What interested you most about participating in the Rolex Arts Initiative?
When Rolex first contacted me, I was deeply honoured to have been considered for this extraordinary opportunity to work with Jessye Norman. For a young professional, having the opportunity to take time away from the performing schedule to learn from Miss Norman is truly a golden opportunity. The idea of pairing an accomplished artist with a young emerging artist creates the dynamic of mentor and protégé that has been a proven method of passing on skills and traditions from time immemorial, but one that is rarely invoked in our present time.
Have you ever had a mentor before?
Whilst I have studied with other vocal artists, I have never been in a mentoring relationship. I feel that this mentor-protégée relationship is one where it is possible to seek advice, and to be able to discuss professional and musical matters in a personal and trusting way.
What do you hope to get out of this collaboration?
Though it may sound a bit clichéd to say, just being in the presence of Miss Norman has given me so much already. I have already learned much from her about holding true to one’s values and beliefs. And naturally, she will give much to me with regards to technique, interpretation and language. I expect to go deeper into many aspects of music and character, with the intent of becoming more direct and clear in my expression.
Also I look forward, as anyone would, to be able to hear Miss Norman sing. That, in itself, is such an extraordinary opportunity for me. I will glean whatever I can from this consummate artist who shares a common interest in a holistic approach to musical meaning and expression.
So far, what is the best part of being a Rolex protégée?
That Rolex gave me an opportunity to meet and work with Jessye Norman. This is without a doubt the best part of the Initiative, as person-to-person communication is really what singing is all about. The acknowledgement that has come my way from Rolex, has also given me more personal confidence, to be proactive in areas where perhaps previously I dared not go. Being associated with Rolex is wonderful, as their continued support, interest and generosity do not go unappreciated. And having the time and opportunity to “learn” has certainly taken some pressure off my schedule.
What was your first impression of your mentor?
Wonderful! Absolutely wonderful! Admittedly, at first I felt overwhelmed, but Jessye Norman is so kind, so gracious and engaging. I soon felt a part of the process. She made me feel extremely comfortable. I am learning that Jessye is not only a great artist, but also an extraordinary person. More than just an exceptional performer, she has a good soul, and is an honest and caring person. Naturally, as the year proceeds, our relationship will evolve, and I look forward to all the places where it may lead.
How do you think your work is similar to or different from your mentor’s?
We sing similar repertoires, though Miss Norman sings more works written for soprano, and we both have a deep love and affinity for German music. Obviously as individuals we are different. I don’t compare myself to Jessye Norman. I just feel that we both love to communicate and that singing is our natural medium for that. To this extent, our work will be on communication: all the technical and musical challenges are approached with the wish to make the musical message and meaning clearer to the listener, and to give life to the composer’s music and intentions.
Do you think that Jessye Norman’s guidance will change your approach to music?
It already has. Just being in Miss Norman’s presence has already had a profound effect on me. And with this has come renewed enthusiasm for all things possible in music and in the expression of feelings in music. My confidence has strengthened, and this has allowed me to approach new projects that in the past might have seemed unrealisable.