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Speech Day Celebrated at University's Great Hall

13 November 2015

On Friday 6 November, members of the School's Governing Body, parents, teachers and students all gathered for our Speech Day in the University of Birmingham's Great Hall in order to celebrate our GCSE and A Level success and to present the A2 certificates to our Year 14 students whom we were delighted to welcome back.

Music was provided by the Senior and Chamber choirs and addresses were made by Sir Dominic Cadbury, Mr Jeremy Payne, Dr Weeks, Head Girl Hanna and her deputies Chloe and Lucy and guest speaker Aimée Presswood. Aimée left EHS and went on to achieve a First Class honours Music degree from Manchester University  and embark upon her career as a professional soprano singer. Aimée delivered an inspiring and thought-provoking speech and we were lucky enough to ask Aimée some questions about her life and she shared with us some of the wisdom she has gained at such a young age.

To what extent do you think growing up in Hong Kong and South Africa shaped where you are today?

I think travelling around a lot made  me learn to adapt quickly and become more confident; it also instilled in me a sense of adventure and a love of travelling. Travelling is vital because it opens  your  eyes and allows you to relate to others around you. Growing up in different cultures certainly opened my mind.


How do you think your ambition in music has shaped who you are?

Music is very competitive and therefore it requires constant practice, self-reflection and constant honing of skills; therefore, it's always driving you to become better.


What kind of music do you enjoy listening to on a daily basis?

A wide variety: lots of opera,  early Jazz  (Dixie), 80s electro pop70s funk and country music.  Oh, and  Beyoncé!


Do you prefer to sing as part of a choir or as a soloist? How do these experiences differ for you?

Ultimately, I am more likely to pursue a career as a soloist. However, the two experiences are completely different and I love the feeling that a finished product is the result of a corporate effort and it is feeding off people in the moment, in a subtle way.


Was music a direction you were eager to continue from a young age and how does an interest in music differ from actually studying Music to degree level?

I always enjoyed music from a young age but often thought of studying other things such as Art or Literature; sometimes I even thought of not going to university at all. When I was at university,  my  degree was varied and ranged from learning Composition and Music History to transcribing music sources.


Pieces such as Mahler's Fourth Symphony are originally in German, has pursuing music caused you to be interested in languages?

As a singer yes; you have to learn more languages because you need to attend rehearsals in different languages. Most of the music I study is in Italian and German because there is a need for expression in songs.


What are your plans for the future? Where would you like to see yourself in five years?

My plans for the future involve lot more technical exploration with  my own voice. This means more lessons and more practice. I  hope to do my Masters  at Music College and hope to begin a role in an opera company, as well as travel to  America, climb Mount Kilimanjaro and perfect  my  Italian.


What is your opinion on the current music industry; do you feel that as a generation, we don't appreciate the classical world as much as we should?

Classical music isn't for everyone; however, it unfairly has a bad image. It's up to classical musicians to eradicate stuffiness and aspects of tradition that puts people off. The greatest shame is that people believe all classical music is similar but it encompasses everything; there's a lot of variety in classical music that needs to be explored.


Have you ever had any embarrassing experiences such as forgetting your words and if so, how did you overcome these?

So many times! One of them was in an audition for an opera in London and all I had to sing was four lines in Italian, I  walked in and forgot three out of four lines and ended in the  wrong key, unsurprisingly, I  didn't get  the job. Also a few of us were singing Schumann at university and we all sang few songs from a song cycle and shared a folder. I slotted  my  photocopies in, however, when I turned the page I realised they were in the wrong order  and had to sing "la la la la la".

How did EHS enthuse and encourage you to pursue music?

EHS gave me  a hunger to discover more about the subject. I would like to thank  Ms Harper, Ms Stocks and Ms Howell  for all their care and affection.  EHS encouraged  me to take on roles in different musicals and they were wonderful and of brilliant quality. I carry  great memories from the Sound of Music and Grease. Ultimately, there were many extracurricular opportunities which allowed me to flourish.

Aimée's speech has certainly inspired many to follow their dreams and reminded us that it is not only academic achievement that needs recognising; there are many talented professionals working in the fields of Sport, Art, Music, and Dance to name but a few. We'd like to thank Aimée for taking the time to talk to us, and for delivering such a tremendous speech.

Tara Baaj and Ellenor Blake
Sixth Form Committee

SirDominic Cadbury, Dr Weeks, Head and Deputy Head Girls and Mr Jeremy Payne

Dr Weeks withAimée Presswoodand Mr Jeremy Payne

The Head Girl and Deputy Head Girls

Aimée Presswood congratulates the students


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