Former Whangarei soprano Eliza Boom was named runner-up in the 2018 Lexus Song Quest at the weekend.
The 24-year-old was awarded the Malvina Major Foundation prize of $10,000 and a study scholarship also worth $10,000. The first place winner was Joel Amosa.
Ms Boom said she was “still buzzing” after performing on stage with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra during the competition.
The Lexus Song Quest is New Zealand’s most prestigious singing accolade with a prize pool of $90,000 in cash and study scholarship prizes. The coveted title has previously been awarded to Dame Malvina Major, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Phillip Rhodes, Jonathan Lemalu and Sol3 Mio’s Amitai Pati. Ten semi-finalists will be narrowed to five this weekend, with a winner declared at a grand final gala on Saturday 28 July.
Eliza began her musical studies in Hamilton as an 18-year-old studying towards a Bachelor of Music at Vision College in 2012.
The talented soprano recently completed her Masters in Music at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and returned to New Zealand to take part in the Lexus Song Quest. She enjoyed working with head judge Lisa Gasteen as well as coachings and rehearsals which she described as “full on and a great opportunity”.
Eliza was born in Hamilton but grew up in Whangarei in a musical family. At 15 she began singing lessons, which introduced her to the world of opera. “I loved music, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a career,” admitted Eliza. “My older sister Katie had attended Vision College and she really enjoyed her time there. I thought I would love to be a music teacher so I decided to study at Vision College too.”
Vision College is a private training establishment with four main campuses around New Zealand offering a range of tertiary qualifications. Its music programmes focus on developing musical knowledge and performance skills. Students can specialise in a chosen stream (vocals, an instrument or song writing) and experiment with a variety of genres, including rock, pop, jazz, R&B, classical and contemporary Christian music.
Katie went on to become a music therapist, but for Eliza, Vision College was the beginning of her classical music career – one that would see her sing under the tutelage of Dame Malvina Major, win awards and scholarships and perform on international stages alongside world-class orchestras.
Eliza said her three years at Vision College laid the foundation for her future. “I really appreciated the way Vision College prepared me for a variety of future pathways; they give their students a well-rounded musical education,” said Eliza. “It was also a very flexible programme – I was able to study pop, jazz and musical theatre while still specialising in classical music.”
Head of Music for Vision College in Hamilton, Joanne Whitt, recalls Eliza as a talented student and said she was “incredibly proud of her”.
Ms Whitt said one of the strengths of Vision College’s music programme is that it can be personalised to suit the talents and interests of individual students, which worked well in Eliza’s case. “If students have a particular strength we cater to that,” said Ms Whitt. “Eliza had classical voice lessons with contracted vocal coach Ian Campbell, but she was also able to perform in contemporary bands.”
The faith-based curriculum and atmosphere of Vision College also appealed to Eliza. “Because it’s a small college you get to know each other well and it’s a very supportive community.”
After graduating from Vision College with a Bachelor of Music, Eliza went to University of Waikato in 2016 to do an honours year under the tutelage of Dame Malvina Major. “She has been an incredible teacher and support to me, and I learnt a so much while studying with her,” said Eliza. “It was then that I decided to narrow my focus to classical music and opera.”
In 2016 she was a finalist in the 2016 IFAC Handa Australian Singing School Aria Competition, winning a scholarship to do a Masters in Music degree at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) in Manchester, UK.
In early 2017, Eliza spent the year fundraising and studying music. She was a Dame Malvina Major Scholar with the New Zealand Opera – an internship programme which further honed her talent and technique, giving her the opportunity to perform with a professional company. Also in 2017 she won the Dame Malvina Major Foundation Christchurch Aria, another significant accolade.
She has just come home from a year studying her Masters in Music at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and will return to the college again in September on their elite International Artist Diploma. The one-year course will help further her technical and performance skills and serve as a stepping stone to launching a professional career.
The 2018 Lexus Song Quest grand final gala was on Saturday 28th July at the Auckland Town Hall and was broadcast live on RNZ Concert.
“I know most of the other contestants personally,” said Eliza. “It’s so nice to come back to New Zealand and see all these talented people I know well.”
Before she goes out on stage to perform, Eliza said she always takes a moment to centre herself. “I stand side of stage, close my eyes and remind myself it’s all about breath and telling stories, being myself inside a character. I steady myself and then I’m ready.”