‘I hope to see more Sri Lankans being recognised internationally’

  • Nadine Samarasinghe Pathmaraj on being made a fellow of the London College of Music

The last few years have been challenging, to say the least, for the creative arts. However, this doesn’t mean that artists have been stagnant over the course of the pandemic. Some have found ways to thrive, others have turned their energy to creating platforms to help other creatives, and overall, the entire creative industry has taken a look inward, seeing how they can strengthen themselves from within. 

One such artist, or rather, artiste, who has used the pandemic to strengthen herself is singer and musician Nadine Samarasinghe Pathmaraj, who, last month, became the first Sri Lankan to be made a fellow of the London College of Music, University of West London. The London College of Music is the largest specialist music and performing arts institution in the UK, and is one of the oldest colleges in London. It was founded in 1887 and celebrated its 130th anniversary in 2017. 

Nadine Samarasinghe Pathmaraj

Nadine has been interested in music as a young child and has been performing and teaching locally and internationally since the age of 18 (she is now in her thirties). Her love of music led her to found her own music school, Nadine’s Academy of Music, and through this academy, she imparts her skills to a new generation of young musicians. 

In celebration of her being made a fellow of the London College of Music, Brunch sat down with Nadine for a chat on what this means to her and what her hopes for the future are:

Excerpts from the interview are below:

How does it feel being made a fellow of the London College of Music? What does this mean practically?

This is something I have been dreaming of ever since I started studying music at a very young age. A fellowship doesn’t come easy; it’s years of study, commitment, and experience. 

I actually decided I wanted to sit for my fellowship in August last year. At the end of November I had to take the exam, which gave me just a few months to prepare for it. It was quite stressful, as I had to manage my time very carefully running my music academy (Nadine’s Academy of Music) and my duties as a wife and mother, while at the same time finding time to study! 

A fellowship is equivalent to a Master’s degree and it also means being a privileged member of an institute that is recognised globally for its work and achievements. With all the hard work I had to put in for this exam, I am just over the moon to pass the exam and I am also super excited about being the first Sri Lankan to get a fellowship in classical singing from the London College of Music, University of West London.

What got you into music? What kind of music do you make?

My mother was a music teacher, so I think she had a great impact on me getting into music, especially at a young age. My passion lies in both classical and pop music, so I make music in both genres. 

What is it about being a musician that excites you?

Everything! Music for me is just pure enjoyment and bliss and I absolutely love performing and teaching music. I feel that music has a great way of speaking to us no matter how we feel and really connecting with our emotions whatever they may be. Songs with a wide range of notes and ornaments I find very interesting as I feel it allows the performer to really show what they’re capable of doing. 

Singing opera and pop – what do you prefer more and why? Have you considered blending the two? 

Honestly, I can’t say what I prefer more as I feel both genres have their speciality. Classical and pop both have their own techniques and they both have very complementing methods of singing and style.

Yes, I am currently working on a song that combines the two!

Tell us about Nadine’s Academy of Music; what inspired it and what does it do? What’s it like teaching young people to sing and play?

I first started teaching at the age of 18 alongside performing, and after teaching for many years in music schools here and overseas, I started my very own academy about six years ago. 

I love working with children and it gives me great pleasure to share my knowledge with them. I strongly believe we must help and support the upcoming generation and give them a chance to shine not only here in Sri Lanka, but internationally as well.  

At Nadine’s Academy of Music, we train students in singing (classical and pop), piano, and we’ve recently opened our own guitar department as well. 

I encourage my students to perform a lot and every year we have a lovely show where each and every student gets to perform. Students are also sent for London exams in piano and signing.

I find it really interesting and enjoyable teaching my students. My youngest student is just three years old and we have loads of fun doing the class. 

What’s the most challenging thing about being a performer vs. being a teacher?

Performing – What is most challenging is to keep your voice intact before a performance and making sure your voice is not dry. For me, another challenging factor is remembering the lyrics of a song!

Teaching – As we know, all five fingers are not the same, and in the same way, no two children are the same, so each child needs to be taught and approached in a different way. The challenging part here is to recognise the strengths, weaknesses, and wackiness of each student and teach according to that!

What have you got planned for the future for you as an artist and Nadine’s Academy?

As an artist, I plan to release more material in the near future, which will be a bit different to what I have done thus far. 

As for the academy, my students were chosen to represent Sri Lanka at the World Choir Games in Belgium last year but unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we were not able to go so hopefully if things settle this year, we can definitely give it a shot. I’m very keen for my students to compete internationally, both for their own development and to get international exposure.

What are you most excited to see happen in the SL music industry this coming year? 

That’s a tough question – with the pandemic, there’s not much that can be done, especially for musicians, but, if all goes well, I hope to see more musicians from Sri Lanka being recognised internationally and flying our flag proudly.