Melissa graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire with a 1st class honours degree in 2005 and was awarded Distinction LRSM for piano performance the same year. Following a Erasmus Programme of study at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Weimar, Germany she was awarded the Weingarten Scholarship and spent a year studying at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest. In 2008 Melissa returned to complete her Masters at Birmingham Conservatoire studying with Philip Martin and Victor Sangiorgio. Melissa’s performing experience and interests reflect the diversity of her musical education and she enjoys a rich and varied freelance career as recitalist and accompanist.In addition to performing, Melissa is active as rehearsal pianist for various opera companies and choirs in the Midlands. She works on a freelance basis for Birmingham Opera Company, and Birmingham Royal Ballet, DanceXchange and Elmurst School for Dance as ballet pianist. In addition to performing, Melissa is a teacher at Birmingham Junior Conservatoire, Edgbaston High School for Girls and has a thriving network of private piano students.
Suzie began her vocal training at Birmingham Conservatoire where she won a scholarship and many prizes. In 2011 she participated in the Opera Works course with English National Opera. Since graduating she has been employed by Diva Opera, Buxton Festival Opera, Kentish Opera and Graham Vick’s Birmingham Opera Company. Operatic roles and scenes include Carmen (Carmen – in English), Mother (Amahl and the Night Visitors), Juno (Semele), Ottavia (L’incoronazione di Poppea), Second Lady (Die Zauberflöte) and Cornelia (Giulio Cesare).
Suzie has a special interest in the performance of new music and has performed works by Pierre Boulez, Louis Andriessen, Gerald Barry, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Philip Cashian, Steve Reich, Luciano Berio, Zsolt Durkó and Cecilia McDowall. Composer Michael Wolters has written many pieces for her including a two-hour-long music theatre piece called Sing, sing! which Suzie premiered in Düsseldorf and performed again for the opening of a festival in Trier. In the UK Suzie premiered Michael’s short opera The Voyage in collaboration with Stan’s Cafe Theatre Company; a recording of this performance was broadcast on BBC Radio 3. Other projects with New Guide to Opera have included performing on BBC4 World News Today, performing in an ice-rink during public skating hours and singing with gibbons in a cage in a zoo. Plans for 2015 include a project with Syzygy Saxophone Quartet and a recital with pianist Simon Nicholls, See www.suziepurkis.com for further details and to find out what Suzie is up to.
Malaysian pianist Bernard Tan is a passionate accompanist and vocal coach. He has accompanied singers in competitions in Asia and graduation recitals in various universities in Malaysia. He was awarded the Best Accompanist Prize in the Winter Journey Opera and Song Workshop in Thailand. Bernard has performed in masterclasses by Iain Burnside, Roderick Williams and Anna Tilbrook. He was also invited with Andrew Randall to perform in the masterclass in Leeds Lieder Festival this year. Graduated with First Class Honours from University Putra Malaysia where he majored in piano performance, Bernard is currently pursuing Master of Music in Piano Accompaniment at Birmingham Conservatoire, under the tutelage of Robin Bowman and Robert Markham. In the conservatoire, he involved actively and was the winner of John Ireland Prize (song pianist) and first runner-up of Delia Hall Accompanist Prize. Besides being a pianist, Bernard is also a singer and conductor.
Naomi Hickman is a Birmingham-based classical soprano currently studying under the tutelage of Maureen Brathwaite. Originally from North Somerset, Naomi began her vocal training with Elizabeth Glen, before studying for a BA music degree at the University of Southampton, graduating in 2013. At present she is a final year postgraduate student at Birmingham Conservatoire studying towards a Masters degree in Performance and Pedagogy. Naomi has performed in a number of operatic productions including as Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and La Bergère in Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortilèges. She has also been a soloist in Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man and regularly performs with female vocal ensemble ‘Lyrica’. Naomi was Musical Director of gospel choir ‘Jazzmanix’ and led their performance at the Vienne Jazz Festival. She is a passionate teacher and works as a vocal tutor in various schools around the West Midlands.
Andrew Randall is a Derbyshire-born baritone raised in the heart of the Peak District; he is taught by the renowned bass-baritone Henry Herford and operatic tenor Paul Bambrough. Previously, Andrew studied at the University of Nottingham, where he also read Music. Throughout undergraduate study Andrew was a semi-professional international in the sport of archery—he narrowly missed out on a position at the 2012 Olympic Games. On top of many other choral engagements, Andrew is a Bass Lay Clerk for St. Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham. Andrew has performed lead roles in many operatic works. Most recently, Michael Wolters’ new opera, Ava’s Wedding in which he created the role of Ian Hobbs, Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Sid in Britten’s Albert Herring, and Marcello in Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème. Andrew has had a very active competition season. He was a finalist in the Conservatoire Vocal Prize 2015 and 2016. He has won first prize for the Andrew Downes’ Contemporary Music competition, and was awarded first place at the John Ireland Music Prize, the Edward Brookes’ English Song Prize, and, last week, the Ashleyan Opera Prize 2016.