Since moving to England from Lithuania 5 years ago, Karolina Reu has taken part in many opportunities offered by Norfolk Music Hub, including singing in the band for The Big Sing event in May 2018 and for Make Music Day, live streamed from Great Yarmouth. In September 2019 she will be studying Music at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. We caught up with her to see how Norfolk Music Hub has helped her to this point.

How does music education differ here from Lithuania?

I moved to England 5 years ago and it was one of the biggest decisions of my life. When I joined school I went into Year 10 and music was the first subject that I chose to study. The big difference that I noticed was that music lessons in England are equally based on theory and practical sessions. We would spend the first part doing written work and planning, and for the second part we would go into practise rooms and rehearse. In Lithuania we would only have one lesson and it was all spent learning about music theory and history. Maybe it was like only that at my school, because I come from a small town and the school did not have the facilities for every student to have a practise room.

Did you find music was helpful in overcoming any language barrier when you came to England?

When I moved to England my English was very poor, I only knew the most basic phrases through studying English at my school in Lithuania. When I was put into Year 10, they explained that we have mock exams that year and the whole year is spent preparing for the GCSE exams the following year. I was always a good student, so when I showed the grades that I brought over from Lithuania they put me in top set English class. This was a big push for me, but also provided the most help, because I was sharing a classroom with people that could help me and I started learning very quickly. Of course music played a big part in it too. I was learning songs in English and always wanted to know the meaning behind lyrics, so when I looked them up and memorised the lyrics I would learn different words and remember what they mean. And this was a huge help for me and I am glad that by doing something I love I was able to improve different skills too.

What do you like most about the opera/classical genre?

When I started studying at a music school in Lithuania, I hated classical music. I was 7 and to me it was extremely boring to listen to a piece written hundreds of years ago, when I just wanted to listen to something I could sing along to. As I got older I learnt to appreciate classical music and slowly started loving it. When I came to England and started having singing lessons, I sang pieces from musicals and one day just decided to try opera and I haven’t stopped since! Now I like listening to different genres of music and I appreciate them all, but I always go back to classical; it brings me so much joy and I am always extremely happy when I sing opera.

You also play the accordion. When did you start learning this?

Karolina playing the accordion

The accordion was part of my journey at music school. There we had to choose an instrument we wanted to learn and we had to audition. I always wanted to play the piano and that was what I chose, however there was only one space left for piano and after the exam I was told that I could play the accordion. At that point I didn’t even know what instrument it was, but I said yes. I wasn’t a big fan of it at all and I wasn’t that good at it, because I didn’t put a lot of effort into learning, until my last year at music school. As I got older I realised that it’s an amazing instrument and I started appreciating it more. I don’t play the accordion very often, but I still have a lot of love for it, and I will definitely include it in my future compositions.

Why did you choose to study a BTEC music course?

In Year 11 I decided to apply for colleges where I would be surrounded by other musicians and professionals because I would be able to get help with anything I needed to achieve my goals. I studied Level 3 Music Performance at Access Creative for 3 years where I gained experience in performing and working with other musicians. I then moved up to Level 4 Artist Development where I was able to really look at myself as a musician and figure where I wanted to go and how I would do it.

How as Norfolk Music Hub helped your musical journey?

Through working with Norfolk Music Hub I have gained experience and contacts in the music industry, such as event organisers and venues as well as private teachers and vocal coaches.

Singing to children from Edward Worlledge Ormiston Academy at Make Music Day 2018

I was asked to sing for the Big Sing band and got a chance to collaborate with my classmates. I enjoyed the fun process of rehearsing for a huge event that had thousands of people singing together which is just incredible. Through doing this I have gained experience as a session singer, because the songs we performed were in the pop genre which is the complete opposite of what I usually do. I also got the chance to work in a band, which I don’t get to do a lot, because I usually rehearse and perform as a soloist.

Make Music Day in June was a great opportunity where I was able to showcase my musical style is like and the response I got gave me a big confidence boost, because even children from schools joined in when I was singing.

What is your proudest moment to date?

I have a few proud moments, graduating from my music school 5 years ago and graduating from college with high grades are just two. I always liked school and enjoyed learning, so achieving high grades was a big goal for me.

Karolina in the Big Sing band

Performance-wise I would have to say singing at The Big Sing and winning Gorleston Makes Music 2018. I have never won a music competition before, and I wasn’t expecting to win this time either so it was a complete surprise, especially with so many talented musicians performing. Taking part in the competition has opened a lot of doors for me and provided me with a lot of exciting opportunities.

Where do you hope your voice will take you?

I now have a place to study Music at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge in 2019. I am hoping to pursue music as a career and I want to be a performer. I have always wanted to be a singer and I want to be on the stage singing for others. I want to perform in musicals and operas, because it is important to do what you love and I love singing!

Have you got any tips for students just beginning their musical journey?

I would just say to stick to it. If music is what you want to do in life or just as a hobby, then just carry on working hard and you will achieve your goals. Music helps people overcome fears and it creates a community which is what we all want.

If you’re a performer then get out there and show people what you do especially if it is scary, because you will alway find other people who will support what you do! All the hard work pays off and it will be worth it when you get to the goal you’ve set yourself.

Thank you Karolina. We wish you all the best in your degree and future career!