New head of voice with loads of experience

16 September 2016

Stephanie Acraman

Stephanie Acraman is the new Head of Voice on the University's Music Programme.

New Head of Voice at Waikato University, Stephanie Acraman, says classical training provides an excellent grounding for anyone wanting a musical career on the stage.

Ms Acraman is an example of someone who’s classically trained, but who also sings jazz and performs in musical theatre.

After 16 years based in Australia, performing and touring there and also in New Zealand and Asia, Ms Acraman returned to New Zealand permanently in July to take up the position at Waikato.

The Waikato Conservatorium of Music is developing a new stream for Music Theatre where students will still be given the solid basics of a classical vocal technique, but will be able to specialise in Music Theatre repertoire. 

“In the future, the Bachelor of Music Degree will offer a fully specialised degree in Music Theatre, which we are currently working toward developing and perfecting,” says Ms Acraman.

“This new course will not just offer the development of voice in this genre, but will support singers moving into the field of Music Theatre, and help enable them to develop all skills needed for a career in the industry.

“Not everyone will achieve an international opera career, but with the right skills they can still have a singing career,” she says. “Whatever they do, wherever they perform, singers have to be able to adapt their voices to whatever they’re performing, know how to navigate their way around a stage and how to communicate with an audience.”

She says the voice is like an instrument in that it can be “played” in different ways. “A voice can have many different colours, but learning classical voice techniques gives you a great foundation for moving onto other forms.”

She did her own learning at the Canberra School of Music – Australian National University where she studied under another Kiwi, Anthea Moller. “Her guidance, and style of teaching have contributed hugely to the technique of singing I teach now,” she says.

“Over the years I’d made connections with the University of Waikato, including performing in Dr Mike Williams’ Juniper Passion and Prodigal Child. I’d seen the music programme here evolving and was impressed with the good work that staff and students were doing. When I saw they were looking for a new voice lecturer, I felt the time was right to ‘come home’.”

With singing tutor Glenese Blake, Ms Acraman will also teach senior students enrolled in the short but intensive Dame Malvina Postgraduate Certificate in Opera Studies. “We’ve secured some of New Zealand’s best to guest lecture and teach on the programme including Stuart Maunder, head of Opera New Zealand, tenor Simon O’Neill, mezzo sopranos Helen Medlyn and Isabel Cunningham and sopranos Catrin Johnsson and Anna Pierard, musical director Jose Aparicio and vocal health and psychologist Michael Blake.

“And of course Bachelor of Music students will benefit too as they’ll be able to observe the master classes with some of these well-known names, and I’m very excited about that,” Ms Acraman says. 

Waikato voice students will be performing their end of year Music Theatre Showcase - Raise the Stage this Saturday, 17 September 7.30pm at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts. Tickets at the door, $5 General Admission, Students with ID are free.

The concert will have performances of well known and loved Music Theatre pieces, highlighting both undergraduate and postgraduate singers.