Wilin Winter Intensive nurtures Indigenous operatic talent

June 13 / 112

Opera Student Shauntai Batzke
Opera Student Shauntai Batzke

Fifteen Indigenous singers have studied with the nation’s top performers as Australia’s National Indigenous Opera Company took up residence at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA).

The annual training program was delivered in conjunction with the University’s Wilin Centre for Indigenous Arts and Cultural Development.

The Centre’s Director, Yorta Yorta soprano, composer and academic Deborah Cheetham, said the program provided a unique opportunity to discover Indigenous vocal talent.

“Over the past four years the Wilin Winter Intensives have helped develop and empower a new generation of Aboriginal opera singers,” Ms Cheetham said.

This year’s participants were from Western Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.

One of these was Shauntai Batzke, a second-year Bachelor of Music student studying at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music (MCM).

Ms Batzke grew up in Sydney and was already an established gospel singer when she discovered opera. Now she is a developing artist with Short Black Opera, Australia's National Indigenous Opera Company.

Ms Cheetham said Shepparton singer Chanoa Cooper,19, the great-niece of Aboriginal political activist and community leader William Cooper also showed tremendous promise.

Ms Cooper was a foundation member of the Dhungala Children’s Choir and is now a resident at the University’s Medley Hall studying at the VCA.

She is being mentored by Shauntai as she prepares to audition for the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Contemporary Music) this year.

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