Young opera star Eliza Boom’s road to the 2018 Lexus Song Quest
Former Hamilton woman Eliza Boom is among ten elite opera singers selected for the semi-finals of the 2018 Lexus Song Quest, which begins this week.
The Lexus Song Quest is New Zealand’s most prestigious singing accolade with a prize pool of $90,000 in cash and study scholarship prizes. The coveted title has previously been awarded to Dame Malvina Major, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Phillip Rhodes, Jonathan Lemalu and Sol3 Mio’s Amitai Pati. Ten semi-finalists will be narrowed to five this weekend, with a winner declared at a grand final gala on Saturday, July 28th.
Eliza, 24, began her musical studies in Hamilton as an 18-year-old studying towards a Bachelor of Music at Vision College in 2012.
The talented soprano recently completed her Masters in Music at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and has returned to New Zealand to take part in the Lexus Song Quest. “It’s really exciting and a little bit of pressure too,” says Eliza. “We have a week working with head judge Lisa Gasteen, having coachings, rehearsals and an interview – it’s full on and a great opportunity.”
Eliza was born in Hamilton but grew up in Whangarei in a musical family. At 15 she began singing lessons, which introduced her to the world of opera. “I loved music, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a career,” admits Eliza. “My older Katie had attended Vision College and she really enjoyed her time there. I thought I would love to be a music teacher so I decided to study at Vision College too.”
Vision College is a private training establishment with four main campuses around New Zealand offering a range of tertiary qualifications. Its music programmes focus on developing musical knowledge and performance skills. Students can specialise in a chosen stream (vocals, an instrument or song writing) and experiment with a variety of genres, including rock, pop, jazz, R&B, classical and contemporary Christian music.
Katie went on to become a music therapist, but for Eliza, Vision College was the beginning of her classical music career – one that would see her sing under the tutelage of Dame Malvina Major, win awards and scholarships and perform on international stages alongside world-class orchestras.
Eliza says her three years at Vision College laid the foundation for her future. “I really appreciated the way Vision College prepared me for a variety of future pathways; they give their students a well-rounded musical education,” says Eliza. “It was also a very flexible programme – I was able to study pop, jazz and musical theatre while still specialising in classical music.”
Head of Music for Vision College in Hamilton, Joanne Whitt, recalls Eliza as a talented student. “We are incredibly proud of her and wish her well in the Lexus Song Quest,” says Ms Whitt.
She says one of the strengths of Vision College’s music programme is that it can be personalised to suit the talents and interests of individual students, which worked well in Eliza’s case. “If students have a particular strength we cater to that,” says Ms Whitt. “Eliza had classical voice lessons with contracted vocal coach Ian Campbell, but she was also able to perform in contemporary bands.”
The faith-based curriculum and atmosphere of Vision College also appealed to Eliza. “Because it’s a small college you get to know each other well and it’s a very supportive community.”
After graduating from Vision College with a Bachelor of Music, Eliza went to University of Waikato in 2016 to do an honours year under the tutelage of Dame Malvina Major. “She has been an incredible teacher and support to me, and I learnt a so much while studying with her,” says Eliza. “It was then that I decided to narrow my focus to classical music and opera.”
In 2016 she was a finalist in the 2016 IFAC Handa Australian Singing School Aria Competition, winning a scholarship to do a Masters in Music degree at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester, UK.
In early 2017, Eliza spent the year fundraising and studying music. She was a Dame Malvina Major Scholar with the New Zealand Opera – an internship programme which further honed her talent and technique, giving her the opportunity to perform with a professional company. Also in 2017 she won the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Christchurch Aria, another significant accolade.
She has just come home from a year studying her Masters in Music at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and will return to the college again in September on their elite International Artist Diploma. The one-year course will help further her technical and performance skills and serve as a stepping stone to launching a professional career.
The 2018 Lexus Song Quest semi-finals are on this Saturday and Sunday 21st and 22nd July in Wellington at St Andrew’s on The Terrace and the grand final gala is on Saturday 28th July at the Auckland Town Hall. Both the semi-final and final will be broadcast live on RNZ Concert.
Several other semi-finalists in the 2018 Lexus Song Quest have a Waikato connection. Soprano Chelsea Dolman is currently living in Hamilton, Berlin-based baritone Jonathan Eyers grew up on a Waikato dairy farm and London-based soprano Madison Nonoa is originally from Hamilton.
“I know most of the other contestants personally,” says Eliza. “It’s so nice to come back to New Zealand and see all these talented people I know well. Of course, we all hope to win, but that doesn’t get in the way of our friendships.”
Before she goes out on stage to perform, Eliza says she always takes a moment to centre herself. “I stand side of stage, close my eyes and remind myself it’s all about breath and telling stories, being myself inside a character. I steady myself and then I’m ready.”
About Vision College
Vision College, a division of ATC New Zealand, is a private training establishment with four main campuses in Hamilton, Auckland, Pukekohe and Christchurch. The college offers a variety of tertiary qualifications at certificate, diploma and degree level in six key areas of study: music, early childhood education, information technology, leadership, counselling and business. To find out more visit www.visioncollege.ac.nz