Immersing themselves in music at the New Zealand Opera School at Whanganui Collegiate School is like being at an opera boot camp, say three students.

From Dunedin, soprano Olivia Pike said the intense study, the close knit support for each other by the other students and the top level vocal tuition spurs one on to achieve their personal best.

Pike, who is also a pianist, teaches piano and heads several choirs in Dunedin but her aim is to sing and work in opera, she said.

Building the body's muscle memory is integral, she said.


"It is the key to knowing when you go on stage you are prepared and fully supporting your voice."

Fellow soprano Felicity Tomkins said being able to sing without nerves is the answer and it's all about using your body.

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From Te Puke, Tomkins had set off for Waikato University to study music and a science degree in biochemistry.

Gaining a bachelor of music and science, her mind is now solely on music and studying for her honours degree in music, she said.

Being here at the school is paramount, she said.

"It is rewarding and exciting. Yes it's a lot of work but the atmosphere spurs you on and shapes you as a singer. Being taught by top overseas tutors is the very best guidance to have. It's brilliant to be given this opportunity. I am very grateful."

Baritone Samuel Downes says the school is the best chance a young singer can get. Photo / Supplied
Baritone Samuel Downes says the school is the best chance a young singer can get. Photo / Supplied

For baritone Samuel Downes from Auckland, working towards making his career in opera is his dream … and his mother's.


"My mum had encouraged me right from high school. She knew I had a voice and is certain that opera is my destiny."

Growing up, Downes was influenced by his dad's rock music playing constantly in the house.

"I was always walking around the house singing to Led Zeppelin. I love them … still do."

He admits that without his parents' constant support he would have found it difficult.

"They have inspired and encouraged me all the way. I'm very lucky."

His rich baritone voice was described by world renowned vocal coach Glenn Winslade in an earlier master class as "wonderful".

"It will be a few years before my voice properly matures and I am working towards that. Being here at the school is the best chance a young singer can get and I'm working it."