Lauren Margison, operatic soprano/singer/songwriter, is offering singing classes on a ‘pay what you can’ basis to Highlands residents. /Photo submitted

Learn to sing without breaking the bank courtesy of Highlands Opera Studio

By Mike Baker

Highlands Opera Studio is offering singing enthusiasts from across Haliburton County the opportunity to learn from the best courtesy of a new ‘pay what you can’ initiative.

Made possible through a new partnership with the Haliburton County Development Corporation, who will be subsidizing the initiative, individuals interested in taking singing lessons with professionals from Highlands Opera Studio can do so without worrying whether or not they can afford it.

From now until March 2022, Highlands Opera Studio will be providing lessons to individuals virtually, over Zoom, with participants encouraged to pay only what they can afford. Lessons will be 30 minutes in length, with a maximum of 20 lessons allowed per student. The program is open to singers of all ages and all musical styles across Haliburton County.

Valerie Kuinka, general manager and co-artistic director of Highlands Opera Studio, said the initiative would provide a much-needed boost to an arts community that has been starved of in-person programming and events throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are fortunate to be in a community where performing arts thrive through deep appreciation and avid participation. From the shared experience of sitting in an audience, to singing together in a band, onstage in a show, in a choir or congregation, or playing an instrument in an orchestra, the ability to have fun together or alone by expressing oneself through the act of making music is a celebration of the human spirit and can be essential to mental health,” Kuinka said.

“This past year has been devastating for so many, including those who have been denied the ability to express themselves through the shared act of making and performing live music,” she added.

Kuinka is calling on individuals and businesses who have “thrived” financially during the pandemic to pay it forward and support this new initiative.

“Any additional revenue received through the pay-what-you-can and pay it forward policy would be turned back into the budget for these lessons,” a recent Highlands Opera Studio press release states. “The total number of students [we can teach] would depend on this additional revenue received, as well as number of lessons given to any one person.”

With COVID-19 restrictions expected to loosen come June 14, and the province to open up more in the weeks and months ahead providing case counts remain low, Kuinka said it’s possible that lessons could be provided in-person down the line.

Now that Highlands Opera Studio has become so well versed in offering programming virtually, Kuinka said she expects things such as online classes to become a permanent fixture, even after this pandemic is behind us.
“Even though there is light at the end of the tunnel for a return to in-person activities sometime in 2021, the possibility of teaching voice through Zoom has meant we can offer singing lessons throughout the year to residents of Haliburton County, instead of only in the summer through the Highlands Opera Community School,” Kuinka said.

She added, “This can continue even when the pandemic is a thing of the past. Through the Highlands Opera Community School online we look forward to providing this resource and opportunity to residents of Haliburton County.”

To learn more and to book lessons, contact Lauren Margison at