Northumberland music teacher studies how to help opera singers with dyslexia

A world-class opera singer has launched new research into dyslexia

Northumberland performer and music teacher Ailie-jane Reid
Northumberland performer and music teacher Ailie-jane Reid

Singer Ailie-jane Reid is on a campaign to highlight a hidden problem in the world of opera.

The Northumberland performer and music teacher has been awarded a fellowship to study why classical singers appear to be prone to dyslexia.

The grant by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust will allow her to travel the world studying the problem and suggest ways of changing the way music is taught.

She said many opera singers with the condition struggle in silence and one of the aims of her research is to bring more awareness.

She said: “There is evidence of many opera singers struggling with dyslexia.

“We have known about dyslexia for many years now and we know the brain works in a different way.

“Much research has been done in other subjects like English and science and educational policies altered to help sufferers but there is much more to do in music.

“It’s too early to suggest if opera singers as a group are more prone to dyslexia than the general population, because I have not done the research yet, but they certainly have problems.

“Opera singers with dyslexia do not seem to hear in the same way as the audience.

“Getting the rhythm right seems to be quite torturous while there are also some short-term memory problems.

“I have just been awarded a large travel fellowship by the Trust and plan to travel all over the world to research multi sensory teaching methods for classical singers with dyslexia.”

Ailie-jane suffers from the condition herself and says there is reluctance among performers to admit what its happening to them.

She said: “A lot of singers don’t tell you in case it affects their chances of work.

“But I want to stand up and show it is possible to be dyslexic and a professional opera singer as well.”

Ailie-jane, who lives near Rothbury, is studying the issue for her PhD.

She is well-known in the world of opera and spends some of her time working abroad, especially in Europe, where she has performed for Norwegian royalty.

She is a graduate of the Northern College of Music in Manchester and developed an interest in teaching music to dyslexic students.

The soprano, who sings in German and Italian, will spend four years studying before writing a guide for opera singers.

She said: “My research is totally original and looks at finding strategies for dyslexic classical singers.

“The link between music and dyslexia is a very new topic with little published on the subject. I hope to change this and one day write a book.”

Ailie-jane currently teaches Bel Canto singing in Morpeth and Berwick as well as her work for the PHD at Edinburgh University.

Bel Canto, translated as “beautiful singing”, is a speciality in Italian operatic singing.

She has travelled with the professional opera company the Carl Rosa Opera company and later went on to gain work in the Netherlands.

As a youngster she appeared on BBC’s Look North and last year sang at Bamburgh Castle with the Northern Sinfonetti Orchestra.

She has worked as a singing coach for several years both in the UK and Norway and gives regular masterclasses in vocal technique and performance.

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