When I moved back to Port Macquarie I decided to take a break from singing. I was fortunate to be handed a job as a builder’s laborer, which was a world away from life as a singing student! After a few months of early mornings, back breaking work and sweating in the hot sun, my passion for singing quickly returned! I auditioned for the leading role in the musical “Carousel” and got it. I felt like my life was heading in the right direction again. Unfortunately I became quite sick for the majority of the performances. Unfortunately I didn’t have an understudy so I had to perform the role night after night which was a struggle but I got through it.
In 2002 with my renewed passion for singing I decided to audition for the Queensland Opera Company for a second time. I was accepted and was given a contract for two operas. Life as a professional singer is great. To get paid well for a job that you love is a dream come true. I loved the rehearsal process, working with world class directors and sharing the stage with international guest performers. Performing for over 2000 people a night was a little more daunting to performing for 250 people in my home town, but I loved every minute. The only downside to the life of a professional singer is the work is very seasonal. Unless you have another “gig” lined up you can go months before doing another show with a company. I decided I would move back to Port Macquarie (again!) as I knew I had a steady (real) job to go back to if I wanted it. My plan was to base myself in Port Macquarie and move away for a few months at a time when I was offered a singing contract.
Upon my arrival back home I was offered a job teaching singing at a local music school. Up to this point I hadn’t considered teaching as a profession but I thought with my experience I would be able to offer students some insights into the world of singing. I started out with just a few students but as the year progressed I ended up teaching about 15 singers. I knew I had the experience to teach but what took me by surprise was how much I enjoyed it! I also saw the need in the area for an experienced qualified teacher as there are a lot of “teachers” out there who basically have no idea of what they are doing! Having been a student myself I know how damaging it can be if you don’t have a good teacher from the start.
At the beginning of 2004 I faced a dillema. I was in a serious relationship and I had discovered a new passion for teaching. I was also offered a contract for another 2 operas in Queensland. It would mean leaving my girlfriend and students for four months. I will never know if I made the right decision for my performing career but I decided to stay where I was. I had established myself as a respected and fresh singing teacher and my students were certainly very happy that I stayed.
Fast foward to 2009 and I can honestly say that I don’t regret my decision to focus on teaching in any way. I stopped teaching at the music school in 2006 as I knew I could manage myself as a business. I don’t like to call myself a “Singing Teacher” these days as most of the singers who come to me already know how to sing. I consider myself a Vocal Coach. A coach knows how to work with the strengths of an individual. I also work with a lot of dancers, giving them the skills needed to succeed in a very competitive field. The techniques that I use are an interesting mix of classical and contemporary. I also focus on energy and try to simplify singing.
I am blessed to live in a town that has a very strong performing arts community. I constantly have the opportunity to perform both professionally and for charities. As I write this post I am winding down from a performance for the opening of a $60Million theatre just minutes from where I live. I have built up a clientel of over 70 students during the past couple of years. I can’t physically fit any more students into my schedule which is why I have developed Aussie Vocal Coach. I want to help as many singers as I can in this world as I know how much joy singing can bring to your life if you have the right coach.
I would be honored to work with you and have you help me write the next chapter in my life.
Your Aussie Vocal Coach,
Ian CastleShare on Facebook
Moving to Brisbane in 1998 was a big step for me. It was my first time venturing into the world by myself. I have always been a family orientated person and to be living 8 hours away was quite a shock to the system! My accommodation for my first 6 months was a student boarding house. It wasn’t the ideal environment for a classical singer. It was hard to get to sleep at night with other university students playing baseball in the hallways! It was however a great “social experience” mixing with other people around my age with different interests and views on life. Living in the middle of a major capital city was a big distraction for a small coastal town guy. With countless clubs and bars in the area most of my weekends were spent partying with my new found friends. I became very worldly (or so I thought) in my first 6 months living in Brisbane with many great and some not so great experiences.
Being totally immersed in an environment that you love is very inspiring. That was my initial experience at the Conservatorium of Music. I remember watching in awe as some of the senior students presented recitals. I was regularly given the chance to perform for my peers in vocal workshops. At first it is a little confronting having a room full of singing students and a panel of vocal coaches basically putting you under a microscope to access your flaws and your strengths. It was a little scary but very insightful and I learned a lot about my voice by going through this process. I was very lucky to be taught by one of Australia’s most respected teachers Professor Janet Delpratt during my 4 years at the Conservatorium. She was very good at teaching the technical side of singing and I incorporate a lot of her techniques and ideas when I am coaching my own students.
I was also very lucky to have a fantastic movement coach. She was known as a very tough person to please but she took a liking to me! In fact I was the first person in the Conservatorium to receive a high distinction for movement as a first year student. I had very little dance experience and coaching when I began the course and for some crazy reason I was cast as a dance soloist for the Company productions. Imagine me dressed only in knee length pants with a Native American headpiece spinning and leaping around the stage! Eventually I was given lead roles as a singer as I progressed through the course.
After my first 6 months at the Conservatorium I moved out of the Student lodging and into my own place. My parents bought an investment property quite close to the Conservatorium which I was to call home for the next 3 years. It was a much more “singer friendly” environment.
In the year 2000 something wonderful happened! I actually started to get paid to sing! I was officially the baritone soloist for the St Stephen’s Cathedral. Now I know that probably doesn’t sound to exciting but at the time it was great to have my talent recognized and to have a bit of money coming in! At the end of the year a few friends of mine formed a vocal quartet to do corporate gigs during the Christmas period. My role in the group was to sing the baritone parts. I was also the groups “human tuning fork” as I have perfect pitch (which means I can sing a note on the piano without hearing it first). Many of my Aussie subscribers will have heard of the soprano in our group. Her name is Kate Miller Heidke. For those of you who haven’t heard of Kate I suggest you do a search in youtube!
2001 was a difficult year for me. This was to be the last year of my degree and the reality was beginning to set in. Where is my life heading? I had lost my passion and courage as a singer. Perhaps this the result of being “institutionalized” or the fact that I just wasn’t passionate about classical singing. I just didn’t feel like myself anymore. I was barely getting by with my paid singing jobs. I was given a glimmer of hope after auditioning for the Queensland Opera Company. I made it to their reserve list but there was no guarantee that I would get a position. I was struggling fiancially and emotionally. I had lost touch with who I was as a singer and a person. A change was needed so I decided to get back to my roots and move back to my home town of Port Macquarie. It was time to get my mojo back!Share on Facebook
It was time to do some research into this fascinating world of singing. My Grandmother had quite a collection of CD’s. Ranging from classical, country music, ballads, and musical theatre. I asked her if I could borrow all of her musical theatre CD’s. Night after night I would listen to amazing singers believing without a doubt that I could sound like that too. When alone in the house I would sing along completely oblivious to any “technique” required to sing these very difficult songs. I had absolutely no preconceived ideas about singing. I was fearless and singing with pure passion, but at this stage completely in secret.
Here in Australia our final 2 years at school are dedicated to the HSC (High School Certificate). We are required to nominate subjects to specialize in. Music was obviously my specialty so that was one of the subjects I chose. Throughout the year I was required to do “assessment tasks” which usually meant a performance of a piece of music from a particular genre. For the first half of the year I performed some piano pieces and a couple of saxophone solos. My moment of truth came when I had to perform something from “stage and screen”. I decided “This is it! Look out world here I come!” I decided to play and sing “Music of the Night” from “Phantom of the Opera”. I had a small audience of my music teacher and 3 classmates. They were left speechless. I was known as the quiet guy, who had a few friends but mainly kept to himself. Here I was singing this huge song from one of the biggest musicals in the world. My secret was out!
I had the same reaction from my parents when I performed the song for them that same night. My Mother’s response was “where did that voice come from?” Things progressed very quickly from that moment. Not only did I love to sing, but I loved seeing the shocked expressions on people’s faces. My school was very well known for its sporting achievements and during the 90′s you were very popular if you were a part of the school team. It was not popular however to be a 17 year old musical theatre singer! That did not stop me from persuing my dreams and performing at every opportunity!
During my final year at school my music teacher suggested that I have some singing lessons. Being an overly confident 18 year old my first thought was “I don’t need them”. My sister was also interested in singing and wanted lessons so I thought “Ok I’ll give it a go”. I started having lessons with an older gentleman who by his own addmission didn’t focus on singing technique. He was a very experienced performer and shared with me a lot of advice and gave me plenty of opportunities to perform in public. It was during this year that I debuted in the muscial “Hello Dolly” as the leading man playing opposite someone more than twice my age as the leading lady! It was a wonderful experience and gave me plenty of confidence.
At the end of 1996 I auditioned for a position in the musical theatre course from WAAPA (Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts) which is the same course Hugh Jackman did. Unfortunately they said I was too young and needed more life experience. So I decided to take a year off studying to focus on singing. My teacher suggested that perhaps I might be better suited to opera. I trusted his advice and began studying the art form. My voice certainly suited the classical style and I enjoyed the challenge but my heart really wasn’t in it. During this year I performed the lead role in “Oklahoma” and had my own “gig” at a local club singing to mostly intoxicated sportsman! I also entered as many talent contests as I could winning some very nice prizemoney and the respect of some industry heavyweights.
My teacher encouraged me to audition for the prestigious Queensland Conservatorium of Music at the end of 1997 to study Classical Voice. I did so and was offerred a position in the 4 year course for 1998 with one of Australia’s best classical teachers. I accepted the position and began the next chapter in my life.Share on Facebook