Celine Cascanette is one of our newest music instructors at Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts. Hailing from Parry Sound, Ontario, Celine graduated with honours from the McGill Schulich School of Music in Montréal with a vocal performance degree. We spoke to Celine about her arts background, her proudest teaching moments, and the importance of music in today’s society.
Can you tell us a bit about your music background? How did you get started with music, and why did you decide to pursue it as a career?
I’ve been taking voice and piano lessons since I was very young, I think around 4 or 5 years old. I was also a figure skater for the majority of my early years so I have been performing in several different ways since the beginning. Music has always been the language that makes sense to me. I have been channeling my understanding of the world through music since as long as I can remember and as my perception of life grows and changes, so has my musical ability. Sometime during high school I realized that no career would bring me true fulfillment or joy if it did not include music as its base. Having the option to make music your career depends largely on the opportunities available to you. I have been incredibly blessed with many opportunities that have enabled me to work on my craft and become a better musician. I am always growing and learning and improving: such is the life of a musician and I love it!
With respect to your own vocal teachers/mentors, is there a lesson or piece of advice that one of them shared with you, that has stuck with you to this day?
I was lucky enough to study under Dr. Tracy Smith-Bessette at the Schulich School of Music and she is such an excellent teacher. The teaching of hers which has been the most influential for me was to always sing from an honest place. She often emphasized to us (her students) that music and singing was an act of sharing that required vulnerability and bravery. As singers we are storytellers and we need to tell our stories from a place of honesty. As a performer this has been vital for singing any song or playing any character.
What’s your favourite aspect of teaching?
I love discovering a student’s voice with them and encouraging someone’s passion for music. I find vocal exploration through technique and working on repertoire to be so fascinating. It is a different journey with every student as each one has a unique voice that no one else can produce. The majority of new students come in with great potential, but are unsure of how to allow their instrument to function as it was made to. Helping them discover their healthiest and most natural voice is what gives me joy!
Do you have an anecdote about a past student that you can share?
I held a recital this summer for my students back in Parry Sound and each and every one of them took a leap that day. Many of them were young first time performers and overcame their stage fright for the very first time. Also, many of my older students took great technical leaps that we had been working through together. As a teacher, it was a very proud day for me!
Why do you think music and singing is important in society? Why should people pursue music education?
One can read countless articles about why learning music is good for the young, developing mind. I am not a scientist nor a psychologist and therefore I don’t feel I am the person to put forth such an argument – although I believe they are excellent ones. I can really only share from my own experiences. Through singing and performing, I have built confidence in myself but I have also been able to connect with audience members in a language that cannot be spoken. I believe music does something for the soul who is performing it as well as it does for the soul who listens and experiences it. Music is meant to be shared, not locked in a practice room. I believe that a society without this regular exchange would lack hope, expression, and the ability to be truly vulnerable.
Is there a favourite moment you’ve had as a performer?
I performed a Schumann song cycle at a class concert which covered snapshots from the life of Mary Queen of Scots (titled, “Gedichte der Königin Maria Stuart”). It is the closest I have ever felt to a character that I have portrayed. I felt as though we were sharing souls as I told her story.
Currently, Celine is teaching on Mondays at Hamilton Conservatory for the Arts. HCA offers free 15-minute trial lessons with our music instructors. To book a free trial, please call the Conservatory at 905-528-4020.