Learning & Engagement

Q&A with Mary King

We spoke to vocal talent coach Mary King to find out more about her work with aspiring singers

Vocal talent coach Mary King has been working with Glyndebourne’s Learning & Engagement team for a number of years on various projects and workshops.

Perhaps most notably is her leadership of our flagship vocal talent development programme, Glyndebourne Academy, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

We spoke to Mary to find out more about her work with aspiring singers and hear more about our new Youth Academy programme for singers aged 14-19. Plus, Mary shares her top tips for auditions…

Hi Mary, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell me a little bit about your career so far?

After an English degree, I trained as a teacher, but always intended to sing. I went to the Guildhall on the opera course, and then had a career singing all over the world, in recital, opera and on the concert platform. I was an artist in residence at English National Opera where I ran a course for aspiring singers called The Knack, and then went on to create a programme called Voicelab at the Southbank Centre. I’ve been teaching both classical and musical theatre repertoire in conservatoires nationally and internationally, and work on several West End shows as vocal coach.

What makes Glyndebournethe Academy special and important? Do you have any highlights from the past 10 years?

The Glyndebourne Academy programme attempts to reach those who have faced some kind of barrier to developing their vocal potential. There are all kinds of issues facing those who want to sing professionally –educational, geographical, medical, financial, – and we have succeeded in creating a small fast-track to professional training.

There have been many highlights, as each cohort is unique! Providing clarity about what is required of a professional singer beyond the obvious ‘must have a good voice’ is key: work ethic, languages, stamina, movement, musicality, and a capacity to take on information without becoming burdened by the ‘uphill task’. We have cherished each student’s growing understanding and confidence.

And you’ve been working with our Learning & Engagement team to develop a new vocal talent initiative, this time for younger singers, aged between 14-19. Who is Youth Academy aimed for and why should aspiring young singers apply?

By extending our offer to younger would-be-singers, we hope to put in place solid building blocks which will help them build confidence as their voices are developing. Some things will be evidently ‘skill building’ (pitch, rhythm, language, vocal technique) but as music is a creative and communicative art form –we must encourage performance skills too!

What can participants hope to learn by being part of the Youth Academy?

They should learn what it would take to be a professional performer, to learn how to practice and the importance of preparation. They will get advice about repertoire choices – so that they can demonstrate their best vocal selves. Above all they will be able to share their love of music and singing with other like-minded young people, and be nurtured in a stimulating and purposeful environment.

Auditioning can be daunting, even for professional singers. Do you have any general tips to make the most of the experience?

The key one of course, is ‘be prepared’. The reason many auditions go not-as-hoped is that the singer is not sure of their material – so that’s the first thing. Try memorising the words apart from the music, so you won’t have a sudden ‘blank’. Practicing with a real-live-pianist and not a backing track is also good, if at all possible. Make sure that your printed music is the right version if you have been using a backing track for rehearsal. Remember that all panels are on your side: they know you will be nervous, so don’t worry about that. Try to perform, and to share your love of music and singing.

Application Deadline – midnight, Sunday 31 July 2022

Image credits: Photos by Sam Stephenson and James Bellorini

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