Ben Reason

Ben Sings at Guildhall

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My name is Ben Reason and I'm a singer from Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. My passion is music and this year I am pursuing that passion to London, UK where I've been offered an incredible opportunity to study at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

I need to raise a whopping $65,000 to cover my tuition fees and living costs for the first year of my BMus (Hons) course. With another three years to go, this is only a fraction of what the overall cost will eventually be. The Guildhall School has awarded me a part-scholarship to go towards tuition fees but I now need your help to get me the rest of the way. This Boosted campaign, along with the help of a generous opera-loving benefactor, aims to raise the remaining $10,000 that I need to cover my first year tuition fees.

So who am I?

I was born and bred in Wellington, and attended Onslow College from 2010 to 2014 where my (then undiscovered) musical ardour was nurtured in the zany, collaborative community that I was welcomed into.

During this time, I sang and performed in an number of ensembles, often writing music to be performed by these very groups. However, I felt the most satisfaction when the dramatic art form would meet with music on stage. In 2013, I found myself in an environment where I could pour my heart and soul into a role, storming the stage with all the bravado and anguish a 16 year-old could muster as "Sweeney Todd; the Demon Barber of Fleet Street".

After graduating from Onslow with an Excellence endorsement, I went on to pursue private study with some of the country's most distinguished musicians: NZ Opera principal répétiteur and vocal coach Bruce Greenfield, renowned NZ baritone Roger Wilson, as well as mezzo-soprano and head of Classical Voice at NZSM Dr. Margaret Medlyn. In 2016, I was awarded a grant from the Dame Malvina Major Foundation that helped enable my continued vocal training.

A passionate chorister, I was a member of the New Zealand Secondary Students' Choir which travelled to Malaysia and Singapore on an international tour (2013/14), and have also been a choral scholar with New Zealand's leading symphonic choir, Orpheus. I have worked as a freelance singer and am currently a member of the Freemasons New Zealand Opera chorus. To my delight (and wonderment at my age), I was selected for the Wellington chorus in their 2016 English-language production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" - my 'operatic début'. I have also recently finished performing in their rendition of the iconic opera "Carmen", and will sing in Bizet's "La damnation de Faust" with the NZSO later in August.

And how did I get here?

In June of last year, I packed up my bags and travelled to the UK in search of an adventure. With the encouragement of my UK teachers Paul Farrington and Tim Richards, I decided to take a swing at some music schools. Working in a Bristol pub to fund my lessons and travel costs, I was dubbed the 'singing bartender' as I made use of the 600 year-old building's wonderful acoustics!

In November, I jumped head first into a month of auditions - travelling the country to conservatoires in Glasgow, Cardiff, and finally London. To my utter astonishment and joy, I was offered a place at the Guildhall School the very next day and a scholarship shortly thereafter.

Where to now?

What is so exceptionally exciting about training my voice in London is that I know how much of a personal journey it is going to be. Not only am I building a greater understanding of the instrument I already have, but I'm also creating an identity in my sound and presentation that people will come to recognise one day.

I will be studying with UK-born baritone, répétiteur, and conductor Robert Dean. In addition to his teaching work at the Guildhall School, Robert has also been guest vocal coach at the National Opera Studio, Glyndebourne, and at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen.

Guildhall has the resources, artistic community, and vocational opportunities to promote musicians and actors to become the best in their field. It's renowned international faculty and campus right in the heart of a great city of culture are why I ultimately chose it over two other UK conservatoires, where I was also offered scholarships. You can find out more at: www.gsmd.ac.uk

Join me!

I applied to study Voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama because I want to continue to be part of an arts community that will allow me to flourish and succeed in a lifetime love of practice and performance.

Thank you so much for your continuing support, I hope you will be able to share in this journey with me.

Noho ora mai

Ben

UPDATES

  • One Last Thing!

    3 MONTHS AGO

    And... that's a wrap! I only have a few more words to say but first, thank you!

    I am now two short weeks away from my departure to the UK. I've been writing a list of all the things I need to do here in Wellington first, but no matter how many I cross off it seems to just keep getting longer!

    Thank you to everyone who has donated and has helped make this campaign possible. A special thanks to Donelle McKinley at Boosted for her help in the lead up to, and the running of this page over the last month. Special thanks also to Linus Nelson who worked with me on the film you have all seen.

    As I mentioned in my last update, before I head over I will be performing Berlioz’s epic “La Damnation de Faust” with the Freemasons NZ Opera chorus in association with the NZSO. It’s a phenomenal work and am incredibly excited to be singing along so many of my friends in the chorus. One last musical send-off.

    It would mean a lot for me to be able to keep in touch with everyone who has donated to this campaign, and also to those who’ve shown their support in other ways. If you're interested in hearing from me once in a while about my studies in London, please do flick me through an email at benlewisreason@gmail.com.

    What an adventure lies ahead, I can hardly wait! However, it shouldn't be too long before I'm home to sing for you again - with a bigger voice but hopefully not a bigger head!

    Ben

    One Last Thing!
  • Songs for the Road

    3 MONTHS AGO

    I’m thrilled to say that as of Thursday my Boosted has reached it’s initial goal of $10,000! It’s been an absolute landslide of a campaign over the last month. Once again, thanks to everyone who has donated so far, your incredible generosity is as always greatly appreciated.

    I wanted to just share with you a few details of this past week, as it has been an eventful one!

    On Sunday, I hosted my fundraising concert at Wellington’s St Andrew’s on the Terrace. Always a fantastic venue, I was joined on the night by some of my wonderfully talented friends. We sang a variety of cycles and art song from composers such as Poulenc and Vaughan Williams, to the musical theatre of Sondheim and Lloyd Webber (and more!).

    A particular favourite of mine was Lilburn’s wistful song cycle, “Sings Harry” which I opened the concert with. Set to fellow New Zealander Dennis Glover’s poetry, it depicts our ‘endearingly idiosyncratic’ Kiwi. I first performed a couple of songs from the cycle at St Andrew’s in 2014 as part of my final concert at Onslow College.

    I’d been devising this fundraiser since I first arrived in New Zealand back in April so it was both a great pleasure to be able to put it up on stage in front of an audience, and also an incredibly nerve-racking experience.

    I would like to extend my gratitude to all the singers, our accompanists, and to everyone who attended for making it a successful evening. The incredible donations from the night came to a whopping total of $1,430!

    On Thursday evening, I had the privilege of singing as part of the Dame Malvina Major Foundation gala concert. Held in the Great Hall of Parliament, I performed alongside Bianca Andrew, Oriana Kershaw, and Daniel O’Connor. It was an absolute pleasure to sing in an world-class ‘shoe box’ acoustic like this one. As my vocal coach and our accompanist for the evening, Bruce Greenfield rightly put it “modern architects and acousticians could learn a thing or two from these beautiful old structures”.

    I sang two charming Mozart arias from his operas “Don Giovanni” and “Die Zauberflöte”, both baritone roles I hope to perform some day! As well as these, I sang a piece from Vaughan Williams’ beautifully nostalgic “Songs of Travel”. Daniel and I finished the concert with the razor-flaunting, anti-love duet “Pretty Women” from Sondheim’s horror-opera “Sweeney Todd”.

    Our host for the evening, parliamentarian Chris Finlayson remarked at how much he enjoyed the music apart from perhaps the last piece which he found "somewhat nauseating" - I think an appropriate response to a deliciously villainous piece of writing.

    It was a relaxed and enjoyable evening, and I had an absolutely wonderful time. I was also very happy to finally put some names to friendly faces, and indeed meet some kind unfamiliar ones too.

    Tomorrow the New Zealand Opera company begins rehearsals for Berlioz’s dramatic musical legend “La damnation de Faust”. This will be my last performance here in New Zealand before I leave to the UK to begin my studies at Guildhall. All I will say for now is that I am very excited to be performing this work. The chorus certainly have their work cut out for them, and this will not be one to miss! More on this soon…

    Ben

     

    PS: With just under a week left until my Boosted page closes, there is still opportunity for people to donate if they wish. Every extra dollar donated will continue to go towards my living expenses this coming year.

    Songs for the Road
  • Opening on a Showcase and a Road Trip

    4 MONTHS AGO

    It has been just over a week since I launched this crowdfunding campaign with Boosted and WOW, what a week it has been!

    I opened on Friday to a number of early donors bumping me up to 14% in the first few hours, which quickly doubled to 32% by Saturday morning. The shock of seeing this while eating breakfast nearly made me spill my cereal all down my front - my lack of grace never ceases to surprise me.

    On Sunday, I had the pleasure of performing for the folk at Rita Angus retirement home with Alicia Cadwgan, Mark Dorrell, and two marvellous students from Queen Margaret's College. I sang a selection of songs including RVW's "Whither Must I Wander" from his cycle Songs of Travel, and the sombre poetry of Fauré's chanson "En Sourdine"; both of which you will be able to hear at my fundraising concert at the end of this month.

    Alicia and I also performed a couple of duets for the residents and friends: "Bei Männern" from Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, and "Love Unspoken" from Lehár's The Merry Widow.

    The showcase was set up by the Dame Malvina Major Foundation and I have them to thank for inviting me to sing. It was a real privilege to have sang with such accomplished musicians, and to have made some new friends along the way too.

    On Monday, I hit the road with a couple of friends. We decided to take a road trip and drive up the North Island, through the beautiful National Park on our way to Auckland. Being musical folk, the sing-a-long's were an inspiration.

    It’s been a wonderful opportunity to de-stress, recover, and take some time to reflect on how far I’ve come and to remind myself where I am going. With all my upcoming concerts, there’s lots of music to learn and change of scenery has honestly helped renew my excitement in it.

    I’m so happy to have also had the chance to catch up with some old friends I haven’t seen since before I first left New Zealand to travel to the UK. Never leave it too long!

    It’s our last night before heading back to Wellington and we’re in Tauranga. How lucky we’ve been to miss all the terrible weather, and my voice is feeling better than ever!

    I am incredibly humbled by the generosity shown by those who have donated already. Just one week in and the campaign has now reached 75% of my initial goal. Thank you all for your kind messages of support and your interest in my journey so far. I am eagerly awaiting for what the next month has in store.

    Ben

    Opening on a Showcase and a Road Trip