In the hall of St Leonard’s School in Durham, a group of pupils reflect on their posture, stretch their arms, do breathing exercises and stick out their tongues.
It was not an unconventional physical education lesson, but a classical singing workshop, led by two opera stars who visited schools in the North East sharing the secrets of their success. They were part of Samling Futures, a project run by the Samling Institute for Young Artists to find and train the next generation of classical singers.
Baritone Dominic Sedgwick had literally run straight from the stage at London’s Royal Opera House to Covent Garden, where he currently appears in Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’, to catch the last train north.
He joined mezzo-soprano Heather Lowe, who recently played several roles at Newcastle’s Theater Royal with Opera North, and pianist Lana Bode, a teacher at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, in a series of visits to schools and choirs in Gateshead and Durham. .
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The trio gave masterclasses with current singers from the Samling Institute’s thriving Samling Academy program to demonstrate the wide range of skills that go into classical singing and they worked with singers from each school to help them polish their own performance.
They also gave the students an exercise kit to use when preparing for singing or any other physical activity, making connections between singing and sport.
The sessions introduced students to the powerful sound of classical singing and introduced the opportunities available at Samling Academy.
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This nationally renowned program offers singers aged 14 to 21 who live or study in the North East of England intensive coaching in vocal technique, acting, languages and movement and performance opportunities and plenty of participants previous became professional singers.
Two of the current Samling Academy singers who took part in the sessions – Megan Moffitt from Egglescliffe School and Ava da Costa from King Edward VI School in Morpeth – were both inspired to audition for the program after seeing workshops similar in their own schools two years ago.
Ava da Costa said that “the experience of attending these workshops has allowed me to share my experiences with other young students and hopefully inspire them as I was inspired when I attended Samling Futures in 2020”.
Megan Moffitt added, “It’s amazing to be a part of something that once inspired me to audition for Samling. I really hope this gave the students something to think about. This will be my third year with Samling Academy and they have helped me, guided me and given me so much, I am very grateful to them.
Matthew Grehan-Bradley, Head of Music at St Leonard’s School, Durham, said: “It was an enjoyable and inspiring afternoon and a wonderful opportunity for our pupils.”
Karon Wright, Artistic and Executive Director of Samling Institute, said: “We have enjoyed meeting students from Gateshead and Durham and sharing the opportunities and pathways we offer.
There are no tuition fees for the Academy, so no barriers to participation, and we hope that through this we will discover and support more young people who are passionate and committed to singing classically. We are delighted that some of the singers we met last week have already applied to audition for us and we hope more will come.
To find out more, visit samling.org.uk.
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