my people were musical, and I guess having them sing all the time made it easy for me," she said.

"I never did study formally, but then I never really had to." Edith Head

Edith Head is considered the grande dame of motion picture costume designs. In the past 30 years, she has won eight Academy Awards, most recently for "The Sting," where she "had the pleasure of designing beautiful clothes for two beautiful men (Robert Redford and Paul Newman)." She is now chief designer for Universal Studios.

"I studied languages in college, French and Spanish, and the influence of those studies has been tremendous on my work designing clothes," she said.

"When you study a language you learn a great deal about the country, their morals, lifestyles and fabrics. I studied the earlier French culture and many of my designs, especially the ones I do for Vogue patterns, are very romantic - influenced by the Renaissance period.

"I think everyone can look like a princess or a chatelaine of a great estate, and although I can't remember my professors' names, their influence has been invaluable.

"I don't speak the languages fluently anymore," she said. "But some of the tailors here are Mexican, and lately I've been practicing my Spanish on them. I can already see a slight Spanish influence coming into the clothes I design now," she laughed.

"I often wonder if I had studied Norwegian or Scandinavian languages how much different my designs would have been." Murray Louis

Murray Louis is a dancer, a man whose style resembles a tightly wound spring ready at a moment's touch to explode with activity. And as a dancer, he has spent the majority of his 51 years learning, procticing, performing and teaching dance.

His 15 years as a student and fellow dancer with Alwin Nikolais, a New York City choreographer, were the most important to him.

"All kinds of teachers influence an artist," he said. "We fashion our lives on the people who can blend their artistic life and their personal life. Nikilais was such a person to me."

Nikolais did not just influence Louis' craft, the short-term learning of steps, but he also taught Louis to "blend my living ethics with my artistic ethics," he said. "He helped me adjust to the social and political pressures of an artist's life and not divorce art for art's sake from my personal life."

"I also learned from him that artists just don't have a short-term career. Generally people assume that after 40 the art term ceases, especially for dancers. It is a very frightening thing," he said. "But I've worked hard teaching my students to expand their performing years."

Louis has just finished a month's residency at American University's Academy for the Performing Arts. Before that, he did a piece commissioned by the Berlin State Opera Ballet, "Cleopatra" for the Royal Danish Ballet, created "Moments" to the Ravel String Quartet especially for Rudolf Nureyev and this spring won the prestigious Dance Magazine Award.

"Nikolais' teaching influence has helped me keep my creative juices flowing," he said. Wilma Shakesnider

Wilma Shakesnider returned to her hometown of Washington last month to appear as Serena in "Porgy and Bess" at the Kennedy Center. With her she brought years of operatic training and experience and an "independent style" that she said three teachers in her life gave her.

"A great teacher is one who gives us the ability to grow independent of them. They reiterate the same points until you can blend the three lessons into your personal performance," she said. "These teachers have done that for me."

They are: Todd Duncan of Washington, the first Porgy, Christopher West, head of the opera department at the Julliard School of Music in New York; and Stephanie Scourby, her personal instructor.

"Duncan, of course, was a legend and I was in awe of him when we first met," she said. "But he made me aware of the great concentration that is needed in opera, the value of preparedness in the performance. He was an all-around musician.

"West taught me to recognize the dual personality you must have on stage. 'Don't forget either the musical side or the dramatic side and tread the two lines carefully,' he said. He had magnitude."

But it was, perhaps, Stephanie Scourby, her private instructor, who left the greatest mark on Shakesnider's style. While she was studying with Scourby in 1976, she received the Federation of New York Musicians Grant.

"Scourby was a fantastic technician; she gave me the skills to carry my music one step further," Shakesnider said. "She taught me what to do with my life, when to move, when to change.

"I know it sounds very philosophical, but life is the greatest teacher of all," she said. "It's the people we meet, not just those who give us technical skills, that shapes our lives." Jeff Goldblum

"I'd like to be like Robert De Niro, you know. Somebody asks him about his acting and he just sort of shrugs and walks away. Very low-key. But I can't do that, when someone wants to know about me, I spill my guts," said Jeff Goldblum, an actor whose face is well-known though his name is not.

Goldblum has had important but small roles in such movies as "Nashville," where he played a wacked-out motircycle rider, and "Between the Lines," as a journalist-extraordinaire for an underground newspaper.

He said the time he spent training at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York was the most important in his career.

And though he claimed to "spill his guts" on demand, when he talked about his teacher, Sanford Misner of New York's Neighborhood Playhouse, he became quiet, hesitant, as if he couldn't find words to express his appreciation.

"Sanford Misner taught me a whole way of thinking about acting . . . well, a great respect, I guess you could call it. He introduced me to the challenging, magical world of acting.

"One thing I've learned, though, about talking about acting is that it's what you do with your acting not what you say about it that's important."