Scholar Update: Toshan Singh Nongbet
Born and raised in the small town of Shillong, Meghalaya, I wasn’t blessed with the easiest access to classical music. I was busy ‘not singing’ in my earlier days, having studied at St. Edmunds School and College, I only discovered my singing talent later in my early twenties.
Having received a CD of Pavarotti I soon discovered myself trying to imitate the greats. After extensive YouTube lessons I realised I needed to find someone who could teach me how to sing. I met up with Pauline Warjri, pianist and leader of the Aroha choir back in 2012. I started off by singing a lot of jazz and classical repertoire with the choir she directed. It was a good background for me at the time. After being with the choir for a while, I decided to move to New Delhi to find myself an independent classical teacher for the voice. I came across the Neemrana Music Foundation (TNMF) and enrolled myself into the chorus.
Whilst I was still with the chorus of TNMF, a short term course was being held in Bombay called ‘Giving Voice to India’, led by Mark Troop and Patrica Rozario. Having enrolled myself in the course I was very excited for the one on one sessions. I then became a regular student for the course which happened usually for a five-day period around Spring or Summer. Soon after, Patricia recommended that I should audition for the Royal College of Music in London. In 2014, I had made appointments with RCM and two other conservatories. When I finally reached the UK I was stressed and feeling overwhelmed, but nothing was going to stop me from doing my best.
RCM was my first option out of the three which I had selected. Soon, audition day arrived and I was completely petrified. I was very lucky to have been selected on the spot. Patricia Rozario is now my principal teacher and college life is running smoothly, with occasional bumps here and there.
I found out about the scholarship program ‘Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation’ from my teacher and went through an audition process alongside other applicants who specialized in their own fields. I was delighted to be selected with for this prestigious scholarship in the year 2015.
The course at RCM concentrates on singing in a foreign language, prominently for Italian, German and French singing. It involves a compulsory course of Aural classes and Practical Musicianship. Movement classes are also part of the schedule where we learn to be comfortable with our body habits whilst singing and the occasional Yoga from time to time. The Alexander technique for musicians is employed which is a form of relaxation for the body and mind. We are always encouraged to enroll in different projects throughout the college such as Chamber Choir and RCM Chorus, amongst others.
I also have my one on one lessons with my vocal teacher, Patrica Rozario. Every Wednesday a visiting professor demonstrates singing masterclasses for the whole vocal faculty. We need to perform a final recital exam to clear the year. Overall, the course has been very pleasant and has its own challenges to overcome.
Living in a city like London, the opportunities are endless. Classical music is everywhere and the choices to go and watch a concert live is almost available to you at your door step. As I am still under training, I have yet to perform a major public recital in London, except for the college venues itself. London continuously provides many opportunities and I am patient for the right time.
Republished with permission from Serenade Magazine: http://serenademagazine.com/features/an-operatic-journey