Sarah Mileham is the 2020 recipient of the Jann Medlicott Creative Arts Scholarship, an award administered by Creative Bay of Plenty that supports study in the creative arts. She is currently working towards a Bachelor of Music, majoring in Classical Voice, at Victoria University. We caught up with Sarah about her big dreams to live and sing in Germany, whereabouts you can find the cleanest air, and the deliciousness of Jjamppong.
The Jann Medlicott Creative Arts Scholarship is currently open for application, and closes on 2 August. It is valued at $5,000 and is awarded to a creative who is planning to undertake tertiary study in the creative arts. Find out more and apply here.
Your occupation, job title, artistic discipline (or very brief description of what you do):
I am currently studying a Bachelor of Music in Classical Performance of Voice at The New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University. This means, that at the moment I am training to become a professional operatic singer!
What’s your favorite Bay of Plenty landscape, park, building, location, suburb, or side street? Why?
My favorite landscape in the Bay of Plenty has to be the Pāpāmoa Hills! Not for the killer walk up but for the nostalgia. My amazing Mom would always manage to get me up that hill no matter how much I protested. She told me that as a singer I had to keep my lungs healthy and full of clean air which can only be found at the top of the long walk up the hills. I recall always trying to boost ahead of her but she’d always beat me with a steady pace and less breaks. I’m so thankful to my Mom for encouraging me to take care of myself because the air at the top was fresh and the view was amazing. I still try to make it out there every time I’m back home.
What’s an average day in your life at present?
Most of the time I spend my days attending lectures on Music Theory, French classes and Performance workshops. In music theory, I learn about the rules of theory and how they work in the music I sing. I am also currently studying French Diction, which is teaching me pronunciation, grammar and use of the International Phonetic Alphabet which helps you almost pronounce anything! The performance workshops are my favorite classes because we get to sing and get constructive criticism from the teachers directly. When I’m not at class, I’m enjoying the company of the new friends I’ve made in Wellington.
You were the recipient of last year’s Jann Medlicott Scholarship which supports creative arts education. What is your favourite part about studying a Bachelor of Music at Victoria University? What has surprised you?
I am so grateful for the support I have from the Jann Medlicott Scholarship! Studying at Victoria University has been so amazing. I think the vibrancy of the creative community is my favorite aspect of studying in Wellington. So far I have been able to work outside of university in concerts such as the New Zealand Choral Society’s production of the Chichester Psalms and Fauré’s Requiem as the guest Soprano Soloist.
What music was present and still memorable from your youth/adolescence?
When I was a baby, my Mom would play me a lot of Mozart. I think my love of classical really just grew from then. I still love listening to Mozart’s Piano Sonatas while I study.
For you as a creative person, who are three influential artists or thinkers?
My three current influential artists are Bianca Andrews, Dame Malvina Major and Van Gogh. Bianca Andrews recently came to the NZSM and did a masterclass with the Voice Students. She was so inspiring as she was also previously a student at the Music school. Now she is singing in Germany which is exactly what I want to do. Dame Malvina Major has done such amazing things in the Operatic Community and I am inspired by how much her legacy lives on past her career. Finally, I have always admired Van Gogh for the way his art was a pure representation of his heart and feelings. I always want my art to be transparent and open for all audiences I sing too just like his art.
If you went away from the Bay of Plenty for a long time and then came back, what are the first three things you would do or visit?
First of all, I would visit home and see the family! My favorite part of my university breaks is getting to come home to my parents and brother and to have a good meal. Next, I would love to visit my first singing teacher, Roger Stevenson. He has been such a huge inspiration to me, and I really owe a lot to his encouragement and teachings over my high school years. Finally, I would hit the beach at sunset and walk my adorable dog Daisy!
Looking back at your teen-age self: what one sentence describes that person?
I guess even though I am still technically a teenager, I would describe my even younger self as determined. I spent a lot of time pushing myself to learn more and improve. I knew since I was a kid that music was my passion, but I really decided that it would become my career and life at the start of high school. My Dad always taught me that if I wanted something in this world, the way to get it is always through hard work and dedication and I still take that lesson with me wherever I go.
If you had to eat the same meal every day, what would it be?
Hands down it’d have to be Jjamppong. Jjamppong is a Korean dish that is spicy and has seafood in it! I cannot get enough of spicy food and nothing hits different like Jjamppong.
In one sentence, can you define art?
Art is such an expansive word that will always be perceived subjectively. But I think I would define art as human. The quality of how paintings or music brings people together from across the world makes it so unique to humanity.
What was your first real job, second, third?
My first job was in my parents previously owned sushi shop! I’d always prefer to take pay in sushi. My second job was in fashion retail where I had so much fun changing displays and steaming clothes. My most recent job is singing in a gospel choir for an upcoming festival in September!
Where would you like to live, but have yet to?
I would really love to live in Germany. The culture and opportunity to sing in such amazing opera houses really draws me to the country. My career path will take me all over the world, but I definitely would love to study there or even settle down for a little while and sing in all the beautiful cathedrals and history filled buildings.
What word of advice would you offer an aspiring creative person?
My word of advice for any other young creatives out there is to work hard and always strive to improve. I’ve always believed that talent can only get you so far. The thing is a lot of people in this world are talented, so if you want to be the best you have to work harder than everyone else out there. Remember to back yourself and really try to figure out what drives you!
What is your dream of happiness?
My dream of happiness is to use my voice to spread joy and tell stories through music. I always say that my voice isn’t mine but it’s something God has given me, and I want to keep singing to share it with others. If I could keep singing my whole life, that would be my dream of happiness.