Diana McLaughlin is as passionate about making music accessible to everyone, as she is about singing itself.
Originally from Maryland in the U.S, and now living in Bridgend with her Derry born husband, Douglas, the classically trained opera singer is on a mission to bring music to as many young people as possible here in the North West.
Supporting Diana in her mission are the staff at the Studio 2 arts hub in Skeoge. Diana said she was delighted to get news of working at Studio 2 after returning from a music tour in Germany recently.
“I went on tour in Germany with ‘Das Phantom der Oper’ for three months as a cover and ensemble singer,” she explains. “While on tour I was moved to another tour in the same company, The Europen tour of ‘Die Grosse Andrew Lloyd Webber Gala’ where I got to perform solo and sing some of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest pieces. It was an absolute thrill and I have been asked back for next year’s tour season again.
“When I returned to Ireland, I was asked to come and teach at Studio 2 and I jumped at the chance as I’ve dreamed for a long time of starting a singing academy here. Although I have always taught piano and singing at home, I want to make my instruction available to even more talented young people in the area. One thing about Derry that has always attracted me to it, and perhaps kept me here, is the fact that there are so many beautiful singers and everyone really appreciates singing. I sat in on an audition once for a choir in Derry and remember being blown away by the voices I heard, the raw potential that there is. It really is a singing city.”
At Studio 2, Diana will work with young people between the ages of 3 and 18. Classes include ‘My First Singing Class’ for children aged between three and five, Primary Singing Class, for children aged between six and eight, Junior Singing Class, for children aged between nine and 11 and the Senior Singing Class, for young people aged between 12 and 18.
“I think we just can’t waste the talent that we have here,” said Diana.
“If young people start at a young age, they have so much potential. And I really love the fact that Studio 2 is all about making it accessible. So, this is not just about those who can afford to have singing lessons, it’s about making it affordable and available to everyone. My hope and dream is to have a really good singing academy here.
“My goal in Studio 2 is to provide high-quality vocal education to all the people of the community. From vocal technique to vocal health, I have learned so much in my education and my work and I want to share it. Also from a wellbeing standpoint, music helped me so much growing up in rural America. It kept me out of trouble and striving to better myself. It also made me happy. I enjoyed learning how to sing so much.
“The confidence I was able to have in myself as a singer grew because my knowledge grew. They always say knowledge is power, so that is what I tell my students. If you know what you are doing, you can be confident. In Studio 2, I am launching with some fun singing classes for (ages 3-18) to inspire young people to enjoy music making. Eventually, I would like to offer grade exam preparation in small groups, start a Glee choir, some classes for adults, singing for wellbeing and singing for the elderly. We also hope to host some performances and really get people singing. Mostly I want people to be happy and I think singing does that for people. As the saying goes ‘A singing child is a happy child.’ but I think it applies to adults too. You don’t have to have the best voice to enjoy it, but you can learn to make it better too.”
As an accomplished opera singer with a Masters degree in Music under her belt, as well as extensive performance experience in America, for Diana, making the move to Ireland was a big culture shock.
“When you’re at the far west of Europe, as an opera singer, there aren’t a lot of opportunities. I felt like an outsider too and it was difficult to get into the scene here. Mostly performing with Northwest Opera but recently Foyle Opera as well.
“Those two companies and their artistic director, Ann Jennings have been most supportive of my career in this country as there are few other opportunities in the area. I don’t know where I’d be if Ann Jennings wasn’t running a small company out of Ballybofey in 2012 when I joined them. I am so grateful for the help she gave me as a blow-in over the years!”
To get in touch with Diana, or for more information on the classes at Studio 2, contact 02871 358750 or visit the Studio 2 Facebook page.