WAO Spotlight with Rhianna Reynolds
Soon we journey outside the heritage walls of His Majesty’s Theatre and onto the road to share soaring arias with further corners of the community. From the heart of Perth to iconic regional locations, we want to shine a spotlight on our creatives working tirelessly to bring the magic of opera to you. Connect with your state opera company on an intimate level and be reinvigorated by the brimming talent, opportunity and spirit in Western Australia.
This week, hear from Mount Barker Community College primary music teacher Rhianna Reynolds on collaborating with WAO for Opera in Albany, the immersive nature of sung stories, and her hopes for young performing artists in the regions.
1. Talk to us about the collaboration between Mount Barker Community College Glee Club and WAO for Opera in Albany. What does the rehearsal process involve and what are students most excited about?
It’s been a fantastic process! We’ve had workshops with Matt Ward and Jarrad Inman and it’s so great to see the kids really respond to the song and the performers. The students are so excited about the opportunity to get up onstage as this year, of course, with COVID-19, we haven’t had many opportunities – until now!
2. This is not the Glee Club’s first starring moment on stage. Can you share with us some memorable past performances?
Gosh, we have been so fortunate. I have the golden word – OPPORTUNITY – and I always grab all opportunities with both hands and take my kids along with me for the ride! We were a part of ‘The Kawaar Project’ with Breaksea and performed as a massed choir at the Vancouver Arts Festival. Every year (except this one), we’ve been a part of the Albany District Schools Music Festival and that’s always something that the students look forward to. We are an integral part of the Plantagenet Shire ANZAC Service every year as well. It’s so important to be able to get our kids out there to perform – that’s the ultimate goal – it just brings everything together.
3. How important do you think it is to engage young people in opera, both as artists and audiences?
Personally, I love the story aspect of opera. The combination of the story, the music, the singing, the costumes and the staging really just make it an artform that has it all. When WAO came to perform at our school last year, it was so great to see the kids having their eyes opened to the awesomeness of opera. Of course, being in the country, it can be hard to expose our young people to opera, but the WAO roadshow tour was so lovely and inspiring.
4. Do you have any advice you would like to give to young people interested in performing?
My advice would absolutely be to get out there! Take every opportunity that comes your way and never give up. There are so many different ways of being able to perform – local theatre, community groups, school performances, whatever! Look into your options and get yourself out there!
5. Why do you think storytelling through performance – be it music, dance or theatre – is powerful?
It’s being able to escape into the story. It’s visual, and emotional. The right performance can hit you right in the feelings and not let go, even after the performance is done. I find messages presented through performance have much more of an impact than simply reading about it.
6. When did you find your passion for music? Were you in any ensembles as a student?
My passion for music began when I started piano lessons as a child. I was six years old and my piano teacher was an amazing, kooky and brilliant teacher. When I moved to the country at the age of ten, I had to say goodbye to her, and we managed to continue lessons with the fussiest little old lady ever! I then quit (which I still regret!) but was lucky to gain a place in the School Instrumental program playing clarinet. I went off to university to do journalism, then teaching, and fell into a job back at my country school teaching music, with choir (renamed as our ‘Glee Club’) and a biennial College musical. I love sharing my passion for music with my students and encouraging them to go onwards and upwards. I think the other things the kids learn outside of the actual act of performing – trying your best, being resilient, having responsibility and respect – are so important, and are often overlooked!
7. What is your biggest hope for the future of performing arts in the regions?
My biggest hope for the future is that our kids in the regions get as many opportunities to work on fantastic projects with our world-class performers as possible. I also hope that governments begin to realise the importance of the performing arts and all the incidental positive benefits that flow from supporting performing arts projects. Being a part of breakthrough projects like Opera in Albany proves to my kids that, even though they are from the little town of Mount Barker, every single one of them can do anything and be an integral part of something huge!
Support local talent and seize your opportunity to hear the beautiful voices of the Mount Barker Community College Glee Club at the 1pm performance of Opera in Albany! Tickets are available here.
ABOUT RHIANNA REYNOLDS
Rhianna Reynolds is a primary music teacher at Mount Barker Community College in the Great Southern of WA. After learning piano at a young age, she transferred to clarinet through the IMSS program, and has been a part of various performance groups including the Mount Barker Community College Band, the Albany City Wind Ensemble and the St Werburgh’s Traditional Nine Lessons and Carols.
Rhianna completed a degree in Journalism and French in Perth, but after working at a newspaper ‘for about five minutes’ she realised her heart wasn’t really in it and did a Graduate Diploma in Primary Education.
In 2003, Rhianna worked at Wellstead Primary School, and volunteered to run the school’s choir while teaching students in Years 4 – 7. She also worked at Kinross College in a similar role, moving back to Mount Barker to be with family in 2010.
Rhianna moved into the music teacher role at MBCC shortly thereafter and, in addition to teaching music across the primary school, has been coordinating the highly successful MBCC Glee Club and directing the biennial College musical.