07 May 2024

The University of Waikato selects the 2023 FAME Trust winner

The University of Waikato selects the 2023 FAME Trust winner

The Acorn Foundation and the trustees of the FAME Trust are pleased to announce Taylor Wallbank as the 2023 Emerging Practitioner Award recipient at the University of Waikato. Taylor is one of seven promising students who has been selected from top-rated performing arts schools in New Zealand to receive $10,000.

Taylor started singing in a youth opera initiative called Project Prima Volta in Hawkes Bay. It made a huge impact on his life, and it later led to Taylor teaching and providing guidance for Project Prima Volta students himself. Coming from a low socio-economic background, it was challenging for Taylor to train for a music career. Taylor has made it one of his life goals to continue fighting the stereotype that only the wealthy can pursue a career in opera.  He hopes to inspire children who have a similar childhood that with the right mindset and support, they can achieve their goals.

Taylor has recently completed a double Masters in Vocal Performance and Advanced Opera Studies with teacher, Kristin Darragh, Director of Vocal Performance.  Taylor was an inaugural artist on the programme, Te Pae Kōkako – The Aotearoa New Zealand Opera Studio (TANZOS) at The University of Waikato.TANZOS is the most comprehensive and prestigious opera training programme in New Zealand. He also holds a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours and a Master of Music in Classical Singing from The University of Waikato.

Kristin Darragh, Director of Vocal Performance at the University of Waikato, says, “Taylor has the right combination of qualities that are required for a career in opera. He has a voice naturally suited to the demands of the tenor repertoire, an intrinsic understanding of the music and an exciting power and depth to his sound.  He is committed to the craft and all that it asks of him, and he has every chance of success in the world of professional opera."

In addition to undertaking advanced vocal coaching, language coaching, stagecraft training and consultation through TANZOS, he is also part of the New Zealand Opera Artists Development Programme. Both are very competitive and have a maximum of five to six spots each for singers across New Zealand.

During Taylor’s tenure in these programmes, he has won multiple competitions across New Zealand. As a soloist, Taylor has extensive experience and has been involved in several productions including Verdi’s Requiem in Napier with Hawkes Bay Orchestra as well as Handel’s Messiah in Whakatane with Edgecumbe Choir. Most recently, Taylor toured with the New Zealand Opera in their production of m(O)rpheus (2023) with an all-Pacific cast.

Madeleine Pierard, Dame Malvina Major Chair in Opera at The University of Waikato and Director of TANZOS expressed her support for Taylor, saying, “Taylor is one of the most dedicated, hardworking, and passionate students I’ve seen in a long time. Taylor's vocal and personal progress during his time with Te Pae Kōkako TANZOS has been significant, and he has caught the attention of several key international guests throughout his time with us - and rightly so. He is a wonderful ambassador for performing artists in Aotearoa.”

Taylor is beyond grateful for being selected for this award, saying, “The impact of this award is indescribable and life-altering. It not only provides me with the means to take on study overseas but the chance to pursue my dreams without the worry of financial pressures.”

Taylor has chosen to audition to study at The Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, USA. This prestigious music school is known for its high success rate in the career internationally. This award will allow Taylor to follow his dreams and to continue to pursue higher levels of study overseas.

“I am excited for my future steps now that I have the support of the Acorn Trust and FAME Award.”


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