UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page UBC Home Page -
News Events Directories Search UBC myUBC Login
- -
UBC Public Affairs
UBC Reports
UBC Reports Extras
Goal / Circulation / Deadlines
Letters to the Editor & Opinion Pieces / Feedback
UBC Reports Archives
Media Releases
Services for Media
Services for the Community
Services for UBC Faculty & Staff
Find UBC Experts
Search Site

UBC Reports | Vol. 51 | No. 6 | Jun. 2, 2005

Finding the Voice Within

Mentors are integral for aspiring opera singers

By Brenda Austin

Twenty-two students from the UBC Opera Ensemble sang in the chorus of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera (the Masked Ball), performed by the Vancouver Opera this spring. Every year the opera company attends the ensemble’s performances, and auditions selected singers for their upcoming season.

This is one way Nancy Hermiston, director of the voice and opera divisions of UBC’s School of Music, connects students to the professional world.

She also makes connections for them with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, with other Canadian opera companies and with premier companies in the Czech Republic and Germany.

“The students are all at different stages of development,” says Hermiston. “I mentor them when they are ready, providing them with opportunities for auditions and professional events.

“I teach them how to prepare themselves for the discipline of performing and to deal with the rejection sometimes experienced in auditions, as well as the tremendous highs they will experience when they have great success on stage.”

Many students continue contact with Hermiston after they graduate from UBC. One called recently from Newfoundland with problems rehearsing a role in Ariadne.

“Sometimes when they are far away like that you have to give them guidance over the phone,” says Hermiston. “I ask them are you breathing? Is your jaw relaxed? Are you keeping the ribs out when you breathe? Talking to someone who believes in you before a performance is very important. Don’t let them panic.”

Mentoring happens in other ways, too. Doctoral, master’s and undergraduate music students learn from one another at the two main UBC Opera Ensemble productions each season, or during the year on tours to local schools and B.C. communities.

Students benefit greatly and gain confidence as well from the annual tours to Europe, performing with professional singers, symphonies and opera companies.

“We create a legacy of mentoring,” says Hermiston, “that goes on throughout a singer’s career. I am still mentored by my own teachers from the University of Toronto.”

Michael Mori, a first year graduate student in the opera ensemble, attests to the vibrancy of Hermiston’s mentoring, and the value of the contacts she makes for students with other professionals.

“Her door is always open for everyone,” he says. “She’s been fantastic to me, helping me with a family crisis and giving me bigger and bigger opportunities.”

Because of his artistic achievement, Hermiston recommended Mori, who is of Japanese descent, for the 2005 Pan Asian Youth Award, which he won.

Some students first meet Hermiston at the annual UBC Summer Music Institute, open to everyone from high school onward. Simone Osborne is one such student who attended the summer camp early in her high school years.

Hermiston considers Osborne very gifted and has mentored her every year since. Now a first year student in the voice and opera divisions, she has already sung in many public performances, including a special fundraiser for the Vancouver Opera.

Teiya Kasahara, a second year student, also met Hermiston at the Summer Music Institute, and has worked with her since then. She received a Ben Heppner Scholarship this year and also sang at a master class Heppner held at UBC.

Shauna Martin, Hermiston’s assistant, a professional singer and teacher, is an embodiment of the fulfillment of the mentoring circle, according to Hermiston.

“When we first met, I told her she would be the Queen of the Night in the Magic Flute one day,” says Hermiston. “After three years of study, obtaining a master’s degree, traveling and singing in Europe for a year, as well as teaching voice to her own students, she sang the role with great success at UBC and in Europe.”

Now, Martin’s own voice students are coming to UBC and she is watching them perform their first major roles.

“Mentoring for singers is long-term. We’re like one big family, passing knowledge and traditions on to the next generation of singers.” Hermiston says. “In the long run, a mentor is the most influential person in someone’s career.”

- - -  

Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

to top | UBC.ca » UBC Public Affairs

UBC Public Affairs
310 - 6251 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1
tel 604.822.3131 | fax 604.822.2684 | e-mail public.affairs@ubc.ca

© Copyright The University of British Columbia, all rights reserved.