At the NOS, our ‘raison d’ȇtre’ is to hone the talents of our young pianists and singers to create the artists of the future. Whilst an artist's life can seem incredible to the outside world, it also comes with a lot of loneliness. Therefore, the need to inspire oneself and gain inner confidence is something that needs to be cultivated.

Covid-19...has given NOS a chance to really work on the ‘self’, as there are no 'normal' performances to prepare for. We have used these unique circumstances to challenge ourselves, as educators, to re-invigorate and re-model our offering.

These feelings, which are often apparent in a hotel room or dressing room, are something the audience never gets to see.

Covid-19, with all its difficulties, has given NOS a chance to really work on the ‘self’, as there are no 'normal' performances to prepare for. We have used these unique circumstances to challenge ourselves, as educators, to re-invigorate and re-model our offering.

Since lockdown, Young Artists have received talks from the senior artistic and executive managements of our partner companies as well as other companies in the UK and Europe, coaching from leading artists, opportunities to work with directors such as Keith Warner and Richard Jones, movement with Karen Halliday, and Meisner technique with Kate Maravan.  We welcomed Sarah Fahie, director, choreographer and movement specialist, and regular collaborator of Richard Jones, to our stagecraft and movement team.

To complement this artistic practice, Simon Millward - Director of Premier PR - will be speaking to the Young Artists along with Peter di Toro - NOS's Digital and Comms Manager - on how PR and communications are working for musicians at the moment.

NOS is blessed with distinguished coaches who have continued their work, enabling, encouraging and healthily challenging the Young Artists. Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, I felt it was vital that we include opportunities for the artists to perform with the adrenalin that comes with live performance. Together with our inspiring Assistant Head of Music, Dearbhla Collins, I devised a new programme called Prepare, Polish and Perform, now, lovingly known as PPP. This gives the Young Artists as near a live audition experience as possible, where they sing to camera knowing the recording will not be edited. This is not just a useful exercise as, until further notice, many auditions will be from live video links.

I often refer to serious coaching as a great game of tennis. When Federer or Nadal deliver an unbelievable stroke it's up to the other player to raise their game. Without a shadow of a doubt, this is how the Young Artists are responding to the guidance of more experienced colleagues. There is a real focus to the Zoom sessions where the Young Artists return the ball so deftly that their coaches have to raise their game also. This is how great music is made, being immediately responsive to all you see and hear around you when performing.

None of us expected how rapidly Covid would inform all our lives. The NOS family has shown remarkable resilience and imagination in how to support our Young Artists. The readiness of everyone to adapt has been truly inspiring.

Mark Shanahan, Head of Music, National Opera Studio