Professor Tikolo’s Masterclass: Unveiling the Art of Vocal Excellence

At the recent COMFESA North West International Symposium – an event that’s quickly become a beacon for choral music enthusiasts and aspiring artists – we had the honor of hosting a vocal masterclass that truly embodied the spirit of transformative growth and learning. 

Under the guidance of Professor Patrick Tikolo, Head of Vocal Studies at the University of Cape Town and a luminary in the world of opera and choral music, this masterclass became a pivotal moment for six singers from the North West Province at the cusp of their artistic journeys.

A speaker portrait taken on stage during Professor Tikolo's Masterclass at the COMFESA Symposium.
Prof Patrick Tikolo

Joining us were Mzwakhe Soka, Masego Kamohelo, Lesedi Mokoena, Tshepo Oliphant, Onalerona Mogwera, and Tshepo Makabe. Each of these talented individuals brought their own interpretations to challenging pieces, not as polished performers, but as passionate artists eager to refine their craft. Mzwakhe explored the grace of Handel’s “Where’er You Walk,” Masego tackled the emotional depth of “Leave, Loathsome Light,” and Lesedi approached the beloved strains of Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro.” Meanwhile, Tshepo Oliphant dove into the turmoil of Handel’s “I rage, I melt, I burn,” Onalerona took on the brilliance of “Let the Bright Seraphim,” and Tshepo Makabe navigated the narrative complexity of Mozart’s “Madamina, il catalogo è questo.”

Tshepo Oliphant with Prof. Tikolo, refining technique, at Professor Tikolo's masterclass at the COMFESA North West International Symposium in Rustenburg
Tshepo Oliphant with Prof. Tikolo, refining technique.

Key takeaways from Professor Tikolo’s masterclass:

Sing With Your Whole Being, Not Just Your Voice

Onalerona Mogwera receiving Prof. Tikolo’s instruction.

One of the first things Professor Tikolo emphasized was the importance of singing with freedom and relaxation. “Don’t tense the body. Let the body work with you,” he advised. It’s easy to get caught up in the technicalities, but singing is as much about expressing as it is about technique. Tension, especially in the neck or shoulders, can not only affect your sound but also your ability to connect with the music. Remember, your body is your instrument, and its wellbeing is paramount to your performance.

Confidence Is Key, Even If You Have to Fake It

Mzwakhe Soka under Prof. Tikolo’s guidance.

Walking onto stage can be daunting, but Prof Tikolo reminded us that “even if you don’t feel confident, remember that many of these performances require us to get into character. So get into the character of someone who is confident.” This piece of advice isn’t just for the stage; it’s for life. Confidence can transform your presence and delivery, both in performance and in practice.

Understanding Over Memorizing

Tshepo Makabe engaging with Prof. Tikolo’s expertise.

Perhaps one of the most profound insights came when Professor Tikolo discussed the importance of truly understanding the pieces we choose to perform. “If you have a piece of music that you must sing, before you even start learning the music, go and study what it’s about. It will make a huge amount of difference in your performance. Otherwise, you are just singing notes with no meaning, and we will fall asleep because things won’t be lining up.”

Breath Is Your Best Friend

Lesedi Mokoena gaining insights at Professor Tikolo's masterclass at the COMFESA North West International Symposium in Rustenburg
Lesedi Mokoena gaining insights from Prof. Tikolo.

In singing, breath is everything. It’s not just about the notes you hit but how you breathe through the music. “Find the right breath points. It’s important where you take a breath,” Tikolo pointed out. Mastering your breathing not only ensures vocal longevity but also adds a layer of emotion and expression to your performance that can’t be achieved any other way.

The Journey of a Thousand Songs Begins with a Single Note

Masego Kamohelo in a learning moment at Professor Tikolo's masterclass at the COMFESA North West Symposium in Rustenburg
Masego Kamohelo in a learning moment with Prof. Tikolo.

For anyone embarking on their operatic studies or choral singing, Professor Tikolo had this to say: “Classical training is meant to teach you techniques that allow you to be versatile and flexible… The first thing we teach you is discipline.” It’s a reminder that the path to vocal excellence is paved with continuous learning, dedication, and an open heart.

Final Thoughts

A member of the audience engaging with Prof Tikolo during the Q and A session.

As we wrapped up the masterclass with questions from the audience, Professor Tikolo left us with a parting thought that resonated deeply: “Don’t think it’s only when you are taught by someone that you must start studying. It has to do with the willingness within you – you chase the dream.” This is a powerful reminder that while guidance is valuable, the true journey of growth begins within ourselves.

Watch the broadcast of Prof Tikolo’s masterclass on the COMFESA YouTube Channel

COMFESA’s mission in hosting these masterclasses is clear: to provide a platform where emerging musicians can gain the training and exposure they need to thrive. Professor Tikolo’s masterclass was not just about imparting technical skills; it was about nurturing a passion for the art of singing and showing these world-class talents the path to bridging the gap between their raw potential and a sustainable career in the arts.

Symposium guest Whade Williams, engaging with Prof. Tikolo during the masterclass.

Whether or not you’re an aspiring singer, the insights from Professor Tikolo’s masterclass are more than just lessons in singing; they are lessons in life. As we delve into the insights from Professor Tikolo’s session, let’s celebrate the transformative power of mentorship in the arts!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top