Last week, I completed my Graduate Diploma in Classical Voice at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. We finished our degree in a final flourish with the closing night of Opera! The Opera and as the chords for Marriage of Figaro’s ‘Contessa Perdono’ started, I began to cry. Not just a little cry as well; a full on ‘sob my way through the finale and embarrass myself’ cry. It seemed bizarre to me that my time at this institution was coming to a close. Whilst most of my peers were preparing to leave to audition for master programs in the United Kingdom, I had no future plans in opera that I could see… and that terrified me!
I have learnt quite a bit from running The O Word and I cannot reiterate enough that everybody’s path into opera is different. Every single individual I have spoken to, student and professional, have had a journey with varying winding paths that have led them to where they are. There is no simple answer to “How to become an Opera Singer”. You simply have to go out there and pursue your dreams the way that you think is necessary.
At the middle of the year, I realised that my dreams had to be put on pause for 2017. I was making incredible progress in singing, credits to my incredible teachers and lecturers at WAAPA, but I was just not ready. I realised that I was not emotionally there yet and that I shouldn’t be auditioning for opera programs overseas. Not to mention, planning a trip to England with the (lack of) money in my bank account was laughable. Whilst putting brakes on my singing career felt like the last thing I wanted to do, I also knew it was a smart and necessary decision for myself. I had spent so many hours listening to people call me a ‘child’ in terms of my age for opera and to take my time and choose wisely. Here I was at 21 with a Bachelor of Music and Graduate Diploma with no way of funding my future studies to continue those opera dreams, beginning to feel anxious about what was ahead for me as a performer. After many hours of thinking and list writing, I made the decision to apply for a Diploma of Education so that I could become a qualified classroom teacher.
There is a long list of pros to studying a Dip Ed – the assurance and support of knowing that I can find work being one of them! Unlike some of my peers, the thought of teaching doesn’t send horrifying shivers up my spine. I have taught privately for the last four years to support myself through University. Teaching my private students on a Saturday continues to bring me so much pride and joy. Watching them develop into amazing musicians (and people!) makes me excited for what is ahead because I know that I can be a good music teacher. Taking inspiration from the gifted music teachers who have driven me to do incredible things, I hope that I too can one day make a difference to a student’s journey in music. To quote Richard Gill, “Music is worth teaching because it empowers children spectacularly”.
So… Does this mean that I don’t want to sing opera anymore? Is this the end to my short time as an opera singer?
Absolutely not… This music is ingrained into my soul and I cannot let it go. I am a victim of opera and I can’t see myself loving anything more than this beautiful art form. I am a sucker for the stories being told and the music that has been created to tell them. Whether it be Mozart, Bizet or Wagner, I am there and ready to listen, learn and hopefully some day perform. This idea was cemented for me the other day when I attended the sensational Stuart Skelton performing Wagner with WASO. As Skelton sang his way through several Wagner arias, I did not once have to look at the translations for his German. His singing was so incredibly expressive and moving that there was no need for me to. I sat there like a dumb fish, in awe of this wonderful music and just thought: I want to do that.
Whilst ‘Contessa Perdono’ marked the end of my time at WAAPA, it did not mark the end of my time singing opera. No path is the same and we must take it one step at a time and create the path as we go. My opera journey has only just begun but if I can teach and inspire children and teenagers to love and appreciate music, as much as I do, along this journey… That would make it just so much more rewarding.
Written by Katherine Goyder