Karen Wilkinson was a Little Voices pupil for many years.
So when she recently sent me a WhatsApp photo out of the blue, with a message that simply said: “Singing solo on a West End stage tonight!” I almost burst with pride and joy!
It was her dream, and now it’s her reality. I’ve known Karen since she was just 8 years old and have loved following her incredible journey over the years to pursue her dreams. I vividly remember her standing beside my piano, and even at such a young age, I knew she was destined for a West End stage.
While her voice is a phenomenal instrument, she has a work ethic to match. She was always incredibly grounded and realistic, and because she heeded the advice she was given, she was able to take the rollercoaster journey of being a performer in her stride.
I recently caught up with Karen to ask about her time with Little Voices – from being very young to emerging as a young adult – and the amazing life she has now performing in the West End’s Phantom of the Opera!
What’s your strongest memory of Little Voices?
Rehearsing for Jane Eyre at Moorland School! It was such a beautiful piece, and my introduction to the musical itself, but for such a serious piece I just remember laughing so much with my group! We had a great time rehearsing for that exam.
Why did you attend for so long?
Because I loved the atmosphere, the tutors, and my fellow students! I always really looked forward to my lessons, and still think about them now, even though it’s been 6 years since I left. I also loved the fact that I was able to progress with the company as I got older – I went from being a student and achieving my grade 8 exam, to becoming an assistant and eventually, to working as a theatre week tutor!
How has attending Little Voices impacted your career now?
Little Voices taught me valuable rehearsal skills, and instilled a self-confidence that I didn’t have for a long time. I honestly think that if it weren’t for Little Voices, maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now.
What are the 5 biggest things that you learnt during your time with us?
1) That there’s no such thing as a ‘small part’, because every role is a vital to the success of the whole group. And whatever the size of your part, when you go into the exam room, your examiner will be marking your whole team together. It’s up to you to make the most of whatever part you’re given.
2) That it’s okay to talk to your group or your tutor if something’s not right. Whether you feel stressed about something, you haven’t had time to learn your material, or you’re struggling to understand something – your Little Voices group will always support you in the best way they can.
3) Not to be scared to put forward your own vision. It’s important to have the self-belief to make choices about your characters and try them out in rehearsals. If something doesn’t work, then don’t be embarrassed – at least you gave it a go!
4) Vital leadership skills! I learned so much from watching my tutors over the years, and once I had the opportunity to lead a few theatre weeks myself, I was able to put what observed I’d into practice and develop leadership skills of my own.
5) Not to be afraid of my own voice! When I got to High School, I became very shy and would avoid singing solo in public at all costs, despite having so many supportive people around me cheering me on!
So as well as Little Voices lessons, I also had some one-to-one singing lessons with Jane – and she helped me regain my confidence and re-learn how much I actually love to sing. Finally, I’d like to say that Little Voices always has been, and always will be, a place for you to be your own wonderful self, so don’t be afraid to let yourself shine!
If your child is dreaming of being the next big star, we’d love them to take part in a free trial class – just contact your local Little Voices office to find out more.
To watch Karen in Phantom Of The Opera you can book tickets here – Phantom of the Opera TICKETS.