Next Year's Dates: 13 - 22 June 2024

Lea Shaw (aged 26) – Mezzo-Soprano

Lea Shaw – Mezzo-Soprano

Music College/University: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Birthplace/Home Town: I was born in Denver, Colorado (USA), but my hometown is Glasgow, Scotland! I moved from the USA on my own at 17 to study in Glasgow, and this city completely grabbed my heart and is now my home. The music and collaborative arts scene here is incredibly inspiring, and the artistic community is lively and warm. I feel lucky to be a part of it.

Q.1  What or who inspired you to become a professional musician?
Music has always been a saving grace in my life! I was in a cathedral choir as a child and young adult, and my choir director was an incredible source of support and stability. I was lucky enough to be able to visit New York as a kid, and watch Turandot at the Met (my mom was able to get standing tickets in the gods), and I remember that show being the moment I was bitten by the performance bug: I wanted to be on that stage, telling stories, in collaboration with so many other incredibly talented people. I wanted to be part of that community. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the arts, whether it be behind the scenes in costume design or composition, or more front facing as a performer.
A couple years later I was lucky to see Denyce Graves and Willard White on stage in concert, and that inspired me further: If they could be on that stage, performing this amazing music, so could I.

Q.2  What are the biggest challenges you face in the early stages of your career?
I think along with everyone else at the moment, the biggest challenge to me is being able to afford this career. Auditions for projects and companies, which are a massive part of every year, often come at an extreme financial cost to the singer in recording costs, audition fees, travel costs, and accommodation (unless you know people in the place you’re auditioning, which is not a guarantee). An audition is always a maybe, that’s just the nature of them, but if you cannot afford to audition, that ‘maybe’ becomes a totally closed door.
On a much more personal level, another challenge I face is resilience and confidence! I am aware that as a young, Black, Mixed Heritage person, people don’t often expect me to walk in to the audition or on to the stage. They have often already decided whether I “fit in” with their predisposed expectation of what they’re going to see and hear before I even begin. The opportunity to perform at this competition means everything to me as a platform!

Q.3  What would winning the New Voices Competition mean to you?
Winning the New Voices Competition would enable me to continue to pursue this career. The monetary support this competition gives would allow me to put aside a specific “auditions” savings pot, and provide a cushion in an unstable freelance career. Winning the competition would also enable me to cultivate developing relationships with musical entities outside of Scotland, which is invaluable, and help me to bolster my confidence in what is a very emotionally challenging environment as an emerging artist.

Q.4  What would you say to audiences to encourage them to come along, and hear you sing in Aldborough?
The whole competition will be full of incredible artists and beautiful music, so it will be a well spent couple evenings! You will get to hear 8 incredible young artists present beautifully varied programs. I would be honoured if they chose to spend 20 minutes with me, and the program that Kristina and I are presenting: We explore music’s power to channel love, grief, rage, and healing, through song and operatic repertoire that spans about 300 years. The program has some pieces you will know and love, and others that you may not have had the pleasure of being introduced to yet!

Q.5  What would be your dream job in singing?
When I’m asked what my dream job is in regards to music and singing I have a very hard time narrowing it down! I want to sing in as many places as I can, to as many people as I can. I want to perform beautifully varied repertoire in diverse spaces, from large scale works in the theatre and concert hall to smaller, more experimental pieces in village halls and lighthouses. I want to continue to be a role model to those that come after me. I also want to continue to make opera and contemporary music accessible to everyone. Finally, I want to continue developing my project The Small Magician, a fully accessible, trauma-aware, inclusive vocal learning resource. You can find out more about The Small Magician project by following @thesmall_magician on instagram, or keeping up with the ko-fi page (its project home (for now!):

Q.6  What sort of music do you listen to when you are not working?
My music taste is extremely varied, so you could catch me listening to anything from La Fanciulla Del West and The Rakes Progress to Erykah Badu or Thundercat, depending on my mood! At the moment, the albums I have on repeat are:

  • Mood Valiant – Hiatus Kaiyote
  • Grae – Moses Sumney
  • Where Is Home/ Hae ke Kae – Abel Selaocoe
  • Free Love – Sylvan Esso
  • Olivia Dean (Live at the Jazz Cafe)
  • Milagre dos Peixes – Milton Nascimento

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