INTERVIEW with GEMMA SUGRE of Voiceworks for UCC ROCKS

FIRST PUBLISHED IN DOWNTOWN/THE EVENING ECHO 2014-7-3

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Echo Article - Voiceworks @ UCC

Gemma Sugre, the director of Voiceworks Studio, sat down with Ronan Leonard to discuss what they have accomplished in just three years and their biggest concert to date, “Laoise O’Hanlon, our assistant director, and I met on the MA course at Cork School of Music and decided to work together on a summer camp for teen singers along with now Voiceworks’ senior vocal coach, Ciara Walton. We had so much fun working with the teens that when it came to the end of camp we said “aw, imagine if it was summer camp all year round”… next thing we knew we were downloading a business template and signing on the dotted line for a business loan and a lease to a premises.”

They have both been amazed by the progress of Voiceworks, “the business has been like a kid who’s cycling without the stabilizers for the first time and is peddling off into the sunset and Laoise and I are the worried parents running after it. Initially, Laoise and I thought it’d be great to just share a premises, go on lunch together, share music books and put our students together for concerts as we had been teaching at home prior to Voiceworks but the business has really evolved over the last three years and we now employ 12 incredible vocal coaches and we cater for nearly 300 students.”

Gemma’s own personal experience of being taught to sing was a driving force in the creation of this new style of music school, “I started taking voice lessons myself when I was 16, all that was available in this country at the time was classical training and many of our teachers had the same experiences growing up. All our coaches at Voiceworks are extremely diverse, we’ve experts from all the major musical genres, we encourage and value every student’s individuality and creativity and encourage our students to be diverse but above all else we want our students to sing and pursue challenges with the music that moves them, whatever that may be.”

Over the years Voiceworks and their students have been performing at various concerts and showcases, Gemma explained it was one of those appearances that led to inception of UCC ROCKS, “Voiceworks performed in ‘A Summer’s Evening On The Quad’ at UCC last year, a really successful event that has been running for nearly 10 years and has raised funds for various local charities. After our performance the organiser, Pat Cotter, mentioned his interest in running a similar event with us aimed more at families and youths and we jumped at the opportunity!”

She reeled off what to expect on the day, “our main concert at 5pm will feature various Voiceworks students who will be teaming up with GMC (Garry McCarthy) and students from his hip-hop workshops and Philip McTeggart of Cork Arts Studio and his dance students. Voice of Ireland winner Keith Hanley will feature along with Voice of Ireland finalists Jamie Stanton and Velvin Lamont, which will be a wonderful experience for our students aspiring to become professional singers. That element of the concert will be MCed by Bubba Shakespeare, and earlier in the afternoon at 3pm we will have performances by his band The Urban Hippies, Nothing New Under The Sun and Lennoko.”

In March of this year Mel Mercier of the UCC Music Department said in an interview with Downtown that “UCC has intentions to build what we call the ‘creative campus’ and remove the boundaries between the city and the campus”, this is echoed by Gemma regarding this event, “we are delighted to collaborate with UCC on this project and we hope everyone who attends UCC Rocks will get caught up in the joy and appreciation we have for the music community we know and love in Cork. I believe we’re a very inclusive school and that we encourage everyone’s individuality and creativity.”

Gemma carries on the point of engaging with new audiences, “there’s a culture of busking beginning to re-emerge amongst young musicians and singers in Cork city. This is a great way for new musicians and singers to connect, socialise and platform their material to each other, so, inspired by this we’re also setting up an acoustic stage UCC Rocks to serve that same purpose and we’re including some incredible young acts including Cian Ducrot, Dylan Brickley, Sean Walsh, The Reverse, Eve Clague, JD&Me and much more. As well as all that music there’ll be loads of activities for families such as a bouncy castle, food stands, face painting and a karaoke stand.”

UCC Rocks in association with Voiceworks Studio in aid of Mercy Hospital’s Children’s Ward and University College Cork Disability Support Services will be held on Saturday 5 July from 3pm to 7pm. More details and ticket information can be found at http://www.voiceworksstudio.ie

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