Samantha performing in ‘L’incoronazione di Poppea’ (2021)

Samantha Hargreaves on developing her craft through the Master of Music (Opera Performance)

For Samantha Hargreaves, she had always known she wanted to pursue a career in music. But it wasn’t until the right singing teacher showed her the potential she possessed, that she knew the Master of Music (Opera Performance) was the next step she needed to take.

"I had never done a role in an opera before the masters. But now I’ve done four roles and four lead roles... It really took getting a great singing teacher who really pushed me and made me understand my potential." Samantha says.

Working with industry-renowned teachers

While Samantha was new to opera and classical singing, her masters was guided by internationally renowned teachers with connections to the operatic world. Alongside her cohort, Samantha’s crafts were moulded by in-demand teachers of musical theatre and opera, as well as language phonetics teachers with overseas careers and research in academia.

"The masters course really took me to the next level with the detail in languages and in learning the music. We would have regular coaching every week with language tutors... It was very confronting at times. With music, it’s all about the collaborative nature between people."

"I think the thing that really has helped me is the learning of the roles. Because if you don't have the experience of learning an entire opera from start to finish, all the recitative sections, the little duets and ensembles as well as the big arias, it's very different."

"Learning the whole role with people to help you and make sure that you’re learning it at a high standard, that’s the thing that sets the course apart from just learning a role with an amateur company."

Samantha’s next steps

Now, having graduated from the masters, Samantha’s passion and skill as an opera performer has transformed her career. Performing in a variety of productions since graduating, Samantha has truly found her place on the stage.

"The masters has opened my eyes to programs overseas and made me just a bit more ambitious than I was before. I feel like it’s within my reach now, if I just continue doing the work, doing the right work."

Learn more about the Master of Music (Opera Performance)

Andy Johnston with First Assistant Camera Eva Otsing on location with Black Trans Miracle, directed by Master of Film and Television student Tinaye Nyathi (pictured in monitor). (Photo: Jarrod Strauch)

'Whichever avenue we go down, we're supported fully': Hear from Master of Producing students Lucinda and Andy

For Andy, who had graduated from a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Music Theatre) at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) in “the most ideal way” – landing a lead role in a musical within a month of graduation – the shift to producing was linked to his realisation he was seeking more creative control.

“I just started to transition it all from theatre into screen: my writing, my acting, my producing. So I made a short film that I wrote, produced and acted in, and that felt exciting and fulfilling.

“But I didn’t know the finer details of how to produce screen projects, and I felt like I was waiting for permission – for somebody to allow me to do it. So I thought I’d better just go and do my masters, get the knowledge, and get that autonomy over my practice and my craft.”

Meanwhile, Master of Producing student Lucinda came to producing through a desire to find job security while working in the arts.

“For my undergrad I did a Bachelor of Arts, because I thought, ‘Being an actor or a director isn’t quite secure enough. So I’ll get a BA in history and politics, and that’ll be much more secure, right?’

“Then I had a bit of a break during COVID, and realised to work in the arts, producing seemed like a good secure area where you can help create all the work together.”

Industry experience

Both Andy and Lucinda list industry exposure as one of their favourite aspects of their degree – including the experience of teaching staff, the chance to connect with guest speakers, and the opportunities to work with professionals on film projects.

As Lucinda says, this means the degree doubles as a crash course in industry practice:

“I came into my degree not knowing much at all about producing. I think a lot of what I’ve learned, I wouldn’t have otherwise picked it up unless I had been in the industry for many years, so I feel like I’ve been really lucky – it’s brought all that learning and experience into a really short time-frame.”

Andy also notes he loves the freedom of expression – and self-discovery – that the degree offers:

“We’re never boxed in to ‘this is how a producer does it and that’s what you have to do’. We’re really encouraged to explore the different avenues and whichever way we go down, we’re supported fully, which is really exciting.”

Sarah Hegge-Taylor directing her graduating film Small, produced by Lucinda Halls. (Photo: Jarrod Strauch)

Labours of love

VCA Screen Producing students work with other Film and Television students as part of a process that includes “speed-dating”, where producers and directors search out colleagues that share their vision. With the diversity of approaches and philosophies that find a home in the VCA, this ensures students always have the opportunity to collaborate on work that feeds their passion.

This semester, Lucinda has worked with Sarah Hegge-Taylor on a period drama with elements of body horror and feminist undertones – a collaboration that makes sense when you hear Lucinda’s interests:

“I’ve been getting into historical fiction and dramatisation of events – in how you can take an historical event and mould it into something which is relevant and really speaks to people today when they watch it.

“I really liked The Trial of the Chicago Seven; I was really interested in how they connected it really clearly and deliberately with events today.”

And for Andy, who’s worked closely to support Tinaye Nyathi as he’s written, directed and acted in his film Black Trans Miracle, the link is just as clear.

“As a queer storyteller, I want to tell stories that allow marginalised communities to express themselves authentically, and to challenge stereotypes and to let their voices be heard.

“Anywhere I go, I always have it in me to just be kind and to understand that people have lives outside of their roles in the industry. We’re all in this together – I want to allow space for that, to treat people with respect and kindness, and to make sure my relationships are always genuine and meaningful.”

Learn more about the Master of Screen Producing