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Behind the Scenes with Education

Inspiring people of all ages through music and performance lies at the heart of our Education Team’s work.

To find out more, we caught up with Jennifer Sterling, Education Choral Delivery Artist, to discover what her role entails and how it has changed during lockdown.

What does a Choral Delivery Artist actually do?

It basically means anything to do with choirs! I work with ages from 0 to 100 and with abilities across the board. Before this role, I performed as a soprano soloist, worked as a singing teacher, conducted choirs and led singing groups – and I still draw on experience from every one of these elements. Most importantly, my job is about encouraging people to have fun in different ways, but always including singing.

Jennifer Sterling leading a Little Big Sing Mad Hatter's Tea Party at Leeds Central Library © Justin Slee

What does a typical day look like for you?

There is no such thing as typical! I might well spend each day of the week in a different city on a different project.

One day I could be working on the In Harmony programme, witnessing at first hand the role which music plays in these schools and the impact it has on pupils. On other days, I could be teaching children’s opera in Big Sing workshops, or running Sing ON   sessions for our adult groups. Or I might be leading an early years session, recording tracks, or helping with the Opera North Youth Ensembles.

How has this changed during lockdown?

These days my routine has become a lot simpler as I adapt my role to the current situation. I’m working from home recording backing tracks, teaching songs via video, and finding resources to keep our usual participants singing, learning and staying part of the Opera North community. We have kept our Sing ON sessions going over Zoom which is proving a popular way for people to say hello to their friends and have a sing together. Above all, we are looking for ways to keep people feeling connected and uplifted.

What makes your job special?

Seeing people’s moods change and spirits lift after a singing session, and seeing smiles cross their faces as they relax and forget to worry about what other people think! I love the feeling of singing together with people and feel incredibly lucky to work with choirs, bringing that feeling to so many others.

Sing ON at Alwoodley before lockdown was announced © Justin Slee

What are you looking forward to most when lockdown is over?

Probably the same as most – being with people. We have had wonderful feedback about our Zoom choir sessions, but they will never be the same as singing together in real life.

Singing into a camera or teaching a choir with no sound coming back can be very strange. Sometimes I feel a little crazy waving my arms around and encouraging people to sing who aren’t there!

The Opera North Children's Chorus meet each week in Leeds and Newcastle © Justin Slee

What music has inspired you the most and why?

Having started out as a cathedral chorister, choral music sparked my musical journey and built the foundations of everything I know. The intense musical training that I received at such a young age has proved incredibly valuable and has led to me to what I do now.

Do you have a favourite piece of music?

A couple of years ago, I discovered Ethyl Smyth’s Mass in D. It’s a wonderfully dramatic piece of choral music written by a very interesting woman. I really enjoy it and would highly recommend having a listen.

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