Super soprano watches as students follow a similar path
THERE have been many special moments for Dawn Walsh during her singing career but seeing two of her former students perform a ‘thank you’ concert in her honour was a time of great pride for the treasured teacher.
“The concert went very well, they did me proud,” she said of the afternoon event which featured the talents of singers Billie Palin and Nathan Bryon accompanied by local pianist Di Pascoe.
“I’m very proud of them, they are absolutely marvellous.”
The musical careers of Billie and Nathan are just beginning, with the Dubbo pair now combining study and performance from their new Sydney base.
Dawn trod a very similar path herself and can relate to the determination that’s needed to succeed as a singer.
“They have to have the drive to do something like that and the talent. Luckily, both of them have it.”
Dawn’s own singing career started in a similar fashion – as a 16-year-old in the town of Bowral.
“The first I knew about singing, I was in sixth class,” she explained.
“The teacher recognised my ability but later on, I obviously wanted it too.”
Dawn has vivid memories of her early singing days, recalling her first trips to attend lessons.
“I used to catch a steam train to Sydney at 6.20 on a Saturday morning which was followed by the 490 bus with a packet of chocolate biscuits and sit on the top storey,” she reminisced.
Dawn’s talents were passed down by her father, although he wasn’t a big fan of pursuing singing as a career.
“My dad was the musical one, he played the piano, my mum was tone deaf.
“He thought that singing would make a fool of me.”
Dawn’s career was anything
Dawn Walsh watches performances at the concert held in her honour at St Andrew’s Chapel on Sunday, May 20. The concert was organised by Dawn’s students Nathan Byron and Billie Palin (pictured left), now both pursuing their own careers in music. PHOTOS: COLIN ROUSE. but foolish as she went on to study with Maxwell Speed, who taught her to use her vocal range.
“I was singing in the lower part of the voice,” she explained.
At the age of 28, the soprano was selected for inclusion in Opera Australia.
“It was very difficult to get into, there was an audition process.”
Singing in the chorus, Dawn also performed many major roles for some of the big names in the business.
“I covered Joan Sutherland in Norma, Leonie Mitchell in Madame Butterfly and I did Nabucco.
“I was still in the chorus as well, but I was an understudy for the major roles because I had a big voice.”
When Joan Carden turned down Madame Butterfly and Dawn was overlooked for the role by a replacement from Melbourne, she knew it was time for a change.
“That’s when I sold my unit in Parramatta and went to Germany,” she told Dubbo Photo News, explaining that the underlying politics of professional opera singing often made it difficult.
“If you aren’t going to give me a chance in Brisbane, then I’m not going to get a chance at all.”
Dawn moved to Trier where she studied with Michael Rhodes for a few years before returning to Australia, continuing her operatic career until the age of 65.
She didn’t get nervous on stage and loved the characterisation of the musical style.
“It’s wonderful because you lose your own identity and become someone else. We were very well-rehearsed – the call sheet would come out and that was your life.”
After meeting Chris Harrison, Dawn embarked on a new chapter of her life and one which has now come full circle – from being taught to being the teacher.
“Chris was in the opera company when I retired and became a friend. When he became head of the Macquarie Conservatorium, I asked him for a job. I’ve been teaching for 13 years.
Dawn believes “these things are meant to be”.
“I taught Billie and Nathan singing. Nathan was playing the tuba but he wanted to learn singing. He would sit outside the door while Billie was having her lesson.
“I taught them the same techniques that I was taught. I also believe that they have to be strong enough to keep going. It’s a tough career and they will have to get up many times. But they’ve both got the drive to get where they need to be.” IN celebration of World No Tobacco Day today (Thursday, May 31), Marathon Health said it is continuing its commitment to curb smoking habits by implementing education programs to school students in Dubbo and the surrounding towns, through the use of a peer-led model with a focus on healthy messages.
Marathon Health, with help from headspace Dubbo, is offering a 10-week education course to secondary schools students.
This program is available to young people in Dubbo and surrounding areas. For more information about ways to combat smoking, call Marathon Health on 1300 402 585.