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Singer / Actress

What does a Singer / Actress do?

Singer/actresses are performing artists who are generally under the field of entertainment, bringing characters and songs to life through entertaining an audience. They may perform in stage, television, radio, video, motion picture or theatre productions. Depending on what is called for in the script, they may deliver comedic performances or be required to act, sing and dance in a production.

A singer/actress’ tasks may include the following: studying and rehearsing roles from scripts; attending auditions and casting calls; working closely with directors, other actors and playwrights; learning about characters in scripts and their relationships to each other; portraying and interpreting roles, using speech, gestures and body movements; memorising musical selections and routines, or singing following printed text, musical notation or customer instructions; singing a cappella or with musical accompaniment; interpreting or modifying music, applying knowledge of harmony, melody, rhythm and voice production; seeking out and learning new music that is suitable for live performance and/or recording.


What qualifications do I need?

While natural talents are important and are sometimes sufficient for acquiring a job as a singer/actress, preparing for a career in the performing arts may be done by obtaining formal education. There are various degree and diploma courses offered in relevant subjects, such as drama, theatre, performing arts and musical performance. These courses usually incorporate practical learning and stage productions as part of their training. Education is an advantage but, typically, experience is what will help in this highly competitive field when trying to land a job. Experience may be gained through performing in high school, university and local theatre productions.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Dramatic Arts
• Visual Arts
• Music


Where can I study?

Durban University of Technology
National Diploma or Bachelor of Technology: Drama, Musical Theatre or Performing Arts

Rhodes University
Bachelor of Arts: Drama, Stage Craft or Performing Arts

Tshwane University of Technology
National Diploma or Bachelor of Technology: Drama, Musical Theatre or Performing Arts; National Diploma: Pedagogy (Vocal Art)

University of Cape Town
Bachelor of Arts: Drama, Stage Craft or Performing Arts

University of KwaZulu-Natal
Bachelor of Arts: Drama, Stage Craft or Performing Arts; Diploma: Music Performance (Opera/Choral Studies)

University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Arts: Drama, Stage Craft or Performing Arts

The National School of the Arts
Specialising in Arts

Waterfront Theatre School

Campus of Performing Arts
Various Courses

Where can I get more info?

National Arts Council of South Africa – www.nac.org.za
Artslink – www.artslink.co.za


Interview with a Singer / Actress




Why did you choose this profession?
I started singing at school and then got the opportunity to perform in the Robertson Young Performers productions. I loved it. But until then I didn’t know that singing could be a profession. Meeting people who made a living out of it opened the door for me.

What training did you undergo?
I did drama in first year at varsity, but it was the vocal training I did with the Charon Williams-Ros agency that really got me going. My acting has developed slowly through experience on stage.

What makes a good performer?
Some people say you have to be an extrovert but that’s not necessarily true. You have to be a people person though, and you have to like learning and be willing to be corrected – you have to be able to take criticism. You also have to work hard.

Is experience as important as formal training?
When it comes to voice, formal training is very important, but nothing beats experience. It is when you are actually on stage performing for the public that you really start to learn. And the more real experience you get, the better you get at it.

Describe a typical day on the job
If I’m preparing for a supper theatre show or musical, I will be in rehearsals most of the day. In the morning we’d rehearse our songs and then, in the afternoon, do choreography or plotting. Depending on time limits, we might have to rehearse through the evening. Then, during a show, the day is free. I get to the theatre about an hour before the show starts to do make-up and check my costumes. Evening shows normally finish around 10:30pm.

What do you love?
The constant learning. Because each show is different, there is never a time when I’m bored. As a performer you can always be better, so it’s about learning and improving all the time.

What aren’t you keen on?
I’m not too keen on the business side of things. Financial stuff has never been my forte, but I know it is important. I am lucky to have an agent who deals with all that.

Care to share some career highlights?
Making it through to the Idols Top Ten was quite special. But the highlight to date was winning a 2009 Durban Theatre Award for my role as Best Supporting Actress in Little Shop of Horrors.

Mention some of your future goals?
In the future I’d like to record a CD with some of my own songs.

Any advice for wannabe performers?
Find someone you can trust who will be honest about your potential. You don’t want to get into a situation where you think you can make it but you’re not good enough, and then all you get is closed doors. If you’re lucky to have the potential, then you need to work really hard to improve your talent.

Describe your job in three words
Fun • Challenging • Unpredictable

Zolani Monica Mahola | PERFORMING ARTIST | Freshlyground Lead Vocalist

Zolani Monica Mahola | PERFORMING ARTIST | Freshlyground Lead Vocalist

Why did you choose this profession?
It was an accident really, it wasn’t planned. I suppose it chose me.

What training did you undergo?
Three years of a BA in Theatre and Performance at the University of Cape Town.

What type of personality is suited to this job?
One who is willing to fail, but who believes they will succeed. And you can’t be shy!

How does experience weigh up with formal training?
It is advisable to get as much experience as possible, even if it is unpaid in the beginning. Learning by doing is the best kind of training.

Describe a typical day on the job
We don’t really have typical days… but I will describe yesterday. We left New York City at 11 am, drove for four hours to Northampton, Massachusetts, arrived in time for a forty-five minute sound check. Thereafter we drove to the hotel, had a quick shower and went back to the venue to play an eighty-minute set, followed by a late dinner and a game of bowls at the alley around the corner. Our first American Tour!

What do you enjoy the most?
The randomness of it. The fact that we get to see different places and experience different cultures… expanding my mind.

What aspects are you least keen on?
People’s expectations. Being seen as a ‘celebrity’ rather than a girl who sings and acts is dehumanising.

What’s been the highlight of your career?
Singing on the same stage as Stevie Wonder at the Radio City Music Hall in New York. He is my idol.

What are your future goals?
One day I would like to teach English and drama to kids. I would also like to act again.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your career?
Believe in yourself, be humble and graceful.

Describe your job in three words
Good • Hard • Interesting